Why Blake Griffin does not fit on the Portland Trail Blazers

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Dylan Mickanen
·4 min read
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Why Blake Griffin does not fit on the Portland Trail Blazers originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

Portland has been named by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski as an expected candidate to sign Blake Griffin following his buyout agreement with Detroit. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers reportedly among candidates to land Blake Griffin after buy out

NBC Sports NW Producer Chris Burkhardt detailed why he thinks Griffin would be a good fit in Rip City, but I'm more bearish on the former All-Star joining Portland. 

Here's why. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

This is not the old Blake Griffin. 

Times of Griffin posterizing opponents and finishing third in MVP voting are a distant memory. The high-flying Griffin has not even attempted a dunk during the 2020-21 NBA season while shooting 29.3% on jump shots.

Griffin's ideal role nowadays would be a playmaking, backup center which he could fit in Portland immediately after the All-Star break if both Jusuf Nurkic and Harry Giles are out. He could help the second unit be less dependent on Carmelo Anthony post-ups and get more players involved to enhance those units. But when Nurkic comes back, what's Griffin's role, beyond 15 minutes a game that varies of even happening based on the matchup? 

Also, look at the other potential playoff matchups Portland can see this spring and tell me which of them Griffin will help Portland in. Perhaps he can have value as a backup center if Enes Kanter's defense proves to be unplayable but beyond that, the only two teams who even play two bigs are the Lakers and Jazz, with Utah only having Gobert and Favors share the floor in limited minutes. Then for the Lakers, they will play Anthony Davis at center in any meaningful playoff minutes so does Griffin only have a role for the game and a half Frank Voegel wants to start Davis at power forward? 

Contending NBA teams are largely running lineups with versatile wing players 1-4 allowing for ultimate defensive flexibility. In a potential matchup with the Clippers, Griffin does not fit at all.

Gary Trent Jr., Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney Hood, and maybe Nassir Little will all need to play solid minutes in any playoff series where the opponent has dynamic wing scorers, such as the Clippers who have two playing at an All-NBA level. Griffin will be a defensive liability in any of these matchups and would need to accept the possibility of barely playing, if at all, in the playoffs if he signs with Portland. 

Some will point to Rodney Hood who has struggled coming off the Achilles injury but he's still just 15 months removed from surgery as someone Griffin could beat out for minutes. That's certainly possible, but recent evidence shows players aren't close to "back to their old self" until 18 months after. Come playoff time, Hood will be nearing that milestone and his play should elevate accordingly. 

A healthier Rodney Hood holds infinitely more value in the playoffs than Griffin. 

With all that said, I'm all for signing Griffin if he will agree to come to Rip City without an expectation of playing a ton. His three-point percentage is a respectable 33% and 34.6% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers. Plus, this is supposed to be a win-now season for Portland and there's upside in a former All-Star flourishing in a more limited role surrounded by stars like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

If Neil Olshey, who drafted Griffin first overall while in Los Angeles, does not think a rotation-caliber wing player will come to Portland on the buyout market, then why not take a flier on Griffin? If he joins and hurts the team either chemistry-wise or on the court, Portland can just cut him. 

If Griffin signs with Portland and can make a resurgence even remotely similar to what Nicolas Batum has done for the Clippers, it raises the ceiling of Portland as they try to make another deep postseason run during Lillard's prime. If Griffin accepts that agreement and then beats out players for minutes, then great! Portland has gotten better!

I say go for it, but do not expect much either, for the reasons laid out above.