The column which reverberated through the NBA had a lot to say about Kevin Durant:
— The Vertical (@TheVertical) February 2, 2016
Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest “WojBomb” was not a tweet so much as a whole column full of reportage and insight into Durant’s impending summer of free agency, and the decision which will emerge within it.
The column is so layered with insider machinations that a Durant-for-Blake-Griffin swap is a third item, presented almost in an “oh-by-the-way-this-could-happen” manner. When that’s a third item in a column — behind the possible Durant-Golden State alliance and the laughable state of the Los Angeles Lakers — you know a lot’s going on.
At any rate, let’s tackle the idea of a Kevin Durant-Blake Griffin switcheroo, and what it would mean for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
The long and short of it: This deal — if it ever happened — would make all the sense in the world for one team. It would be terrible for the other.
You shouldn’t have to think long or hard in the process of identifying each team.
On the surface, the fact that Blake Griffin played college ball at the University of Oklahoma would seem to give the Thunder a reason to reach out to the power forward, who has undeniably improved his game over time and can do so many productive things with a basketball. Griffin has evolved as a player, and given his skill base, one could argue — with some shred of legitimacy — that his post-up game would give the Thunder a line of attack they haven’t been able to use as much with Durant.
Okay — all that is fair enough. It’s not as though Griffin wouldn’t provide value to the Thunder.
The question at hand, however, is not if Griffin would offer value; it’s if he would ADD value to the OKC franchise, relative to what Durant already brings to the table.
It’s virtually impossible to answer that question in the affirmative.
For one thing, Oklahoma City has a coach — Billy Donovan — who, for all his skill and expertise, is still in his first season. He hasn’t even tasted his first playoff rodeo. Donovan’s first and most important task in Oklahoma City was to secure Durant’s trust. If that trust exists, or if it is in the process of being solidified with each new week and month Donovan sits on that bench during games, it would seem highly counterproductive for Oklahoma City to saddle its coach with a different communications dynamic and a different style of play. Both burdens would inevitably emerge from a Durant-Griffin swap.
In Los Angeles, Doc Rivers has coached the Clippers for several seasons. The idea of coaching a new superstar wouldn’t be nearly as onerous. Say what you want about Rivers’ actual level of coaching acumen — that’s very much up for debate — but grant him this: He has been around the block in the NBA, whereas Billy D is just starting to learn how to relate to NBA players on a daily basis. On a broader level, the Clips are much more prepared to handle this kind of transition (or perhaps, disruption).
Then, however, comes the kicker, the component of this discussion which represents a virtually incontestible and decisive claim: Griffin is a knucklehead. At the very least, he outed himself as one when he hit a member of his own support staff — moreover, someone he considered a friend.
One can fairly and legitimately say, “Let’s wait and see what this Clipper team does in the postseason before being absolutely sure about the matter.” All right — that’s an entirely reasonable point of view. However, one would just as readily respond by noting that nothing under the sun suggests that the Clippers are going to get past either the Warriors or Spurs in the second round of the playoffs and reach their first-ever conference final.
Assuming the Clippers are once again locked outside the NBA’s last four this spring, what reason would NOT exist in support of a Blake-Durant trade? The Clippers’ mixture of personalities has not blended well together — no one needs a dissertation on that point. It is obvious and long has been. Removing one player from the mix — especially one who just displayed a large degree of stupidity — could only help if the replacement is equally if not more talented. Durant obviously fits that bill.
That’s enough of an argument to make right there. However, Durant’s deadeye shooting ability — on a roster with J.J. Redick — would give the Clippers their own “Splash Brother” identity and a chance to spread the floor in ways they couldn’t previously achieve. Having Chris Paul distribute the rock to Durant would help him to be more of a facilitator, which is his natural state. The re-alignment of pieces with Durant in L.A. and Blake in OKC would seem to vastly improve the Clippers’ chances of becoming an elite team.
For the Thunder, it’s hard to see how a new-look roster would be better, especially with a coach who would enter a second season without the player he (psychologically and tactically) expected to guide over the next several seasons.
Durant to the Clippers and Blake to Oklahoma City?
This works entirely to one team’s benefit, and would be a disaster for the other.
There should not be much of any disagreement in the room.