I was just about to leave to make my way to the Nuggets vs Celtics game in Denver on Monday when my phone buzzed with a notification that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was tweeting. Trade rumors have been flying so I have been brushing past these notifications. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the speculation. Glancing down I picked up on three key words, “Blake Griffin…trade”. Shocked, I clicked on the message and couldn’t hardly believe my eyes. Griffin had been traded to the Detroit Pistons. “Well,” I thought, “If we were unsure about whether or not the Clippers were looking to rebuild we definitely know now.” Griffin had been the face of the Clippers for so long it was hard to imagine him anywhere else.
The Clippers and Pistons have agreed on a deal to trade Blake Griffin for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a first-round and a second-round draft pick, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 29, 2018
My drive to the Pepsi Center is about an hour, and making my way into the city I started to think about how Griffin might fit in Detroit, and the more I thought about it the more I think this move is not only huge for the Pistons, but it’s an incredible opportunity for Griffin as well. The Pistons are currently 24-26 for the season, and they sit at 9th place in the Eastern Conference standings behind the rising Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons haven’t had an all-around dominant player for years, and Griffin’s energy and skill set seem to fit the bill.
Thursday marked Griffin’s debut as a Piston, and he came out guns blazing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists allowing Detroit to edge past the Memphis Grizzlies 104-102. What’s surprising is that Griffin hadn’t even had a chance to practice with his new team. He spent a little over an hour in walk through getting familiar with some basic Piston plays that the team used over and over again throughout the contest against Memphis, and it worked. At least for now. Coach Stan Van Gundy stated that he was impressed by Griffin’s defense, and ball movement, went on to say that he feels like Griffin’s performance only scratched the surface of what he can be capable of with the team.
“I don’t know if the numbers will always be that. I didn’t really have a very good framework in for him to work out of. He was just having to sort of create stuff on his own. I think maybe we can help him a little bit more than we did tonight.” -Stan Van Gundy
Blake Griffin's grand debut pushes Detroit Pistons to wild 104-102 win https://t.co/w8PVCGGe99
— Detroit Free Press (@freep) February 2, 2018
Griffin’s attitude after the game was positive. “I wanted to just come out and play hard, being very limited in my knowledge of our offense. I thought Coach Van Gundy did a great job of just putting in five things that we could go to, and we ran them to death, but they worked, and everybody just played hard…It’s going to be a lot of fun playing with these guys.”
However, adding Griffin to the Pistons’ rotation won’t necessarily solve all their problems. They will either need to draft, or trade to build their starting lineup after shipping two away in the Griffin trade, and while they have many talented players, they need to develop a solid bench if they plan to make any sort of splash in the post-season–if that’s even possible this year. To complicate matters further, the Pistons also traded away a first-round draft pick that could potentially wind up in the lottery so their options in the upcoming draft might be limited unless they have other plans for trades before the deadline. Some have gone as far as saying the Pistons may have given up too much in exchange for Griffin.
For Griffin, this is the fresh start he needs. The Clippers were becoming one of the more hated teams in the league after feuding with the Rockets, Grizzlies, and Warriors, and the drama surrounding the organization appeared to spill into Griffin’s personal life landing him in trouble for fights off the court. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Griffin tried their best to make their team work in Los Angeles, but they were never able to capture the magic that once seemed so inevitable for them. Of course a problem like this can never be attributed to one thing, but my opinion is that Doc Rivers is not the coach the organization needs to take them where they are looking to go.
With a new team, and a new city, Griffin has the chance to build something for himself without the weight of what could have been in LA dragging him down. He’s an incredibly talented and energetic player who brings the highly sought-after “it factor” to his organization. His ability to unite a team and elevate their collective skill set is similar to that of a Draymond Green, and his athleticism can hardly be matched in the league. Much like Kyrie Irving left the Cleveland Cavaliers to build something all his own, Griffin has the opportunity to make this Pistons his own brand and reboot his NBA reputation in a new city.