Forsberg: Can Blake Griffin really help the Celtics? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
On Friday, the Boston Celtics, having sunk to the core, finally plunged into the tepid free agent market, signing 33-year-old Blake Griffin to a one-year, at least veteran contract.
We immediately thought of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals when the Nets threw Griffin into the playoff fire. While he gave them an immediate offensive push, Jaylen Brown essentially targeted Griffin solo during several possessions in the fourth quarter as the Celtics moved one step closer to winning four games.
Griffin is not a tourniquet, just an aging big man who has lost some of his athleticism. Maybe it doesn’t matter to a sizeless Boston that didn’t have many viable options to eat minutes in the 4/5s positions. Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams III fired after recent surgeries.
If we’re going to highlight the positives, Griffin is a diligent ball handler who usually ranks among the best in passing percentage among big men. Last year, he had the best ball-safety season of his career with the lowest turnover rate (no small thing for a Celtics team that lost Banner 18 quite a lot). It will be a voluntary screening that can help Boston’s stars create space. Griffin will also compete with Marcus Smart and Derrick White are gaining momentum.
Cons: He shot 32.7% of his three-point shots in his career, up from 26.2% last year. The guy who once made throwing a Kia easy hit 13 dunks in 958 minutes last season. The Celtics should be hoping that his offensive production recovers a little last year, and that’s more of a reflection of Brooklyn’s dysfunction.
If the Celtics just wanted to fill the Gallinari void, then Griffin could do it in a limited number of minutes. He is a solid teammate who is aware of his role at this stage of his career. Two years ago, he played 26.5 minutes per game in the playoffs for the Nets, and the Celtics shouldn’t have relied on him so much if he was healthy.
In order for the league to cover most of the cost of Griffin’s deal, the Celtics would have to carry him throughout the season (although there would be tax implications to waiving him, he could be sold).
We’ll take the addition of Griffin as a sign that the team isn’t happy with what they’ve seen from the camp crowd. Boston currently has 12 guaranteed contracts and one partial guarantee with Luc Cornet. There are still two places for those invited to the camp.
Gallinari could miss the entire season while Williams III was out of action 8-12 weeks after a knee cleanup. Celtics Leads Season’s Big Men Depth Chart Al Horford with Grant Williams, Luc Cornet and Mfiondu Kabenghele as Depth.