August 7, 2019, 11:47 am
About a week ago, Jake Fischer released an article that quickly got passed along the internet. In the article, Griffin spoke very candidly about his unhappiness in Cleveland, and his comments were taken by many as a slight to LeBron James. Because LeBron news gets pushed to the forefront of conversation, some things buried inside the article were not talked about as much. One of these quotes was important:
“Instead of chasing ping pong balls, they [the Pelicans] expect to battle despite the West’s stingy field. Griffin warns New Orleans will play buyer at the trade deadline if the playoffs are within his grasp. “People are gonna be like, ‘What the f— are they doing?’” he says. “We’re trying to win basketball games!” He knows vying for victory most often ends in defeat. But teams that overcome losing together—like Griffin’s Suns, unlike Griffin’s Cavs—grow together”
We can look back at the entirety of his summer to put this into context. After all, in regards to the Anthony Davis trade, Griffin made it clear that the team was open to any avenues: if someone had blown the doors open with a trade that meant a longer rebuild, he would’ve been okay with that.
“So we were open-minded to if the best offer we got was going to be entirely a future play form someone, then maybe we would’ve gone that route. But building in such a way that the best offer we received was some really quality basketball players that were going to help us win immediately, it gave us a real confidence in, okay, let’s keep augmenting this group.”
Putting this all together, I think Griffin’s comment about what the Pelicans could do at the deadline is pretty clear. I don’t think Griffin means that he is going to sacrifice the future to make a last-minute push for the playoffs. What I do think he is open to is finding the in-between for players that will help now and help later. What makes this interesting to me is that Griffin’s mindset is not altogether different from the approach that Dell Demps took.
In my mind, what makes it different is that Griffin has a big set of chips to throw at the table. Because of some bad contracts/decisions and some awfully bad luck, Demps was not in the position that Griffin is. As it stands, the Pelicans have at least four or five good young prospects and a few that could be elite. The Pelicans have no bad contracts, no ultimatum from a superstar to sacrifice everything now, and are in the driver’s seat for their future. This means they can be patient for now.
If I had to guess, Griffin is still trying to accomplish the one piece of the AD trade goal (via him) that is still unfinished: to acquire a young, All-Star caliber player. Shamit Dua has been on the Bradley Beal train for a long time, and I think Beal is certainly someone who fits the bill. Washington just made a huge hire in analytics pioneer Dean Oliver, and I fully expect that they’ll try to do whatever they can to get Beal to stay… but I also think there could be others.
I think Griffin is waiting to unload some of the assets in his treasure chest to obtain a player in an unhappy situation or whose timeline doesn’t match his team’s. Tracing back to Griffin’s comments, and considering the situation that the Pelicans are in, I would expect that anything he does at the deadline this year will be something he wants to do, not something he feels pressure to do.