News flash: Blake Griffin needs offensive help.
I’ll allow for some time to let this sink in. As you pick your jaw up off the floor, you’ll notice that defenses continue to overload on Detroit’s All-Star while blatantly daring someone else on the roster to beat them. Unfortunately, no one is consistently signing up to be that “someone.” As a result, Detroit remains at the bottom of most difference-making offensive team rankings.
Offensive rating: 105.9, 25th
True shooting percentage: 53 percent, 29th
Three-point percentage: 33 percent, 30th
Assists: 22 per game, 26th
All of which playing a significant role in:
Wins: 23, 23rd
With little to no bucket-getting help, Blake Griffin’s career-high usage rate remains north of 30-percent, and the rigorous daily chores are starting to take an overdue toll. In his last five games, Griffin is shooting 41-97 (42 percent) from the field including 12-38 (31 percent) from beyond the arc and committed 23 turnovers.
Below, we’ll go over the multiple creative and traditional ways teams are defending Griffin and the few counters Detroit employs.
Get the ball to Blake and get out of his way. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? But what if teams refuse to “get out his way”? Well, it looks like this:
Khris Middleton pays Glenn Robinson III no mind as the former-Wolverine relocates to the weak side. Middleton’s dismissal leaves Griffin with minimal options as the shot clock winds down.
Again, the Bucks refuse to play along:
Stanley Johnson clears out, but Eric Bledsoe hardly budges. As the double-team unfolds, Griffin looks for cutters, but doesn’t see Bledsoe, now, essentially, playing free safety. Turnover and two points the other way.
It’s not just a Milwaukee thing either. Below, the fast-twitch mismatch favors Griffin, but Tobias Harris’ strategic presence kills any thought of penetration, thus nullifying an off-the-bounce advantage:
Griffin’s only viable option is a contested three-point attempt.
When teams stack their defense with the mindset of stopping Griffin, one of the best ways Detroit can take advantage is with a quick ball reversal.
Patrick Beverley, below, has pre-rotated to the nail in an effort to deter a Griffin drive. This kind of prevent defense allows for an easy ball reversal which the Clippers are perfectly fine with:
Bruce Brown or Blake Griffin - if you’re scheming against the Pistons, who would you rather see drive? Yeah, me too.
Defenses who can dictate where the ball goes are scary. Offenses who oblige the defense’s wishes are equally as scary, but for a totally different reason.
Post-up/face-up double team
An oldie but a goodie. Griffin has seen this look all year on both pass and dribble entries to the post:
Depending on a variety of variables and context (matchups, clock, score, etc.) the double could generate from the baseline as well:
When the defense shows their hand too early, the Pistons can make them pay:
Above, as Reggie Jackson enters the ball to Griffin, Dennis Smith Jr. immediately ignites the double-team (which could be their scheme), and instead of relocating to the weak-side, Jackson astutely returns to his original spot for an open three-point attempt.
Those types of heady recognition plays haven’t been commonplace this year which has played a large part of numerous stalled out Pistons’ possessions.
Overall, the double-team, combined with Detroit’s less-than offensive weaponry, has resulted in way too many difficult and grinding possessions:
What, no confidence in Jose Calderon? It’s fair to say that Griffin has absorbed an unhealthy, and some unnecessary, amount of physicality this year.
Conceding the corner
All things equal, coaches would never send a double-team as two defenders checking one offensive player means a few things: someone is open, deep recovery rotations or switching which, ultimately, leads to a loss of matchup integrity. By and large, coaches would rather skip all that.
Guys like Griffin, though, require special attention.
Opposing coaches then have to ask themselves: what are willing to give up in order to contain Blake Griffin?
The answer could be personnel-related (like the Beverley/Brown play) or spots on the floor. For many, the a skip pass to the weak-side corner is the spot on the floor they’re willing to allow.
As Griffin catches the ball, he immediately locates the open man. Problem is, it’s Bruce Brown, who, last time I checked, owns a negative three-point percentage.
Yeah, the Clippers are ok with that shot. Also, what a fantastic play by Beverley.
While Brown’s well-earned clanky reputation makes him the optimal choice (from the opponents’ perspective) for conceding purposes, it’s the weak-side corner that the Clippers designated as priority on this play:
No matter the team, there is only one weak-side perimeter defender when a double occurs. In this case, it’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who must split the difference between Brown (at the nail) and Jackson (below the break). SGA must then hold the fort until help arrives on the pass to Brown and then slide over to contest Jackson’s shot.
That’s a lot of recovery work in a short period of time for both Lou Williams and SGA. Doc Rivers would surely like to limit those difficult adjustments, but Griffin demands it.
From the Pistons’ outlook, it’s imperative for guys to keep moving to help combat this defensive game plan.
Below, the Clippers are giving up the skip pass to the corner, but look what happens when Stanley Johnson vacates that corner:
Let’s identify the defense: Beverley is the double-team guy leaving Lou Williams to be the split-the-difference-on-the-weak-side guy. As Johnson leaves the corner he attracts the eyeballs of our dear friend Avery Bradley resulting in a wide-open look for Luke Kennard.
In a halfcourt setting, it doesn’t get more open than that.
Before the season started, I made a big stink about how Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond can successfully share the court at the same time. I still believe that. What I didn’t account for was the collective non-existent perimeter threat from the other three players on the floor. If Detroit’s bigs could get some consistent help, this could (relatively) work.
As with most things Pistons, that’s a big “if.”