Pistons in Review: Blake Griffin
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AUBURN HILLS – A season that began with great promise – a 14-6 start and stirring road wins at Golden State, Boston, Oklahoma City and Minnesota – ended short of the playoffs. For the second straight year, an injury to Reggie Jackson threw a roadblock to the postseason in front of the Pistons.
Since winning 44 games and giving Cleveland four tough games in the 2016 playoffs, the Pistons have endured two frustrating seasons tied to Jackson’s injury absences, finishing with 37 and 39 wins while Jackson missed 30 games with a left knee injury and 37 more with a severely sprained ankle.
But if Jackson’s injury cast a shadow over the 2017-18 season, the ray of light for the future was the acquisition of five-time All-Star Blake Griffin. It cost the Pistons Tobias Harris, pending free agent Avery Bradley and a first-round draft pick, but left the Pistons with a Griffin-Jackson-Andre Drummond core that Stan Van Gundy feels can push the Pistons toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Almost every player who held an important role with the 2017-18 Pistons is under contract for next season. Over the next few weeks, Pistons.com will take a look at each of them and what the future holds.
PLAYER: Blake Griffin
PROFILE: 6-foot-10 power forward/29 years old/9 NBA seasons
2017-18 STATS: 21.4 points, 7.4 rebounds in 34 minutes a game
STATUS: Griffin has four years left on the contract he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers in July 2017 that will pay him $32 million in the 2018-19 season
DID YOU KNOW? Griffin took and made more 3-point shots in the 2017-18 season than he’d attempted in his previous eight NBA seasons combined. Griffin hit 111 of 322 3-point shots in 58 games in 2017-18. Coming into the season, he’d made 80 of 268 in his career over 471 games.
A LOOK BACK: The Pistons season was defined by two dates: Dec. 26, 2017 and Jan. 29, 2018. The former was when Reggie Jackson went down with a grade 3 ankle sprain and would go on to miss the next 37 games; the latter was when the Pistons stunned the NBA by trading for Griffin. Griffin spent two seasons at Oklahoma after playing in the 2007 McDonald’s All-American game. He became a dominant player as a sophomore, averaging 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds a game while earning national Player of the Year honors and becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Clippers. Griffin missed what would have been his rookie season (2009-10) with a fractured kneecap. He returned the next season and not only earned Rookie of the Year honors with averages of 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds but was voted to the All-Star team, the first of five consecutive appearances. Injuries have dogged him over the past four seasons, limiting him to 67, 35, 61 and 58 games. None are considered chronic, degenerative or career threatening, which eased Pistons concerns as they took on the reported five-year, $171 million contract Griffin signed with the Clippers last summer.
A LOOK AHEAD: Griffin joined the Pistons in the midst of a whirlwind schedule and Stan Van Gundy admitted there simply wasn’t enough time to alter the offense to the degree necessary to fully exploit Griffin’s all-around scoring and playmaking ability. The off-season will address that issue. Griffin’s power, footwork and explosiveness around the basket – even if he’s not as freakishly athletic as the 21-year-old who came to the NBA, he’s still a rare breed – commands double teams in the paint. And that exposes defenses to the threat of Griffin’s passing, a skill that sets him apart from most power players. With the Pistons, Griffin averaged 6.2 assists and 2.6 turnovers, outstanding numbers for a big man. In 13 March games, Griffin averaged 21.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists against 2.2 turnovers while shooting .466 overall and .435 from the 3-point arc in 33 minutes a game. That’s the type of performance the Pistons anticipate getting from him next season with Reggie Jackson back at point guard and plenty of playing time alongside two 40-plus percent 3-point shooters in Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard with Andre Drummond in the post.
MONEY QUOTE: “Having Reggie and Andre and a full group healthy and ready to go, I like our squad. We have a pretty high ceiling and we can make a run in the East.” – Blake Griffin in the final week of the regular season