Peace, Love and Thunderstanding: Requisite Griffin Trade Proposal
12:34 AM EDT on May 28, 2009
I feel awful for Blake Griffin. If you looked at the fourteen teams that had the opportunity to win the lottery and tried to pick the worst scenario for the Sooner superstar, 99% of fans would have selected the Clippers winning (the other 1% would be bitter Seattle fans). And Murphy's Law being what it is, that is exactly what happened.
Set aside that the Clippers have the worst accumulated winning percentage of any major sports franchise. Forget that they already have a ton of their skinflint owner's money wrapped up in guys who play the same position as Blake. Ignore that this would be the first time "The Beast" has played a home game more than thirty minutes from his parent's house and it would be in the second largest market in the United States.
The real issue is that the Clippers have the most historic string of bad management of all thirty NBA teams, and have no hope of ever changing that. It starts with the ownership, which consists of a single person named Donald Sterling. Sterling has a Donald Trump sized ego wrapped in the exterior of Ebeneezer Scrooge. He owns a sports franchise out of the vanity of wanting to say he owns a sports franchise. Winning is low on his list of priorities, mainly because hiring players who would make the Clippers win would cost more and cut into his profit margin. (This ESPN the Magazine article details the quirkiness of Sterling in depth...including his desire for message therapists who will "you know, let (him) slip it in, or who (will) suck on it.")
Does that mean that the Clippers might be stupid enough to trade the first overall pick to the Thunder? No. But after the jump, I will outline a scenario where it could potentially happen.
For months prior to the lottery, I would have conversations with basketball fans about the Thunder's chances of winning the Blake Griffin sweepstakes. As the season progressed and the wins started piling up for the team, my optimism of winning became bleaker and bleaker, but unfailingly, the other person in the conversation would say: "Maybe they can trade up for him."
At this point, I eviscerated them. As an amateur basketball expert, I knew this possibility was so miniscule that it was a waste of time to even think about it, and I would, unfailingly, make this point all the while crushing the hopes of my conversation partner.
Makes you want to talk basketball with me, huh?
Anyway, the other day I wasted my time thinking about trade scenarios and actually came up with one that has some grounding in reality...unlike L.A. Times columnist Ted Green who suggested a Kevin Durant for Griffin trade (link discovered via DailyThunder.com.)
The important facts (or rumors) are these:
- L.A. is cheap and has several big contracts on the books that they would like to shed. Among them: Baron Davis (still owed $54MM over the next four seasons), Chris Kaman ($34MM, 3 years), and Zach Randolph ($33MM over two seasons).
- Ricky Rubio, the consensus #2 does not want to play for Memphis (a team that has a horrible track record with Spanish imports).
- Rubio's agent is supposedly threatening to pull Rubio out of the draft if he will not land in a big market. This is because Rubio has to pay somewhere between $5 and $6 million to get out of his contract with DKV Joventut before 2011.
- Said agent is trying to create a scenario that lands his client in Los Angeles.
- Memphis' owner, Michael Heisley, is rumored to be enamored with Hasheem Thabeet. So enamored, that supposedly they would have considered the 7'3" Tanzanian Shawn Bradley over Griffin if they had won the lottery.
- The Grizzlies have intimated that they want to follow the Trail Blazers' method of re-building by acquiring a plethora of draft picks.
- The Clippers are loaded at the big man position with Randolph, Kaman, and Marcus Camby combining to fill up $34MM of their cap space next season. (To put this in perspective, the Thunder have about $39MM in guaranteed contracts for all 11 players they have coming back.)
- Oklahoma City should have about $20-25 million in cap space to absorb contracts or sign free agents.
Keeping those eight things in mind, it appears the top three fell in the wrong order. Based on the mantra of taking the best player available, L.A. should take Griffin, Rubio should be selected by Memphis, and the Thunder can decide who is third best. But really, Griffin fits best with OKC, Rubio wants to land with the Clippers, and Memphis would rather stretch to take Thabeet.
This trade would solve that problem:
- Clippers select Griffin
- Memphis selects Rubio
- Oklahoma City selects Thabeet
- L.A. then ships Griffin to Oklahoma City with Baron Davis and his monster contract
- Memphis ships Rubio to L.A. (and possibly Darko Milicic)
- Oklahoma City ships Thabeet and the #25 pick to Memphis
In the end, Memphis gets an extra draft pick, possibly unloads the disappointing Milicic (saving them money immediately), and avoids the headache of trying to convince Rubio to spend $5MM of his own money to come play for a team he never wanted to be on in the first place.
As for the Clippers, they save a ton of money by exiling Baron Davis (who they signed last year assuming they would be able to compete immediately--Elton Brand then bolted ruining that idea). They'll also get a potential superstar in Ricky Rubio, and if willing, get the expiring contract of Darko Milicic (the guy taken between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the 2004 draft). Yes, this deal probably wouldn't make the Clippers better (unless Rubio is better than even I think he is), but anyone who has read the Sterling piece in ESPN the Magazine can attest, the $54MM in savings probably means a lot more to him.
The Thunder keep home town hero and potential superstar Blake Griffin, make the fans ecstatically happy, and land a veteran "point guard" in Baron Davis who is pricy, but talented. They give up a good chunk of the cap space they had for this Summer, but still could lure a decent big man (this will be discussed in a future column). Losing the #25 pick is hardly a big deal considering they probably would have taken a point guard prospect, or another player who probably would have been little more than a guy to send to Tulsa.
With that deal, alone, the Thunder can compete for the playoffs in 2010. The depth chart might look something like this:
PG - Baron Davis/Shaun Livingston
SG - Russell Westbrook/Thabo Sefolosha/Kyle Weaver
SF - Kevin Durant/Damien Wilkins
PF - Jeff Green/Blake Griffin/D.J. White/Serge Ibaka
C - Nenad Krstic/Nick Collison
That's a pretty versatile line-up. Westbrook would be more of a combo-guard, filling in at point when Davis is resting (which should be often considering his age and injury history), and Griffin can also play some at center. Then, Jeff Green will be the actual primary back-up to Durant at the three.
Will it happen? Not a chance in hell.
Sure it was a waste of time to even consider this, but what else are we going to do during the Summer?
Clark Matthews is a world-class checkers champion, co-founder, and basketball editor-emeritus of The Lost Ogle
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