Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons agree to contract buyout

Brooklyn Nets NBA title favorites after signing Blake Griffin
Feb 11, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons officially agreed to a contract buyout for All-Star forward Blake Griffin, making him an unrestricted free agent who can sign with a legitimate contender.

Griffin has been toiling away on terrible Pistons teams since being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2017-18 campaign. The change of scenery was in the best interest of Detroit and the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

Blake Griffin garnering massive interest after contract buyout

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski initially reported the news of Griffin’s departure from the Pistons, and The New York TimesMarc Stein provided insight into just how strong Griffin’s market is:

Wojnarowski added the Portland Trail Blazers to the list of teams expected to be interested in acquiring Griffin.

Injuries have plagued stretches of Griffin’s career, and he appeared in only 18 games last season for Detroit. In 20 contests this season, Griffin hasn’t been all too impressive, as StatMuse highlighted:

But to reiterate, the circumstances surrounding the Pistons franchise are among the worst in the NBA. They’re going nowhere right now, and haven’t had a clear vision for their future ever since Griffin’s arrival. At 10-26, they’re dead-last in the Eastern Conference and have the league’s second-worst winning percentage.

It was a logical move for Detroit to clear out Griffin’s exorbitant contract, which would’ve cost the team almost $39 million next season. The Pistons are better off continuing their tank job and hopefully netting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Related: 2021 NBA mock draft – Top prospects, top landing spots

Breaking down Blake Griffin’s possible free-agent destinations

Breaking down Blake Griffin's possible free-agent destinations
Feb 9, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) brings the ball up court against the LA Clippers at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Given the teams listed, Griffin can almost do no wrong. His numbers may not be impressive of late, yet one silver lining to his time in Detroit was the furthered development of his jump shot.

Griffin is much more adept at shooting 3-pointers than he was at the dawn of his career in LA, and with far superior talent surrounding him, he should be able to flourish at his next stop as a shooter, playmaker and starring player for a contender.

With the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers near the top of the Western Conference, either squad would be a great fit for Griffin, and provide the juiciest narratives.

Returning to the Clippers alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is a fascinating scenario Griffin will no doubt consider. Otherwise, he could join LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a super-charged Lakers frontcourt as they pursue a repeat championship bid. This would add quite a wrinkle to basketball in Los Angeles, that’s for sure.

The Miami Heat, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors are more fringe contenders who Griffin could push to another level, yet it may not guarantee championship contention.

That’s not to disrespect Miami after its run to the NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble, nor is it discounting how well Portland has played without CJ McCollum for an extended period of time. It’s more a reflection of the depth in the NBA right now.

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Golden State’s prospective core of Griffin, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and James Wiseman is probably the most tantalizing destination out of those three.

Then there’s the Brooklyn Nets, who already have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. For the legacy purposes of all involved — and considering KD left the Warriors because he was widely viewed as a ring chaser who took the path of least resistance — Brooklyn seems to be a less likely new team for Griffin.

However, that contradicts what The Athletic’s Shams Charania is reporting: that the Nets are actually favorites to acquire the six-time All-Star:

In any event, look for Griffin to seek out a championship culture and explore the best combination of NBA Finals chances, personnel fit and whether a team is a viable long-term option. Those that probably best fit this criteria as they’re build now are all in California, yet it looks like Brooklyn is the leader in the clubhouse.

Either a return to the Clips or a pivot to the Warriors seem like the most likely scenarios in terms of where Griffin could play out his next lengthy contract. That said, with Griffin free to go anywhere he pleases, none of these appealing landing spots can really be discounted.

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