Just over two seasons ago, Blake Griffin had completely reinvented his game and was the face of basketball in Detroit. Coming off of a scary injury and some more injury-plagued seasons in Los Angeles, he quietly became an afterthought around the league. The Blake Griffin who was known for his flashy dunks was gone, now becoming a more all-around player, which bored fans as it was becoming evident that “Lob City” was a thing of the past. It was clear that Blake needed a change of scenery to further his basketball career in a positive direction, and things began to look up when he was traded to the Pistons in January, 2018.
In Detroit, fans were introduced to a different Blake than the one they knew in Los Angeles. He averaged a career high 6.2 assists per game and shot a solid 35% from three. The next season, he averaged a career high 24.2 points and willed a mainly weak Pistons team to the playoffs. One game that perfectly encapsulates Griffin’s impact on the squad was an early season game in Philadelphia, where Griffin dropped a career-high 50 points and hit the game winning and-1 layup en route to a Pistons double overtime victory.
It was the first sign of positive basketball in Detroit in almost a decade. However, things took a turn for the worst quickly. He only played 38 games over the next two seasons due to injuries and was released by the Pistons midseason due to them tanking once again. Detroit was faltering, and Blake’s career looked to be in need of saving. Who could help Blake revive his career?
Enter the Brooklyn Nets, a team on a scorching hot streak and looking to contend for the Finals with the big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. With their star power, the team feels comfortable giving the big players extended time off so they can fully heal and prepare for the playoffs. The Nets are a perfect fit for Blake Griffin. As a veteran with no rings, the Nets provide the perfect opportunity for Blake to settle down and chase the elusive ring. He can have a nice role coming off the bench with no pressure to carry like he did in Detroit.
The signing of Blake Griffin has been criticized by many fans as making the Nets “too stacked.” Fans also criticize Griffin’s game, stating that he’s going to be terrible due to his lack of athleticism. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Blake Griffin hasn’t dunked since 2019, he’s going to be a liability in Brooklyn,” I’d be very rich. Fans are very hypocritical, as the two arguments actually cancel each other out. However, I believe that while the Nets will certainly help Blake’s career and that he can actually play a role in the Nets run for the title too. There are two reasons why this is the case.
First of all, there’s his playmaking ability. When he first entered the league, Blake was a big who could score from anywhere in the paint and rebound, and that was basically it. He was an average defender, he couldn’t shoot very well, and he was not a great playmaker. However, in his time in the league, Griffin has quietly improved his playmaking to the point where he’s become one of the best passing bigs in the league, averaging over 6 assists per game at his peak. While he won’t be putting up numbers like that in Brooklyn, his playmaking off the bench is greatly needed.
Outside of the starters, the leader in assists from bench players is currently Jeff Green, who averages 1.5 assist per game. The Nets don’t even have a true backup point guard, opting to play Tyler Johnson, Landry Shamet, or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot off the bench when the starters need rest. While the Nets usually have either Kyrie or Harden on the floor at all times, the lack of playmaking off the bench is a concern. Plugging Blake off the bench as a passing big would not only create opportunities for the shooters, but take some of the pressure off of the All-Stars to create plays. It would also help space the floor out more for the stars to isolate and drive to the basket. Head coach Steve Nash has already expressed that Blake will be coming off of the bench, where his playmaking can be fully utilized.
Secondly, Blake still has some sneaky athleticism. People have said he couldn’t dunk anymore but in his first game as a Net, he had a ferocious slam which gave fans a small glimpse of ‘Lob City’ Blake Griffin. Not only that, but he also exhibited hustle by diving for loose balls, fighting for possessions, and holding his own on defense. There was one play where he stayed in front of Bradley Beal and contested his shot well, which was impressive since most fans would view that as a mismatch that heavily favors Beal. It’s clear that Griffin was simply unmotivated by his third season in Detroit, and this affected his play. However, in Brooklyn, Blake is playing for a purpose, and he’s slowly beginning to regain some of the athleticism that appeared to be gone. While there’s zero chance he’ll get to the level he was at with the Clippers, it’s clear that he won’t be a liability like some fans predicted.
One concern that many fans had with the signing is that Blake Griffin would take minutes away from young, up-and-coming big man Nic Claxton. However, this is the opposite of the truth. In Blake’s first game as a Net, Claxton actually notched a career high in minutes played, as the two even shared the court at numerous times throughout the game. If anything, Nic Claxton will continue to steal minutes away from DeAndre Jordan, who has been consistently criticized for poor play during the season. Blake Griffin’s minutes will either stay stagnant at around 15-20 per game, or steadily go up if he plays exceptionally well. The future is bright for the Nets, not only for this season with Blake Griffin, but in the long run with Nic Claxton.
Although the signing of Blake Griffin was heavily scrutinized by fans, it seems like this move will not only help the Nets’ push for a championship, but also help Griffin to get his career back on track.