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2017-18 Clippers Exit Interview: Blake Griffin

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Bye bye, Blake

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Blake Griffin

Age: 29

Years in NBA: 8

Key Stats:

  • With the Clippers: 22.6 points, 5.4 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game (44.1% FG and 34.2 % 3PT) in 34.5 minutes per game (33 games played, 33 starts)
  • With the Detroit Pistons: 19.8 points, 6.2 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game (43.3% FG and 34.8 % 3PT) in 33.2 minutes per game (25 games played, 25 starts)

2017-2018 Salary: $29,512,900

Future Contract Status: Griffin just finished the first year of a five-year, $171,174,820 contract that will carry him through the 2021-2022 season.

Summary:

Blake Griffin played only 33 games with the Clippers before being unceremoniously traded to the Detroit Pistons in January. The story was one of the biggest of the 2017-18 season. Los Angeles acquired forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 protected first-round selection, and a 2019 second-round pick from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Griffin, dead-weight forward Brice Johnson and domestic abuser/center Willie Reed.

Fans were stunned by the move, as perennial-favorite Griffin had been aggressively courted by the Clippers in the off-season, culminating in a five-year, $173 million contract to remain with the team. The over-the-top pitch included decorating a hallway at Staples Center with pictures of Griffin at various points in his career, raising Griffin’s jersey to the rafters in a fake jersey retirement ceremony, and printing t-shirts with Griffin’s image alongside historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Gandhi.

In light of this overdone display, it was disconcerting to many that the remaining face of the Clippers franchise (after the loss of Chris Paul) could be so easily disposed of just six short months after the signing of a major contract (second in its extravagance to only Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors).

Others recognized, however, that shedding the injury-prone Griffin’s mega contract was the only way for the franchise to achieve the flexibility and cap space to move forward and rebuild.

Strengths:

The strengths that Griffin brought to the Clippers included just about everything. An indisputably elite NBA player, Griffin can score, rebound and pass. In his last few seasons with the Clippers, the well-rounded Griffin was often described as a “point-forward” and frequently served as LA’s leader on the court even when Point God Chris Paul was on the floor.

In the 33 games he suited up for with Los Angeles during the 2017-18 season, Griffin averaged an impressive 22.6 points on 44.1% shooting, 5.4 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. He was particularly effective from beyond the arc, averaging nearly two 3-pointers per game on 34.2% shooting. One of Griffin’s most memorable moments of his abbreviated last season with the Clippers included one of those threes – a game winner against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Griffin was also the team’s franchise player and leader and seemed to be enjoying that role. He was active in helping the newly revamped Clippers roster bond during pre-season training camp in Hawaii and looked happier than he had in years. He brought energy to the floor night after night early on in the season, helping redefine the Clippers as a scrappy, take no sh*t, hustle and heart squad.

Griffin’s performance against the Houston Rockets on January 15, 2018 was the game that best illustrates this point. Griffin had 29 points on 50% shooting, 6 assists and 10 rebounds in the outing. He played with playoff-like intensity, jawing with Rockets’ players Trevor Ariza and Chris Paul, and even physically bumped and squared up to coach Mike D’Antoni.

Later, Ariza nearly ripped Griffin’s shorts off, and both players were ejected. Griffin left the floor to cheers and a standing ovation, tossing his jersey into the crowd.

After Griffin’s trade no other Clipper was able to recreate that level of energy and intensity on the floor (not even Austin Rivers, sadly).

Weaknesses:

Griffin’s primary weakness has always been his propensity for injury. In his eight NBA seasons, Griffin has played a full schedule just twice: 82 games in the 2010-11 season, and all 66 games in the shortened 2011-12 season. In the last six seasons Griffin has missed a significant 103 games, including 16 of his 49 games as a Clipper in 2017-18.

Future with the Clippers: Seriously? None. After being traded to the Pistons Griffin was quoted as saying that going to Detroit made him “realize what a franchise looks like.” It seems highly unlikely he’d ever want to return to the organization.

It is just as unlikely that the Clippers would want Griffin back. Arguably, at 28, Griffin has already peaked. Certainly by the end of his current contract he will be on the downside of his career. He is good, but he’s no LeBron James.