Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin has an odd legacy to wrap your head around. Trading him may just be the best thing the Clippers ever did (Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

The NBA has had a lot of lop sided trades in its history. The Thunder gave away James Harden to the Rockets. The Nets gave away ALL of their draft picks for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett when they were shot. The Clippers are about to add their name to that list in a good way. While Blake Griffin hasn’t been bad with the Pistons by any stretch of the imagination, he will forever be remembered as the guy who kicked started the Clippers title contender and ruined the Pistons.

June 30th, 2017. The Clippers were set to make Blake Griffin a Clipper for life when he signed a 5-year, $173 million extension. That was until they didn’t. Just a few months later, Griffin was traded to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Avery Bradley, a 2018 first round pick, and a 2019 second round pick. That 2018 first rounder turned into Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

On the surface, the trade doesn’t look so bad for the Pistons. They get Blake for a couple guys and a pick. What’s the issue? Well, there are many. The best player in this trade is actually Tobias Harris. The media just won’t admit that.

  • Harris: 50.1%, 42.5% 3-point range, 7.9 rebounds
  • Griffin: 47.4%, 36% 3-point range, 8 rebounds

Harris is also the better defender. Harris is also more versatile. Harris is also 3 years younger and a hell of a lot less expensive. Who wants to pay Griffin $40 million a year three years from now? That contract for an injury prone player has some serious bust potential to it.

Harris is the better player and the Pistons could have just kept him and all of the other pieces they gave away. From that point alone, the Pistons lost this trade.

The Clippers did something interesting during the trade deadline. They decided that Harris wasn’t worth a max contract. Bold strategy but it’s one worth taking. The Clippers landed two first round picks and Landry Shamet for Tobias Harris. All of the sudden, the Clippers may have just turned Blake Griffin into 4 first round picks. Shamet and Gilgeous-Alexander already look like hits. What happens if the Clippers hit a home run on the unprotected Miami 2021 pick?

The Clippers have a bright future. Kawhi Leonard is coming to take the max free agent slot that would have went to Griffin had they never traded him. All of the sudden, the Clippers are a title contender. Something that never would have happened if the Clippers had just kept trying to improve the Lob City core.

On the flip side, the Pistons stink. They don’t have anything going on. They were a non-playoff team before Blake and a non-playoff team with Blake. There is no rational way to claim that the Pistons won this deal in any stretch of the imagination. He’s also not a great fit next to Andre Drummond because neither stretches the floor. Griffin needs to be a stretch 5 to have this work. Griffin hasn’t shown that he’s a winning player in any season. The Griffin trade has worked out better than I expected but it still doesn’t matter. He will be the guy who is remembered for tanked the Pistons and kicked off the first great Clipper team.