Up in the air – Where will Griffin be next season?
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, center, sits on the bench along with forward Luc Mbah a Moute, left, of Cameroon, and forward Brandon Bass during the second half in Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, in Los Angeles. The Jazz won 96-92. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
The Los Angeles Clippers are on the brink of Playoffs extinction. They are trailing 3-2 in their first round series against the Utah Jazz and will once against play amidst the deafening noise that the “homers” (as Chris Paul put it) create inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. A loss in game six could very well spell the end of the “Lob City” era.
Wearing a protective boot on his right foot, Blake Griffin could only watch helplessly from the bench in game five as his Clippers struggled to compete against the Jazz, who instantly became the better offensive team in this series. Without Griffin, the Clippers’ biggest threats on offense are Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford. As great as Paul is, making him the team’s primary scorer is just too much of a stretch. Crawford is most effective as a sixth man and not as a starter. Utah’s got two outstanding creators in Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson, with the former being a current All-Star in his prime and the latter having been an All-Star seven times. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert played 35 minutes in game five and grabbed a double-double.
“It Takes Everything” was the LA Clippers slogan for the 2016-17 season.
Losing Blake means they no longer have what it takes.
Things are not looking good in Clipper-land. In fact, the future looks bleak.
The 28-year-old Blake Griffin is set to make what might be the biggest decision of his NBA career. And it is a decision that will not only affect his future, but the future of the LA Clippers’ franchise.
Here is the situation: Griffin and Paul both have early termination options ahead of the 2017-18 season, meaning they can become free agents this summer. Another starter, JJ Redick, is an unrestricted free agent.
In the case of Paul, he’s a 31-year-old point guard who will turn 32 on May 1. That means he will be looking to sign the biggest contract possible, and the easiest way he can get that is to stay right where he is. Will the Clippers offer him that mega payday? Absolutely. In today’s NBA, almost every team has an elite point guard and losing one of the best in the game for nothing is just ludicrous. CP3 has about three more peak-level years in him, so unless he is hell-bent on winning a championship and signing with a contender for less money, the outlook is he stays with LAC.
Now, if the Clips can keep their floor general, they should be able to keep Redick too. Redick has started every single game as a member of the LA Clippers and is unlikely to get that type of role elsewhere.
That leaves us with Griffin. If he re-signs with LAC, he will be part of a contender in the prime of his career. You can expect at least a trip to the Playoffs every season depending on how many years Griffin locks-in for. Looking at the past two seasons, it’s really just unfortunate injuries that have prevented the Clippers from realizing their full potential. If Griffin is superstitious and believes all the talk that the Clippers are “cursed”, then by all means, he should look for a new home.
There is an intriguing scenario wherein Griffin chooses his hometown, Oklahoma City to team up with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. It won’t be an easy deal to make though as Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Victor Oladipo take up a combined $61 million in salaries. Also, Griffin is no longer the jump-out-of-the-gym player he once was. Injuries have taken a toll on his body and it’s hard to imagine him keeping up with the break-neck pace of Westbrook and staying healthy at the same time.
Miami is another interesting destination. The Heat have been trying to move on from Chris Bosh, and Griffin would be a great replacement. BG teaming up with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic seems promising. But, I don’t think they are an upgrade from his current Big 3 with CP3 and DJ.
Aside from OKC and Miami, the Celtics and Lakers are teams in search of another star. But, both of those teams don’t seem like a good fit for Griffin. Boston’s already got Al Horford and the LA Lakers’ core is still too young to be a contender.
If Paul decides to stay with LAC, my belief is that Griffin should stay too. Giving up on the Clippers or Paul (because he hasn’t made it past the second round) is illogical. Leaving LAC because of consecutive season-ending injuries would be like Griffin giving up on his own body. Just because you switch teams doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.
What Blake Griffin decides to do is currently up in the air.
My guess is that he secures his legacy with the LA Clippers – a team he put the spotlight on since jumping over that Kia in the 2011 NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Staying with LAC and persevering to make something that’s already good, great, is always better than starting all over again.
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