I’ve done a near 180 flip on the Detroit Pistons. I’ve chastised them for trading for the often-injured star Blake Griffin, a feature of having a coach/general manager on thin ice trying to save his job. Combine this with the rich contracts of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, the Pistons have $74.5 tied up in three players that don’t move the needle very much… or perhaps, I am wrong. There are still shades of the old Blake Griffin inside him, it’s a question whether his body can hold up and if reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey can extract out of the 5-time All-Star that Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy failed to.
Previous head coaches allowed themselves to be hamstrung by the constraints of playing their ridiculously out-of-date centers, in this case the Pistons are arguably held back thanks to Andre Drummond. They’ve performed better with Drummond on the bench, their net rating as a team goes from 3.0 with Drummond on the floor, and Blake Griffin simultaneously on to 4.4 with Drummond off. But what of his defensive presence, you ask? 102.8 defensive rating with Drummond on, 102.7 off. It’s time for Detroit to make their hardest decision: to pull the plug on the Drummond-era before he inadvertently sinks another season. This is crucial given it’s the team’s second-year in their new pizza sponsored arena and the first full season with a superstar in uniform.
Casey needs to not only run the offense through Griffin, but he’ll need to start him at center. Griffin attempted 322 three-pointers last season, converting on 34.5% of them. This will truly be an asset in a league getting considerably smaller, Casey can squeeze value out of the ever hobbled Griffin even with the leaper playing further from the basket. He’ll need to cut down on his attempts of long twos, letting loose 355 shots outside of the paint, inside the arc, making just 33.8%. Griffin’s 32.2 AST% in the 25-games logged in Detroit, ranked 8th in the NBA from his debut to when he was shut down on the 26th of March, better than guards Kemba Walker, Jrue Holiday, and 2018 All-Star Goran Dragic.
When healthy, and when the floor isn’t clogged, Griffin can still turn back the clock to his more agile days with his superior post moves and utilizing his body to bully his defender.
Celtics fans love to ridicule Casey as someone who merely applied Occam’s Razor to the Raptors; the Pistons ranked 26th in three-point attempts, Toronto was third. Casey will likely reshape the stagnant Pistons offense to fit the modern NBA, there are too many weaknesses to expect the same turnaround, but Casey is the perfect man to helm this makeshift rebuild. He already has a star, a superstar. Someone who at his best is better than prime Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. If there was ever a more perfect situation for Griffin to recoup his value, it’s this year.