April 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) reacts while watching game action against the Utah Jazz during the second half in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Orlando Magic are going to look to make a free agent splash sooner rather than later, but they should not go near Blake Griffin.
Right now the Orlando Magic are in a cautiously optimistic place. They got rid of former general manager Rob Hennigan straight after the season was done, and have been linked with the likes of David Griffin and Larry Bird since then.
Regardless of whoever takes up that position with the team, combined with having their own draft picks moving forward, the Magic are in an okay place.
One development they need to be wary of however, is the new GM coming in and immediately trying to make a name for himself, which is hard to do through the draft unless the team somehow gets a top-three pick in the upcoming lottery.
This means going after a big-name player, be it a free agent or otherwise, is the likely route to make waves.
What’s worrying about the above sentence is that, in any given year, the best players in the league are rarely traded. Guys move during free agency, but even then the ability to make more money by staying put (now more than ever) means this doesn’t happen terribly often.
Griffin is one of the most recognizable players in the league, yet there’s a chance he could be available either through free agency this summer or trade in the near future.
On the surface it’s clear the Magic don’t need him. After all they’ve got Aaron Gordon finally playing the power forward spot, and he is progressing well.
But in terms of visibility to the casual fan, marketability, reasons to tune in and watch and genuine talent, Orlando lags behind in each category — this despite having the 15th highest attendance (17,753 per game) during the regular season.
Magic fans have shown loyalty through some tough times (finished bottom of their division for five straight years now) but their patience is wearing thin.
So to the naked eye, trying to somehow get Griffin to the Magic makes a lot of sense.
He would improve the team in the short term, could sell jerseys, would be a reason for fans to stick around and would be their most marketable player since Dwight Howard.
Griffin is also in the precarious position of playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that look likely to blow up their core this summer and go in a different direction.
But even if they didn’t, it’s likely Griffin is still available, through trade or unrestricted free agency (he is entering the final year of his current deal).
It’s not often you can say that about one of the most visible players in the league who also happens to play in a large market.
But here are the many reasons the Magic could actually land Griffin, even though it is absolutely the wrong thing to do.
If he signs a new contract with the Clippers
It’s entirely possible Griffin signs a new deal with the Clippers this summer when he opts out of the final year of his current contract.
He would be in line to make a lot of money, but the team may also want to offer Chris Paul a new max deal as well (thought to be just over $200 million).
Locking themselves into a core that has proven unable to get past the second round of the playoffs and is only getting older would be a problem. This is especially true as there wouldn’t be much money left over to build a bench.
April 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson (33) and the bench react while watching game action against the Utah Jazz during the first half in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Do you know who has a surplus of role player type talent on their team? The Orlando Magic.
If the Magic still hadn’t made a big free agent signing of their own (and really, who out there is going to want to sign there right now?), Griffin would be the perfect panic move.
Of course this isn’t a move that would happen straight away if they re-sign him, but another one or two unsuccessful postseason runs for the Clippers and they would no doubt take calls about his availability.
The Magic wouldn’t even have to give up Gordon to get him either. They could send some combination of the following:
Elfrid Payton: The best point guard to have backed up Paul during his time in Los Angeles was a still developing Eric Bledsoe. Think about that for a second.
But it is the wrong thing to do as it mortgages their long-term future with some short-term gains. If Griffin is this team’s best player, they would still not make it past the first round of the playoffs.
If he tests free agency
This is arguably the more likely route to acquiring Griffin, as he can opt out of his contract this summer.
The Clippers can offer him more money, but is there even a small chance he wants to go out on his own and be a franchise player somewhere else? And if this somehow occurred, how many other top teams would use up considerable cap space to sign him?
Aside from Orlando being a highly unlikely free agency landing spot, this is the other glaring issue with Griffin.
At 28 years old, he doesn’t even look like the player he was two seasons ago. That athletic bounce of his seems to have deserted him.
As a rookie (when he was coming of knee surgery that caused him to miss his actual first year), Griffin made 214 dunks.
This season? That number was 68. Griffin didn’t just fall in love with his outside shooting though; he’s come to rely on it as he can’t get up like he used to.
Remember, he’s only 28. Also worth remembering is that in the last two seasons he has:
Broken his hand, and we all know how that happened too (January 2016).
Missed time with a quadriceps injury (April 2016).
In the last three seasons, he has played in 163 out of a possible 246 regular season games. His last two seasons, he has appeared in seven playoff games, scoring a total of 99 points in 226 total minutes on the court.
Is that really what you want from a guy who should only really be entering his prime now?
This is why most other teams wouldn’t trade for him, and those same teams would be mad to sign him to a big contract if he seriously tests the unrestricted free agency market.
Except the Orlando Magic, who need a big name player to grab fan’s attentions once more.