Quick question: what do the Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, and Blake Griffin deals all have in common?
The answer: a few things. In each one of those deals, the Pistons traded a handful of less talented players for the most talented player in the deal. They were all an attempt at incremental improvement. They all came out of nowhere. They all made the Pistons better.
Maybe. We’ll see about that last one.
But the deal follows a formula that has worked for Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower so far during their time in Detroit. It’s not easy to get a player of Blake Griffin’s talent. The deal is controversial for sure, so the downsides are all over the comment section of DBB. And they’re legit. He’s about to turn 29. He’s been injury prone. He’s owed $173 million.
Yeah, it’s definitely a risk. But it’s one that could pay off for the Pistons. Here’s why.
Pressure off Andre Drummond
The Pistons answered the question, “Is Andre Drummond a franchise player?” And the answer was “No.” But they didn’t answer it quite in the way you’d expect.
Drummond was miscast in the role of the best/most talented player on his team. Yet it’s mighty difficult to land a player with more talent the Drummond. The Pistons did that with Blake Griffin. This is a guy who was a first pick in the draft, Rookie of the Year, five time All Star, four time All NBA Team. His resume is solid.
And it’s not just hype. Griffin has had seasons where he’s been the best power forward in the league and a top 10 player in the league.
Meanwhile, Drummond is still a centerpiece of the franchise. This move just positions him more as a co-centerpiece.
Pairing with Andre Drummond
Perhaps more importantly, the fit between Griffin and Drummond should be excellent. They ought to make for a matchup nightmare. Griffin’s former frontcourt partner obviously had a similar style to Dre in DeAndre Jordan, but Drummond can do some things that Jordan can’t.
There’s not too many teams outside of New Orleans that can offer a duo in the frontcourt that could see either player drop 30 points on you. And now with Drummond’s improved passing, you could have either big man also drop 6-7 assists on you too.
While Stan Van Gundy focuses on defense often to excess, he just made his offense a lot better. Even with the loss of Chris Paul, the Clippers still had a top 10 offense led by Griffin.
The value was right
As they did with Jackson and Harris, the Pistons took some other “assets” that they didn’t really need, packaged them together, and landed a better player. Tobias Harris is criminally underrated, he’s an extremely versatile scorer, but Griffin is the superior player. Griffin is more comfortable as a team’s top scorer, better able to defend his position, and a much more active passer. The Pistons also greatly need a guy who can get to the line, and Griffin does that very well.
The other players and pieces the Pistons traded away were of little consequence. Avery Bradley in a Pistons uniform has been awful and getting him off the team will improve them. Boban can’t get on the court. And the Pistons are fine on the youth front with several developing prospects, they can afford to skip a draft. The only downside is that it leaves them lean on other tradable parts of the team.
If you had the option to trade Tobias Harris, a first round pick, and a second round pick for Blake Griffin, you’d do that every day.
And oh hey - for the Fire SVG crowd, he and Bower managed to turn Ersan Ilyasova, broken Brandon Jennings, a first round pick, and a pair second round picks (one of which landed Marcus Morris, who brought in Bradley) into Blake Griffin. Ahem. That’s pretty good.
They can’t be done yet
The Pistons aren’t 3-12 over their past 15 games because of their play at power forward. My post for the morning was initially going to be looking at the team’s fourth quarter struggles - but yeah, that’s going to need some serious edits with the addition of Griffin.
But those fourth quarter problems are still going to be a thing. The Pistons have struggled mightily trying to close out games with Ish Smith. With his lack of shooting, the Pistons are still going to wind up playing too much 4 on 5 late in the game. Griffin isn’t a solution to that problem.
Of course, how they solve that problem won’t be easy. Though the Pistons only gave up one real contributor in the Griffin deal and managed to avoid sending out any young players, any remaining deals would likely need to include prospects.
So what does that next deal look like? Heck if I know. And if we’ve learned anything about trying to guess SVG and Bower’s next move, it’s that you won’t guess it right.
Without another move being made, it means continuing to wait for Jackson to return. His timeline was initially set at six to eight weeks, and we’re currently into week five. The All Star break is a natural time for us to start hearing rumbles about Jackson’s return. There are nine games until then.
Those nine games are going to be critical to the team’s success this season. If Jackson’s return is a smooth one, great. But that’s risky to depend on. They need to pull off another move.
So what if the price to pay for Kemba Walker or George Hill is including Henry Ellenson? Easy enough to swallow, right? Stanley Johnson? A little tougher, but sure. Luke Kennard? Now the decisions get tough.
With bringing in Blake Griffin, the Pistons can immediately be that team in the playoffs you’re looking to avoid. But only with a point guard who can help close games out. Without a healthy Reggie Jackson or a deal for one of the available point guards in a trade, they’re a lot less scary.
I’ll have some more coming about options that the Pistons can look to for improving their fourth quarter offense. But for now, we can just continue to share takes on this fascinating deal.