Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) points down the court against San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) during the first quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Should the San Antonio Spurs ask about the Detroit Pistons big man?
For many San Antonio Spurs fans, the most painful memory in franchise history came in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Ray Allen’s dagger from the corner is a shot that will live in the minds of Spurs fans forever, but it’s got serious competition for the title of “Most Painful Memory” in my mind.
San Antonio was able to find redemption for their loss in 2013 with a sweeping win over the Heat in 2014. That title was never in doubt. And they came into the 2015 playoffs with a full head of steam, ready to defend their title. Then they ran into the LA Clippers.
After seven highly contested games, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin eventually knocked the Spurs out of the playoffs thanks to a last-second shot by Paul. It was a gut punch made even more painful by how annoying the Clippers were that year.
Now, years after the Lob City Clippers have been disbanded, the Spurs have an opportunity to acquire the player who once helped break their playoff hopes. No, not Chris Paul, Blake Griffin.
Earlier this week on The Lowe Post, Zach Lowe discussed the market for Blake Griffin and seemed optimistic that there will be a solid amount of teams looking to acquire the six-time All-Star. Should the San Antonio Spurs be among them?
Let’s look at what Griffin would bring on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor and what it would likely cost the Spurs to bring him to the Alamo City.
Next: Impacts on defense
Dec 28, 2019; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) prepares to catch a pass as Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) defends in the second half of the game at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Griffin opens up options for the San Antonio Spurs defense
I’m not going to try to convince you that Griffin is some sort of elite rim protector or ballhawk, he’s not. But his versatility on that end of the floor would open up quite a few interesting options for the Spurs to use.
One of the biggest issues facing the Spurs last year was that in order to stay in games they needed to have both of their best scorers, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, on the floor as much as possible. This normally wouldn’t be a problem but playing Aldridge so much often relegated Jakob Poeltl to the bench.
Poeltl is an elite rim protector stuck in a second unit role. He finished among the top-ten players in the league in total blocks and was 13th in the league in shots contested per 36 minutes. He also led the Spurs in defensive rating and defensive box plus-minus. He did all of that despite playing the 10th most minutes on the team.
He doesn’t have the same speed that he did during his time with the Clippers but we’ve seen Blake share the floor with rim-protecting big men before. He’s found success with both DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond and there’s little reason to believe that he wouldn’t be able to coexist in a lineup with Poeltl.
On his own, Griffin isn’t going to be a huge difference-maker for the Spurs defense. But he does give them an avenue to playing a guy who can be that difference-maker significantly more minutes.
Next: Impacts on offense
Dec 26, 2019; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) shoots as Washington Wizards forward Jonathan Williams (19) defends during the third quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Griffin would instantly elevate the San Antonio Spurs offense
Blake isn’t the high flying, lob slamming dunk artist he was in Los Angeles but that doesn’t make him any less of a danger on offense. He’s done an excellent job of adapting his game to the modern NBA over the past few years.
He’s still one of the most powerful big men in the league and uses his strength to destructive effect down low. He’s got a deep bag of post moves and has no problem going down low to scrap with players who have a few inches on him.
He’s also very capable of stretching the defense out. He was a master of the mid-range with the Clippers but the league-wide emphasis on taking more shots from behind the arc has pushed him out past the 3-point line over the past few years. He was taking 44 percent of his total field goals from deep last year before going down with an injury.
His performance from behind the arc last year wasn’t excellent but during the ’18-19 season, he was taking seven attempts per game from behind the arc and connecting on 36 percent of them. That’s pretty impressive growth from a player who hardly ever shot the 3-ball during the first half of his career.
Blake’s a capable ball-handler and playmaker too. He’s always been a good ball-handler for his size but he’s taken on a larger playmaking roll over the past few years and would instantly give the Spurs another dangerous option in fast-break situations.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/11/11/0021900140/15/d9ef9a87-5674-23c9-3cd3-3dc726cc39f6_1280x720.mp4
He can bring that same level of versatility to the pick and roll as well where he’s able to function as the ball handler or the roll man.
In the bubble, the Spurs showed off a new fast-paced, multi-dimensional attack that they didn’t have during the season. Blake Griffin can do just about anything you want on the offensive end of the floor and would give San Antonio an excellent weapon to slot into the offense they’re building.
Next: What would it cost San Antonio?
Feb 27, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Detroit Pistons power forward Blake Griffin (23) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (left) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
How could the San Antonio Spurs acquire Blake Griffin?
Recently we graded a proposed trade from Bleacher Report that suggested sending LaMarcus Aldridge and Keldon Johnson to Cleveland for Kevin Love. Our take – adding in Keldon is too much but if the Spurs could pull off a Love for Aldridge swap it might be something worth considering.
If the Pistons were willing to accept a Griffin for Aldridge swap that might be something worth considering.
For Detroit, they take on Aldridge’s similarly sized contract but get out from under the final two years of his max contract. If they’re looking for a rebuilt this would help them create more cap space in the summer of 2021 where they could go after free agents they want to build their team around for the next few years.
Another possibility could include attaching one of the Spurs young guards or wings in exchange for Detroit’s seventh overall pick in this year’s draft.
Spurs fans surely don’t like the idea of sending off one of the players that they’ve become attached to over the past few years but making a deal like this would give San Antonio the flexibility to take someone like Isaac Okoro with the seventh pick and then try to grab a player like Patrick Williams with the 11th pick. Two players of that caliber plus Griffin would give San Antonio an excellent return for what they’d be sending out and would set them up nicely for the next few years.
It might be difficult for the San Antonio Spurs to add Blake Griffin to their roster but if they can work out a deal that brings him to San Antonio without sending too much out in return it’s definitely something they should consider.