In the wake of Blake Griffin’s run-in with Clippers assistant equipment manager Matias Testi, a scrap that left the already injured Griffin out for at least another 4-6 weeks — possibly two months — with a broken right (shooting) hand, there’s been plenty of discussion about the future of the Clippers as a whole, and Griffin in particular.
With that has come much discussion about potential moves that Los Angeles could make to shake up its core. Some has centered around Chris Paul, the Clippers’ oldest core player, and others around DeAndre Jordan, who the team just re-signed in July. But most of the potential trade rumors involve Griffin, thanks to a combination of the issues stemming from this latest incident and the Clippers’ 15-3 record heading into Wednesday night’s home game against the Timberwolves since Griffin initially went down in late December.
That being said, it’s difficult to come up with Griffin trades that make sense. Beyond the fact that Griffin is a terrific player, the Clippers aren’t about to rebuild under a head coach like Doc Rivers and with a point guard like Chris Paul who is approaching the tail end of his prime. So any trade the Clippers might make has to not only provide some future benefit, but also bring back assets that can help them win now – specifically a wing and/or a stretch four.
The other tricky thing is that Griffin only has one year left on his contract – meaning that some teams, despite his talent, could be scared off of trading for him because of the fact he could walk away for nothing in a little over a year.
With all that in mind, then, here are several potential options for where Griffin could go if the Clippers decided to move on from their All-Star power forward:
New York Knicks
The trade: Knicks send Carmelo Anthony and Arron Afflalo to the Clippers for Griffin and Lance Stephenson
A Griffin-for-Anthony swap has been rumored for years, and would be a fascinating one to see come to fruition. Anthony is older, but is a deadly scorer who would be in a perfect scenario playing as a small-ball power forward alongside a defensive center like Jordan – like he was at his best in New York next to Tyson Chandler – and would be thrilled to play alongside one of his best friends in Paul.
Griffin, on the other hand, would fit nicely next to Kristaps Porzingis, a big man who can protect the rim and space the floor, providing a perfect compliment. Griffin also would fit nicely in the triangle. Because Anthony is older, the Clippers could ask for Afflalo, who has his faults but would give them a more reliable wing than they have already, and the Knicks could take back Stephenson as payment for getting Griffin.
The trade: Cavaliers send Kevin Love to the Clippers for Griffin
The “Who is better?” argument regarding whether Love or Griffin is the NBA’s best power forward succeeded the argument over whether Paul or Deron Williams was the league’s top point guard. But, at this point, it could make for an intriguing swap.
Love has had his issues in Cleveland, but while he and Griffin are both excellent passers, Love is a far superior 3-point shooter. Griffin’s superior athleticism, on the other hand, would be a better fit for Cleveland than Love against smaller lineups. Imagine LeBron James combining with Griffin at power forward and center against the Warriors? That would be fun to see play out.
Strength in numbers deals
The trade: Celtics send Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Brooklyn’s 2016 first round pick to the Clippers for Griffin
The Celtics have been accumulating assets in order to make just this kind of move. Between all of the picks and players Boston has, it’s time for the Celtics to go after the kind of franchise-changing star they currently don’t have.
Griffin is just that kind of player, and not only does Boston have the kind of pieces that Los Angeles would want to get back in a deal, but coach Brad Stevens and general manager Danny Ainge would have the confidence to think they could get Griffin to stay. Between Bradley and Crowder, the Clippers would get a pair of guys who could defend and shoot 3-pointers, and would fit nicely in the starting lineup alongside Paul, Jordan and J.J. Redick. Meanwhile, they’d also get Brooklyn’s pick this summer, which will likely wind up in the top five, giving them either another trade chip or a bridge to the next era for the franchise.
The trade: Wizards send Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, Nene and an unprotected first round pick to the Clippers for Griffin, Stephenson and C.J. Wilcox
This is a trade that’s more about giving the Clippers options than anything else. Beal is a big-time talent, but also struggles to stay on the court; meanwhile, Dudley and Porter are solid combo forwards and Nene is a bruiser inside. The Clippers could also turn around and use some combination of Porter, who is still young and developing, Dudley and Nene’s expiring contracts and that pick to get another piece to put alongside Beal – perhaps Sacramento’s Rudy Gay, who has been a rumored target.
The key to this deal, though, could be that unprotected pick. Given how long Griffin will be out, and the depth the Wizards would be giving up while already being outside the playoff picture in the East, it could turn into a high lottery pick. But there’s no way that should stop the Wizards from going after Griffin.
The trade: Magic send Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris to the Clippers for Blake Griffin
Orlando has been spinning its wheels ever since trading away Dwight Howard, collecting one young asset after another but failing to move up the standings in the East. Landing Griffin would allow them to begin to change that, and would finally give this team that simply can’t score an offensive anchor to build around. The Magic would be taking a risk in potentially not being able to keep him, but the allure of no state tax would at least give them a shot. He’d also be a bit of an awkward fit next to center Nikola Vucevic, but that could also potentially lead to more moves down the line for the Magic.
For the Clippers, this would be an intriguing move. Harris has the potential to be a stretch four, though his shooting numbers are down this season. The real asset here, though, is Oladipo, who has seen improvement in his 3-point shot while still presenting a secondary playmaking option and strong defense.
A three-team trade!
Atlanta Hawks send Al Horford to the Clippers and Jeff Teague to the Jazz
Utah Jazz send Alec Burks to the Clippers and Trey Burke to the Hawks
Los Angeles Clippers send Blake Griffin to the Hawks
Now here’s a deal that would be interesting for all teams involved. The Hawks have been making and taking calls on Teague for some time, and Utah is in dire need of an upgrade at the point.
Meanwhile, the talk about shipping out Teague makes it seem like a possibility that Atlanta could be ready to walk away from a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and won 60 games, given Horford is due to be a free agent this summer. And while Horford isn’t the same ball handler Griffin is, he is both a much better shooter and rim protector, which could make him a better fit alongside Jordan.
Griffin going to the Hawks would give them the option of either playing super-small with Griffin and Millsap at the big spots, or playing super-big with Millsap at small forward, Griffin at power forward and Tiago Splitter at center.
The fantasy trade
Oklahoma City Thunder
The trade: Thunder send Kevin Durant to the Clippers for Griffin
This is a deal that wouldn’t happen until July, as Durant isn’t going to be giving away his future destination before then. That being said, if Durant decided he wanted to play in Los Angeles, a Griffin-Durant swap would make all the sense in the world.
Durant would be a perfect fit for the Clippers as their scoring wing, and he’d also have the ability to play as a smallball power forward next to Jordan. Durant also would likely lead the league in scoring by a country mile with Paul getting him the ball whenever and wherever he wanted it. Meanwhile, Griffin – an Oklahoma native and a former Oklahoma star before the Clippers took him with the No. 1 pick in 2009 – would be a perfect fit next to Serge Ibaka in smallball lineups, and it would be fun to see him take off in the open court with Russell Westbrook. He’d even fit with Oklahoma City’s timeline, as he, Westbrook and Ibaka will all be free agents in 2017.