The hardest thing to do in the NBA is to win a championship. To win a championship, you need at least one, but preferably two or more superstars.
Ergo, attaining and retaining superstars is a major objective in the NBA. When you don't have superstars, just about every action you take in trades, free agency and the draft should be focused on acquiring a superstar. When you do have superstars, every action you take should be focused on either adding an additional superstar or fitting the best talent possible around your current superstar(s).
In most cases, you should not actively try to trade your superstar, especially if he's among the five most talented players in the NBA. You usually don't win more by getting rid of your best player. Even if the other players on the team seem to play better when your best player is missing -- and even if one of those other players is also a superstar -- you focus on building the system and the roster around that best talent.
If you are playing for championships in the immediate term, you do not trade your superstar for anything less than another superstar. Anything else is what the great Bomani Jones would call "hustlin' backwards." If you're trying to win a title right now and you trade your best player for a lesser player, you are doing it wrong.
That's why I can't understand why there's so much talk about the Clippers trading Blake Griffin.
To be sure, there isn't much indication that Doc Rivers is calling around the league to gauge Griffin's value. It's quite the opposite: other GMs seem to be circling like sharks, sniffing blood. (Which, in fairness, could very well be dripping from the face of the trainer Blake Griffin recently punched.) What's amazing is that a segment of the smart NBA media has picked up this idea that L.A. could possibly be better off trading Griffin and run with it.
Why? Because Griffin made an incredibly stupid mistake by a) punching another grown human outside the context of self-defense, b) punching a friend and coworker and c) punching said friend and coworker hard enough to break his shooting hand. It's hard to overstate how stupid a mistake that was.
There's a second "why" in the equation: with Griffin out, the Clippers are playing their best basketball of the season. With more spacing on the floor, the Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll has room to breathe and J.J. Redick has been lighting the world on fire. CP3 is the team's second superstar and at this point the team's second-best player. He's so damn good that he often looks better than Blake.
CP3 is also four years older than Griffin and has a history of knee troubles. Griffin has the potential to be a 20-10-5 player -- he's been just a shade under that rebound figure the last couple years. The only 20-10-5 players in NBA history: Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley (once) and Garnett.
Blake Griffin is 26, just entering his expected age-based prime. CP3 is one of the best point guards in the league (which is saying something during this golden age) and maybe the best small guard ever. (He's in the mix with Isiah Thomas.) But he's not Blake Griffin.
Trade Griffin for Carmelo Anthony? Are you serious? Melo has had a very nice season, and he's a better NBA player than many give him credit for being. But assuming Griffin is healthy before the playoffs begin, in no way, shape or form is Anthony an immediate-term upgrade over Blake. He's certainly not a long-term improvement. And if Griffin's absence is what has opened up L.A.'s attack, how exactly is Melo's iso-heavy, mid-post style going to ensure the rails stay greased? It's not entirely relevant that CP3 and Melo are close friends. There isn't some magic friendship boost in the NBA, especially not with players whose styles clash as much as CP3's and Melo's.
Griffin for Kevin Love? Nothing says "champion" like trading a top-five talent for a great offensive player whose main goal on every defensive possession is to not end up in a Vine. To win the West, you're going to have to beat the Warriors or Spurs, or possibly both. You think Kevin Love is the answer against Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge? Good luck, partner. Griffin might not be able to stop them either, but he's a better option on either end than Love.
Griffin for Chris Bosh and some other high-value asset, like Justise Winslow? Maybe that helps this season. Bosh is still great and he has a nice mix of offensive and defensive skills without needing the ball much. He could be the right piece to continue to allow CP3 and Jordan to play free while adding some defense and experience. Winslow is a potential star in the making, though he's not quite even starting-level right now and might not be for two years. (Or, when Chris Paul is 32 and Bosh is 33.)
But Winslow isn't a sure thing. He didn't even make the Rookie Challenge. And as noted, Bosh is five years older than Blake and isn't as talented as Griffin at this point. Given the choice, all 30 teams would rather have Griffin than Bosh. Winslow is a nice incentive to roll the dice, but not nice enough to give up the sure thing. And we're just talking about the immediate-term, let alone as Bosh ages while Griffin moves through his expected prime. The Clippers can't do this deal unless Griffin is a complete disaster of a human behind the scenes.
Boston's platter of picks, C-level prospects and Jae Crowder? That's a concession on this season and probably next. That's a move away from title contention. Anything Denver can possibly offer? Are you serious?
When healthy, Griffin is up there with LeBron, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. You don't trade players like that so DeAndre Jordan can get more pick-and-roll opportunities. If you do, you're coming at it from the wrong angle. CP3-Jordan-Redick is a nice trio. It's been successful. But it sure as hell isn't good enough to win a title, even if you add one of the trade pieces we're talking about.
But with Blake Griffin? There's a better chance. We saw it against the Spurs last spring. We saw it this November, when the Clips gave Golden State two of their closest calls. The Clippers' best chance to win a title in the next couple of years isn't with Melo or Bosh or Love or Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. It's with Blake Griffin.
That's why all this nonsense about trading Blake is just that. Doing so would send the Clippers in the wrong direction.