Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Detroit trades for Blake Griffin, but is that the smart move for the Pistons? What about the Clippers? It was a trade that caught the NBA off guard. The Clippers had listened to trade offers for DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, but not “Clipper for life” Blake Griffin. He is simply the best and most important player in Clippers’ franchise history, the No. 1 pick they nailed that turned the franchise culture around (there is no Chris Paul, no “lob city” without Griffin being there first, and along with a push from Mike Dunleavy Sr., forcing the organization to act like adults). Besides, they just maxed out the injury-prone Griffin, who was going to take on that salary.
The Detroit Pistons in a deal that sent Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, a lightly-protected (top four only) first-round pick and a second rounder, too, to Los Angeles. The move even caught Griffin off guard.
What does it mean for the two sides?
For Detroit, even though they got the best player in the trade in Griffin, this is a desperation move for a team that wants badly to be in the playoffs and right now is on the outside looking in at the postseason. Stan Van Gundy is all-in with this lineup. If healthy, a Griffin and Andre Drummond frontline could be one of the best and most dynamic in the league — although both like to operate near the elbows or higher and both like space to work that will be lacking with this roster construction. Also, both are good passers. The problem is they don’t have many people to pass too — the Pistons are very thin now at the guard and wing spots — and because the two bigs soak up so much of the cap it’s going to be hard to put enough around them to make it work. It feels like the Michigan version of what we’ve seen in New Orleans (before Cousins’ injury), where even if the two bigs can play well together there is a ceiling on how good the team can be overall with those two massive salaries and one guard (Reggie Jackson, in this case) taking up so much of the cap.
For the Clippers, Jerry West and Lawrence Frank got the retooling they wanted. This was a cold-blooded but smart move. For this season the questions are will they trade DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams before the Feb. 8 deadline? If those two are on the roster it’s not unreasonable to say the Clippers can still make the playoffs in the West — Los Angeles is 8-8 without Griffin this season (only 17-16 with him), and in Tobias Harris they added an underrated small forward who can hit threes, create shots off the pick-and-roll, is good as a catch-and-shoot guy and should get a little more spotlight than he had. However, when Chris Paul and J.J. Redick both got out of town last summer without looking back the rebuild should have started, and while they are late to the party the Clippers should move DJ and Williams and get on with it. This doesn’t have to be a Hinkie-like bottom out rebuild, but it needs to be a complete one (including likely moving on from Doc Rivers). If it doesn’t happen at the trade deadline next week, it will happen next summer (no way Jordan stays as a free agent). It’s time. (And while maybe the Clippers could free up the cap space to go after LeBron James or Paul George this summer, I have heard LeBron is not interested.)
2) Jabari Parker returns to Bucks on Friday vs. Knicks. Last season, Jabari Parker was back. The former No. 2 pick was averaging 20.1 points per game and forming a dangerous scoring combination for the Bucks next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then Parker tore his left ACL — for the second time in three years. From the moment it happened last February, Milwaukee said it would take about a year for Parker to return to the court.
Friday night, Parker will return to the Bucks rotation when Milwaukee takes on New York.
It will be interesting to see just how good these Bucks are come the postseason. Once Parker gets back into game shape, the Bucks will have a very good team on paper: A top-five player in Antetokounmpo, two other scoring threats in Parker and Eric Bledsoe, plus quality role players around them such as Khris Middleton and John Henson. If they can defend well for interim coach Joe Prunty they can be the team everyone at the top wants to avoid in the first round, the team capable of pulling off an upset. First, let’s just hope Parker can get back on the court and stay there.
3) There was action on the NBA court Monday: Celtics get game-winning three from Jaylen Brown to beat Nuggets. The off-the-court news overshadowed the games on Monday (as often happens around the trade deadline in the NBA), but there were games and one good one.
The Celtics were on the road in Denver and could not shake the Pistons late — despite Kyrie Irving scoring 10 of his 27 in the fourth quarter — and a runner by Jamal Murray tied the game up at 108-108. But then with :34 left, Boston’s Jaylen Brown nailed a corner three that proved to be the game-winner.
I generally like the idea of letting teams play out the final possession of a close game without a timeout (if you have a floor general you can trust to make the right play), however, with five seconds left this was different — Mike Malone and Denver should have called a timeout to advance the ball. After Denver forced the Irving miss Will Barton didn’t have the time to get up the court fast enough and get a quality shot off. The Nuggets had a timeout left, they should have taken it to advance the ball and get one clean look, as it was they settled for a rushed shot that had little chance.