The NBA took center stage on Monday night after a blockbuster deal sent Blake Griffin, plus Brice Johnson and Willie Reed, from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a protected 2018 first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

Griffin, a five-time all-star whom the franchise called “a lifelong Clipper” before signing him to a five-year, $173 million contract this summer, has been solid — and healthy —  this season, scoring 22.6 points with 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Most notably he has added a three-point shot to his game, attempting a career-high 187 three-point shots in 2017-18, almost equaling his total from his first seven years as a pro (268). His impact on a flailing Pistons squad trying to remain relevant in this year’s playoff picture and beyond, however, is a Hail Mary, at best.

Entering Tuesday night, Detroit was ninth in the East at 22-26, three games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the eighth and final playoff spot. They drop to 10th in the conference based on net rating after being outscored by 1.2 points per 100 possessions this season. Griffin, meanwhile, helped the Clippers produce a 0.8 net rating when he was on the court with the team maintaining a 0.4 net rating when he was on the bench. In other words, Griffin had minimal impact on a team that was ninth in the West per their win-loss record (25-24) and 8th per net rating (plus-0.6).

  Minutes Net Rating eFG% Assist% Rebound%
2017-18 Clippers overall 2,357 0.6 52.4% 16.5% 49.4%
With Blake Griffin 1,139 0.8 53.2% 16.8% 49.6%
Without Blake Griffin 1,218 0.4 51.7% 16.3% 49.1%

Griffin is a versatile defender, but also an average one. Opponents are scoring 0.9 points per possession when he is tabbed as the closest defender, placing him 23rd out of 48 forwards defending at least 400 possessions this season. That jumps to 1.18 points per possession on 58 percent shooting around the basket, good enough to rank him among the bottom 25 percent of the NBA’s defenders against this play type. When asked to guard a player on a catch-and-shoot that player produces an effective field goal rate of 60 percent, basically turning an opponent into Steph Curry (62 percent eFG% this season) on these possessions.

Griffin is also considered by some to be an elite rebounder, grabbing almost eight per game, however, just 2.4 of those are contested. Among players with at least 15 rebound chances per night, only Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has a lower rate of contested rebounds than Griffin this season.

Player Rebound chances per game Rebounds per game Contested rebounds per game Contested rebound %
Russell Westbrook 16.6 9.6 1.8 19%
Blake Griffin 15.0 7.9 2.4 30%
G. Antetokounmpo 16.6 10.3 3.3 32%
Marcin Gortat 15.8 8.0 2.7 34%
DeAndre Jordan 23.1 14.8 5.5 37%

Griffin is an option for coach Stan Van Gundy in the pick-and-roll with his ability to pop out for midrange jumpers, yet his overall pick-and-roll efforts, including his passes, amounted to 0.9 points per possession, 103rd out of 137 players with at least 100 pick-and-roll possessions in 2017-18. That’s a worse rate than Detroit has performed as a team this season (0.94 points per possession).

His presence on the court could help keep Andre Drummond down low where he is better suited concentrating on offensive rebounds, but their skill set does overlap a bit: Both need space to score around the basket and both like to work near the top of the floor.

Floor spacing was already an issue for Detroit and their rate of three-point attempts (33 percent of field goals) is below average this season. And now the team shipped out two of their better three-point shooters in Harris and Bradley that will only get more difficult. Van Gundy can use Luke Kennard (7 three-point attempts per 100 possessions) and Henry Ellison (9.6 three-point attempts per 100 possessions) off the bench, but he doesn’t have reliable options to get the ball to a spot-up shooter nor consistent shooting talent among his starters — the team’s 54.1 true shooting percentage is the sixth-worst in the NBA this season. Plus, the Pistons will owe Griffin and Drummond around $58 million next year, which will make putting a good team around the stars difficult.

Besides, we have already seen what happens when you have two bigs fighting for space on the floor at the same time. The New Orleans Pelicans tried to make this strategy work with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis since 2016-17 yet missed the playoffs last season and are tied for sixth in the West in 2017-18. Unfortunately, Cousins ruptured his Achilles’ tendon on Friday, ruling him out for the rest of the season, perhaps costing the Pelicans a playoff spot. Griffin has an injury history of his own and hasn’t played more than 67 games in a season since the 2013-14 campaign, adding more risk to a deal that looks to be more bust than boom.

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