The Boston Celtics have signed six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA big man Blake Griffin to a fully-guaranteed contract, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The signing comes shortly after it became known that young center Robert Williams would be missing extended time with knee surgery.
Griffin, who played the last two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, will serve as front-court depth for a Boston Celtics team that will be without Danilo Gallinari for the entire season, and Robert Williams for the beginning of the season.
With Al Horford as the only true available big man for Boston while Williams is out, Griffin will likely serve as the team’s backup center to start the year. Should he perform well in that role, the former MVP candidate could likely find rotational minutes even upon the return of Robert Williams.
While Blake Griffin is obviously not the player he once was, he still possesses a skillset that the Celtics could certainly utilize.
What does Blake have left?
After joining the Brooklyn Nets two seasons ago, following his buyout with the Detroit Pistons, Blake Griffin reminded the world that he still has a lot left in the tank. Serving as Brooklyn’s starting center in the 2021 playoffs, Griffin averaged 12.0 PPG and 7.7 RPG on 54.1% from the field and 41.2% from deep in that seven-game series versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Doing so while being tasked with guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, Griffin was Brooklyn’s third-best player in that series.
That performance, while ultimately in a losing effort, earned him another contract with the Nets, and another starting job to begin the 2021-22 season. After struggling with his shot to begin the year, Griffin was removed from the rotation after just 18 games, and struggled to find his way back.
With injuries and league protocols forcing the Nets to go deep into their bench midway through the season, Griffin did get another opportunity to start three consecutive games in mid-December, averaging 15.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.7 APG on 49% from the field during that stretch. It unfortunately was not enough to win his starting job back, but the veteran big man did receive more minutes from that point forward, and looked much more like the Blake Griffin that dominated the 2021 playoffs.
Knocking down 43.8% of his threes after the All-Star break, Griffin’s shot had returned, but his consistent minutes did not. Against the wishes of many in the fanbase, head coach Steve Nash opted for Andre Drummond and James Johnson on most nights, sitting Griffin entirely for 15 of Brooklyn’s last 19 games.
The decision from Steve Nash never made much sense, as Griffin’s shot had return, and his intangibles were always more valuable than anything Brooklyn’s other bigs provided. This was always apparent, but by the time Nash went back to him again, it was too little too late.
Griffin’s role in Boston
Getting a close, albeit brief look at Blake Griffin in last year’s postseason, the Boston Celtics were intrigued by what he could provide as a front-court depth piece. After Brooklyn’s other center options unsurprisingly struggled to begin their opening round against Boston, Steve Nash went back to Blake Griffin at the end of Game 3, and he was electric on both ends.
Drawing charges defensively while hitting huge threes on offense, Griffin nearly led the Nets to victory in that game. Had he been getting minutes the entire series, perhaps it doesn’t end in a sweep. Unenthusiastic about returning to that situation in Brooklyn again, Griffin held out until right before the pre-season to finally sign with a new team.
As previously mentioned, the Celtics will likely use Griffin as their backup center in the absence of Robert Williams. That said, even at this point in his career, Griffin is more than just a minutes eater until Williams returns. Still one of the best passing bigs in basketball, Griffin could really help the fluidity of a Boston offense that often got stagnant last year.
While Al Horford had some monster games in last year’s postseason, much of his offensve game is outside of the paint, as he is not much of a threat to score or make plays on the roll. Robert Williams is a defensive monster, but his offensive game is still very minimal, especially when it comes to making plays.
With teams often opting to trap Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown up top, Griffin’s elite playmaking out of short-rolls is where his value can truly be felt. With shooters expected to surround him on the wing, he should fit in seamlessly with Boston. Should his three-point shot look more like it did at the end of last season, there is a real chance he could even get some minutes at the four in the absence of Danilo Gallinari.
The Boston Celtics won’t need much out of Blake Griffin, but what they do need is exactly what he can provide. For that reason, the fit makes sense for both sides.