It has not been a great offseason for the Boston Celtics' frontcourt.
Things looked promising at the beginning of the summer. Brad Stevens addressed the team’s need for shooting by inking Danilo Gallinari to a two-year contract. With Gallinari, Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Robert Williams leading the way, guys like Luke Kornet and Sam Hauser wouldn’t have to play major roles. Now, that group of six has been cut in half.
Gallinari tore his ACL while playing for Italy at EuroBasket, meaning he’ll likely miss the entire season. Robert Williams underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks. And most recently, Kornet suffered a sprained ankle at training camp. Head coach Joe Mazzulla said that they’re taking things “day by day,” but it still leaves the Celtics with a severe lack of frontcourt depth for the immediate future.
But just when it seemed as though all of the news coming out of Boston was negative, it was reported that the team had signed six-time All-Star Blake Griffin. While not all fans were immediate fans of the move, Celtics veteran Marcus Smart is.
When asked about the addition at training camp, Smart had glowing reviews for Griffin, saying that the 12-year veteran can have an impact on both sides of the ball.
“He can affect the game not just with his offense, but defensively. So it’ll be a great pickup for us. It’s a great vet for some of these young guys to listen to and what he has to offer.”
For the majority of his career, Griffin was known as a highlight machine. An explosive athlete who lived above the rim and threw down lobs at will. But as he’s aged, he’s been forced to change his games. While he may not be known as an above-average defender, Griffin actually did a decent job at protecting the paint last year.
Opponents shot just 63.5% against Griffin in the restricted area last year on 9.7 attempts per game. To put that into perspective, opponents shot 64.9% against Horford (on 11.6 attempts per game) and 65.7% against Robert Williams (on 13.0 attempts). Obviously, there’s a big difference in the quality of opponents, but Griffin is clearly capable of being a defensive presence off the bench for Boston.
BBall Index lists Griffin as an “anchor big,” but according to their data, he spent roughly the same amount of time guarding point guards and shooting guards that Robert Williams did.
Smart admitted that Griffin isn’t the same player he once was, but also pointed out the positives in his game, including the fact that he led the league in charges drawn last season.
“Obviously, you know Lob City Blake and that Blake Griffin. He’s not there. He’s not above the rim anymore, but he still does great things. He’s a great professional. Last year he led the league in charges taken. For a guy that doesn’t play as much, that speaks volumes of what he does.”
With Griffin on the roster, Boston now has three players who finished in the top 10 in charges drawn last year. Griffin (26) tied for first with Kevin Love, Derrick White finished tied for third (25), and Marcus Smart ended the year tied for tenth (16).
Mazzulla was asked about Griffin’s potential role on the team but said that the “front office hasn’t told me anything yet,” leaving Griffin’s status for Boston’s preseason opener up in the air.
After an offseason of sticking to their guns and committing to the guys they had, Boston changed their minds and decided to sign Griffin. His minimum salary will increase their tax bill by roughly $10 million, so it’s clear that the team believes in his abilities.
Smart had nothing but praise for the veteran, and with the current state of Boston’s frontcourt, having Griffin around as extra bench depth could prove to be a very useful commodity.