The Brooklyn Nets made headlines on Sunday as they signed veteran forward Blake Griffin for the remainder of the current campaign. In Griffin, the Nets get a player with a well-known name and a cache of accomplishments, including six All-Star appearances, five All-NBA selections, a Rookie of the Year award and a Slam Dunk Contest title. But, while Griffin is one of the more decorated players of the past decade, his addition doesn’t move the needle much for a Nets team with legitimate championship aspirations this season.
At this point in his career, Griffin is clearly just not the player that he once was when he was a perennial All-Star selection — a high flyer known for above-the-rim poster dunks and being on the finishing end of ample alley-oops. Injury issues have taken their toll on Griffin, who has appeared in just 38 total games over the past two seasons and hasn’t dunked in a game since 2019 (yes, really). In turn, he’s largely been relegated to the role of floor spacer in recent seasons.
Over half of Griffin’s field-goal attempts per game this season have come from beyond the arc. He’s averaging a career-low 12.3 points per game while shooting just 36 percent from the floor on the season, and he’s also pulling in just 5.2 rebounds per performance. He isn’t especially effective on the defensive end anymore either, as he’s never had the sheer size to be a force against the league’s better centers, and his sapped athleticism has made it hard for him to keep pace with the quicker perimeter-oriented forwards prevalent in the league today. In other words, he’s not great defensively in the paint or on the perimeter at this point. The Nets have needed additional paint protection since losing Jarrett Allen in the trade that landed James Harden in Brooklyn earlier this season. Griffin doesn’t provide that.
So what exactly will Griffin bring to Brooklyn? That remains to be seen. At the very least he could serve as a serviceable big off of the bench who could eat some minutes and not be a net negative. He has a high basketball IQ, and can still be productive for stretches. Plus, he has developed into a willing floor-spacer over the course of his career, and virtually every team, including the Nets, could use added floor-spacing. The more space that can be generated for Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, the better.
During his first three seasons, Griffin attempted 68 total threes. In the 20 games that he played for the Pistons this season, he took 124 threes. He holds a career conversion rate of 33 percent from long range, which is good enough to make a defender at least think twice about leaving him open to provide help elsewhere. Ultimately, this ability to generate space could be the biggest asset that Griffin brings to the Nets, who sit second in the East behind the Philadelphia 76ers with a 24-13 record at the All-Star break.
Brooklyn plans to use Griffin as a small-ball center off of the bench, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which makes sense, as Brooklyn’s ability to go small is an advantage against a lot of teams. Both Durant and Jeff Green have spent some time at the center spot for the Nets this season, as going small in that manner allows them to get more shooting and ball-handling out on the floor. However, against teams with formidable frontcourts — like the 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, or Miami Heat in the East, or the Los Angeles Lakers in the West — that strategy will be tougher to employ. Given that the Nets will likely have to go against some of those teams during postseason play, it’s fair to wonder just how serviceable Griffin will be — and how much he will play — in the playoffs.
Before worrying about the playoffs though, the Nets have to get there first, and once there they’ll want to be as healthy as possible. If Griffin’s addition helps them accomplish this by absorbing some of the regular season wear and tear from the rest of the rotation, it will be worth it — especially since they signed him to a veteran minimum deal that expires after the season. Perhaps playing with a plethora of other stars like Durant, Harden, and Irving, and his former Lob City teammate DeAndre Jordan will even rejuvenate Griffin a bit and propel him to turn in some throwback performances. He is only two years removed from an All-Star appearance after all.
Overall, the Griffin signing is a low-risk move with potential upside for Brooklyn, and it provides Griffin with an opportunity to chase a championship at this stage in his career — something that was obviously important to him, even though his addition won’t make the same splash that it would have a few years ago. The Nets were a bonafide contender before they added Griffin, and they certainly still are afterwards. However, they don’t necessarily feel any closer to a title than they did before they signed him. Perhaps Griffin will change that with some strong play in his new city.