The hype around the Brooklyn Nets this year has been incredible. This is the first year in the franchise’s history that they have a legitimate shot to win the championship (and yes, I am including those New Jersey Nets years where they got wrecked in the finals). When it comes to the top contenders, little moves that optimize the efficiency of the role players make all the difference. Will the Nets’ signing of Blake Griffin be the difference in their championship aspirations?
Staff writer Karthik Iyer and campus correspondent Evan Rodriguez seek to answer the question.
Karthik: The Brooklyn Nets are already a great team. It will take a significant addition that addresses a specific team need to noticeably improve on what is already a championship ready squad. It pains me to say this because Blake Griffin in his prime was one of my favorite players to watch, but I don’t think his signing makes the Nets a lock to win the championship. This is not 2012 Lob City Blake Griffin. This year, Griffin is averaging a mere 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists on well below league average shooting splits. Age, injury and attrition have taken their toll and Griffin is a shell of his former self. In fact, according to Tim Reynolds, an NBA writer for the Associated Press, Blake Griffin has not dunked the ball since Dec. 12, 2019. Dunking used to be the former all-stars trademark but now, while actually being limited by the force of gravity, several of his deficiencies have become far more apparent. The last thing the Brooklyn Nets need is high volume but a low, efficient scorer and playmaker that contributes to the team’s defensive ineptitude and offers little trade value. It has now been two consecutive years that Griffin has registered a negative plus-minus game efficiency rating and playing with reduced minutes on the Nets is likely not going to help matters.
Griffin’s diminished athleticism has taken the biggest toll on his offensive efficiency and defensive viability. The Brooklyn Nets already have an all-time putrid defense and depend on superb offensive efficiency to compensate. Griffin, from a team chemistry perspective, hurts the Nets on both of these fronts. I will forever be a fan of Blake Griffin and he is a hilarious person off the court (check out his stand-up comedy and videos if you haven’t) but I do not think this was a prudent move towards securing a championship for the Brooklyn Nets.
Evan: I agree on the perspective that the Brooklyn Nets are already stacked from an offensive perspective in the starting lineup. However, with the bench, the Brooklyn Nets look extremely weak and needed someone to jumpstart the second unit. With Blake Griffin, Brooklyn now has a player who can lead the second unit as a low-risk investment and give the Nets more time to rest superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. As a low-risk investment for the Nets, Griffin helps address some critical problems that could cause trouble against superstar teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers or the Utah Jazz. The Nets themselves are a very small team, and even though Blake Griffin himself is 6-foot-9, he becomes one of the tallest on the team. Against a team with star-studded big men like Anthony Davis on the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn lacks big time in that area and needs more length to have a better chance. On Detroit, Griffin seemed unmotivated as the Pistons, sitting dead last in the league and had no chance of contending, which was very demotivating for Griffin. With a team like Brooklyn, which sits second in the Eastern Conference and is only a mere 0.5 games out of first place, it should be a huge morale booster for Griffin. With Steve Nash seated at the head coaching helm and Mike D’Antoni as an assistant, I think they’ll look to help Griffin get his shooting splits up and target him as a more mid-range type of player due to Griffin’s weaker physicality. Griffin isn’t dependent on players like Irving, Durant and Harden to play like a superstar and should flourish under these circumstances. That idea should help Griffin play exceptionally well, and this small addition makes them seem like the favorite in my eyes.
Karthik: The debate comes down to whether or not Blake Griffin gives the Brooklyn Nets better odds to win a championship. Empirically speaking, Griffin’s signing did nothing to improve the Brooklyn Nets’ championship odds as they have not wavered from their +300 odds since the move. While it is true that the financial investment is low as Griffin agreed to a veteran minimum contract, there is an opportunity cost in signing him. They don’t really need any more offensive firepower, even on the second unit, and they could have hired a more effective rebounder. With the Nets going all-in on their offense, they have to secure rebounds when they force a miss. In this case, a specialist offers more utility than signing a jack of all trades. I do believe that Griffin will be more motivated to play on a contender than with the hapless Detroit Pistons, but he will also have to adjust to having diminished minutes. As a fan, I hope the acquisition works out, but there are a lot of question marks before considering this move a win for the Brooklyn Nets.
Evan: I believe what the Nets are doing in this signing is merely getting bigger and adding more to their weak bench. That offensive firepower surely won’t hurt them and definitely will give them another option to go to for scoring. The Nets easily have more than enough assets to acquire a defensive-minded big man at the trade deadline like Javale McGee to help them become even better. With someone acquired such as McGee, the Nets can use Griffin to overcome a team like the Philadelphia 76ers and take first place in the eastern conference for the rest of the year. With Griffin expected to come off the bench and the leading scorer off the bench being Nicholas Claxton at a mere 10 points per game, Griffin offers more than just veteran leadership. I think he’ll adjust well to leading the second unit and should look very dangerous against rival big men off the bench.