Trading For Blake Griffin Gives The Pistons The Frontcourt Playmaker They Need

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In the internet age of trade rumors circulating everywhere, it’s not often that you get shocked by a swap. But that happened on Monday when Adrian Wojnarowski dropped the Wojiest of all bombs, declaring that the Los Angeles Clippers had dealt Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons.

The details are: The Pistons will get Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed, while the Clippers will receive Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and a pair of draft picks. A first rounder, and a second rounder, with the former being protected 1-4 in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Beginning in 2021, the pick is unprotected.

Bradley was on his way out. Harris has been putting in a very nice season, but a lot of his numbers are fungible, meaning that they’re a product of just being on the court. He’s a good player, but he’s not a difference maker.

The limited protections could come back to bite the Pistons hard, but assuming they have a good chance to at least get back into the playoff picture in the floundering Eastern Conference with Griffin, it doesn’t matter if it’s lottery protected or top-four protected. Of course, if they don’t make it to the playoffs, it’s doubtful that they’d close enough to the top of the draft to have that pick go towards a home run. The odds that pick turns into a rotation player are small, and it’s not like the Pistons have been hitting home runs with their draft picks, anyway.

Griffin is a difference maker. He’s a top 20-to-25 talent, and higher if healthy. While Griffin’s contract is large, it’s not like Harris was on an especially cheap deal. The bigger factor is the long-term cost of Griffin as Pistons will have to worry about the fact that he’s owed $141 million over the next four years while Harris has one year remaining on his deal for $14.8 million. However, in a market like Detroit, landing a top 20 caliber player in free agency doesn’t usually happen so this was a rare chance to land a star long term.

To appreciate the trade, though, one has to view it in light of the new partnership with Andre Drummond.

There’s an easy comparison to make here as Drummond is a similar, though, not identical payer to DeAndre Jordan, with whom Griffin has spent the majority of his career. They are both outstanding rebounders and rim-runners who don’t generate a lot of post-up points. They’re both more pick-and-roll centers than of the pick-and-pop variety. In fact, the two have combined for 31 made field goals from outside of five feet this year (with 23 of those from Drummond and eight from Jordan).