Why the Clippers should not re-sign Blake Griffin this summer
Blake Griffin has been an explosive, hyper-athletic forward known for his array of highlight reel dunks and alley-oops since he was taken with the number 1 pick in the 2009 draft. Despite solid averages of 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists through his 7 seasons in the NBA, Griffin has been known to be injury prone and does little to space the floor in the modern NBA. This coming offseason, the Clippers have the choice on whether to give Blake Griffin a max contract; However, doing so may not be the best course of action for them going forward.
Griffin played only 61 games during the regular season due to an injury he sustained in December 2016. After coming back in January, Griffin returned to average 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists playing 34.3 minutes a game. After honest performances in Game 1 and Game 2 of the Playoffs against the Jazz, Blake suffered a foot injury in Game 3 and had to sit out the rest of the series. In four more games the Clippers went on to lose in Game 7. This is not a new occurrence for Griffin and the Clippers as Griffin has been injury prone his entire NBA career. After being named the Summer league MVP in 2009, Griffin suffered a stress fracture to his knee as he landed after a slam; An injury that caused him to miss the entire 2009–10 season. Blake’s next 7 years in the league saw another two shortened seasons meaning he has only played 163 out of 246 games over the last three seasons.
Blake Griffin plays a low post, above the rim kind of game, relying on his strength and athleticism to beat his way inside for the finish. When Blake was playing is best basketball, we used to marvel at the way he used crafty ball-handling to beat a defender off the bounce and bound into the paint for the slam. More recently Blake appears to throw his body around wildly and largely relies on his strength to get baskets over defenders near the rim. Griffin appeared to add a jump shot in the last few seasons but is yet to average over one made three-pointer a game. With the NBA ever-evolving into a league where the successful teams are able to space the floor in at least four positions, Griffin’s game is not the hot talent the Clippers should be keen to retain. Players like Blake who aren’t able to develop an outside game and principally rely on their athleticism to get scores only get worse and are not sustainable in the NBA. Just look at the likes of Josh Smith or Dwight Howard and how their careers have diminished.
It has been proven the Clippers can play just as well whether Griffin is on the court or not. For periods where Blake has been out, the Clippers have performed just as well without him. In the last few games of the playoffs I don’t believe you could make the case that Blake was the X-factor that lost them the series. The Clippers have rolled out the core three of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin for quite some time now and as much as they’re an established 50-win team, they’ve not shown themselves to be legitimate title contenders. With much of the Clippers offense running through Jordan and Griffin; two paint-dominating bigs, resigning Blake only leaves the Clippers as an old fashioned player, resistant to the changing NBA. With the ensuing free agency coming up this summer, it seems very likely the Clippers put all in on resigning Chris Paul. With Griffin, the best course of action would be to cut ties with the All-Star forward and allow him to test free agency. The Clippers then will have cap space to resign core pieces such as Paul and J.J Redick, as well as pursue players to fill the 3 and 4 spot. With the likes of Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka hitting the market this summer, the Clips have plenty to choose from to rebrand the way they play, as the current system does not seem to be working for them.
As part of an effective trio of Paul, Jordan and Griffin, Blake has been the one of the faces of the Clippers franchise for a considerable amount of time now. It is likely the Clippers will max him and retain their core three players but letting Griffin go in free agency may be the change the Clippers need to win a Championship with Paul at the helm. Griffin has a range of teams who would be willing to offer him a max deal. Teams such as Denver or the Lakers who are looking for a star to give a max deal to. Or the likes of Miami and Boston who are looking for the missing piece to cement themselves as contenders. In what would be a blockbuster move, it is possible the Knicks acquire Blake Griffin through a sign and trade deal sending Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers. Whatever does happen this offseason will shape the future of the Clippers for the foreseeable future.