If all goes according to Casey’s plan, somebody other than Reggie Jackson could lead Pistons in assists
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
AUBURN HILLS – Even if Reggie Jackson avoids the sort of devastating injuries that cost him major chunks of the past two seasons, there’s a chance he won’t lead the Pistons in assists this season. And Dwane Casey wouldn’t object at all if that instead turns out to be Blake Griffin.
“I hope he does,” Casey said. “Because that’ll free Reggie up to get off of the ball, to move without the ball a little bit more. That means other players are cutting, moving, and we’ll be harder to figure out and predict and scout.”
Casey came to the Pistons aware of Griffin’s passing ability. Even spending the bulk of his career in a lineup with the pre-eminent playmaker of his generation, Chris Paul, Griffin averaged 4.2 assists during his seven-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 25 games with the Pistons last season, he averaged 6.2
And because Casey has been even more impressed with Griffin’s awareness in the less than two weeks of training camp than he already was, he’s prepared to let the Pistons do more freelancing than they’ve done in their recent past. The way Casey sees it, that will make the Pistons harder to contain.
“Scouting is such a big part of our game, so the more you can play outside of plays – play more in random play, more in what we call ‘open’ – the better we want to be.”
Griffin has yet to play in the first two Pistons preseason games, but Casey has seen enough in scrimmages, practices and Griffin’s individual work to know what he’s got.
“He’s working his butt off,” Casey said of Griffin. “He set the tone in training camp last week. He led by example. He’s probably one of the most intelligent players I’ve been around as far as understanding the game. I knew how talented he was as a player, but I didn’t know his basketball intellect. I knew he was smart, but not as smart as he’s been.”
Griffin feels at home with the ball in his hands and is enthusiastic about the role Casey foresees for him.
“Very comfortable. This is a style I’m used to playing,” he said. “Even more fast paced than what I’m used to playing, but much more similar. I think you’ll see the ball move around a lot, a lot of drive and kicks, a lot of shots at the rim, a lot of threes – kind of cutting out some of those unnecessary low-percentage shots as far as analytics go.”
In their first two preseason games, 159 of 173 total Pistons shots have either come from the 3-point arc or inside the paint, numbers that would delight the most hard-core adherent of analytics’ value.
“Our offense is designed that way,” Griffin said. “The guys did a great of getting to those spots and there were even places we can clean up, but I think the coaching staff has done such a good job of drilling that into us for however long it’s been now. Even in summer workouts, making sure that when you’re working out, you’re doing the things we’re going to do within the flow of our offense.”
When Griffin is folded into the mix, given the attention he’ll command, the expectation is that the quality of the shots available to his teammates will be even better. Is Griffin surprised his teammates have so quickly grasped Casey’s philosophy?
“Not really surprised, but it’s great to see.”