NBA fans in Los Angeles were glued to their phones last Thursday as they tried to keep up with the flurry of moves that were made before the 12 p.m. PST trade deadline. While 22 of the league’s 30 teams made a deal, the two moves with the biggest implications both revolved around L.A.
Jan. 29, the Los Angeles Clippers sent franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and two draft picks. Then, the day of the deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a shocking swap with the Cavaliers, shipping out Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick.
Dealing away Griffin, a dominant power forward, may seem confusing and cold-hearted, but it’s ultimately best for the future of the franchise.
Griffin was selected by the Clippers with the No.1 pick in the 2009 draft, and, while playing alongside star point guard Chris Paul, oversaw the most successful period in franchise history.
However, after losing Paul to the Houston Rockets last summer, the Clippers’ future was uncertain. Nevertheless, Griffin doubled down on his commitment to L.A., signing a new five-year contract worth $173 million.
Three months later, with the team sitting a couple games out of the final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference, the Clippers’ front office was having second thoughts. Dumping Griffin indicates that the Clippers are headed for a rebuild, but the assets they received in the trade have them off to a good start.
While losing their five-time All-Star, they gained two promising young players and will now have two first-round picks this June in one of the most talented drafts in recent history. Frankly, it was a surprise that dominant center DeAndre Jordan and likely 2018 Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams weren’t also traded for younger assets. The team decided to hold onto Jordan, who can opt out after this season, and signed Williams to a three-year contract extension right before the deadline.
Though the Clippers should have also moved Jordan and/or Williams, it was still the correct move for the Clippers to ship off Griffin. Ultimately the team needs to look to the long-term, and this was the first major step.
As the Clippers moved towards a rebuild, the Lakers let the league know that they plan to return to relevancy sooner than thought — their trade was all about clearing up enough salary space to sign two players to maximum deals this summer.
Sure, it will be interesting to see how the mercurial but talented Thomas fits into the rotation with Lonzo Ball starting at point guard, but it won’t concern the team much because Thomas will be a free agent after this season. Cleveland’s draft pick is also a big pick-up for the Lakers, who do not own their own first-round pick this year.
However, with superstars LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins all potentially hitting the open market this summer, the Lakers’ main goal was freeing up enough money to lure two big names to Hollywood.
This was a move that will ultimately allow the Lakers to become a powerhouse once again, and now the door is open for superstars to come to Staples Center.
The two trades appear to signal a changing of the guard in Los Angeles; since the retirement of Kobe Bryant, the Clippers have been the best basketball team in L.A. But with the Clippers staring at a rebuild and the Lakers clearing space to pursue superstars, it looks like things are headed back towards tradition.