The need for the Detroit Pistons to trade Blake Griffin reaches new heights are his start this season.
Describing Blake Griffin and his time with the Detroit Pistons is difficult.
If someone were to Google the meaning of a “love-hate relationship,” there would be a picture of the 6’9 forward in a Pistons uniform. Griffin has demonstrated hard work, professionalism, and high-character since he arrived in Detroit.
When a team unexpectedly trades a player, fans’ reaction (and the traded player) is hit or miss.
Griffin’s case is a bit more unique than that.
Before coming to Detroit, his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers, put together a presentation to keep him in the franchise. It consisted of a faux jersey retirement ceremony, and his photo displayed on walls throughout Staples Center. The one that was the cherry on the sundae was when Clippers’ employees wore t-shirts with a montage of historical figures, with Griffin at the top, side-by-side with Muhammad Ali.
This team did all of that for him to sign his five-year, $171 million deal, only to send him to Pistons months later. Griffin probably thought he would retire with the organization that took him with the No.1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
And after such an elaborate celebration, can you blame him?
Regardless, Griffin played his heart out for the Pistons when his body allowed him to. Proof of this is his 2018-2019 season. In 75 games with the Pistons, the most he played since 2014, Griffin averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. These numbers propelled him to his sixth NBA All-Star game and fifth All-NBA honor.
That’s where the “love” for him originates.
However, living in the past will prevent the Pistons from building the future.
It’s time to cut ties with Griffin.
The man who once jumped over a KIA Optima during the dunk contest is not the same one wearing the Pistons’ red, blue, and white. The numbers prove it.
Cutting ties with Griffin will not be an easy task for the Pistons’ front office.
Regardless, it’s a direction they must entertain. And that’s even at the risk of trading for another bad contract, with picks attached, of course. In four games this season, Griffin is averaging 15.5 points and 3.3 assists per game. These are his exact averages in 18 games last season.
Griffin improved his rebounding from 4.7 to 5.3 per game. Along with that, his shooting percentage has improved from last season (35%) to this season (41%). However, let’s add context to this.
While Griffin’s percentages have increased, his averages across the board are some of his lowest outputs during his career. The one telling stat of them all is his plus-minus.
His -8.5 +/- this season is the worst in his career.
And if you don’t think that’s the case, then pay attention to a Pistons game.
In the words of Ric Flair, “there can only be one.” That’s the mindset the Pistons’ coaching staff should have regarding the starting power forward.
Jerami Grant and Blake Griffin are both worthy of being starters in the NBA.
That’s why the Pistons’ signing Grant to a three-year, $60 million deal was so interesting. The moment he signed his contract, fans (and media pundits) were expecting to hear that the Pistons traded Blake Griffin to another team.
Welp that didn’t happen!
When Griffin is available to play, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey has started both him and Grant. In four games of both playing together, Griffin has started at power forward, with Grant moving to small forward.
And the early returns are disastrous.
When Grants plays without Griffin, he’s at his best. He consistently attacks the rim, efficient in the pick and roll, and helps tremendously with the Pistons’ spacing. In seven games this season, he’s averaging 23 points and 5.3 rebounds. Under this scenario, he looks like the player Detroiters were hoping he would be.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case when he and Griffin play together.
When Griffin is on the floor, those lanes for Grant to drive seemingly disappear, and he becomes a spot-up shooter. He also doesn’t get the ball near the rim, where he’s excelled this season in creating and finishing.
Instead, Griffin is getting those looks and doing nothing with them.
His stats this season are mentioned above, but the one hurting the Pistons the most is his three-point shooting.
On paper, seeing Griffin is shooting 39% from beyond the arc looks impressive.
Heck, Stephen Curry isn’t even shooting that from long-distance this year.
However, when 33 of Griffin’s 51 shot attempts this season were three-pointers, it becomes alarming because Griffin isn’t a three-point specialist. Furthermore, in several of the Pistons’ losses this season, Griffin’s three-point shooting has hindered their offense. He’s shot them out of games like former Pistons teammate Reggie Jackson.
So what’s the solution?
There is no telling what the Pistons will decide to do with Blake Griffin.
His contract is the elephant in the room when discussing him. With his production value and injury history, not many teams will want to give up assets for him.
Then there’s the other angle to consider of his contract, and that’s whether Griffin should come off the bench.
Jerami Grant is clearly in the Pistons’ plans beyond this season, and he didn’t come to Detroit to come off the bench. If Grant wanted to make $60 million coming off the bench, he would’ve stayed with the Denver Nuggets.
Grant came to Detroit to showcase his full skills, and Griffin needs to be out of the way for that to happen. The tricky part is how large Griffin’s contract is. There is no way to sell a player coming off the bench who is making over $36 million a year. Along with that, if the Pistons have aspirations to shop Griffin, they need to showcase him playing well in meaningful minutes as a starter.
Trade rumors surrounding Griffin are cold for the moment. And right now, the Pistons’ focus isn’t trying to be the top seed in the East. Regardless, their focus shouldn’t be on losing games. It should be to grow and gel as a unit.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, having Blake Griffin on their roster hinders this process.