While the Philadelphia 76ers should seriously consider trading Al Horford for a better-fitting piece this offseason, Blake Griffin is not that guy.
Whenever anyone suggests a hypothetical trade, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
I know firsthand how these sorts of stories can develop a life of their own – as a mid-February post I wrote about the Philadelphia 76ers trading Al Horford for Buddy Hield has grown to where the player himself is liking posts on Instagram quoting me as a source – but sometimes, a suggested move is so noteworthy that it needs to be discussed further.
This is one of those stories.
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On May 12th, Bleacher Report writer Greg Swartz suggested that the 76ers should engage in a three-team trade that would send Horford and the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers, Jeremy Lamb and Myles Turner to the Detroit Pistons, and, checks notes, Blake Griffin back to South Philly.
Blake Griffin? Like Blake Griffin Blake Griffin? The part-time actor, part-time Gamefly spokesman, part-time NBA power forward? Why would the 76ers want him?
Well, let’s see what Schwartz had to say:
A healthy Griffin would raise the ceiling of this Sixers team, and the 31-year-old has already turned in All-Star seasons playing next to big men like DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond. Putting Griffin in a starting unit with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons would not only give Philly the biggest lineup in the NBA, but the strongest as well.
In some regards, Schwartz’s train of thought is understandable. The 76ers are set to have one of the most expensive rosters in the NBA next season and their floor is not one of the best teams in the NBA. While one could argue that players like Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Josh Richardson could garner better returns via trade, Horford without a doubt is the illest fitting of the bunch in both the short and long term.
In the right package, moving on from Horford is the 76ers’ best course of action to get better in 2021.
However, swapping out one over-30 power forward who is an awkward fit next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for another over-30 power forward doesn’t seem like the best course of action – especially when said incoming over-30 power forward has a serious injury history.
Since being selected first overall in the 2009 NBA Draft out of Oklahoma, Griffin has only played a full 82 game season once, in his 2010-11 redshirt rookie season. Since then, Griffin has played an average of 60 games a season.
But wait, it gets worse.
Since being traded to the Pistons midway through the 2017-18 season, Griffin has had his last three seasons end via injury, first with a bone bruise in 2018, a post-playoffs left knee surgery in 2019, and another left knee surgery 18 games into the 2019-20 NBA season.
Now I don’t know about you but the idea of trading for an older player coming off of two knee surgeries in a six-ish month period is not a particularly exciting opportunity.
And then there’s Griffin’s fit, or lack thereof, on the court with the 76ers.
On his career, Griffin is a sub 34 percent shooter from 3 who has pretty steadily averaged a 28 percent usage rate. If slotted into Horford’s spot at power forward without a serious change to the team’s schematic philosophy, Griffin would instantly be the team’s worst outside shooter save Simmons and their worst defender straight up or in switching situations. While Griffin has experience playing off of both All-Star centers and All-Star point guards, he’s at his best with the ball in his hands, hunting for his own shot.
If you can think back to the 76ers’ season oh so many months ago, you may recall that the team was already struggling to make things work with Simmons and Embiid on the court at the same time, adding another ball hog with obvious deficiencies is only going to clog up the team’s offensive fluidity further.
Honestly, if that trade is the only trade available, I’d much rather come away with a player like Jeremy Lamb than Griffin, as he at least is a guard-sized guard who plays guard. It won’t happen, and can’t happen under the salary cap, but the 76ers should be looking for shooters, movement players, and ball handlers to bolster their ranks moving forward, not another point forward with an ugly outside shot.
Griffin would surely sell a ton of jerseys, and his sense of humor would instantly make him a fan favorite among online Sixers stans, but that affection will all but surely turn to deep-seated resentment after a month or so of suboptimal play.
Need proof? Just ask Horford.
As things presently stand, it’s really, really hard to write about the Philadelphia 76ers. The season is technically still going on, there are no trades, and the NBA Draft has been pushed off indefinitely. I love a good hypothetical trade as much as the next guy, but to suggest the Sixers swapping out one ill-fitting big man for another is a rather hot take if you ask me. To optimize this current creation of players, Elton Brand needs to surround his current core with a smaller collection of shooters who can switch on defense and move the ball around. Blake Griffin is none of the above, and he costs $36 million next season. No thanks.
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