This is still the really early stage of the Blake Griffin and Detroit Pistons marriage but there are some good signs that this partnership might work and Stan Van Gundy needs to make sure this trade works. Rumors that his job is on the line, so he made a big splash getting when healthy one of the best talents in the game in Griffin. Three games in, the results are outstanding with three wins and him fitting right in with the team.
Working a new player into a team’s rotation is difficult to do in-season, it gets even harder when you have to work in a huge star like Griffin. Case in point, he played his first game with the Pistons without having gone through a full practice and a very limited knowledge of their sets. The good news for Detroit is that the timing of the trade coincides with eight of Griffin’s first nine games are at home which makes it easier to get practice time in to put in more sets and have a better understanding of the offense.
The first question was how he would fit with All-Star Andre Drummond? As most expect, it looks very similar to how Griffin played with former teammate DeAndre Jordan. In the plays below, Griffin contested a layup in transition, gathered the rebound and began to start the break. Drummond saw that Griffin secured the rebound, he sprinted down the court blowing by the Blazers’ defense and Griffin threw a perfect lob. Another action Piston fans should get used to is the Four-Five Pick-and-Roll which led to another lob for Drummond on the roll.
The next thing that Griffin brings to the table is his ability to make plays out of the post. Just like Drummond, he’s able to score in the post like when he backs down Ed Davis for a jump hook. Griffin demands extra attention when he has the ball in the post, so when he is getting into his post move and sees that CJ McCollum has both feet in the paint, he kicked the ball out to the open Reggie Bullock who knocks down the three.
The Pistons can also take advantage of Griffin’s ability to shoot in Pick-and-Rolls, especially when teams ice the pick (force the ball handler away from the screen) because he can pop into the open area. When the Blazers ice Ish Smith, Griffin popped to the free throw line for a wide-open jumper with the defender so far back. In the second clip, Griffin popped again and this time began to drive. Much like a quarterback, he checked where the defense was and noticed that the weakside corner man was coming in to help so he kicked it out for an open three for Anthony Tolliver.
The Pistons and Blake Griffin are in the honeymoon phase of their new marriage and are still learning how to maximize his talents and incorporate them with the rest of the team. They are right outside the playoffs in the East right now and putting pressure on the teams above them. This deal does come with a lot of risks, in particular, Griffin’s checkered injury history. Also, the Pistons are investing a large percentage of their cap space in Griffin and Drummond for years to come, which will make it hard to add the necessary pieces to build around this duo. That said, the early, early returns have looked good for the Pistons and they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs this year and years to come if Griffin can stay healthy, a big if.