Boston Celtics: Signing Blake Griffin is risky, but it makes sense

March 6, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) moves the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
March 6, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) moves the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics are in the hunt for the biggest free agency targets this summer, including star power forward Blake Griffin.

While all the noise is being made surrounding Paul George and Gordon Hayward this offseason, the chances of the  Boston Celtics landing both are improbable. Not impossible, just improbable. It should be noted that Griffin, who was paid around $20 million last year, could potentially fit the budget of the Celtics if they choose to go after the superstar.

He would take up Boston’s cap space, but it’s hard to argue that Griffin would not be worth it. While George and Hayward may be the most sought after duo, Griffin would make the most sense for what the Celtics lack: a frontcourt presence. George and Hayward would add much-needed consistent scoring to the roster, but it still does not match up against a team like the Golden State Warriors.

Every team in the NBA has a common goal: beat Golden State. Some teams believe beating the Warriors at their own game, shooting threes and playing with pace, is the best route. These teams would be the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets. Others believe that going in the opposite direction is the best way to defeat the defending champions, slowing the game down and using big men to dominate inside, ultimately throwing them off their game. Teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz are examples.

To tie it together, the Celtics have a chance of being the perfect amoeba to combat, not win, just combat this Warriors team. That may only happen if they sign Griffin. Let me explain.

Griffin’s style

Many fans, including myself, cannot stand this new point forward Blake Griffin. His dribbling is suspect, but he has made major improvements and truth be told, it has helped his overall impact dramatically. He is a great facilitator and can run an offense, something that wouldn’t be suspected watching him dribble the ball up the court.

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Regardless of his handles, which have improved over the past two seasons, Griffin proved time and time again that he can be the focal point of the offense. I am not a big supporter of stats being the end-all be-all to arguments, but 2016-17 “Post-New-Year’s-injury Blake Griffin” had some pretty spectacular stat lines. A forward that is scraping up 7-9 assists a game is never a bad thing.

Still, some believe him breaking away from his inaugural, high-flying self has been detrimental to his career and his team. That is simply not true by looking at the Clippers. Year in and year out they are plagued with injuries, all while being one of the only teams that might have had a chance to counteract the Warriors’ proficiency. Griffin is not the savior to beat the Warriors, but adding dominant big men is a surefire way to give Golden State some trouble.

Griffin has been playing alongside DeAndre Jordan for the past few years and the spacing has been decent. Jordan stays around the rim while Griffin stays closer to the wings and generates the offense through moves from the elbow. The spacing may work well for the two individually, but historically it is a failed experiment. Replacing Jordan with a more versatile scorer in Al Horford might cause a funk in the spacing, but it allows Griffin to stay closer to the basket. Of the two, Horford is the more effective scorer from the outside and holds a smaller presence in the paint.

Success will depend on Griffins desire to go back to playing down-low and being a post scorer, but it does adhere to his midrange game has improved over the years. Griffin had the freedom to do whatever he wanted under Doc Rivers; Celtics coach Brad Stevens may find a way to use Griffin in a role, rather than just the best player you give the ball to.

Transitioning to Boston

As previously stated, making the move to Boston will require a small change to his game. It will force him to stop shooting and taking the ball up, but just staying closer to the rim when he does have the ball in his hands. Everyone knows that Griffin’s jump shot looks like he held the shoot button too long in a video game. Which means the less he shoots from 20+ feet, the better.

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One of the bigger questions about signing Griffin is his ability to play alongside Al Horford, another versatile big man. They both are somewhat similar in abilities and skill, but Griffin provides strength and a strong foundation when it comes to defense. He is not the most dominant threat on defense, but players will not just willingly run into the paint with Griffin waiting to contest.

His defense is decent, but mainly Griffin will help the rebounding problem. He is not a strong shot-blocker, but is top 25 in the league when it comes to rebounds per game.

That will help the Celtics drastically, but I do have to end this on a more somber note. Griffin is extremely injury-prone and has not been able to play over 67 games the last three seasons. The Celtics do not need to waste time or money on a player that will only help them during the regular season. This is not implying that players do not recover, however.

The Celtics know what it feels like to get the 1-seed. They also know what it feels like to lose with home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, they do not know what it’s like to play the Warriors in the playoffs. They are a monster the Celtics have not even had the opportunity to poke.

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Griffin will not give them the outright ability to do that, but it will help them get there. The Celtics need to have their eyes set on beating the Warriors and if Griffin is the best fit, they need to go after him. Injuries aside, Griffin is still a very talented player and with George and Hayward being a potential long shot, he could represent the best fallback plan among this summer’s top free agents.