Well, he’s not coming back. As much as that might sting for Syracuse fans, it’s time to accept him as a potential alumni the Orange can be proud of rather than a missing piece to the puzzle that shouldn’t be missing.
For the sake of this column, let’s narrow down Griffin’s NBA options to the two teams he has reportedly worked out for. About a month ago, the guard/wing played in front of Knicks personnel. Recently, it was the Lakers.
The two teams are in very different places in their championship trajectory. New York is still coming down from the high of a surprise home-court advantage playoff berth, not the disappointment of a five-game loss in the first round. It’s hard to blame them for either considering the last time the Knicks won a championship was 1973 and prior to this season, it had been eight years since their last playoff appearance. At this point, the Knicks are trying to build on what they’ve started with Head Coach Tom Thibodeau winning Coach of the Year and Julius Randle taking Most Improved Player of the Year honors. Everything Los Angeles does, including bringing Alan Griffin in for a workout, is a band-aid on a wounded foundation. The name of the game for the Lakers is keep LeBron James and Anthony Davis going for one more championship push. Their bubble-title seams like a long time ago at this point after this year’s 7-seed flop in the first round.
Despite the two different goals for the immediate future, both the Knicks and Lakers would use Griffin similarly. Like he’s done his entire career, LeBron will want to surround himself with shooters. That’s why LA brought in former SU guard Dion Waiters in 2020. The Knicks were in the bottom third in three-point shooting percentage in the postseason with the worst offense in the 16-team field, mustering just 97 points per game. In all fairness, the Lakers were a close second with just 97.5 points per game.
Both teams seem like a good X’s and O’s fit. But neither will give Griffin much playing time. Even though the Lakers played the third-most bench minutes in the NBA last season, their reserve-core is returning. The Knicks rank nearly in the bottom-third in the league in bench points, and most of those minutes went to Derrick Rose. Thibodeau is known for playing a shallow bench. In fact, whichever team picks him up will likely ask him to play in the G-League for the bulk of his rookie season.
So, in a way it doesn’t matter where Griffin lands in the draft or as a free agent. On the other hand, the right fit and the right coach could set him up for success down the road. Only one thing is guaranteed. In order for Griffin to have successful workouts and successful professional minutes he will have to shoot efficiently.