Brooklyn Blake: What It Means for the Rest of the NBA

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Issue 13, Volume 111

By Taee Chi 

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Superteams are nothing new to the NBA. The term, which generally refers to multiple All-Star caliber players teaming up, is a common source of debate among NBA fans. The current Brooklyn Nets team, headlined by superstar trio Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, can certainly be classified as a superteam, and it stands out as one of the most talented rosters that has ever been assembled in the NBA. The recent addition of six-time All-Star Blake Griffin makes the Nets even more dangerous. Though the 32-year-old veteran might not be the explosive scoring machine he once was, he still gives Brooklyn a versatile big man who can nicely complement their small-ball lineup and take some of the scoring burden off of Durant, Irving, and Harden.

After agreeing to part ways with the Detroit Pistons, Griffin signed a one-year, veteran-minimum contract deal with the Nets in March, worth $1,229,676. When asked what his goals for the season were in a Bleacher Report AMA, Griffin replied, “My only goal is to help win a championship […] That’s why I came to Brooklyn.” Griffin’s motive is understandable as despite his substantial playoff experience, he’s never actually made it past the conference semifinals, much less competed in a finals series. Most of Griffin’s success in the league came from his nine-year tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he made five of his six all-star appearances, as well as three All-NBA Second Team honors. Though the “Lob City” Clippers undeniably had talent and grit, they always seemed to fall short in the playoffs despite multiple years of regular season success. With only a couple of years left before retirement, Griffin hopes to finally win his long-awaited championship ring.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash sees great benefits in bringing the 6’10” forward onto the roster as a small-ball center who can make plays and spread the floor for his teammates. “He used to be a player who lived above the rim, and so he’s adapted and become a guy [who] handles the ball very well,” Nash said. “It’s a tribute to the skill and intelligence that he has as a basketball player.”

Griffin’s versatility on the court has also been praised by his former Clipper and now Nets teammate DeAndre Jordan. “With a guy like [Griffin], man, when we put him in, we can go small, we can switch a lot of things […] I love that we can have so many different lineups against teams, whether they’re big, they’re small, whatever it is, I think we’re ready to be able to adjust,” Jordan said.

Griffin was once known for his jaw-dropping alley-oops and dunks, but due to the combination of age and injuries, the ex-high-flyer has evolved his game and catered more to his shooting and playmaking skills rather than his raw athleticism. Griffin is 196-for-550 (35.6 percent) on catch-and-shoot threes since the 2016-2017 season, and he will be able to space the floor for his teammates by camping out along the three-point line as a spot-up shooter. Griffin is also one of the better passers at his position, ranking 18th among forwards with his 3.9 assists. Griffin, with his above average passing ability, will be able to initiate fast breaks, run the occasional pick-and roll, and make plays out of the post.

Though the skillset and experience Griffin brings to the table certainly have potential to improve the Nets, two questions still leave doubt in the minds of many. Firstly, do the Nets really have space for another big? Forward Jeff Green has been filling the role of a small ball five, and the 34-year-old vet has been shooting the lights out recently (45.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes, 47.4 percent on wide-open threes). The Nets also have Nicolas Claxton, whom they selected with the 31st pick in the 2019 draft. Claxton has been a great defensive asset for the Nets as his 6’11” frame and quick feet allow him to clamp down on perimeter defense. Per 36 minutes, Claxton is averaging 20.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 3.1 blocks, and 1.9 steals. Since the Nets already have solid big men in Green and Claxton, Griffin’s role and playing time on the Nets may be diminished, and he might not have as substantial of an impact on the Nets as many Brooklyn fans are hoping for. Griffin’s health condition is also a major concern as in January, Griffin had his second knee surgery in a span of just eight months. Injuries have plagued Griffin his entire career, and since 2014, he’s only played more than 70 games once. The Nets will need to carefully manage his playing time in order to prevent any further injuries.

Only time will tell the extent of Griffin’s impact on the Nets. The bigger question is: will the Nets be able to win Griffin his first championship trophy?