Blake Griffin can become the San Antonio Spurs’ next great reclamation project

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
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 /

The San Antonio Spurs are tailor-made to help Blake Griffin extend his career

At one point, Blake Griffin instilled fear in his opponents’ eyes. An athletic marvel with the wide-reaching tools of a guard, Griffin put more players on a poster than the printing press. On many occasions, he and the Los Angeles Clippers dueled with a San Antonio Spurs dynasty nearing the end of the road. Around the same time that the Spurs’ Big Three retired and a new iteration of Spurs basketball began, the ‘Lob City’ era of the Clippers came to an abrupt end.

Now, Griffin stands at a crossroads in his NBA playing career. Recently bought-out by the Detroit Pistons, who traded for his enormous contract shortly after he signed it, Griffin is an unrestricted free agent pondering his next steps. Though it may not be as flashy an option as signing with a top-heavy contender like the Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Lakers, Griffin would have a great chance to lengthen his career if he signed with the San Antonio Spurs.

Time and time again, the Spurs have lured talent that otherwise wouldn’t consider the small-market goliath when there weren’t many other places to turn. Three players on the current roster have revived their careers playing under coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio: Rudy Gay, Trey Lyles and once upon a time, Patty Mills fit that bill as well.

Six-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin has agreed to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons and will become an unrestricted free agent, sources tell ESPN.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 5, 2021

For Lyles and Mills, San Antonio was a place where their skills could be extracted and old habits could be broken. In time, each has turned into an effective rotation piece that influences winning basketball when called upon. For Gay, the journey is much more similar to Blake’s.

Injuries have been the main concern for Blake Griffin since he entered the league. His entire rookie season was lost due to injury, forcing his NBA debut to be delayed by a season in 2009-10. Having played 20 painstaking games in Detroit this season, Griffin has returned to square one. After being the face of the franchise in one of the most popular markets in professional sports, Griffin was forced to drop his ego and focus on what he could control —His game.

That didn’t last as the Pistons’ deliberate failure to build a competitive roster weighed on Blake, who suffered numerous injuries along the way. However, his fully-warranted All-NBA selection in 2019 proved that the winning version of Blake Griffin still exists inside of him, it’s only a matter of extracting that and remaining healthy enough to show it.

If there’s any franchise that can get Blake back on the right track, it’s San Antonio. With an extra roster spot and the means to sign him, this may be a mutually-beneficial pairing that would help the team push back into the playoff conversation. The Spurs still have $8,359,690 available from their mid-level exception in addition to a $3.6 million bi-annual exception that could be used to sign Blake.

The former All-Star just made tens of millions of dollars in a buyout that equates to generational wealth for the average non-pro athlete. When that’s the case, a payday isn’t usually the first priority — It’s an opportunity.

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Many will contest this idea because of the San Antonio Spurs’ budding youth movement, but Blake doesn’t necessarily have to detract from that. In adding Griffin, the Spurs can more openly shop one of their veteran frontcourt players who’d be valuable to other competing teams this season. Relegated to a bench role, LaMarcus Aldridge’s services may be better served on a different team by this point in his career. The aforementioned Gay also makes sense for plenty of contenders because of his expiring one-year contract, veteran experience and growth as an off-ball catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist.

Despite his horrid numbers in Detroit this season, Griffin’s career cannot be written off at just 31-years-old. Pairing him with a hungry impending free agent in DeRozan and a young, unselfish group of players would take the pressure off of Griffin’s shoulders and allow him to get back to form at his own pace.

For San Antonio, it provides a gateway to uphold the trajectory the team has committed to since trading Kawhi Leonard in the 2019 offseason: Developing young talent and building for the future, but not at the expense of playing competitive basketball now. Griffin has grown into a point forward of sorts over the years who uses his scoring threat to generate looks for others. That’s the same developmental step taken by DeMar DeRozan in recent seasons.

Next. Can LaMarcus Aldridge come to terms with his bench role?

If it all works out well, the Spurs’ young core would get the opportunity to watch a potential Hall of Famer up close and personal while competing on a nightly basis and coming into their own.