Stan Van Gundy is never shy about making a big move. He released Josh Smith with huge dollars still on his deal. He traded for Reggie Jackson in the middle of a season. He traded for Tobias Harris in the middle of the next season. Now he’s traded Harris for Blake Griffin just two years later.
But the Pistons are seriously scuffling with the second worst record in the NBA since Dec. 1 and losers of eight straight. Now with the gifted Griffin in tow he needs to radically remake a moribund offense and do it fast.
The Pistons are four games below .500 and three games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Griffin will be the focal point of Detroit’s offense, that much is a no-brainer.
The question then becomes — what helps Griffin the most as a focal point of the offense?
He’ll obviously play alongside Andre Drummond much as he played alongside DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles. While people grumbled about their inability to fit along with Chris Paul and never quite get over the hump, the truth is that Griffin and Jordan meshed well from an offensive standpoint. This season nobody assisted on more Jordan field goals than Griffin (save for the peerless Lou Williams).
That means Detroit has two locks in their starting lineup and three big question marks. The easiest to answer is likely the shooting guard slot. Avery Bradley is gone (not complaining), and in his place will be promising rookie and sharp shooter Luke Kennard.
Kennard is shooting 43 percent from 3 on the year. The small forward slot will be competition between the only player shooting better than Kennard from deep in Reggie Bullock (a scintillating 44 percent from deep) or a defensive presence like Stanley Johnson to replace a little of what Bradley brought to the table.
The most interesting question comes at point guard. Ish Smith is the incumbent and has started most of the games since Reggie Jackson went down. But Griffin isn’t nearly the perimeter shooter Tobias Harris was, and the thought of Drummond, Griffin, Johnson and Ish on the floor together is a spacing nightmare.
That could be lessened somewhat if SVG opts to swap out Bullock (no slouch on D) for Johnson. But I think I would opt for maximal offense and start Langston Galloway.
Galloway is shooting a relatively pedestrian 36 percent from 3, but that looks like Steph Curry proficiency next to Ish Smith’s 22 percent mark. Galloway is more a point guard in body and not in skillset, but he can bring the ball up the floor and take advantage of lazy defenses.
But he would be the point guard in name only in Detroit. Griffin is averaging a career-high 5.7 assists per 36 minutes this season. Drummond is averaging a career-high 4.2 assist per 36 minutes.
If the Pistons truly want to run the offense through Griffin — and why wouldn’t they? — they will need a point guard that can play off the ball. And that’s definitely not Ish.
It would also allow Smith to slide back into his more natural backup point guard position where he can be effective as a change-of-pace guard who is deadly in transition.
What do you think the new starting lineup should be?
What is the best starting lineup for the Detroit Pistons?
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