5 More Years Of Mediocrity

The Blake Griffin trade was fucking depressing.

Everything about this stupid franchise is depressing. Their hot start this season was a mirage. They haven’t hit on a draft pick since KCP, and they’ve missed out on some gems in the process. And now they’ve traded every appealing asset they had for a guy who will be getting paid $35+ million for several years on the wrong side of 30 in what reads as a misguided hail mary to save Stan Van Gundy’s job.

Before I tear into a coach I like and respect as a person, I should mention the positives of this trade. Detroit was clearly going nowhere fast. Tobias Harris’ value was never going to be higher. Avery Bradley wasn’t going to re-sign here, because who would? Anyway, the numbers guys unanimously agree that he’s one of the most overrated defenders in the league, and if I’ve learned one thing from being a sports fan, it’s to always blindly trust the numbers guys. I love Boban, but he’s a relic of a bygone age in which centers never had to switch onto guards. And Blake Griffin, when healthy, was a bona fide stud. Before injuries hit and Chris Paul left, he almost singlehandedly dismantled the Rockets in what would have been a conference finals run had Paul’s demons not weighed the Clippers down. He was delightful to watch: a 6’10” dude with a tight handle, fantastic vision, an evolving midrange game and the capacity to break the game with earth-shattering dunks.

You’ll notice I used the past tense. That’s because injuries have taken their toll on Blake Griffin. He’s paid like an MVP but the guy isn’t even an all-star this year. With his explosiveness sapped, in a league full of young unicorns in the frontcourt, his time might be up for good. He’s walking into a gutted roster- at least it’s familiar territory after playing under Doc Rivers.

The worst thing about this all is that I no longer have any idea what the long-term plan is for the Pistons. Before the trade, they sucked, but they had plenty of young assets and flexibility going forward. At least they had a shot at one of the most stacked drafts in recent memory. I really do think they were one Donovan Mitchell-sized hit in the draft away from being able to mold the future around a face of the franchise. And I’m not a fan of tanking outright; I think it’s possible to zig when others zag, to build a winner without 5 years of bottom-dwelling via smart free agency signings, trades, and mid-1st-round draft picks. There needs to be a clear vision in place, though, and I would not trust Stan Van Gundy to implement that vision. Rather than fade away into unemployment, he opted to saddle the Pistons with an albatross of a contract that will delay any hopes of contention until we are all in our 30s. The ceiling for a team with no depth and $70 million devoted to Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond is still a first-round exit, and after a few years we will only begin to plumb the depths of the floor.

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