In the wake of what was arguably the state’s most disastrous sporting news ever, I’d like to propose a new system of time: K.D and A.K.D.
The K.D. years were great, but people and their ambitions change. Oklahoma City now lives in A.K.D. time. It represents the coming years in which we’ll have to watch one of the world’s best in different shades of blue and yellow.
In 0 A.K.D, the Thunder won’t have the resources to add a running mate (or two) to pair with Russell Westbrook, presuming he doesn’t force his way out in a trade–a reportedly unlikely scenario, at least at this stage.
In 1 A.K.D., though, the Thunder have a legitimate shot at Blake Griffin in free agency, and more importantly, it seems as if he would be a perfect fit for Oklahoma City’s roster as constructed. Doc Rivers, head coach and President of Basketball Operations of the Clippers, would demand a lot for Griffin, a price that may or may not include Westbrook. Even if the Thunder could trade for Griffin, they wouldn’t. Presti is not the type of GM to gut a roster just to bring in a star. It takes one quick glance at the details of Carmelo Anthony’s trade to the Knicks to know that tactic is not a valid one, at least if you want a competitive team.
The #Griffin2OKC rumors have always swirled on the periphery, as they did for Carmelo, solely because of his roots. However, with Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent report, these rumors have a little more credence. Wojnarowski says that OKC pulling Dion Waiters’s qualifying offer “protects salary cap space for the Thunder’s primary offseason objective, league sources said: persuading five-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook to renegotiate his contract, which would eliminate his 2017 free agency.” This renegotiation, presumably running through the 2017-2018 season, could give Griffin the assurance that he needs to leave LA. Chris Paul will be 32 when he becomes a free agent next season, but even if he doesn’t join the Spurs as has been rumored, Griffin may decide to play with a younger, less injury-prone star.
Of course every team would like to have Griffin, but the decision is ultimately his. However, out of all of the teams with cap space next season, the Thunder are arguably the most attractive destination for Griffin, both short- and long-term, at least in terms of roster makeup and instant competitive viability.
In the short-term, a Westbrook, Oladipo, Roberson, Griffin, Adams lineup is droolworthy. It would easily be the most athletic and strong lineups in the entire league. Can you imagine the Westbrook-Griffin pick ‘n roll game? Lobs and dunks all day. An Adams and Griffin frontcourt would keep coaches of small-ball teams up at night.
Although perhaps not a first tier contender like the Warriors or the Cavaliers, OKC would likely be a perennial fourth seed or higher. Sam Presti is a shrewd GM, and he knows that his chances of bringing a title to OKC in the next 10 years just got slimmer than rookie-year Kevin Durant. He would be perfectly content to have the Thunder sit in the fourth seed, maximizing playoff games and ticket sales. Oklahoma City is the league’s third smallest media market (in front of only Memphis and New Orleans, respectively), so keeping the franchise flush with cash and the fans content will be his M.O. moving forward.
Long-term, Griffin (just 27) will get to develop his versatile skillset alongside the Thunder’s many young prospects. The Thunder currently have only five players over the age of 24 under contract: Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, Ersan Ilyasova, Anthony Morrow, and Kyle Singler. Griffin is a smart man, but it doesn’t take much intelligence to get excited about a young core of Adams, Kanter, and Oladipo alongside himself and Russell Westbrook. Should he want it, he could own a leadership role that is filled on his current team by Chris Paul.
Is it a pipe dream? Perhaps. Although Blake Griffin is an Oklahoma product, he is unmistakably an Angeleno now. He makes untold, filthy amounts of money in endorsements, and he’s proven to be the league’s best comedic actor. He still would rake in many opportunities at home in Oklahoma City, but not like in the media capital of the world. The allure of more lucrative business opportunities is likely one of the reasons KD bolted to the bay.
And would he even want to play for Oklahoma City? He was a fan favorite at Oklahoma, but tangles with Serge Ibaka and accusations of flopping and embellishing stir up boos in a large portion of Thunder fans. Would he get along with Westbrook? Can he stay healthy long enough to make it worth it for himself and the Thunder? Do his values, beliefs, and character align with the Thunder’s own?
Griffin’s versatile skillset would probably mesh with any team, but the thought of how seamlessly he ostensibly would fit in with OKC is exciting, to say the least. Alright, I’ll come right out and say it: Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin together would be basketball porn. The two would put on a dunk contest every single game. Just imagine all the lobs! In transition, where Griffin can move up the court quite well with or without the ball, they would be lethal. Griffin’s underrated passing ability has exciting implications for OKC’s spacing and ball movement. Oh, did I mention LOBS yet? Seeing the two play together would be worth any price of admission.
Although he could never replace KD’s production (not many could), Oklahoma City management and fans would gladly welcome back Blake Griffin as a running mate for Russell Westbrook. If I had to give Griffin joining OKC in free agency a percentage of likelihood, I’d trend low: 20%, if I’m feeling optimistic. As NBA and indeed Thunder fans were recently reminded, though, a lot can change over the coming weeks, months, and years.
Would Griffin be the perfect fit for Oklahoma City? One would think so, but that remains to be seen. The Thunder do have a compelling case, provided they can hold on to Russell Westbrook. Maybe we’re spoiled, but Thunder fans are used to having two superstars. Getting Blake Griffin could be critical not just for Sam Presti’s legacy, but also for the quality of the next 10 to 20 years of Thunder basketball.