Former NBA All-Star Blake Griffin’s tenure with the Pistons appears to be heading towards an abrupt end. On Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that the two sides are working on parting ways prior to next month’s trade deadline. Griffin’s diminishing output and lofty salary could result in a complicated, yet possible, buyout.
If Griffin does hit the buyout market, the Trail Blazers should be at the top of the list of potential suitors. Circling back to Griffin would fit a pattern that President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has adopted in recent years. Seriously, outside of hitting on second-round talent and bidding against himself when re-signing role players, pursuing former frontcourt targets has become Olshey’s signature move.
Olshey utilized this tactic not once, but twice in the 2019 offseason. When the Blazers acquired Hassan Whiteside in a four-team trade prior to the 2019-20 season, Olshey made it a point to highlight his previous interest in the towering center.
“Acquiring Hassan is an impact move for our roster,” said Olshey. “He is an elite shot blocker, rebounder and paint presence on both ends of the floor. We have pursued Hassan through multiple avenues at various times in his career and are ecstatic to be adding him to our organization.”
A few weeks later, Olshey returned to that same line of thinking after Pau Gasol inked a one-year deal with the Blazers.
“We’re clearly ecstatic to add Pau to our roster, a player with championship experience for a team with high expectations for the upcoming season,” said Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. “As you all know, he’s a player we pursued aggressively a couple years ago in free agency. We’re ecstatic to have him join the Trail Blazers and become a core part of our roster going forward.”
The most high-profile instance of this approach is tied to current Blazers center Enes Kanter. Recapping Portland’s previous interest in Kanter was among the first remarks Olshey made after the former Knicks pivot signed with the Blazers in the middle of the 2018-19 season.
A pursuit of Griffin on the buyout market would be one of the biggest call backs of Olshey’s career. Their relationship spans over a decade—all the way back to their mutual time with the Clippers. Olshey was serving as the Clippers’ assistant general manager when Griffin was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Shortly after Griffin’s arrival in Los Angeles, Olshey was tasked with building the rosters that surrounded the former Oklahoma star.
It is clear that Griffin is entering a new, less-mobile era of his NBA career. But his name recognition and former relationship with Olshey should make him an obvious target for the Blazers if he enters the buyout market. For Griffin, the goodwill that the Blazers have built with Carmelo Anthony could serve as a starting point for shared interest. Plus, I doubt that any hard feelings linger from that contest back in 2017.