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Grade the Signing: Blake Griffin Brought Back on Max Deal

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With Chris Paul gone, signing Blake Griffin became even more important. Fortunately, the Clippers were quickly able to sign him to a long-term deal. Here’s how a few of our writers grade that signing.

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Kenneth Armstrong: A-

The context of this deal is really important when trying to grade it: If this deal happens before Chris Paul makes a decision, perhaps we decide that Paul didn't want to play with Blake anymore. Or maybe we say that the Clippers gave Blake too much money, which hurt our ability to keep CP3 and build around the familiar core.

But that's not what happened. Instead, Griffin's deal was a function of Chris Paul's exit, making it that much more important for the Clippers to accomplish. Simply put, the Clippers, having decided they don't want to completely tank, needed to keep at least one their superstar free agents. Given this context, I like this deal because it salvaged the Clippers from irrelevance.

The only thing that keeps it from a solid "A" is the fact that it's five years, fully guaranteed, without a team option in case Blake stays injury prone. Either way, this contract ensures Blake will become the most consequential Clippers player in the franchise's history -- whether the consequences are positive or negative is up to the on-court play. So far, he has been a net positive.

Robert Flom: B+

Blake Griffin will likely be a Clipper until he’s 33 years old. That sounds crazy, as it doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Clippers lucked into the coveted #1 pick in the 2009 draft, earning the right to draft the power forward from Oklahoma who many considered to be a once-in-a-generation type prospect. Blake has been the face of the Los Angeles Clippers (yes, even more than Chris Paul) since he was drafted eight years ago, and will remain such for the next five. That’s huge.

Even more than being bad, Clippers’ fans over the past couple years have feared irrelevancy. As the latter era Chris Paul teams slipped time and again, the prospect of Lob City breaking up became more and more likely. The worst nightmare was that it would be a total collapse, an abandonment of all starpower, competency, and recognition. A return to the days of yore, when the Clippers were one of the biggest jokes in professional sports. This deal has prevented that from happening.

The Clippers are no longer a theoretical title contender. Nor are they even a lock to make the playoffs in the talented and competitive Western Conference. But they are still relevant. The Clippers were able to sign Danilo Gallinari in free agency—not a top-tier name, to be sure, but definitely a player who was highly desired by many teams. They were able to grab Milos Teodosic, one of the best players outside of the NBA, on a bargain-rate contract. Neither of those deals would have been available without Blake Griffin.

There are worries about the contract, no doubt about it. Blake has been slowed by injuries in recent years, and there is a strong likelihood that he faces more in the years to come. Even when he’s played, he has not been the dominant force that he was in the 2014 season or the 2015 playoffs: an MVP caliber player. At 28, and with his peak athletic days behind him, it is quite possible that Blake will never be that player again. That doesn’t mean he can’t still be highly effective, especially since he will now be the clear alpha dog and leading option for the first time in half a dozen years. While his declining explosiveness might take away his effectiveness around the basket, his ability to pass and handle the ball won’t go away, and he is showing signs of finally moving behind the three-point line on a regular basis.

There is a definite possibility that Blake’s contract could become an albatross in a few years. He might be crippled by injuries, or just slowly fade away as his athleticism tumbles down the “wrong side of 30” precipice. However, there is no denying how much his signing means to the Clippers, both in the short and long term. Blake Griffin will lead almost all the Clippers’ record books if he finishes out this contract with them, and is a guarantee to get his jersey lofted to the rafters. For a franchise that has constantly dealt with failure and rejection, that is no small feat.

Max Jeffrey: B

At a glance, a five-year, $173 million contract may seem a bit steep for an injury-prone forward still learning to stretch the floor. But Blake Griffin has been the most important player in Clippers history, so paying him far more than anyone else could even offer was a no-brainer. At his best, he's an All-Star point forward with elite vision and athleticism, a perpetual human highlight reel. He's proven that he can be a major factor in the postseason. And it wasn't long ago that he was included in MVP discussions. Griffin's health will remain a topic of concern until he can stay out on the court consistently. But it's his team to lead now, and it feels like the Clippers will be fun to watch once again.

Lucas Hann: B+. This was a really hard grade to nail down for me. On the one hand, Blake has had some injury issues that make a long term investment shaky—on the other hand, I feel like the somewhat fluky nature of his injuries (it isn’t like he’s hurting the same left knee over and over again) makes him a reasonable candidate to stay healthier going forward. And there’s the eternal truth that you have to keep stars in this league, because they’re impossible to come by. There’s also some question as to whether Blake Griffin is a big enough star to be the best player on a contending team. It was a move that the Clippers had to make—and not even hold their nose and make the offer, like with Jamal Crawford last year—but let’s not act like it’s without a little trepidation. Also, some bonus points for having such a good working relationship with Blake that he signed last and took a minor paycut to help the team avoid the repeater tax, which could make roster-building easier in the years to come.