Culture of Hoops

Why the Blake Griffin-Carmelo Anthony trade won’t happen

Image courtesy of Kimberly N./Flickr.

Image courtesy of Kimberly N./Flickr.

In the words of the Los Angeles Clippers’ long-time play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler, “settle down Clipper Nation.” Blake Griffin isn’t going anywhere, and while the Clippers have made strides in stepping out of their cross-the-hall rivals’ shadow, it’s time they begin to apply lessons learned from the Lakers’ set of recent conundrums. In particular, trade rumors have chased former All-Star power forward Pau Gasol heavily for the previous three seasons, producing chemistry issues and locker room problems for the purple and gold. Although the majority consensus in LA is that Gasol is overdue for a change of address, the consistent berating and public disinterest of Gasol’s services has made him a shell of the All-Star he once was. The Los Angeles Clippers are in dangerous territory of making a similar mistake.

Not to say Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin are of equal talent; without Griffin’s tremendous upside, he’s still the better player. However, toying with a player’s confidence and security has the potential to be a murky situation, and although there’s virtually no chance Griffin would have a similar fall from grace as Gasol, there’s no reason for the Clippers to entertain the possibility.

Trade rumors are never a good thing, as they can serve as chemistry killers, and while the most popular player response to a possible departure is “the NBA is a business,” when Blake Griffin’s name enters the trade rumor mill, the Clippers need to shoot it down like it’s business as usual.

For a guy who has been the face of the up-and-coming franchise since his rookie year, creating that sense of insecurity this early in his career is a mistake for the Clippers front office and a gamble for extension time four years from now. It’s a message filled with an ungrateful stench that says “We’re appreciative that you’ve brought us out of infamy, but secretly unwilling to wait for growth.”

Beyond any reports that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin allegedly don’t get along, or that Chris Paul toasted Melo on his wedding day with hopes of building a big three sometime down the line in their careers, for salary reasons alone this trade won’t happen. For the trade to work the Clippers would have to give up Griffin and another asset to acquire Anthony, and in every plausible scenario where salaries match, the Clippers are losers:

  • Clippers trade Griffin and Jared Dudley for Anthony. Clippers lose 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
  • Clippers trade Griffin and J.J. Redick for Anthony. Clippers lose 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
  • Clippers trade Griffin and Jamal Crawford for Anthony. Clippers lose 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
  • Clippers trade Griffin, Jordan, Dudley and Redick for Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert. Clippers lose 14 points, 7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

If those statistics don’t convince you, this trade also shouldn’t happen for defensive reasons, as both Anthony and Griffin are equally poor defenders. Although in recent seasons Melo has been used at both forward positions, there’s zero chance of a Western Conference team competing with him in the same interchangeable role. His chances of successfully defending Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldrige, Zach, Randolph, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Love are slim to none. Adding Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers roster would definitely provide a boost in scoring, while creating holes on defense at both forward positions. The main difference between Melo’s and Griffin’s defensive capabilities is that at 29 years of age, we’ve accepted Melo’s shortcomings on defense while praising him as arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA. Griffin’s defense stinks, but in no way should be attributed to effort, more so acumen—and the Clippers have one of the best defensive coaches in Doc Rivers to mold him on that end of the floor.

Without factoring in the Clippers, Western Conference teams average a combined 102.2 points per game, with an estimated 15.7 coming from starting power forwards and 13.1 from starting small forwards, respectively. The positions combine for almost a third of the total offensive production in the deep Western Conference, and for teams eyeing the Larry O’Brien Trophy the ability to adequately defend both positions is a key priority. The Clippers already have their defensive struggles from the wing, and adding the defensively un-coachable Anthony would surely amplify those problems.

I understand the Clippers front office has an anxious win-now attitude. For years they struggled with simply being competitive, and they’ve made great strides in recent years. However, big moves like this should have a clear benefit. Trading for Carmelo Anthony does not.

Featured Carmelo image courtesy of Scott Mecum/Flickr.

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