On January 29th, the Los Angeles Clippers surprised the basketball world after agreeing to trade their superstar, Blake Griffin, to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first-round draft pick, and a second-round draft pick.
The trade sent shock-waves through the league, being that Griffin has been with the Clippers since they took him first overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. While he was just resigned by the Clippers this past summer, and has four years left on his contract after this season, the stars very well might align in 2021-2022 for him to become a member of the Silver and Black.
By then a 41-year-old Pau Gasol will most likely be retired, with LaMarcus Aldridge potentially taking on a role somewhat like Gasol’s when he first came to the Spurs. Enter a past-his-prime, 32 year-old Griffin fresh off of three-plus seasons as a Piston. He would fall neatly in line with other supposedly-washed-up big men the Spurs have signed in the past that proved to be vital cogs to the team, like Gasol, Boris Diaw, and Antonio McDyess just to name a few.
Of course, a lot of this depends on Griffin being able to stay healthy until then, especially when you consider how many devastating injuries he’s had in his eight years in the league. His career might very well go the same way Amar’e Stoudemire’s did, and Stoudemire was out of the league by age 33.
Another factor in terms of this working would be Griffin rejecting his nearly $39 million player option for 2021-2022. While that is a lot of money, it’s not totally unrealistic to think Griffin might turn it down in favor of a longer contract involving more money overall. After all, we saw this happen this summer when Gasol denied his player option of $16.2 million, and ended up resigning with the Spurs on a three-year, $48 million contract.
Currently, the Spurs only have Patty Mills and Derrick White on the books for 2021-2022, but obviously this is looking far into the future that for now we have to believe would include Kawhi Leonard. Assuming that San Antonio is able to manage their cap correctly and Griffin is still making an impact in the league, it’s definitely an intriguing scenario. After all, his ball handling, outside shooting, and court vision only stand to improve over the next three seasons.
And it would certainly be a situation that might interest Griffin as well. When it comes to longevity and prolonging players’ careers - no one does it better than the Spurs. Tim Duncan played until he was 40, Manu Ginobili is still playing at 40, Gasol is enjoying a very productive season at 37, and the list goes on.
For a guy that has battled so many injuries, it’s easy to think that once Griffin’s contract is up, he might consider extending his career to be his top priority.
It’s also safe to assume that when he’s 32 years old, Griffin will be ready to alter his game a little in the sense that his athleticism won’t be what it was, and it would make sense for him to focus on highlighting and improving other aspects of his game. A good comparison would be Chris Webber in the latter stages of his career. And the Spurs would do nothing but accelerate that kind of transformation.
Aldridge was never considered a great defender when he first came to the Spurs — this season he has proven to be their anchor in the post. Gasol was never seen a three-point threat before coming to the team — now over 40% of his attempts drop in.
Finally, given the Spurs’ track record of success overall, a union like this could prove to be an attractive selling point to Griffin. If he wants to be on a team that knows how to win and also how to take care of their players — it’d be easy to see the Spurs at the top of his list.
While we are a few years away from this possible scenario playing out, it’s exactly the kind of move that PATFO loves to make. All we have to do is keep the possibility in the back of our minds, and be patient.