Blake Griffin Traded to Pistons for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2018

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin dribbles against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers traded superstar forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons on Monday in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 protected first-round pick and a 2019 second-round selection.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com first reported the trade. Per Wojnarowski, the protections on the first-round pick will be, "2018: 1-4; 2019: 1-4; 2020: 1-4; 2021: unprotected." He added that the Pistons would also receive Brice Johnson and Willie Reed.

The Clippers may not be done there, however—Wojnarowski reported that the Clippers "will continue to pursue packages of young players and picks in talks for DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams."

Although there were rumblings in previous seasons that suggested Griffin could get moved, it's still surprising to see one of the league's top power forwards dealt in his prime. It's a risky move by the Clippers, even when considering the return package.

Speculation about the 28-year-old University of Oklahoma product's future first began to heat up after a fight with equipment manager Matias Testi in January 2016 at a restaurant in Toronto during which Griffin injured his hand, as Sam Amick of USA Today reported.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments at the time from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who stated "there needs to be consequences." He also suggested Griffin would remain a franchise cornerstone, however: "Blake's a key part of our team. There's no question about that."

While that incident didn't lead directly to a trade, Griffin didn't end up staying on the roster through the organization's current rebuilding efforts. He joins Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford among the high-profile players moved by the front office since the offseason.

Griffin's trade comes as a bigger surprise, however, as he's just months removed from signing a five-year, $171.2 million contract extension with the team.

Griffin is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists across 33 appearances this season. He has the NBA's 10th-best Player Efficiency Rating among power forwards, per ESPN.com. He finished third in PER at the position last season.

Ultimately, superstars such as Griffin are hard to find, but the Clippers made the difficult choice to push forward with the move as they attempt to restructure their roster. It's the type of trade that's going to have a lasting impact on the organization as they clearly plunge headlong into a rebuild.

Detroit, meanwhile, made a win-now decision. In Griffin, the team has a legitimate superstar to build around as it seeks to reach the postseason. The 22-26 Pistons are ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

One factor that cannot be ignored is the long-term financial flexibility Detroit just sacrificed, however, as outlined by B/R's Dan Favale:

Dan Favale @danfavale

combined cost for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin: 2017-18: $53.3 million 2018-19: $57.3 million 2019-20: $61.3 million 2020-21: $65.5 million (AD $28.8M player option) and then Griffin has a $39M PO for 2021-22. this is legitimately terrifying.

The Pistons are now built around one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference in Drummond and Griffin, along with guard Reggie Jackson, and will be expected to make the playoffs. But if Griffin isn't enough to push the Pistons into the NBA's elite—and if the team can't work around the salary cap in future years to add talent given the contracts of Drummond and Griffin—the trade may never be worth it.