Usually, the team losing their star player is getting the short end of the stick in the transaction, but this is not the case.
The Los Angeles Clippers traded away their lone superstar to the Detroit Pistons for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic on Monday 1/29/2018. The trade helps free up cap space from an underachieving star that just signed a maximum contract last year. Put on your general manager hats and I will explain why the Clippers should be ecstatic below.
During the summer of 2017, the Los Angels Clippers went through two important transactions. First, their front office traded away Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. Then in a peculiar followup, the Clippers agreed to a $173 million contract with Blake Griffin. What made the Blake Griffin signing interested was trading away Chris Paul (their best player) in the first place. Usually, trading away their star player is the first step in entering the rebuilding process. What comes next are transactions where the team receive assets in the form of draft picks or young players. Another path to take are trades that clears up cap space for the organization. So when the Clippers announced the new contract agreement with Griffin, a lot of fans seemed confused on their plan.
Alley-Oop specialist Blake Griffin is scheduled to be paid $29.5 million this year. This makes his contract the 5th largest this season in terms of annual dollars. The total amount left on his contract after this year is $141 million. Year 21-22 is the final season of the contract which is also a player option worth $38 million. The money is guaranteed so this is major of significance. So even if Griffin doesn’t play, he still can collect his $38 million while holding his team hostage in salary cap. Most likely the Detroit Pistons or any team he is on at the time will be approaching the luxury tax during in Griffin’s final year.
Underachieving this year
This season Blake Griffin is averaging 22.6 points per game, his career’s second best year in terms of scoring. Among qualified players, Griffin would rank 18th in scoring. A respectable number but not at all spectacular. His field goal percentage is at his career’s worse at 44%. Which means Griffin is scoring the ball at a decent clip, but doing so without any efficiency. Currently, the Clippers stand in 9th place in the Western Conference, one game behind the Denver Nuggets. Among the top 5 largest salaries this year, Blake Griffin is the only one who was on a team that was outside of the top 8 in its conference for playoff qualification.
Checking out our earlier post this season regarding the DollarsPerWin (DPW) ratio for each team, we see the Clippers were ranked 6th in the league. This means we predicted the Clippers to be in the top third of teams regarding the wins and player salaries. The DPW is a ratio that looks at a team’s payroll in relationship to their wins. The lower the number, the more value the organization is getting from their players. This doesn’t mean the team will be great, it means the front office isn’t overpaying for the amount of wins they have. The Clippers are projected to win 41 games, three games less than their original projection. Their DPW ratio jumps from $1.93 million to $2 million as a result, signaling the Clippers are now projected to pay $700K more for each win this year than what was previously thought.
With the numbers not falling in Griffins favor, you can make the argument that the Blake Griffin lead Clippers are under achieving even after taking into consideration of the departure of Chris Paul and this is why the trade happened.
What comes next?
The Los Angeles Clippers have signaled to all NBA they are finally entering the rebuilding process, something they should of started last off season. The next trade should be deal DeAndre Jordan before the February 8th deadline. A Lou Williams trade should also be expected as they no longer have a use for a bench player of his caliber. Both Jordan and Williams should fetch picks and young talent in return that the Clippers can use in the future. Doc Rivers also should part ways from the franchise as the Lob City days have officially ended.