With the 2020-21 NBA season less than a week away, the biggest news in professional basketball this week came out of Milwaukee, as two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, $228 million supermax to stay with the team that drafted him.
With the superstar off the table for the 2021 offseason, many teams looking to remain in contention like the Golden State Warriors will now turn their sights to other talented forwards available in the trade market.
Despite Klay Thompson being sidelined for the foreseeable future with a tragic torn Achilles tendon, the Warriors are looking to get back to the playoffs with a healthy Stephen Curry, veteran forwards in Draymond Green, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins, and a promising rookie post player in James Wiseman.
Even after Thompson returns, the Warriors could use another veteran forward who can stretch the floor and provide Golden State with another reliable scoring option.
One veteran forward who could be a good fit is Blake Griffin, as the six-time All Star is unlikely to be a part of the long-term rebuild for the Detroit Pistons.
There are obvious concerns with trading for a player like Griffin, who is a 31-year-old forward with a list of injuries longer than a CVS receipt, the most recent of which sidelining him for the majority of the 2019-20 season.
Griffin may have reached the point of no return due to multiple serious injuries to his knees, but it’s easy for NBA fans to forget that he made an All-NBA team just two years ago.
While he may not be the high-flying, lob-catching star that he was with the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin has adjusted his game dramatically over the years to adapt to his injuries and the uptick in 3-point shots popularized by the Warriors.
Griffin was not a threat from deep at all early in his career, as in his first four seasons, he never shot better than 29 percent from behind the arc.
When he was traded to the Pistons in the 2017-18, Griffin started taking more shots from deep, as his 3-point attempts leaped from 1.9 attempts per game in 2016-17 to 5.6 one year later.
That number of attempts has continued to go up as Griffin gets older, peaking at 7.0 attempts per game in his most recent All-NBA season. That shift shows that Griffin has transformed his game and can space the floor in ways he never could in early seasons.
If Griffin can return to his All-NBA form, which is a big if with his injury history, it would be wise for the Warriors to pursue him in a midseason trade.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, suggested a trade involving Griffin and the Warriors on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast “The Lowe Post” earlier this offseason, but that hypothetical trade involved the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft.
After drafting a talented center in Wiseman with that pick, it seems unlikely that the Warriors would move on from Wiseman for at least a few years, but a trade for Griffin is still very possible.
In a potential trade, the Warriors would have to include Wiggins to make the contracts work, and could include a few small contracts with players like Jordan Poole or Juan Toscano-Anderson to add up to Griffin’s two-year, $36 million contract.
While that is a lot of money for an injury-ridden player, Griffin still has at least a few more good years left in the tank and is one of the most talented players that should be available in the trade market this season.
A core of Curry, Griffin, Green, Oubre Jr., and Wiseman is good enough to make the playoffs, even in the loaded Western Conference.
Adding a recovered Thompson to that group in the 2021-22 season could keep the Warriors in the title conversation, lengthening the successful Warriors run for at least a few more seasons.