The Detroit Pistons pulled off a blockbuster trade Monday night, acquiring Blake Griffin, a five-time All-Star and former NBA rookie of the year who is averaging 22.6 points per game.
It’s a blockbuster trade, for sure. But, was it a good trade?
That’s open to debate, as analysis rolls in from NBA experts and beat writers everywhere.
Most agreed it’s a risk — what trade isn’t? — for the Pistons, who are taking on a player in Griffin with a deep history of injuries who just signed a gargantuan five-year, $173 million deal in July. They also gave up a pair of starters in guard Avery Bradley and forward Tobias Harris, as well draft picks.
And, most agreed, that this likely is a last-ditch effort from president and head coach Stan Van Gundy, who is in his fourth season, with just one playoff appearance (a first-round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers).
The Pistons are ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, 21/2 games out of the eighth and final spot in the playoff race. They’ve lost eight in a row, and have all but wasted a 14-6 start to the season.
“Detroit has been sitting on the cusp (of the playoffs), and going for it with Griffin will ultimately make or break Stan Van Gundy’s tenure with the team,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo, who gave the Pistons an A-minus in the deal.
“Harris and Bradley are the Pistons’ two leading scorers, but both are essentially high-level role guys who were cast into bigger shares of the scoring load. Griffin, when healthy and locked in, is a legitimate offensive bell cow whose scoring and passing can make his entire team better. His addition creates a legitimate opportunity to make a run in an Eastern Conference that — until Cleveland decides what it wants to do in the next 10 days—appears open for the taking.”
Woo, who gave the Clippers a B-minus, appears to hold the highest regard for what the Pistons landed in the deal, which also included big man Willie Reed and forward Brice Johnson.
Chris Barnewall of CBS Sports gave the Pistons a B-minus, while ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave them a D-plus. The Clippers received a C-minus and B-plus from Barnewall and Pelton, respectively.
“Trading for Griffin is a fascinating, franchise-defining gamble by the Pistons,” Pelton writes.
“Rebuilding again this deep in Van Gundy’s tenure wasn’t realistic,” Pelton continued. “Instead, Detroit has doubled down on talent, sacrificing depth and guaranteed dollars to acquire the best player the Pistons have had since trading Chauncey Billups nearly a decade ago.
“In a few years, we could see the Griffin trade as either a jump-start to the Van Gundy era or the beginning of the end. I’d wager on the latter outcome.”
Pelton isn’t alone.
“In sports, desperate acts rarely work out for the best,” wrote Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. “What Pistons coach and front office honcho Stan Van Gundy agreed to do on Monday, 10 days ahead of the February trade deadline, amounts to utter desperation, and it’s hard to see how this works out for the best in Detroit.”
Much of analysts’ views of the deal centered around the teaming of Griffin with Pistons center Andre Drummond, who is in the middle of arguably his best season, averaging 14.7 points, a league-leading 15.1 rebounds, and a career-high 3.8 assists.
Jalen Rose, the ESPN analyst, Detroit native and former Michigan Fab Five member, says Griffin and Drummond “are actually going to be dominant.”
Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight says the pairing is a gamble.
“That dynamic between Griffin and Drummond is the enormous bet here,” Herring writes, “one that resembles a less versatile version of what the Pelicans decided they’d do last season when trading for DeMarcus Cousins to pair him with Anthony Davis. One where a club’s two best players are both big men, despite the league having moved in a direction that favors smaller, quicker teams.”