The Los Angeles Lakers might not be plotting any major deals at the trade deadline, but the defending champions could be players in the buyout market.
The Lakers already have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA but could be open to adding a talented veteran to bolster a playoff run for the right price. One option that could pop up is Blake Griffin, who is “working through a resolution on his playing future” with the Detroit Pistons, per ESPN.
“After extensive conversation with Blake’s representatives, it has been determined that we will begin working to facilitate a resolution regarding his future with the team that maximizes the interests of both parties,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver told ESPN. “We respect all the effort Blake has put forth in Detroit and his career and will work to achieve a positive outcome for all involved.”
In a statement, Griffin told ESPN: “I am grateful to the Pistons for understanding what I want to accomplish in my career and for working together on the best path forward.”
Lakers Named ‘Potential’ Fit for Blake Griffin
Griffin was once one of the most explosive players in the NBA but has had his career derailed by injury. He played just 18 games last season with Detroit and has looked like a shadow of his former self this year. Griffin — a six-time All-Star — is averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists this season.
Griffin’s dip in production combined with his massive salary over the next two seasons — $36.5 million this year and $39 million next year on a player option — don’t make him an intriguing option for teams via trade. However, if he hits the buyout market there will likely be a bevy of suitors for his services. Joe Vardon of The Athletic could see the Lakers being among those interested in Griffin.
“From a salary perspective, there is no ‘best fit.’ There is no contender with the cap space to take him on without surrendering role players they need,” Vardon wrote. “If a buyout could be reached, I think the Lakers could maybe, potentially, be an OK fit, insofar as LeBron is the tide that lifts so many boats. Perhaps he could be coaxed by Frank Vogel, LeBron and Anthony Davis to at least think about occasionally rolling to the rim.”
So yes — Griffin is a longshot to land back in LA, where he previously played seven-plus seasons with the Clippers. But if he’s willing to take a pay cut and chase a ring, it’s the perfect opportunity. After all, Griffin has made nearly $250 million in his career.
Lakers Trade Deadline Intentions Not Influence by Injury
The Lakers are monitoring the health of star forward Anthony Davis, who is expected to miss fairly significant time with a strained calf and Achilles injury. The services of someone like Griffin would be much more needed if Davis’ absence extended into the second half of the season or even the playoffs, although the team is optimistic about his recovery.
“Once Davis returns to Los Angeles, he’ll immediately get another evaluation there. It is extremely unlikely Davis returns to lineup prior to [All-Star Game] break ending March 10,” ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Twitter.
The Lakers are currently 21-7 and just behind the Jazz (22-5) for the best record in the NBA. If Davis is indeed able to return after the All-Star Break — March 5-10 — he’ll miss nine games.
On top of that, Wojnarowski does not see the Lakers getting extra aggressive at the March 25 trade deadline due to the injury to Davis.
“There’s no replacing Anthony Davis,” Wojnarowski said during an appearance on Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin. “I don’t think it changes how they approach the deadline. I think if you’re the Lakers, you may see what the buyout market is like. I don’t this reimagines how Rob Pelinka looks at the trade deadline because there is optimism this is an injury they can manage.”