Despite not knowing exact specifics, we suspected the Detroit Pistons’ offense was going to revolve around and highlight the versatile Blake Griffin under new coach Dwane Casey. Assuming you read DBB over the summer months, we also expected to experience Griffin in the post on a regular basis. What has become eye-opening, however, is the unhealthy dependency of Griffin’s post-game to the overall success of the entire offense.
Griffin has quite literally, for better or worse, slapped the entire putrid halfcourt offense on his brawny shoulders through nine games. He leads the league in touches per game, his 31.5-percent usage rate (per Cleaning the Glass) is a career-high and the nearly 37 minutes Griffin spends on the court each night is the most since his rookie year.
As the Pistons’ dependence grows, more and more teams are tailoring their entire game plan around corralling Blake. The progressively more aggressive defensive schemes are on full display when Griffin catches the ball with his back to the basket.
Perhaps no team in the league is more aware of Griffin’s bowling ball post-play than the Philadelphia 76ers. In just the third game of the season, Griffin put up 50 points against an answer-less Philly team with a good chunk of the damage deriving from single coverage post-defense:
Griffin routinely demolished weaker defenders, which eventually led to Philadelphia assigning Joel Embiid to Blake patrol in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The two teams met again last weekend and Griffin devoured Ben Simmons one-on-one down low:
But Philadelphia started to dabble with bringing double-teams from the baseline:
Employing double-teams are a great way of getting the ball out of Griffin’s hands, but not all double-teams are alike. Depending on personnel and scheme, the double can be initiated from different angles and at different times of the post-possession. Some of the more common ways include from the baseline (like above) or the perimeter. Doubles also can be triggered by Griffin catching the ball, on his first dribble, or while the ball is in the air en route to the posting-Griffin.
The Miami Heat, the Pistons most recent loss, chose to have the double-team come from the top in the first half:
With coverage varying in the second half:
Either way, there were a lot of Heat eyeballs squarely focused on Griffin.
In Detroit’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin experienced a majority of double-teams from the perimeter:
As Boston kept him guessing:
I’m exhausted just by watching, I can’t imagine how Griffin feels.
So what do the Pistons do from here? Good question.
The easiest way to make teams pay for double-teaming Griffin is to hit shots. The examples from above share two distinct traits:
- All were Pistons’ losses.
- When Griffin sniffed out the open man and delivered the rock, the Pistons rarely connected on threes, ranging from “open” to “wide-TF-open.”
It’s amazing what made shots will do for the optics of a struggling offense.
With Reggie Bullock hobbled from a tender ankle and Luke Kennard out for a couple more weeks (at best), the three-point percentage woes might not right itself for a bit. Call it homerism if you’d like, but I bet they start falling at a higher clip sooner rather than later (they just have to, don’t they?).
OK, other than the Captain Obvious suggestion of hitting shots, what else can they do?
Using all the illustrations from above, find an example of any action from the post-entry passer. They’re few and far between as, usually, the ball-handler generating the post-touch simply relocates to another spot on the floor.
Too much of this:
Ish Smith gets Griffin the ball and can’t scurry out of the way fast enough. The possession is essentially a glorified isolation look.
But, below, Smith remembers he has an offensive pulse:
Smith’s Oscar-worthy sell job of screening away morphs into a sophisticated and high-IQ slip. A little more action off the entry pass would do Blake, and the Pistons, wonders.
Next, fix the spacing.
The concern regarding spacing when Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond share the floor produces a ton of Pistons-related anxiety. Again, using the examples from above, Drummond is lurking in around the basket on a solid majority of Griffin post-possessions - which means so is his lane-clogging check. It’s the root cause of why this (and similar plays) keep happening:
Get that dude out of the way!
Either stash Drummond in the corner on these possessions and have him crash the glass OR grant Blake the Zaza elbow treatment. Just look at the beautiful and unattended paint:
So much room for activities!
Blake Griffin has been a complete badass through nine games, but the extended minutes and utter reliance of his blue collar banging isn’t sustainable. Wouldn’t you like to see what damage Griffin, a highly-skilled passing big, could cause under this Drummond-less scenario? I know I would. Sure, some variables aren’t the same, but Griffin with no extra defensive humans in the paint is scary.