Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin has been a pie-in-the-sky trade acquisition dream for the Portland Trail Blazers since their current roster took shape last July. Based on Griffin’s performances this year upon returning from a knee injury, that pie may be plummeting to earth.
Writing for USA Today, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press chronicles Griffin’s struggles this season. After averaging 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on 46.2% shooting in 2018-19, Griffin stands at only 15.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 36.3% this year. His 23.8% three-point shooting percentage is miserable, and his lack of overall production allows opponents to change their defensive plans against the Pistons.
Ellis quotes Pistons Head Coach Dwane Casey on the lack of double-teaming against Griffin:
“Teams are playing straight up,” Casey said. “He’s not shooting the ball well; that’s the bottom line and it’s no fault of anybody’s.
“Players go through that, but out of that, I think he’s a good facilitator. He can pass the ball out of there. There are things he can do to help us win.”
It’s not good when the coach is saying the team’s best player can help by being a decoy.
And the Pistons are faced with the prospect that this is the new normal for Griffin, who is owed $75.5 million for the next two seasons.
Ellis’ article is extensive and includes quotes from Griffin himself, his teammates, and his coach. The bottom line: Is $110 million over the next three years worth it for a superstar who is not playing super and may never do so again?
That question echoes through potential trade scenarios with the Blazers too. Portland would be committing an enormous amount of money to Griffin in salary and luxury tax penalties. On the other hand, underperforming in Detroit is the exact lever that could make a trade work reasonably, providing the highest potential upside for a deal.
Go ahead and read Ellis article, then come back and answer: Would you do it? If Griffin gets better, Detroit’s incentive to trade will get lower and price to acquire him higher. He wouldn’t have to lead the offense in Portland; if his shot recovers, a passing, scoring “decoy” at power forward might be enough to push the Blazers over the top. Is it worth the risk and the financial cost to Portland?