It’s likely been a long summer for six-time NBA all-star turned journeyman Blake Griffin, who signed with the Boston Celtics just days ahead of the team’s first preseason game. Griffin went unsigned for nearly four months before being brought in from the cold. There are a number of reasons why the former number one overall remained unsigned for that long, with age and injury history being chief among them.
He’s also dramatically declined since his “Lob City” Los Angeles Clipper days and his late-career resurgence in Detroit. The Celtics know that, but they need front-court depth with injuries to Danillo Gallinari, Robert Williams, Luke Kornet, and a 36-year-old Al Horford to deal with.
Blake Griffin is an unlikely signing but a worthwhile one for the Boston Celtics.
Adding an oft-injured player to the mix might seem like an odd move for the Celtics, but Griffin can still be effective, albeit in short minutes. Think 15 here, 20 there, helping eat up minutes in a frontcourt that could be good if healthy but won’t be at full strength next season. He knows his role too and has proven more than capable of adapting to survive.
Griffin has evolved into someone who can knock down open threes, is a capable passer, and a surprisingly effective defender who can play the four or as a stretch five in certain lineups. The Celtics needed an adaptable big man, and that’s likely why they chose him over other former All-Stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard.
Speaking of defense, Griffin led the NBA in charges taken last season, despite missing 26 games, with new teammate Derrick White coming in second, and his defensive metrics are solid. He ranked 23rd among power forwards in defensive real plus-minus, better than some starters, and became known for his high effort level on that end. Griffin was even tasked with guarding stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he did an admirable job.
Griffin isn’t life-changing on either end of the floor, but he is solid enough on both sides of the ball to be effective and give the Celtics a boost.
Perhaps there’s an off-court component to the Griffin signing too. The Ime Udoka situation is a distraction, and Griffin might help draw some attention away, at least temporarily. That’s only a part of it though. Griffin appears to be well-liked, and adding another veteran voice to a relatively young team that shook off their bad habits under Udoka is smart.
The Celtics may be susceptible to backsliding, which is a threat to their goal of getting back to the NBA Finals, and they are already at a disadvantage without Udoka. Bringing in a player who knows how to deal with media scrutiny and adversity after playing in L.A. for eight years could provide the team with some perspective and make them more resilient.
Overall, the Griffin signing, for the minimum, is a minimal risk for Boston. However, there is enough upside to justify the signing for the Celtics.