Insiders Explain Why Celtics Chose Blake Griffin Over Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin

Getty Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles against Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks.

After The Athletic’s Shams Charania confirmed that Danilo Gallinari had torn his ACL, the first name that routinely came up as Gallinari’s replacement for the Boston Celtics was Carmelo Anthony. However, Brian Robb of MassLive confirmed on September 9 that the Celtics were “not expected to have interest” in Anthony.

They did, however, add to their frontcourt depth when they signed Blake Griffin on September 30, which begs the question, why did they pick Blake Griffin over Anthony? On the HoopsHype Podcast, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss discussed with HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto why the Celtics went with Griffin over Anthony.

Scotto believes that Robert Williams’ arthroscopic surgery on his knee was what pushed the Celtics to take Griffin over Anthony, though Scotto added that the Celtics had some interest in the latter.

“I think the absence of Robert Williams affected the way they went about replacing Danilo Gallinari. There were some rumblings out there about Carmelo Anthony before Blake Griffin,” Scotto said. “Melo would’ve been a fine stretch four and could’ve replaced that role similar to Gallinari, but that wasn’t the focus after the surgery for Williams, I’m told.”

Weiss Singled Out Griffin’s Defense

Weiss explained to Scotto his perspective on why Griffin was chosen not just over Anthony but over other bigs that were still available, like LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, and Hassan Whiteside. In short, he believed Griffin’s abilities as a defender gave him the nod over the others.

“Griffin was the best defensive fit for all of those other veterans out there because the Celtics do a ton of switching, and he was, I think, the only big that was available who has good experience that can actually switch. He also can play the four and the five. Once Williams gets back, and they don’t have to have him at the five. They can have him at the four.”

Griffin also led the NBA in charges drawn with 26 during the 2021-22 season, despite playing only 56 games for the Brooklyn Nets.

By adding him, the Celtics have three of the top 11 league leaders in charges drawn last season, which include Derrick White and Marcus Smart.

Scotto echoed a similar sentiment when discussing why the Celtics picked Griffin as well as adding what he brings offensively.

“One of the reasons the Boston Celtics targeted Griffin was the team prioritized defense. Griffin was one of the league leaders at drawing charges. With Williams being out to start the season, Griffin can play the five. Offensively, Griffin can help with DHOs (dribble handoffs).”

Griffin to Make Celtics Debut Against Charlotte

According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, Griffin confirmed that he plans to play against the Charlotte Hornets for 10 to 12 minutes.

This will be the first real look that Celtics fans will get of Griffin when he takes the floor. Griffin is not the high-flyer he was with the Los Angeles Clippers or even the player he remade himself into following his declining athleticism when he played for the Detroit Pistons, but Griffin proved himself to be a valuable player for the Nets during the 2020-21 season.

In the 26 games he played for the Nets that season, he averaged 10 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three.

Griffin would be a valued member of the Celtics’ rotation if he were to return to that kind of production for the upcoming season.