Blake Griffin hasn’t been particularly good since joining the Pistons. His team has fizzled from the playoff contest. And it’s started to get noticed. Reasonably so.
Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons took a huge risk in taking on his massive contract. It’s a risk that has similarities to the one Joe Dumars took when he signed Josh Smith to a $54 million contract.
Both are power forwards. Both were about the same age when acquired. Both were big time athletes in their early years who changed their games later in their careers. Both were the largest contracts in franchise history at the time. In Smith’s first season with the Pistons, he shot 42 percent from the field and 26 percent from three while Griffin’s Pistons tenure is off to a start with 39 percent from the field and 25 percent from three.
Of course, Smith was such a disaster that he was out of the league by the time his contract with the Pistons would have expired last season. These days Josh Smith is only 32 years old, but his career is pretty clearly over. So it’s understandable for Pistons fans to feel some angst over the idea of paying $38,957,028 in the year he turns 33.
Fortunately for Pistons fans, this isn’t the sequel of the Josh Smith experience.
When Josh Smith decided to reinvent himself as a shooter, he missed the fact that that he was a terrible shooter. Just like he missed a lot of things. Particularly shots.
As his percentage of shots from beyond 16 feet increased from 23 percent in 2009-10 to 44 percent in 2010-11 and beyond, his true shooting percentage dropped from an acceptable 54 percent to well below 50 percent.
Blake Griffin’s efficiency hasn’t suffered in the same way as Smith’s as he’s made his transition to the perimeter. Back in 20-13-14 he took just 30 percent of his shots from beyond 16 feet and he was certainly at his most efficient then, boasting a TS of 58 percent. But last year he took a whopping 57 percent of his shots from outside of 16 feet and still managed a 57 percent TS.
Griffin’s ability to get to the line and connect helps keep his efficiency somewhat afloat. But even without that, Griffin’s jumpers aren’t the same type of bad decisions that Smith’s were.
Smith shot the way you want a shooter to shoot. Without a conscious and with a quick trigger. Unfortunately, Smith wasn’t a shooter. Watch if you dare.
Griffin doesn’t shoot like a shooter. Which is good, because that’s not his strength. If the defense gives him the shot, he’ll take it. But he’s equally looking to facilitate to his teammates or putting the ball on the floor. And he does a great job with that. It’s part of the extra dimension Griffin brings to the table that made him look like an upgrade over Tobias Harris.
I’m as big of a fan of Tobias as anyone, but those weren’t plays he made on a nightly basis like Griffin does.
When Blake does settle for the jumper, it’s generally with more of a “well, ok” rather than a “hell yeah let’s let it fly” like Smith.
Not always pretty, but by and large Griffin’s taking reasonable shots.
Griffin’s game with the Pistons so far hasn’t been a change of what he did in Los Angeles that was successful. Here’s how his shots by area look:
The shots aren’t dramatically different. Not enough getting to the rim, way too many three pointers. But the main difference is that shots aren’t falling.
Shooting slumps happen. They’re rarely permanent. Griffin started increasing his range in 2014 and has held an effective field goal percentage of 51 percent up to this year. So far with the Pistons, he’s shooting an eFG of just 43 percent. Chances are that he’ll eventually work his way back to that 50 percent eFG range.
Still, Griffin and Stan Van Gundy need to be proactive in getting Blake back on track. Griffin can’t just settle in as a shooter and his teammates need to be able to set him up with some easier looks. Stuff like this:
More of it please. Trust me, it took wading through quite a bit of film to find those gems though. And yes, much of it was the result of some shitty defense.
Griffin is left to create for himself far too much, especially for easy looks inside the arc. Which is part of what makes him a $173 million guy, he’s pretty good at getting looks for himself. But if his teammates make it easier on him, it’ll go a long way toward helping those shooting percentages.
There’s a fair amount of angst any time you’re taking on a player with the dollar figures attached to them that Blake Griffin has. And especially for a fanbase with such a snakebitten history as the Pistons’.
Whether the move will work out for the best for the Pistons in the long run, well, that’s still up in the air. But one thing for certain: he’s not going to be the disaster that Josh Smith was.
It’s a low bar, I know. But it beats not clearing that low bar.