Six-time All-Star Blake Griffin agrees to deal with Nets
Brooklyn's run on big names is not over.
Six-time all-star Blake Griffin has agreed to a veteran's minimum deal with the Nets for the rest of this season. Griffin agreed to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons Friday in which he gave back $13.3 million of the $75 million he was set to earn this season and next.
The 31-year-old isn't the high-flying, human highlight reel he once was. Griffin has been hampered by injuries his last two seasons. He played just 18 games in 2019-2020 while battling a left knee injury, the same knee he fractured his rookie year.
Despite this, the former number one pick adds a high-IQ playmaker to Brooklyn's frontcourt. Griffin has averaged 4.4 APG on his career. He possesses a natural feel for the game and a sound understanding of how to beat defensive rotations.
The Nets view Griffin as a small-ball center off the bench, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. This role will take some getting used to. Griffin has acted as a pick and roll screener on just 3.6% of plays this season. Jeff Green has been a pick and roll screener on 17.8% of plays this year in the small-ball center role for Brooklyn.
Griffin's skill set can be utilized in several ways by head coach Steve Nash. He will be used as an on-ball screener and facilitator out of the mid-post. With defenders doubling Kyrie Irving, James Harden, or Kevin Durant, Griffin will have room to operate with a number of cutters and spot-up shooters to choose from. The big man's ball-handling ability also opens the door for more inverted pick and roll actions like the one below:
Imagine Griffin running this set with Joe Harris, Harden, or Durant screening.
Griffin can also be used as a pick and pop threat. Brooklyn's big three will garner tons of attention as will Harris curling off screens from Griffin. A large part of Griffin's productivity and playing time will depend on his outside shot.
The former rookie of the year shot 36.2% from deep on 7.0 attempts per game in 2018-2019 but has cooled off since while struggling to stay on the floor. More than half of Griffin's shots this season have come from three (6.2 attempts per game), where he is shooting just 31.5%. Despite this, Griffin should be comfortable catching and shooting off pick and pops. He is converting on 34.6% of his catch-and-shoot threes this year.
A major drawback of Griffin is he doesn't help the Nets in their biggest area of need: Defense. He has regressed athletically and will struggle to defend quicker power forwards. This does not bode well for Brooklyn's switch everything scheme on the perimeter, hence their interest in Griffin at center. Despite his reputation as a leaper, Griffin has never been a rim protector, averaging just 0.5 BPG on his career.
The biggest question surrounding Griffin's acquisition is whose minutes will be affected most? Griffin's former lob city teammate DeAndre Jordan, Green and recently activated Nicolas Claxton have seen the bulk of minutes at the four and five with Durant out.
Green is shooting a career-high 42.2% from three this season and has been an important contributor defensively. Do the Nets want to risk disrupting that rhythm by cutting into his minutes? DeAndre Jordan has played significantly better as of late and Claxton has been a sparkplug off the bench in five games this season, averaging 10.0 PPG and 1.4 BPG.
This presents a logjam in the frontcourt before accounting for the return of Durant, who has played at the four and five this season. One of Griffin, Claxton or Green will likely be phased out of the rotation as a result.
The biggest victory of this acquisition is getting Griffin for the minimum. This leaves Brooklyn with both their Disabled Player Exception and Taxpayer Mid-level Exception for what should be a robust buyout market.
Brooklyn reportedly has interest in Andre Drummond and P.J. Tucker, both of whom are being dangled in trade discussions. Otto Porter Jr. has recently emerged as a buyout candidate. General Manager Sean Marks inked Porter Jr. to a hefty offer sheet in 2017 and has shown an affinity for former RFA conquests with the acquisitions of Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson.
More will be made of the Griffin signing than what it really is. He will contribute in Brooklyn with the opportunity to transition into the next phase of his career while competing for a championship. The signing does show, however, that the Nets will have no issues attracting veteran free agents.
Brooklyn is far from done tweaking the roster and the moves made over the next month will give a better picture of what their rotation may look like come playoff time.