NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Clippers consultant Jerry West said the organization was "stuck" before trading Blake Griffin and his five-year, $171 million contract to the Detroit Pistons ahead of this season's trade deadline.
"No one wants to do that, particularly with someone like Blake Griffin," West said of the trade, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. "It was very difficult for everyone, especially [team owner Steve Ballmer], because he really liked Blake personally. But this franchise was really stuck. There was nowhere for it to go. You have to figure out how far away you really are and how we can get there."
The Clippers traded Griffin, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons in late January for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-rounder and a 2019 second-rounder.
The Clippers went 17-16 down the stretch after the deal, finishing five games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Still, they were serious contenders for a postseason berth before losing six of their final seven games.
The Pistons didn't fare any better, going 17-17 after the trade and finishing four games outside of the playoff picture.
Griffin appeared in 25 games for the Pistons and played well, averaging 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Still, questions persist about how Griffin and center Andre Drummond will coexist on the court and how the cap-strapped Pistons will add improvements around them.
Those concerns almost assuredly played a role in the parting with head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy last week.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have more freedom.
Barring an unforeseen jump into the top three at the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, they'll have the Nos. 12 and 13 picks in this year's draft. The Clippers could also have cap space this summer, depending on whether DeAndre Jordan ($24.1 million), Austin Rivers ($12.7 million) and Milos Teodosic ($6.3 million) opt out of their player options.
It's fair to question whether Jordan will get more on the market than that $24.1 million, so unless he decides to chase a championship, he may choose to play out his contract with the Clippers. Regardless, dealing Griffin and his gargantuan deal will help open up the books for the organization in the coming years.