Blake Griffin is one of the more high-profile names on the free agent market this offseason, however, his career is on the same path as Amare Stoudemire once traveled.
With NBA free agency just hours away, the basketball world is anxious to see where some of the summer’s most high-profile names will land – one being Clippers big man Blake Griffin.
After spending the first seven years of his career in Los Angeles, Griffin will hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. However, while he’ll be one of the bigger names on the open market, Griffin’s career is rapidly heading down a path similar to the one traveled by Amare Stoudemire — one that could ultimately end his career within the next five seasons.
When the NBA world thinks about Blake Griffin, they all view him the same way – an incredibly skilled player with untapped athleticism. However, while he’s amazed many with his breathtaking dunking ability, Griffin has broken down a bit over the last few years, due to an overwhelming amount of injuries.
After playing pain-free, for the most part, from 2011 to 2014, injuries began to plague Griffin after the 2014-15 season. Suffering a torn left quad, a broken hand and sore left quadriceps, Griffin dealt with a number of injuries in the 2015-16 season. As a result, he missed 47 games and the final two games of the Clippers’ first-round series loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The ensuing year, the injury woes only continued for Griffin.
After injuries decimated his 2015-16 season, Griffin dealt with even more adversity the following year. Suffering a sore right knee, which later resulted in surgery, as well as breaking his toe in the NBA playoffs, Griffin’s injury woes only worsened. In fact, the consensus around Griffin’s injury is that he’ll remain sidelined until at least December – a scary notion, especially when you take into account his free agency.
Regardless of the injury woes, he’s endured the last couple of seasons, Griffin will remain a sought after player on the free agent market. However, his ability to get up and play above the rim has fallen back a bit over the past few seasons given the injury woes. Those nagging injuries, as well as his play style, are reminiscent to that of Amare Stoudemire before he went to the New York Knicks in 2010 – a comparison that could send him down the wrong road.
Stoudemire, the former Phoenix Suns big man, was a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end in his heyday – most notably with his powerful dunking ability. Much like Griffin, Stoudemire was one of the most exciting players to watch during the regular season, given his remarkable and powerful finishes at the rim. His tenacity to finish at the rim, helped Stoudemire become one of the best big men in the NBA. However, injuries and an unfortunate diagnosis began to hurt Stoudemire’s career.
While he was still a human highlight reel with his poster dunks, a glaring reality became present for Stoudemire in his 2010 free agency.
Before inking a five-year, $100 million deal with the Knicks, doctors told the organization that Stoudemire had, at most, three years left on his knees. That diagnosis, while scary, still didn’t stop the Knicks from spending big on him – which they now likely regret doing.
While Stoudemire put the Knicks back on the NBA map in his first year with them and even started in the 2011 All-Star game, when he began to break down in year two of his deal.
Despite still executing some highlight reel dunks from time to time, Stoudemire’s knee woes began to hit hard in 2012. After missing time in the middle of the season, in what was a lockout year in the NBA, Stoudemire began to wear down – a freighting occurrence for the Knicks.
Posting nearly eight fewer points per night (17.5), Stoudemire’s offensive game began to take a toll – a toll which only got worse with time.
In the 2012-13 season, Stoudemire appeared in just 29 games and didn’t start once. By being demoted to becoming essentially a role player, it became clear that Stoudemire was not the player he once was anymore.
By missing time with injury, Stoudemire lost his stardom and ultimately what made him great – his athleticism. Those subtractions from his game led to the demise and end of Stoudemire’s career. At the age of 34, he is now out of the league.
When you look at Stoudemire’s downfall, Griffin’s future could potentially be the same. Going into the offseason with knee and foot injuries under his belt over the last few seasons, Griffin is entering free agency just like Stoudemire did in 2010 – he’s even the same age Stoudemire was when he hit fee agency (28). With that in mind, teams should not be offering Griffin any four and maybe even three-year deals.
Stoudemire is a model for what happens when you gamble on a player with knee injuries on a long-term deal – it doesn’t pan out all too well.
Will Griffin go somewhere and make that team significantly better and a playoff caliber bunch? Absolutely, but for no more than three years at best.
Throughout the duration of his career, Griffin has been one of the most aggressive, high-flying big men the NBA has ever seen. As a result of that play though, his knees and now even feet are breaking down. When you take account how knee woes ended Stoudemire’s career early and even how Andrew Bynum‘s feet ruined the path to stardom he was on, one must pause before offering Griffin a four-year or even five-year max deal (which he’s expected to receive).
When an athletic, physical specimen begins to deal with knee and foot injuries, such as Griffin, they don’t last a full career. Stoudemire is the perfect example of that reality, given the highlight reel he once was, as well as the one Griffin is now.
Griffin is one the best big men in the NBA, but teams must operate with caution when giving him a long-term deal – the injury woes may send him down a dark path.