A well-deserved All-NBA berth for Griffin caps launch of Pistons Casey era

Blake Griffin’s superb season carried the Pistons to the playoffs and delivered him his 5th All-NBA team honor, voted to the third team.
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Blake Griffin’s fifth All-NBA honor was fully deserved but hardly assured.

It was arguably the greatest individual season in Pistons history and it was the overriding reason they made the playoffs in Dwane Casey’s first season. For that alone, it was deserved. Never mind what Griffin meant to the culture Casey arrived intent on establishing or how his evolution as a player opens up Casey’s playbook and expands the front office’s flexibility in roster management.

Yet it didn’t come with the benefit of much national television exposure. And that made it a coin flip whether Griffin’s dominance penetrated the consciousness of enough voters to make an impact.

The answer: a resounding yes.

Griffin wound up getting more votes than LeBron James to earn a berth on the All-NBA third team alongside him. Pretty good company. Look at the quality of the competition for votes. Giannis Antetokoumpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant were the only forwards to pull in more votes than Griffin, whose 115 points were five more than James received in earning the other third-team berth.

Griffin has three times been an All-NBA second-teamer and one other time a third-teamer. All of those came while wearing a Clippers uniform and playing in the NBA’s second-largest media market. All of them came for teams that won at least 60 percent of their games.

Griffin answered a lot of questions in his first full season with the Pistons, one that saw him become the first player in franchise history to average at least 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists a game. The day after the season ended with the first-round loss to Milwaukee, Griffin was asked whether he walked away from the season satisfied.

“I don’t know that happy is my personal emotion,” he said, “but proud, I think, of this team and of everything. For several years I heard a lot of negativity and didn’t necessarily believe it or buy into it or anything like that. But I don’t care what you do or who you are or how resilient you are as a person, it wears on you and it affects you. This year has helped me quiet that down for myself. I always believe in myself, but it’s always nice to come out and put together a season or a stretch of things you’ve been working on and the things you’ve been told you couldn’t do for a long time. Yeah, this season, it’s the foundation.”

Griffin underwent a medical procedure on his left knee later that week. No details on the extent of the injury – which cost him four of the season’s last seven games and the first two playoff games – were given, but Griffin was confident that his off-season workout regimen would go unaffected.

That means he’ll again pour himself into the ongoing process of evolving further. He attempted nearly as many 3-point shots last season (522, a franchise record) as he’d taken in his first eight career seasons (590). After a year in Casey’s offense, he goes into the summer with a clearer vision of his role and will use that to channel his off-season focus.

“I shot I don’t know how many threes off the dribble this year. Didn’t necessarily anticipate shooting that many, so I’ll work a lot on that,” he said. “Ballhandling in the pick and roll. Taking care of the ball in different situations will be big for me this summer, continuing to work on my shot and then a lot of read and react stuff because that’s how we play. It’s really nice going into this off-season knowing our offense, knowing our coaches, knowing our players a little bit better. I just feel a lot more confident and feel I can fine time some of this stuff to improve on all the areas I need to improve on.”

If he can improve on the season he just turned in, the Pistons gladly will take it. But they’d be perfectly content with a repeat, too – a season good enough to place him in the elite company of All-NBA contemporaries.

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