NBA

Blake Griffin: What does the buyout market look like for the former Detroit Pistons forward?

Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons have reached a buyout agreement.

Griffin signed a five-year, $171 million contract with the LA Clippers back in 2017 before being traded to the Pistons at the trade deadline the very next season. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, at the time of the buyout Griffin is still owed $56.5 million of that deal, which will be on Detroit's books for the 2021-22 season unless they elect to stretch that cap hit over the course of three seasons.

Griffin has been sidelined since Feb. 12 as both sides worked toward a buyout agreement, and teams will now have the opportunity to claim the star forward off waivers before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 7. It's unclear how much money the 31-year-old would command as a free agent, but it's worth nothing that ESPN's Marks reported that the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks are the two teams that cannot sign Griffin without making a trade first due to the hard cap.

So who are some of the contenders that may be interested in acquiring Griffin's talents?

Brooklyn Nets

As expected, the Nets are going to be active in the buyout market as they attempt to add pieces toward a title push. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania and James Edwards III, Brooklyn is "believed to be the favourites" to land the star forward who is looking to add the first ever-so-elusive NBA championship to his lengthy list of accomplishments.

But how much sense does Griffin make for the Nets?

The fit doesn't appear to be seamless on paper, as Brooklyn's biggest weakness is their defence and Griffin's best defensive days are certainly behind him. He's still a versatile forward that can try and mark multiple different positions, he just lacks the lateral quickness to do so effectively after having multiple surgeries on his left knee.

But with that being said, Griffin is still a reliable piece that could bolster the Nets' lack of depth as a focal point of their second unit. Shooting 31.5 percent from 3-point range on the season isn't exactly ideal to space the floor for prolific scorers Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, but he still commands attention from opposing defences and could make an impact as a rebounder and cutter.

If Griffin is willing to take on a reduced role in pursuit of a title, Brooklyn might just be the spot.

Los Angeles Lakers

And speaking of taking on a reduced role to win a title, the Lakers are another team that could pursue Griffin.

Los Angeles hit a bit of a rough patch at the end of the first half of the season after All-Star forward Anthony Davis went out with a sore Achilles. Going 3-7 in its final 10 games before the break, the Lakers have momentarily surrendered the Western Conference's top seed.

They've used a combination of Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Marcus Morris to fill Davis' minutes, but it couldn't hurt to add Griffin into that mix. While he'd likely take on an even lesser role in L.A. than he would in Brooklyn, that doesn't mean Griffin can't contribute toward the Lakers' hopes of winning back-to-back NBA titles.

He could provide an extra playmaker when LeBron James and Dennis Schroder are not on the floor or just play a complementary role on the wing with the starting unit. But again, in order to be affective at any of these destinations, his 3-point shooting will have to improve and look more like his last All-Star season in 2019, when he converted 36.2 percent of his attempts.

Griffin came up short of winning a title in Los Angeles with the Clippers; could he do it with the in-town rival Lakers if given the opportunity?

Golden State Warriors

This might be the best fit for Griffin in terms of still playing for a title contender while not having to sacrifice his role too much.

The Warriors frontcourt depth has been lacking all season due to a variety of injuries. Marquese Chriss, who was expected to play a key role this season, went down with a leg injury in the second game. Rookie centre James Wiseman missed 11 games with a sprained wrist and veteran centre Kevon Looney has missed 10 games due to a sprained ankle. That required Draymond Green to return to a familiar role as a small-ball centre, with second-year player Eric Paschall also punching up a weight class and holding down the paint for the second unit.

While Wiseman and Looney have recently returned to action, it couldn't hurt to add Griffin as an insurance policy for some size. Looney has a lengthy injury history and Paschall, at 6-foot-6, was playing out of position in a time of need.

Griffin could be used to give Green a rest while providing a similar skillset when he's on the floor. He could also give their second unit a burst of scoring and playmaking, as well as some attitude on the defensive end and on the glass.

If Golden State wanted to play small and fast, a lineup of Green, Griffin, Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. sounds enticing. The Warriors would be a strong landing spot for the 31-year-old forward.

Miami Heat

The Heat are another team that makes sense to purse Griffin as they look to continue their positive momentum from the end of the first half of the season into the second half.

After coming up two wins shy of an NBA title last year, Miami got out to an extremely slow start this season due to a mixture of injuries and coronavirus health and safety protocols. Winning seven of their last eight games heading into the break, the Heat will surely be a team that is active in the buyout and trade market as they look to return back to the NBA Finals for a second-consecutive year.

All-Star centre Bam Adebayo has shouldered a heavy load this season and there isn't a ton of physicality in Miami's frontcourt when he's on the bench. Backup centre Kelly Olynyk would prefer to play on the perimeter, Meyers Leonard is out for the season with a shoulder injury and minutes have been inconsistent from rookie forward Precious Achiuwa. Griffin could provide an added physical presence inside while also being utilized as a screen-setting playmaker for sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro.

You know team president Pat Riley isn't afraid to make a move if he believes it will help the Heat get closer to another championship. Could Griffin be the piece that helps them do so?

Boston Celtics

The Celtics are known buyers at this year's trade deadline with the largest trade exception in league history, but in a year where they have fewer pieces of value and draft compensation than before in recent memory, what if they could get an impactful player without having to make a trade?

General manager Danny Ainge preached that the team's biggest need is to surround Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with more scoring. "We need more dynamic talent off the bench. We need guys who won't be subservient to them, but guys who will complement them," Ainge stated.

Does that ring any bells?

Even at this stage of his career, Griffin could be very helpful for a Boston team that has had a rollercoaster of ups and downs in the first half of the season. While he might not be the versatile defender that role players Grant Williams or Semi Ojeleye are, he certainly provides much more to the team on the offensive end without sacrificing too much defensively.

Among teams that are considered to be title contenders, the Celtics might just have the thinnest talent pool of players after their core group of stars. Adding Griffin would only help that cause and it would allow him to remain in a prominent role while still competing for a championship.

Honourable mentions

LA Clippers: As mentioned in the intro, the Clippers are one of two teams in the league (along with the Bucks) that would be required to make a trade before signing Griffin because of the hard cap. Although Griffin's talents could definitely be useful for his former franchise, the way things went sideways when he was traded back in 2017 parlayed with the difficulty of having to move pieces around in order to make it happen makes this a difficult landing spot.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers were another team that ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned as a potential destination for Griffin. Injuries to key frontcourt players like Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins has veteran centre Enes Kanter taking on a massive workload with other forwards like Carmelo Anthony and Robert Covington also playing big. Griffin could help add some depth in the meantime while their roster gets healthy.

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