Is Brooklyn the right move for Blake Griffin?

The Nets are expected to be the favorites to land Blake Griffith.

The Nets are expected to be the favorites to land Blake Griffith.
Illustration: Shutterstock

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Blake Griffin has officially been bought out by the Detroit Pistons, and is now cleared to sign with another team via free agency.

Griffin had been on the 10-26 Eastern Conference last place Pistons, averaging a career-low 12.3 points, accompanied by 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game through 20 appearances, all starts. Griffin’s already logged two more games and 114 more minutes than he did all of last season with the Pistons. In both years, he failed to shoot above 36.5 percent from the floor, or 31.5 percent from three, and he’s only getting to the free-throw line 3.1 times per contest, by far a career-low tally. Griffin’s free-throw attempts per game have never sat below 5.3 for a season, and his 3.6 free-throw attempts per-36 are barely over half of his career 7.0.

That said, he’s only two years removed from his rejuvenated 2018-19 campaign, which saw him land his one and only All-Star appearance as a Piston, which was his first honor for the famed (usually) February weekend since 2015. Two seasons ago, Griffin averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game with shooting splits of 46.2 / 36.2 / 75.3. The 24.5 points per game were career-highs for an entire season, in which he only missed seven games; his most healthy-self since 2013-14.

The Blake Griffin you’re getting is probably not going to be an All-Star ever again, but there’s a reason that contenders and those knocking on the door of the NBA’s top-tier are interested. Griffin, despite his struggles with productivity and health these last two seasons, is still viewed as a piece who could elevate a contender closer to a championship. And if it weren’t the case, the initial list of teams reportedly vying for him wouldn’t look like this.

But although it’s not yet official, or even agreed upon, the Brooklyn Nets are likely to be the winners of the Griffin sweepstakes, according to a report from The Athletic.

But is Brooklyn the ideal fit?

Nets would clearly be banking on the idea of Griffin at least providing size and playmaking that would add another unique combination to their roster, but he’s also coming off the worst defensive stretch of his career. Griffin’s defensive rating had never been above 110 but ballooned up to 114 and 115 following his last All-Star campaign. His defensive box plus-minus, never lower -0.3 previously, dropped to -2.6 and -1.1 the previous two seasons, giving him an overall box plus-minus for the first time in his career (-4.3) last year, improving to a less negative (-2.6) this year. Presumably, Griffin also would provide rebounding to a team that, as talented as it is, ranks outside the NBA’s top-10 on the boards. Griffin’s total-rebound percentage dropped to below 12.0 for the first time of his NBA-run, down to 9.3 and 9.2, respectively. (He’d still be an improvement over Jeff Green’s 7.6).

But does it even matter?

The Nets still have a bottom-five defense, which won’t be aided by Griffin’s presence, in all likelihood, but does it need to? With Steve Nash (and assistant coach Mike D’Antoni) leading a team with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden averaging a historical (and league-best 121.1 points per game despite being only 10th in pace), they’re entitled to say… Who cares?

Griffin’s assist-percentage is at 18.6 this season, nearly four points below his career-average, but would still rank fifth in Brooklyn (higher than any forward outside of Durant). He’s not long removed from being an All-Star but appears to be toward the end of the line, especially since he hasn’t dunked in over a year. (Don’t tell that to people saying ‘Lob City 2.0, though.’) Still, the Nets won’t need an All-Star version of Griffin. They’ll merely need a productive and playable one who could only add to their already potent offense.

If defense was a consideration, Brooklyn might go in a different direction, like reuniting with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. But evidently, the Nets are looking to rewrite history and bet on no one being able to outscore them for a 4-of-7-game stretch. If Griffin is healthy and productive, he’ll only add to that theory.

The short answer to the question of whether or not this helps is that no one knows. But as talented as the Nets appear to be, it might not fully have to if they’re all healthy. And that final piece is still a huge if to monitor between now and the summer.

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