I am 100 percent in favor of harshly judging Donald Sterling, because the man deserves to be judged harshly. His record as a human being speaks for itself.
That said, using Sterling's horrible record as a human and sports team owner to make a point about Blake Griffin or the Clippers' chances of winning a title? That seems like a pretty weak lob. Take it away, Ric Bucher and anonymous GMs!
[P]airing two big men who are not scoring threats outside of the paint—Griffin and Jordan—with a ball-dominating dribble-drive point guard such as Chris Paul also has a dissonant ring. A stretch 4—a power forward with three-point or deep two-point range—would be far more ideal.
Here are the Clippers' ranks in offensive rating since Chris Paul arrived: No. 4, No. 4, No. 6. All three seasons featured heavy doses of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. It's almost like the Clippers' offense is pretty darned good without a stretch four.
"Would they be better with a Kevin Love or a LaMarcus Aldridge? Sure," says one NBA executive. "Even David West might be a better fit." [...]
"Sterling is not going to do anything with Blake because he's terrified they're going to say, 'See, you screwed it up again,'" the GM said. "Donald understands dunks and star power, not spacing the floor."
Again, Sterling is horrible. But to use a simplistic view of basketball as the reason he wouldn't trade his 24-year-old three-time All-Star ignores the fact that the argument for trading him relies on a simplistic view of basketball. Stretch fours are the vogue, and Love, Aldridge and West are all better shooters than Griffin. But outside shooting is not everything when it comes to playing power forward. Griffin happens to be a frequent and efficient scorer, a great rebounder and he's surprisingly nifty passing the rock.
Saying "Donald understands dunks and star power, not spacing the floor" is basically saying "I don't understand Blake Griffin." That it's a GM saying it is pretty gross, because I bet you that GM would leap at the chance to get Griffin, no matter what sort of spacing problems it might cause.
What's neat is that Bucher gives us a huge clue as to who that GM might be, saying that he -- the one who offers the second quote above -- is the GM of a team with Love, Aldridge or West. So, depending on how strictly Bucher is using titles here, it's Larry Bird or his deputy Kevin Pritchard, Flip Saunders or his deputy Milt Newton or former Clippers GM Neil Olshey. No one would ever be surprised by Pritchard or Saunders talking to anyone about anything, but Olshey stands out as a particularly interesting option given his familiarity with Sterling. However, there's no chance Olshey doesn't also understand what it is Griffin brings. So it remains a mystery.
Aldridge is better than Griffin, but floor-spacing isn't the primary reason. In fact, the fact that Aldridge takes so many long twos means that, while he shoots them well compared to Griffin, he's the far less efficient scorer of the two. LMA is actually a below-average scorer in terms of efficiency; Griffin is well-above average. Where Aldridge lords over Griffin is on defense: he's become excellent on that end, whereas Griffin is so-so. Overall, I'd rate Aldridge as better than Griffin because of that.
But I still might not trade Griffin for Aldridge straight-up, because Blake is four years younger and is locked in for longer. The case for Griffin over any of these guys is not "dunks and star power;" it's his rare combination of offensive efficiency, rebounding prowess and, it would seem, ability to be a good teammate who doesn't complain about his situation. (That's something that at least Love cannot claim right now, as fair as his complaints may be.) That doesn't mean that Love or Aldridge isn't better than Griffin. It just means that simplifying the case to "dunks and star power" betrays reality and confuses the argument.
Even if Griffin and Jordan turn out not to be a match, why trade Griffin? You can find a home for Jordan. You may not get much back, but shot-blocking centers -- even at high price points -- always have some value. If you have a star and role player who don't work together, why would you focus on trading the star? Who exactly are you building around here ... Griffin or Jordan?
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And this is the thing that really bugs me about this constant slander of Griffin (which can also be seen in the Carmelo Anthony imbroglio): Why are we ignoring the giant Doc Rivers in the corner? Sterling doesn't run this team right now: Rivers does. Doc has been a darned successful coach, and he's taken over for the underwhelming Vinny Del Negro. Doc seems to have the bulk of control over personnel matters. He'll know if Griffin's not working out, and if things go poorly (again) in the postseason, Rivers will be able to lead the charge to find a good deal. The Clippers' window isn't wide open, but it's certainly not closing either. Chris Paul's knees have a few great years left. Griffin and Jordan are young.
So, yes, Sterling is awful, a bad man who runs his team poorly. But don't slander Blake Griffin by association. He deserves better.
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