When the Detroit Pistons traded for Blake Griffin, they were in striking distance of earning a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. At the time, the Pistons were 22-26 but had lost 9 of their previous 10 games just prior to making the deal for Griffin.
Adding Griffin seemed to give the Pistons the early jolt the team was looking for. Detroit won its first four games with Griffin on the roster and five in a row overall. In fact, after beating the Brooklyn Nets on February 7, the Pistons had secured a winning record (27-26).
However, since that point, the Pistons have collectively struggled and are now just 2-12 over their last 14 games. Detroit has several issues, most notably the ongoing absence of point guard Reggie Jackson and lack of three-point shooting, and are now at severe risk of missing the postseason. Perhaps even worse, the team has limited means to improve the roster around its core players moving forward with Griffin in the first-year of his five-year, $171 million contract.
This is a difficult reality for a franchise that traded Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick to the Clippers to acquire Griffin. However, it needs to be noted that while his efficiency numbers are a bit down, Griffin has been (more or less) producing statistically since arriving in Detroit.
Since joining the Pistons, Griffin is averaging 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. These per-game statistics are near his career numbers and his assists are in fact up a bit, but his shooting percentages are concerning.
Griffin has maintained a 56 True Shooting percentage over his career and posted a career-high 58.3 True Shooting percentage in the 2013-14 season. However, that number has dipped down to 51.3 so far with the Detroit Pistons, which is partially due to his high-volume three-point shooting (5.3 attempts per game), taking less shots at the rim and struggling to finish at close distance — something that was not an issue earlier in his career. The more Griffin moves away from the basket and depends increasingly on his jumper, the less efficient his numbers will become. While Griffin should be given credit for adding a somewhat reliable three-point jumper to his offensive arsenal, he is becoming overly dependent on it, which could be related to a noticeable decline in his overall athleticism over the last few seasons.
Griffin has, however, displayed his notable playmaking abilities within Detroit’s offense and is averaging a healthy 5.6 assists per game. Griffin has been one of the better playmaking power forwards in the NBA since first entering the league and that skill has only become more refined with age. Unfortunately, Griffin’s role as an initiator and distributor has put a cap on Andre Drummond’s newly developed abilities to facilitate Detroit’s offense as a playmaker.
Drummond is averaging a career-high 3.3 assists per game this season and was routinely racking up four assists or more before the Griffin trade. However, over the last 13 games, Drummond has failed to register more than two assists in any single game – a streak that started right around the end of Detroit’s five-game winning streak when they first acquired Griffin. Part of the issue is that Drummond is now on the receiving end of scoring opportunities setup by Griffin, which keeps him posted close to the basket almost exclusively. Another factor is that without Bradley and Harris, the Pistons have few three-point shooters to space the floor and kick out to from the post area. This limits Drummond’s options in the rare instances that he is put in position to be a playmaker for Detroit’s offense. This expanding part of Drummond’s game provided optimism that he could take another step forward in his game and become a significant offensive contributor for Detroit. But if this part of his game is capped, it will become difficult for him to be a consistent offensive force considering his limitations in the post.
While the short term issues for the team are clear, it should be noted that Detroit has room for improvement in terms of chemistry considering how recently Griffin was integrated. Also, the return of Jackson should address some issues, such as playmaking distribution, shooting from beyond the arc and depth. However, after trading away draft picks, missing on a few notable prospects in the last few drafts and with limited financial flexibility moving forward, Detroit is going to need a Toronto Raptors level jump internally to have any hope of being a relevant playoff contender in the coming years. That is a lot to hope for considering the current talent surrounding Detroit’s core players and the fact that Griffin has a notable injury history and is more likely to decline than improve on his current play in the years to come.
For his part, Griffin is optimistic about his team and its potential.
“There are definitely glimpses,” Griffin said earlier this week. “[We’ve] put together quarters, halves, (even) three quarters, but not 48 minutes.
“We have a lot of guys that can go. Once we put everything together, once we get healthy, I like our team.”
Detroit took a gamble earlier this year in trading several assets away for Griffin. In some ways, the deal made sense. However, with the team struggling despite Griffin putting up relatively solid numbers and with limited means to improve the roster after this season, it’s clear that there are going to be issues both in the short term and long term for Detroit.
2019 NBA Free Agency Tracker
The 2019 NBA Free Agent class could be one of the more exciting free agent classes in recent history. Throughout the process, Basketball Insiders will update where players ultimately land and what kind of deals they receive.
The 2019 NBA Free Agent class could be one of the more exciting free agent classes in recent history. Throughout the process, Basketball Insiders will update where players ultimately land and what kind of deals they receive.
|Player Name||Old Team||New Team||Deal Amount|
|Kawhi Leonard||Toronto Raptors|
|Kevin Durant||Golden State Warriors|
|Kyrie Irving||Boston Celtics|
|Kemba Walker||Charlotte Hornets|
|Klay Thompson||Golden State Warriors|
|Jimmy Butler||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Tobias Harris||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Khris Middleton||Milwaukee Bucks|
|Nikola Vucevic||Orlando Magic|
|D’Angelo Russell||Brooklyn Nets|
|Malcolm Brogdon||Milwaukee Bucks|
|JJ Redick||Philadelphia 76ers|
|DeMarcus Cousins||Golden State Warriors|
|Al Horford||Boston Celtics|
|Bojan Bogdanovic||Indiana Pacers|
|Julius Randle||New Orleans Pelicans|
|Brook Lopez||Milwaukee Bucks|
|Paul Millsap||Denver Nuggets|
|Marc Gasol||Toronto Raptors|
|DeAndre Jordan||New York Knicks|
|Harrison Barnes||Sacramento Kings|
|Marcus Morris||Boston Celtics|
|Patrick Beverley||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Nikola Mirotic||Milwaukee Bucks|
|Thaddeus Young||Indiana Pacers|
|Terry Rozier||Boston Celtics|
|Trevor Ariza||Washington Wizards|
|Jonas Valanciunas||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Ricky Rubio||Utah Jazz|
|Kelly Oubre Jr.||Phoenix Suns|
|Terrence Ross||Orlando Magic|
|Rudy Gay||San Antonio Spurs|
|Wesley Matthews||Indiana Pacers|
|Jeremy Lamb||Charlotte Hornets|
The deal values noted here are the reported values of the deals as they have been agreed to. Once the deals are final with the NBA, you can find the exact details on the Basketball Insiders Salary Pages.
NBA Daily: Free Agency On Deck
The 2019 NBA Free Agency period is upon us, and there are already lots of things in motion. Steve Kyler takes a look at some of the notable situations to watch.
With the 2019 NBA Draft and its whopping 23 transactions (some still awaiting the new cap year) in the rearview mirror, the 2019 NBA Free Agency period is now on deck.
The NBA moved up some of the normal dates on things related to free agency, such as when teams can schedule meetings and when teams can officially begin talking to players.
Teams can now have contact with agents on June 29th at 6:00 pm EST, specifically for the purpose of scheduling meetings for June 30th.
On June 30th after 6:00 pm, teams may begin meeting and talking with free agents to discuss terms and frameworks of new deals. Those deals cannot become official until Saturday, July 6th, which is the first day contracts and deals can be made.
It is expected that the final salary cap figures will be released on or about the 29th, in advance of free agency opening.
The prevailing thought in NBA circles is that the final 2019-2020 salary cap figures will come in a touch higher than the expected $109 million cap teams have been preparing for. That will have an impact on most of the slotted salary figures such as minimums, cap exceptions and maximum contract levels.
While more than 45 percent of the NBA is set to be a free agent this summer, here are some of the notable situations we’re watching:
The Los Angeles Lakers caught this first big fish last summer when LeBron James opted to join the Lakers. Less than a year later, the Lakers landed big fish number two in Anthony Davis, who will officially become a Laker on July 6th.
The Lakers have been fairly active trying to find ways to open more salary cap space, and as our own Eric Pincus chronicled for Bleacher Report, there is a path to a full maximum salary slot that doesn’t include dealing team favorite, Kyle Kuzma.
If the Lakers can find a taker for the contracts for Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones in which they take back no material salary, the Lakers can get to about $32 million in usable cap space. That is just $700,000 shy of the max salary slot needed for free agents like Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler or Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who many in Laker circles believe are the prime targets as the Lakers third star.
It’s unclear why the Lakers did not include the necessary pieces to ensure a full max slot. The truth of the matter is Wagner and Bonga are nice assets that should be easy enough to move into someone’s cap space. The lack of their inclusion may have more to do with wanting certainty on a big fish before giving away nice assets.
While the Lakers do have eyes for a third star and have been fairly aggressive in the back channel feeling out process with free agents, they are also preparing for Plan B scenarios in which their available space gets used on two second-tier players.
It is not at all uncommon for teams not to put their eggs in one basket, but it’s notable for the Lakers – who have drawn significant criticism for not thinking through all the options – to be working multiple options.
While Butler and Walker seem to be the primary players of interest, there has also been considerable talk about Clippers guard Patrick Beverly, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez.
The Rockets Have Dreams
After a pretty damaging report surfaced at Yahoo Sports suggesting that the relationship between Houston Rockets’ guards Chris Paul and James Harden seems broken beyond repair, the Rockets have been doing damage control for the better part of the last week.
While the Rockets have gone to great lengths to quell that report, they have also been fairly aggressive in trying to open up cap space for a third star.
While the Rockets are hopeful they could move some cap money dangling the ending $14.05 million contract of Eric Gordon and the $16.3 million deal of big man Clint Capela, to get to any real, meaningful space, the Rockets would also have to move PJ Tucker.
Unfortunately for Houston, Paul is slated to earn $38.5 million and Harden is slated for $38.15 million. Even if the Rockets could dump all of their contracts for nothing in return, they could still get to roughly $23.3 million in space, which would be roughly $9.3 million shy of a full max slot for a player like Sixers guard Jimmy Butler.
The Celtics Have Money
The Boston Celtics took a couple blows this offseason with the news that All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is likely walking away to the Brooklyn Nets, and cornerstone big man Al Horford opted out of his final contract year and is now expected to command a four-year deal on the open market.
The Celtics have quietly moved enough things around – in the dumping of Aron Baynes to the Phoenix Suns – to get within striking distance of a maximum salary slot.
Assuming the Celtics pass or pull the Qualifying Offer for Terry Rozier, his $9.1 million cap hold would come off, putting the Celtics at just at $34 million in usable space.
The Celtics have kicked the tires on Houston big man Clint Capela and Thunder big man Steven Adams, but the player the Celtics seem to covet the most is Charlotte guard Kemba Walker.
Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted as much today, which lines up with the ideal scenario painted by some in Boston circles after the draft.
There has been considerable fan interest in Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell as a replacement for Irving. However, it does not seem the Celtics are as high on the list for Russell as Celtics fans would like.
D’Angelo Russell Watch
As covered above, Brooklyn All-Star D’Angelo Russell seems to be in fairly decent demand. The problem for the Nets is that they cannot create the cap space necessary to sign Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Warriors forward Kevin Durant and still hang on to Russell’s cap hold. They have the means to get two, and it seems, for now, Russell is third on the list.
If the Nets can land both Irving and Durant, the belief is Russell will hit unrestricted free agency and open up bidding.
For weeks, Russell has been pegged as the favorite of the Indiana Pacers, but it seems more likely that the Pacers are going to pivot to Jazz free agent Ricky Rubio, with Russell appearing not to be as high on Indiana as they are on him.
The New York Knicks are said to have serious interest in Russell should they miss on Irving, which looks likely. Knicks leadership has said repeatedly they were not going to blow their cap flexibility on second tier guys. However, Knicks sources said recently that they do not view a 23-year old obtainable All-Star as second-tier.
There are several other teams supposedly in the hunt on Russell including the Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. However, the Suns no longer have a max salary slot after their trades around the draft.
There is a dark horse suitor for Russell, and that’s the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves don’t have cap space to sign Russell outright, but they do at least appear open to trying to take away some salary to land Russell if he indeed becomes unrestricted.
If the Wolves can find a home for Andrew Wiggins and his $27.5 million salary, the Wolves could get awfully close to a max salary slot for Russell.
As we do every year at this time, Basketball Insiders will be tracking the minute by minute activities around the 2019 NBA Free Agency period with our annual Free Agency Diary. The Diary is live now and will be updated throughout the day as rumors and deals start to leak out.
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NBA Daily: Storylines To Watch For In 2020
Just 10 days into the offseason, Matt John takes a look at what storylines have been created from all that’s happened so far.
If it wasn’t clear before, it is now – the NBA is a year-round sport. Even though the season lasts up to nine months, we never seem to get a break from professional basketball. Honestly though, that’s probably because we don’t want one.
The offseason gives us so much drama that it’s almost impossible to take our eyes off our phone. Woj and Shams “bombs” are like a shot of adrenaline, and we as the audience are basketball junkies anxiously waiting for our next score.
We’re not even two weeks past the NBA finals, and the drama has already started. And it started with a bang. Anthony Davis and LeBron can stake a claim as the league’s fiercest duo. The Jazz have solidified themselves as a Western Conference contender. New Orleans is now a league pass team. The sky is suddenly falling in Boston and Houston. All that New York had hoped for is blowing up in its face. So, just another Tuesday for Knicks fans.
We haven’t even entered the main course of the NBA offseason and we already have some storylines to keep our eyes on for next season. There are going to be plenty more once free agency starts, but let’s take a look at what to keep an eye on when it comes to next season.
Is Lonzo Ball good?
Now we’ve been asking ourselves this question since he came into the league. Lonzo is the most polarizing young player in the league. Some of it comes from the bias, both positive and negative, that he’s had to face in the last two years. Some of it comes from the limited sample sizes we’ve had to watch. Some of it has come from playing for one of the league’s most storied franchises.
There’s no doubt that what Lonzo does well, he does spectacularly. At 6-foot-6, he brings so many rare qualities to the court. He has excellent handles, boasts a court vision that not many others in the league has and can get after the rebound. He’s even shown that he can make life hell for anyone who tries to take him one-on-one.
But his holes are clear as day. His funky shooting form has not held up well since transitioning to the NBA. He hasn’t shown much of a scoring instinct. He can’t seem to stay on the floor. Still, he was the second overall pick for a reason.
Now here comes perhaps the real test for him. New Orleans could be the perfect team for him. Now that he’s no longer in LeBron’s shadow, Ball should have the ball in his hands more often than not. Alvin Gentry has a reputation for having his teams run the floor – the Pelicans tied for second in pace last season (103.3) – which should make Lonzo feel right at home. Jrue Holiday, one of the better all-around point guards in the league, should be the perfect complement to him as a playmaker, shooter and defender.
Oh, and you’ve probably already fantasized about how beautiful those Lonzo-to-Zion alley-oops are going to look four months from now.
There will be challenges up ahead, like how Lonzo is going to do now that he’ll be a more featured player for his team. New Orleans needs more three-point shooting, as it was ranked 24th in three-point percentage (34.3) and 21st in attempts on average (10.3). Lonzo’s a career 31.5 percent shooter from three, and even with the haul they got from the Lakers, not a whole lot of the new guys space the floor, which could hurt Lonzo’s ability to space the floor.
Now that Lonzo no longer has the pressure to contribute to a winner right away, time is now on his side. Progress may come quickly or it may come slow, but as long as he avoids the injury bug, we can finally see what the guy is made out of this season.
Can Donovan Mitchell be relied on in the playoffs?
Spida has been exceeding expectations from the moment he entered the league. It’s not every day you see a late lottery pick be the leader of a pseudo-contender in the first two years of his pro career.
You can’t honestly complain about what he’s been able to do for Utah since the team has had to endure through losing Gordon Hayward. What can you do is point out his flaws, and he’s got a few.
Mitchell can definitely put the ball in the bucket, as he’s averaged 22 points in his brief career so far. However, he doesn’t exactly have the best shooting percentages, as he’s put up splits of 43/35/80 over his last two years. Those numbers only get worse in the playoffs. While his scoring average is slightly better at 23.4 points a game, his shooting falls off a cliff, shooting 39/23/89 splits.
Utah has shown that it can’t afford to have its young franchise cornerstone struggle on the game’s biggest stage, as they’ve been eliminated two consecutive times in gentleman’s sweeps at the hands of the Rockets. Not that it’s entirely on his shoulders, but if Donovan struggles, so do the Jazz.
Jazz fans will point out without a second’s hesitation that his low efficiency is because the team does not have another scoring threat to take the pressure off of him. Definitely a valid point. Utah has not had a secondary scoring threat to ease the burden put on Mitchell. No help in that department would make life hard for anyone in the league. That won’t be a problem anymore Utah now that they made their summer splash with Mike Conley.
Conley should be exactly what the doctor ordered. An experienced vet who’s scoring and playmaking abilities should do wonders both for Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Technically, he has no All-Star appearances to his name – and probably won’t now that his prime will most likely end in the West – but anyone who’s watched him knows how much this should improve the Jazz.
Now that Conley has arrived, we’re finally going to see how Donovan will do now that he won’t have to take the entire scoring burden by himself. The Jazz still have some issues to take care of such as their now desperate need for a stretch-four, but with Conley on board, we’ll at least see what Mitchell’s true ceiling is now.
What is Danny Ainge going to do with his newfound cap space?
Once upon a time, the Boston Celtics had the most promising future in the NBA. Now, what’s happened to them is indescribable.
Losing Kyrie Irving was always in the back of Celtics fans’ mind that by the time reports started circulating that he wasn’t coming back, they were okay with it. Al Horford’s departure was the real gut punch. There was never any drama that came with Horford, and he did all he could for Boston. Seeing him gone is going to hurt both on and off the court.
Silver lining: Horford and Irving’s departures, along with the recent Aron Baynes trade to Phoenix, opens up a lot of cap room for Boston. In fact, if the Celtics renounce Terry Rozier’s cap hold – $9+ million – they will have enough room to add a player with a max contract.
How Danny Ainge uses it is something people should watch out for. The Celtics now have a gaping hole at center with both Horford and Baynes gone, so odds are they may use it on a center. Combine buzz said that the Celtics were looking at Clint Capela, which could still be in play this summer if Houston really wants cap relief.
They could also look to take Steven Adams off the Thunder’s hands or pay up for Nikola Vucevic. Knowing Ainge, it’s very possible what he does is mess with other teams who have guys they can’t afford to lose but don’t want to pay top dollar for.
Brooklyn did this for two years when they gave rich offer sheets to Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe and Otto Porter so that their teams would have to pay up for them. Ainge doesn’t have a history of doing that, but he does have a history of ripping off other teams.
For example, take the Milwaukee Bucks. Malcolm Brogdon will be on the open market this summer, and the Bucks cannot afford to lose him. Should Ainge give him a max contract, the Bucks would have no choice but to match it since they want to stay a contender with Giannis. There are plenty of scenarios like this. He could do this with Khris Middleton. He could do this with Vucevic. He could do this to anyone who is valuable to get paid a lot, but not enough that he would deserve a max.
The Celtics are going through pretty much their worst nightmare right now, but losing their star players is more of a setback than a doomsday scenario. If there’s one man who has shown that he can rebuild as quickly as possible, it’s Danny Ainge. They’re not going to get a star this summer, but counting out the Celtics is ill-advised because, like always, they usually have something up their sleeve.