Blake Griffin Signs Up for Five Years with Troubled L.A. Clippers Franchise

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJuly 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Perhaps it's just a giant vote in favor of Los Angeles, a city that inspires much envy-fueled scoffing. It's a nice place to live, and maybe Blake Griffin wants to stay there.

It's also possible that Griffin was wooed by the $95 million deal, the ceiling of which he can reach if he is named starter for a second All-Star team or if he makes another All-NBA squad, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles. This is per the "Derrick Rose rule," a CBA provision that halts teams from taking advantage of their young, precocious players to an extent.

Rookie deals are the best bargains in the NBA, as the CBA locks in a player's value proportional to his draft selection. The contracts are absurdly small compared to what a young, say, Blake Griffin produces for a team. The Rose rule balances that out a bit, rewarding young players who exceed all reasonable expectations.

Griffin certainly exceeded my expectation in his loyalty to the Clippers. The franchise is poorly run with an awful human being at the top. Perhaps Blake sees something in Donald T. Sterling that all of us are missing, but it's hard to look at recent events and divine a better direction for this franchise.

Yes, they did get Chris Paul in the 2011 offseason. But Sterling was too cheap or disinterested to retain the GM who brought Paul here, and the owner was also fine with re-upping with Vinny Del Negro. Los Angeles marches into the future with a bad coach and the question of Paul's extension very much up in the air.

Paul is a free agent next season, and it's in his best interest to wait on a signing a possible $108 million extension. Based on the current Clips roster, I don't see CP3 extending. His game works best with a big man that can shoot, and Blake Griffin isn't that. There are actually no bigs like that on the team's roster.

Instead, the Clippers are stocked with retreads like Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford. The "retread" description might actually be unfair to Odom, who once could really helped his teams, and perhaps can in the future.

As for Crawford, that's the kind of signing bad teams make. The former Sixth Man of the Year doesn't play defense, takes bad shots and plays a position that L.A. has fully loaded. His one saving grace is that he can play a brand of offense that Vinny need not design. 

Blake Griffin's deal, though, is undoubtedly a good one for the Clippers. This is because "max" contract restrictions make stars more affordable than they rightly should be. To many basketball observers, last year was a bit of a disappointment for Blake Griffin. His offensive game remained rudimentary, and he made no strides in hitting a mid-range shot.

He is also 23 years old, an elite rebounder, explosive dunker and efficient offensive force. Griffin is a fine passer at his size, and has a sticky handle, enabling him to go coast-to-coast on occasion. He's not perfect, but there's no one in the league quite like him.

Defense is a concern for Griffin, and it likely always will be. He has an extremely short wingspan for his height and his position. Those arms will likely keep him from elite defensive status, though Griffin can hope to use smarts, strength and position to compensate for what he lacks.

Despite this deficiency, the most glaring things about Griffin are his talent and promise. 

Right now, L.A.'s main challenge, should they choose to accept it, is building around Griffin. I'm not much convinced that the Clippers care for title chasing, but it's conceivable that they do. In that case, retaining Chris Paul should be a major goal. Even if Paul flees, there is plenty of time to construct a team around Blake's talents, provided he stays healthy. 

Building the right way will require more imagination than signing players like Jamal Crawford. It's difficult to see how or why the Clippers will ever change directions in a permanent sense. But Blake Griffin is one of a few reasons for a plausible belief that this will happen.