With Thursday’s NBA trade deadline looming, there’s a lot of noise out there about various teams dangling their star players to try and gauge interest in potential blockbuster deals. Regardless of how unlikely a lot of these scenarios might seem, general managers in today’s climate can’t afford to be complacent. If recent history is any indication, nobody’s job is safe in this league, especially if you’re sitting on your hands. So they’ll do their due diligence and entertain a few offers, although in many cases, it’s much ado about nothing.
With Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell what’s what. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Monday that the Clippers have contacted the Denver Nuggets about swapping their embattled forward (along with Lance Stephenson) for Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton, and Nikola Jokic. Broussard claimed that the Nuggets quickly rejected that offer, but in the same report said that Doc Rivers denied making any such offer to begin with.
So what we have here is a lot of he-said, he-said. On the one hand, moving Griffin at this point would appear to make at least some sense given that he’s a) generated a lot of bad publicity for his recent indiscretions and b) the Clippers have been playing extremely well without him in the lineup, a development few would’ve predicted. Not to mention that’s a tempting array of talent and potential to get in return from Denver.
As a forward who can stretch the floor with his shooting, Gallinari would help Los Angeles take a step closer to the space-and-pace area. Faried is the Tasmanian Devil of basketball hustle. Barton is a candidate for Most Improved Player after being unleashed with the Nuggets the past year-and-a-half. And Jokic might be the most pleasantly-surprising player of this year’s rookie crop.
Which begs the question: would Denver be willing to give up so much? The answer appears to be no, according to Broussard. On the other hand, Gallo has battled injuries his entire career that have drastically reduced his playing time, Faried has been seen largely as a disappointment after failing to make the leap last season, and Barton’s value has never been higher after being cast away by the Blazers. Perhaps Jokic is the only untouchable in this situation if they would seriously consider rebuilding around the 26-year-old Griffin.
Of course, this could all come to nothing, especially considering that Rivers has insisted Griffin isn’t on the market.
Rivers’ tenure as team president has been rocky enough as it is given his unbridled nepotism combined with his failure to get much of anything out of his two biggest offseason acquisitions, Josh Smith (who has since been sent packing) and Stephenson (who has finally come alive in recent weeks). Dealing away a franchise cornerstone still playing in the first half of his prime would be a reactionary move that would have all sorts of wide-ranging implications, especially after all the histrionics that went into keeping LA’s core intact last summer.
Still, crazier things have happened. With only three days left until the trade deadline, the NBA world is still waiting for the first shoe to drop. For now, at least, it appears that won’t involve the Clippers’ five-time All-Star.