Could the Mavs Potentially Make a Trade for Blake Griffin?
Luka Doncic has been exceptional in his sophomore year, to say the very least, making the leap from runaway Rookie of the Year to borderline league MVP candidate in the blink of an eye. And despite the early inconsistencies of his 'unicorn' running mate Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks are still winning games. However, as good as things are looking for the Mavs right now (8-5 record on the year and right in the middle of the playoff hunt, with the staggering Warriors at the AAC tonight in a 6:30 tip), the fact remains that this team is at least one more big piece away from becoming a true contender in the Western Conference.
It's been a long-standing DallasBasketball.com tradition to survey the NBA landscape and make educated guesses on what kind of moves the Mavs could potentially look to make, depending on what all is happening. Our Matt Galatzan recently did so with some "medium-sized'' ideas ...
Some of these suggested ideas can be more pipe-dreamy than others, but hey, that's okay! We were pipe-dreaming Porzingis to the Mavs before Doncic was even in the picture, and now, here we are.
Although the idea of having cap flexibility in the summer of 2021 surely interests the Mavs' front office, when Giannis Antetokounmpo is expected to be an unrestricted free agent, we all know too well how relying on cap space has worked out for the team in recent years. Sure, Doncic has taken a huge step forward, and now prospective free agents will have seen that Porzingis can, in fact, play basketball again, but still, the chances of persuading a free agent of the Greek Freak's magnitude to come to Dallas is still slim, no matter how much we try to will it into existence.
The Mavs have always made their biggest splashes in the trade market, and Donnie Nelson has been on a massive hot streak since last June when he executed the draft-night trade with the Hawks to obtain Doncic, then executed another trade with the Knicks at the end of January to land Porzingis. With the way the Mavs have played so far, and with Doncic already playing at an MVP level so early in his career, we shouldn't be surprised if Dallas starts looking for ways to accelerate its ascent into title contention.
A swing for the fences with Detroit Pistons star forward Blake Griffin could do just that.
Detroit, after barely skidding into the playoffs last season and eventually being swept by Milwaukee, is off to another disappointing start this year. The Pistons are 4-9 through 13 games, and they don't look like a team that's going anywhere anytime soon. Given, Griffin has only played in two games this season after recovering from some knee and hamstring injuries, but the Pistons are stuck on the infamous Mark Cuban Treadmill of Mediocrity, regardless of Griffin being healthy.
Although Griffin has had his share of injury issues, he played in 75 games for Detroit last season at 35 minutes per game, making his sixth career All-Star appearance while averaging 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game. Due to injuries, Griffin isn't quite the athlete he once was, but the Mavs have seen up close what he's still capable of, as recently as January 25th.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the Mavs should stay far away from any kind of Chris Paul trade due to what happened five years ago when they rolled the dice with Rajon Rondo. This wouldn't be an issue with Griffin. Not only is he still an elite talent, but by all accounts, he's also a high-character guy who is admired by his teammates. Not only that, but his skill set would mesh nicely alongside Doncic and Porzingis, especially if Dallas commits to playing Porzingis at center. Griffin is a great post player with a decent three-point shot, and he has both the screening and ball-handling abilities to play both sides of the pick-and-roll effectively.
Quick, somebody grab Rick Carlisle a napkin; he's drooling.
The Mavs have squashed our preseason rebounding concerns with consistent team efforts, and that's one reason to believe that playing Porzingis exclusively at center with a player like Griffin at the 4 slot would help the team achieve more consistency and maximum flexibility on the offensive end, an area where they've already been great, despite having a few off games.
We went into this season talking about how Dwight Powell could be the Mavs' third-most important player and perhaps the best big on the roster to pair with Porzingis. Although Powell remains as efficient as ever, he hasn't been as explosive as he normally is due to rehabbing a hamstring strain he suffered in the preseason. Even at full health, though, Powell was never a consistent one-on-one threat in the post. Could you imagine the possibilities with Griffin thrown into Powell's role?
At this point, most people are probably asking, "Okay, that sounds nice and all, but what could the Mavs offer to even get the Pistons to consider this?" and that's a good question to ask.
Griffin is going to turn 31 years old in March, and he's making $34 million this season, $37 million in the 2020-2021 season, and $39 million in the 2021-2022 season. He's not getting any younger, and as mentioned before, the Pistons aren't going anywhere anytime soon either. One thing the Pistons do need if they decide to 'blow it up' is a young point guard for the future. Yes, Detroit signed Derrick Rose over the summer, but he's just a placeholder at this point in his career. Given how the Mavs have constantly talked about Jalen Brunson being a first-round talent, despite falling to them at No. 33 in the 2018 draft, we wonder if that's where the discussion of a deal could begin.
Mavericks receive: Blake Griffin
Pistons receive: Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., 2020 second-round pick (best of Houston or Golden State), 2025 first-round pick (top-5 protected)
There's a lot of 'What-Ifs' in this particular scenario, with the biggest being -- is Brunson good enough of a young point guard in the eyes of Pistons' management to justify letting go of Griffin while also adding Hardaway Jr., who is making $18 million this season and $20 million next season? If that was the offer by itself, then the answer would more than likely be a resounding 'NO.'
The picks situation is an interesting aspect of this to consider, though, especially since the Golden State Warriors having seemingly been forced into 'Tank Mode' due to a string of devastating injuries to their star players. The Mavs, along with owning their own second-round pick this year, will also receive either the Warriors or the Houston Rockets' second-round pick -- whichever is the best of the two. At this point, it's safe to say that Dallas will receive Golden State's second-round pick, and as bad as they've been so far, it's looking like it'll be in the 31-35 range come June. So, basically, the Mavs would be giving the Pistons Brunson with a fringe-first round pick and a top-5 protected first-round pick in 2025.
Like all pipe-dreams, there's a lot that has to go right for one to come true, especially when you're talking about a big-time talent like Blake Griffin. That said, we've learned first hand in the last year and a half that anything is possible, even if you believe the Mavs' trade asset cupboard is too bare to pull it off.
We've seen crazier things happen, and whether it's Griffin or some other name later on this season, it wouldn't shock us to see Donnie Nelson's trading hot streak continue. The Mavs' future has officially become the present with the meteoric rise of Luka Doncic, and now the team has a chance to rise from playoff contender to title contender by adding one more significant piece.