By: Vinny @sailboatstudios
And we’re off! The first trade of the new year brings many opinions from self-proclaimed experts, knee-jerk reactions/takedowns of either the Pistons or Clippers as Blake Griffin’s time in California has come to an unceremonious end. Stan Gan Gundy makes the ultimate play to save his team’s season and his job; the Pistons loss eight straight and nineteen of their last twenty-seven since starting the year 14-6. Its no coincidence the Pistons team fell into the toilet once Reggie Jackson’s ankle betrayed him, expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. The core of Jackson – Bradley – Tobias – Drummond is better than whatever SVG is gonna throw out on the floor with Blake Griffin.
The instability in Detroit is insane. In no way Blake is the player he once was; on paper seems like it, but injuries and countless lower body surgeries largely limited his ability to play above the rim. We’ve seen an awful lot of “Point Blake” this season, a role where he’s done great as the floor general, 5.4 assists, he’s shown he can play like Draymond Green. But we’ve seen bouncy players succumb to injuries in the past, and Griffin’s ability to play long stretches leaves me skeptical, he’s already missed time due to injury, his dunk totals haven’t passed 100 since 2014 (mostly because of his injuries). Stan Van Gundy treated Blake as if he were still the third best player in the NBA, giving up the farm (and a lottery pick!) for him to save their season. Who’s playing the shooting guard and small forward positions for Detroit now? Stanley Johnson? Reggie Bullock? Luke Kennard? What a horrible roster this team’s complied and they think they can make the playoffs with just Blake and Drummond? Essentially SVG elected to become the Clippers of last week, only without the standout prospects; whiffing on a couple lottery picks will do that to you.
(A major positive in this trade is for the Celtics, if the Pistons sneak into the postseason they don’t have to worry about facing Avery Bradley in a revenge series)
Willie Reed is a fine backup center, better than Boban. Los Angeles will miss having Reed as a backup to D.J.
For the Clippers, they sit a half-game behind Denver for the eighth seed, two-games behind New Orleans for the sixth spot. It’s feasible the Clippers go on a run the final thirty-three games and finish with a better record than both those teams. The emergence of Tyrone Wallace (shooting 72.7% on cuts”), the return of Miloš Teodosić round out the backcourt. Avery Bradley playing next to Lou Williams basically recreates the Tacoma Backcourt from his Boston days with Isaiah Thomas. Jerry West forced Doc Rivers to coach up younger talent this season, taking away both franchise cornerstones in five-months of showing up. When Gallinari went out of the lineup, Wesley Johnson and prospect Sam Dekker stepped in and produced. Austin Rivers, Teodosić and Beverly being sidelined forced Rivers to turn to rookies Wallace and Jawun Evans. Blake Griffin’s departure thrusts Montrezl Harrell into a bigger role which is what West wants. Stealthily taking away Rivers’ preferred players to build for the future and still be in a position to reasonably compete. Don’t be surprised if the Clippers finish 42-40 and give the Warriors some fits in the first round.
Another factor in all of this is the Pistons gave up what could be a top-10 pick (the protections are 1 thru 4) for a guy who hasn’t made the All-Star Game in three years and has a donut sized hole at their wing positions.