The Oklahoma City Thunder are already deep into trade rumors as we near the NBA Trade Deadline, with George Hill gaining interest from the 76ers, but now the trade rumors have shifted to hometown star Blake Griffin. The Detriot Pistons and Blake Griffin have agreed to have Griffin sit until the team can find a trade partner, or buy out the 31-year-old’s massive contract.
That contract has made the six-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA player, A liability for the seemingly always rebuilding Detroit Pistons. The OKC Thunder have shot up the betting boards as the favorite to land the Edmond, Oklahoma native. However, what would trade for the former-Sooner look like?
Well, you first have to start with the players who are off the table. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, there is no way they are trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley, Theo Maledon, Aleksej Pokusevski, or Hamidou Diallo in a Blake Griffin trade. They have simply invested too-much in Diallo’s development and are seeing the rewards this season. Two-way players are also off the table so that rules out Josh Hall and Moses Brown.
I believe the Thunder would not want to give up on Ty Jerome, Kenrich Williams, or Isaiah Roby in a potential Griffin trade either. All of these guys have great upside and have a pathway to play themselves into a legitimate role moving forward with OKC. Though not untouchable, I do not think Sam Presti would be enthusiastic to deal with any of these players.
The leaves Trevor Ariza, Justin Jackson, Darius Miller, George Hill, Al Horford, and Mike Muscala as the expendable Thunder players.
Blake Griffin is owed a massive salary, and taking into account the Thunder players that are available, these are the players that can combine to strictly make the money work.
Option 1: Trevor Ariza, Justin Jackson, Darius Miller.
Option 2: Trevor Ariza, Mike Muscala, Justin Jackson, Darius Miller
Option 3: Al Horford straight up
Option 4: Trevor Ariza, George Hill, Darius Miller
Option 5: Trevor Ariza, George Hill, Justin Jackson
Option 6: George Hill, Justin Jackson, Darius Miller, and Mike Muscala
However, I reached out to Friend of the Pod (Locked on Thunder) Keith Smith, and he confirmed that despite Trade Machines approving a Trevor Ariza to the Pistons deal, it can not happen so that quickly takes away almost every option that isn’t Al Horford for Blake Griffin straight up.
I do not believe the Thunder would give up George Hill or Al Horford in a Blake Griffin trade, unless a third team is involved, because each Hill and Horford have significantly more value than Griffin. Trading Al Horford straight up for Blake Griffin is only valuable in the sense that Blake Griffin has one less year on his massive contract than Al Horford. However, despite Horford’s longer contract, he is significantly more valuable on the court. It is a tough balance, and the Thunder have the cap sheet moving forward to be flexible with either deal until they could find a potential trade partner.
If you know anything about Sam Presti, you know that he is not going to simply take on Blake Griffin as a favor to the Detroit Pistons, and his former assistant Troy Weaver. The Thunder have to get something back, as a sweetener for taking on Griffin’s massive contract. Especially when you factor in that the hometown kid, can not help sell tickets this year and due to the strange Fox Sports Oklahoma deal half the Thunder audience can not even tune into games. So, what do the Pistons have to give up?
Young Players: Svi Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya, Isaiah Stewart, and Killian Hayes
Project players: Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. (Can not be traded until February 26th, 2021
Picks: 2021 2nd round pick (via Hornets), 2021 2nd round pick (Via Raptors), Pistons also have all of their first-round picks from 2022 and beyond.
Of the young players, I truly see no way that the Pistons would part with their 2020 first-round picks Killian Hayes or Isaiah Stewart, so you can cross them off the list.
Sekou Doumbouya has played in 24 games, made one start, and is averaging 13-minutes this season which is down from his 19-minutes per game a year ago.
Svi Mykhailiuk, the 2018 second-rounder, is a sharpshooter that is getting 18-minutes per night. Svi is 23-years-old and has some upside left.
The project players of Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. are interesting, but nothing to write home about. Josh Jackson is starting to find his groove with the Pistons while Dennis Smith Jr. might be out of the picture if the Pistons do not want to wait that long to move on from Blake Griffin.
With all of that in mind, here are some trade options:
Option one: Blake Griffin, a Top-10 protected first-round pick, for Hill, Muscala, Miller, and Justin Jackson
If the Pistons’ first-round pick has to be protected, while it looks better on a headline, Would it actually be more valuable than a pair of seconds in this year’s draft class? Unless it eventually conveys to an unprotected first–which is highly unlikely–Then getting second-round pick(s) and flyer projects would be more valuable than the headline-grabbing first-round pick.
Option two: Blake Griffin, Sekou Doumbouya, a 2021 second-round pick, for Hill, Miller, Muscala, and Justin Jackson.
With the Thunder player development history, I would really prioritize the OKC Thunder snagging Sekou Doumbouya. Sekou is a raw, athletic, 6’8 forward that can do a lot of different things on the court but just needs more minutes and better coaching. Mark Daigneault and the Thunder can provide that. Sekou was a first-round pick (15th overall) in 2019, and just turned 20 in December. Thinking of Sekou as a second-round asset, and Blake Griffin as a move to sell tickets in the future, this might be equal to the value or even better than the value you could get for Hill alone on the open market. However, pairing Blake Griffin with Al Horford is not ideal.
Option three: Blake Griffin for Al Horford
This option seems the most likely if a Blake Griffin trade happens. While it makes the 2020-21 Thunder team significantly worse and the Thunder do not see any of the revenue boosts from adding a hometown kid until 2021-22 (even in the TV rating category), the big thing comes down to Blake Griffin’s contract is a year shorter. Expiring deals in the NBA are inherently more valuable. Sure, the money is high next year for Griffin (38.9 million) however, come deadline time, with the 2021 free agent pool dwindling, will there be a better way to improve a contending team on the cheap? Cheap being assets that would need to be given up. One other thing to note about Griffin, even if you can not find a trade partner with him, in the middle of next season it seems pretty likely that Blake Griffin would agree to a Thunder-friendly buyout number. There are some positives to this straight-up trade…If you are on team tank, this move gets you a bottom 3 record in the NBA, which is where you want to be with that 14-percent chance of getting the top overall pick.
The wild-card option is adding a third, or even fourth, team into the deal! Honestly, brainstorming 3-team trades that likely are not being discussed and have no chance of happening, while fun, is a waste of your time because I would truly be throwing things against a wall to see what sticks.
When breaking down, and thinking out these trades, I put a lot of thought into it trying to make it as fair as possible to each side. I just laid out my process in this article, there are no click-baiting slideshows with trades that have no chance of happening. However, this is Sam Presti we are talking about. Expect the unexpected.
For more on Blake Griffin, including hearing the angle from the Pistons media, and if I think OKC will or should do this, listen to Friday, February 19th’s episode of Locked on Thunder anywhere you get your podcasts from.