Grading the Grades

It’s NBA trade season, and that can only mean one thing…Trade Grades!

My favorite part of trading season is not the trades themselves, although those offer up their own category of fun – NBA Twitter alone is a day’s worth of entertainment. NBA Reddit is a second rabbit hole that can kill an additional few hours when you don’t want to do any real work. But the best part of trading season (SZN?) is reading the trade grades.

Trade grades are an easy, understandable way for people get instant analysis on the trade – not just who won and who lost, but by how much did they win or lose? It’s kind of like advanced analytics for trade analysis, but no math and using a system that we all know from grade school.

With the Blake Griffin trade the first (and quite possibly only) major trade of this SZN, I decided to take a look at all the different trade grades and flip the script: it’s time to Grade the Trade Grades. That’s right, I’m taking a look at the different trade grades and offering up my (very professional and objective) grades – not of the trade itself, but of the grades of the trades.

Chris Barnewall, CBS Sports
Clippers Grade: C-minus
Pistons Grade: B-minus

First of all, Chris Barnewall feels like a knock-off version name of Bill Barnwell. Like he was going for an interview and trying to pose as Bill Barnwell, and the interviewer said, ‘you’re not Bill Barnwell, I know Bill Barnwell’, and in a panic he went with, ‘no no no no. Not Bill Barnwell….Chris Barnewall.’

Names aside, Chris has the Pistons coming out slightly ahead in this trade, although he’s not overly optimistic. For the Clippers, his C-minus indicates he does not like the trade for them, but it’s not a Billy King-level disaster, either.

His argument for the Pistons boils down to the fact that Griffin is, technically, a star. And stars don’t ever come to Detroit, so you’ve gotta take risks to get them. Even if that risk costs $39 million in the 2021-22 season and comes with an injury sheet that, well for one thing, it’s a little wrong to be calling it a sheet, includes knee injuries and punching-a-trainer-in-the-face injuries, that have prevented him from playing more than 67 games since he was a spry 24 year old.

Those risks knock the grade down a bit for Chris, but again, a star is a star and Griffin is, in Chris’s mind, a star. This is a logical argument and while you might quibble with the grade – at least the logic is sound.

The logic for giving the Clippers a C-minus hinges entirely on the PR hit the Clippers will take for trading Griffin just a few months after raising his jersey to the rafters in a mock-retirement ceremony during his free agency recruitment, and declaring him a Clipper for life. That’s fine, they might take a PR knock, but Zach Lowe (who, for the record, is going to be the impartial authority on matters such as this) notes that it will cost them some credibility in the ‘very, very short-term’.

The rest of his summary of the Clippers grade talks about how great they made out – ‘their asset acquisitions were good, but the talent they acquired was a steal’. He praises their flexibility moving forward, including the cap room they will get and the draft picks they received. I’m sorry Chris, but the logic for a C-minus grade doesn’t add up with your arguments.

The Norm Seat Grade: C-minus. You’re Blake Griffin Is A Star argument could have been backed up with some actual, ya know, facts, but the logic was sound. Your argument supporting your Clippers grade made no sense.

Ian Levy, Fansided/Piston Powered
Clippers Grade: C
Pistons Grade: C+

This Clippers grade and argument is basically just the shoulder shrug emoji put into words. Save yourself the time from reading his three paragraphs and just read this one sentence: The Clippers might have been good had they been healthy and kept Griffin, but now they could be good or they could be bad so instead of offering any real insight or analysis I’m just going to give them the most boring grade possible.

The Pistons grade and argument has a bit more effort behind it (considering this is a Pistons blog, I would hope so), and is essentially the same argument our friend Fake Bill Barnwell had up above. Props to Ian for providing some detail and thought into Griffin’s fit with Andre Drummond vs. DeAndre Jordan, but that Clippers section is just too much for this grade to be anything above ‘Fuck me – I hope my parents don’t find out.’

The Norm Seat Grade: D-

Gerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit (which, apparently, might also be Piston Powered?)
Clippers Grade: C+
Pistons Grade: B

Now we’re getting somewhere. Gerald brings his A game to his Clippers analysis and makes are first two subjects look like the grade-school bloggers they are. He starts us off with why it makes sense to trade Griffin – Blake is a star, albeit one not so bright anymore – but also gives a fairly detailed look (for this type of post) into the return the Clippers got, how they fit this season, and what they might look like going forward.

He punts a bit at the end, using the cop-out that this is just the first domino to fall, so he doesn’t want to judge too severely. The whole point of the grades, Gerald, is to tell how shitty the deal was on its own. Otherwise we’d just wait for the end-of-season recap.

The change of tone when switching to the Pistons side of the trade made me LOL, so props to you for that, Gerald. On one hand, Griffin is still a star, but one declining with an injury history. In almost literally the next breath, Griffin is a superstar and Stan Van Gundy pulled off an absolute HEIST, sending out only peanuts in return. Ron Jeremy’s doppelgänger created a ‘potential(ly) star-studded’ front court with this trade.

Gerald’s biggest issue with this trade from a Pistons point of view is not the injury history (that gets a slight mention at the end of the article), or the $141 million owed to him after this year, (he never even mentions the dollar amount, and considering this is a Pistons blog, maybe that’s for the best) no, its the ‘lack of depth’ on the Pistons. The Pistons are 22-26; I’m pretty sure their biggest problem is ‘lack of talent’.

The Norm Seat Grade: C-minus. The bonus points given out for making me shoot sparkling water out of my nose when reading your Pistons analysis is not enough to make up for the sheer, blatant hometown spin. Props for making me laugh though, really.

Jeremy Woo, (or is it The Crossover?)
Clippers Grade: B-
Pistons Grade: A

Kevin Pelton, (Insider)
Clippers Grade: B+
Pistons Grade: D+

Doing these two last, and together, because they were the inspiration for the article. Kevin Pelton, the Godfather of the Trade Grade column, lit up the Pistons with a D+ grade, while my man Jeremy Woo over at The Crossover topped even the Pistons bloggers with an A grade. How, I thought, could two writers who I enjoy and read constantly, have such varying opinions? Well, thankfully for myself, I’m going to answer that question.

Let’s start with the Clippers analysis first, just to build the suspense, ya know? Woo hits on everything you’d expect and want in this kind of analysis – what could be the motivation now, how does it impact future decisions, and what’s the impact on the court today. While he doesn’t hit on any stats to back up his claims, he doesn’t really make any outlandish ones either. Anyone who ever watched a Celtics game the last few years (because no one was watching the Pistons this year) knows what a pain in the ass Avery Bradley can be on defense, so despite what the advanced numbers say, I don’t need a stat to back up his claim that Bradley and Beverly could form one of the best defensive backcourts in the league next year.

A brief mention of the PR hit was perfect here, much better than the two paragraphs are friend Chris decided was needed. The asterisk, however, is a bit of a cop out and the judges will take that into account when making their final decision.

Kevin Pelton does his classic KP thing here, going into the trade value of Griffin by comparing the assets received to the asset (including the contract) sent out. He’s the best at looking at it from a pure numbers/value standpoint, and even managed to get a dig in at the Orlando Magic here – bonus points for that. He runs you through a couple of alternate scenarios that the Clippers may be thinking, and finally hits on the idea that paying someone, basically almost anyone not named LeBron, that kind of money at the end of his contract is damn near insane.

Now the fun part – how are these guys so far apart on their Pistons grades?

Pelton starts off giving the reasoning for the trade from the Pistons perspective – essentially, they were backed into a corner and had to do something. Stan Van had been running the team for so long with no real progress and an astronomical payroll for a shitty team that virtually any move was worth the risk. Woo effectively agrees with this, noting that they have been ‘hovering around the middle to low end of the East for much of the last decade’, and also rightly asserting that free agents don’t want to go to Detroit (not that they have the cap room, anyway, but they definitely won’t have it now).

We’ll skip over the analysis of how Griffin fits on the Pistons, and how they might perform the rest of the year. Again, they mainly agree on these points and both note that Griffin and Drummond are both dime-droppin’ big men.

The differences start when looking at the future of the Pistons. Pelton is, obviously by his grade, much less enthusiastic then Woo. He notes that the Pistons will be only $3 million below the luxury tax line next year, and that’s with only 12 players. Really hope those veterans looking for the minimum have an affinity for Detroit. This fact, coupled with Griffin’s injury history and pricetag, scares the bejeezus out of Pelton. While he acknowledges there’s a chance it works out, he’s obviously not optimistic.

Woo thinks they can figure out, hinting that because all their guys are under contract for years, they have time to piece it all together. It’s a faint hope, but I do think the idea of Point Blake has been underwritten in these grades. Forget Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith, gimme Blake doing a Ben Simmons impression and at least you’ll fill the stands of your new arena. If nothing else, he’s gotta be better than Hedo Turkoglu in 2009, right?

The Norm Seat Grades
Jeremy Woo: D+*. The grade Pelton gave the Pistons, and the grade you deserve. (*don’t ever use an asterisk in a trade grade column ever again).
Kevin Pelton: A. Don’t fuck with the Godfather of Grades.

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