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Blake Griffin Player Preview: A great scorer, great competitor, great leader stuck on a team that could never be great — for now

The owner of one of the most spectacular individual performances in Pistons history might be up to shining for us again… for a while.

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Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin
Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

First, a story, and I promise you by the end it’ll all come back around to Blake Griffin, as this is a Blake Griffin season preview. As the story goes, aurea prima sata est aetas (First the golden age sprung forth).

Thus, the beginnings were golden for Detroit’s professional basketball team. It won a bunch of championships in 1940s right after it was founded as Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Next, was the silver age of the 1950s with finals appearances but no rings.

The team moved to Detroit, and in the copper age of 1960s and 1970s, there were golden, Hall of Fame players in Detroit but the results were not so pristine. Next, a short period of suck appeared purging the way for a golden era of the Bad Boys. After writing the best story in basketball history, the era ended abruptly, throwing the team directly into misery.

Out of that misery we got the seeds of potentially next beautiful era in two extremely skillful players, Allan Houston and Grant Hill. They were cornerstones of a young, up and coming Pistons team in the middle of the 1990s. However, they couldn’t handle the task, as Houston betrayed the Pistons and Hill couldn’t stay healthy and bolted for Orlando.

For our team, their departure was another hard-earned win as it started the rebuild that led to another golden age of Goin’ to work Pistons. After writing the second-best story in basketball history with extremely hard work and wholehearted dedication, it again used all resources of our franchise, leaving it in misery when it ended. And what a misery it is, as it lasts to this day. Nevertheless, even in this misery we strike gold. His name is Blake Griffin.

Due to poor timing, Blake won’t be able to lead Pistons to trophies, but this didn’t prevent him from working hard enough to show us a season of his best basketball; a basketball that was so good that we should count it into best, or even the best, individual basketball performances there is on record in our franchise history.

Because of his nagging injuries, we can’t tell how much of that Blake we’ll get this year. But since he had a looong time for convalescence, looked to be in great shape already in the summer and has some teammates who could ease his burden, I will work under the assumption that he could still do the things he did in his best season of 2018-19, only in smaller doses. And here’s what those things are.

A Renaissance mixture of brute natural force, beauty and versatility on offense

The first pillar of Blake’s offense are post plays.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

It’s like almost every play is a unique display of finesse. Blake’s footwork is excellent and creative – a thing of beauty. But what’s attractive for us is a nuisance for Blake’s opponents. His brute strength, evokes fear, withdrawal and defensive reactions. And as defenders timidly get ready to be bumped again, Blake can use it cunningly in such a fake bully plays to punish them not less mercilessly.

Fake bully plays

But this is only the beginning of Blake’s unprecedented offensive craft. Another part of it is his P&R game. When in the history of basketball you heard of a 6-foot-10, 250-pound post player who runs P&Rs as ball handler!?

And it’s not only that he’s running them, it’s how he’s doing it – another thing of overwhelming beauty. The handle (oh yea, Blake’s handle), the vision and passes, the drives and long shots when defenders go under, man he’s great!

As we can see more here, drives are another portion of Blake’s offensive craft. So are the long shots.

Blake’s drives

Blake’s triples

We’ve already seen in P&Rs and drives clips that Blake can create for others. But there is much much more to this as he can make fantastic kicks from the post and perform other forms of facilitation.

Blake’s kicks from post

Blake’s facilitation

Last clips are most evident examples of Blake’s ability to superbly cooperate with every player. However, since we have again big bigs on our roster let’s see more examples of his collaboration with bigs:

Taking advantage of switches

High-low passes

Tipping in and putting back other’s misses (it’s looks like Dre is doing most of the work here, but his job is so much easier since his cover must keeps an eye on Blake all the time; Mason and Jahlil are good offensive rebounders, so we might be quite good in this department again)

Occupying other’s cover

Teaming up in transition

If all of these skills were described to you what role would you want that player to have in an offense? There can be only one answer: offensive leader of a contending team.

Ummm, yeah, that’s not going to happen in Detroit.

However, his mostly very young supporting cast on the Pistons squad offers a mixture of playmakers, shooters and bigs collected by new GM Troy Weaver which should allow Blake to showcase all of his offensive skills. This might not lead to winning basketball, but it could lead to some attractive basketball. And with the addition of other playmakers, Blake should not wear out as easily.

Two years ago it was a similar mixture of shooters, another playmaker and big around Blake that proved to be very successful lineups as this table shows. I think it’s a perfect solution for us fans as well, as we’ll be able to see more of his great basketball craft, he’ll be able to seduce some contender, to which he should be traded for some assets because he deserves to play for ship – another enjoyable result for us – and our lottery odds will improve as a side effect of all this too – yet another enjoyable result for us.

A capable defender who needs to take some plays off, however

The things Blake does on offense take their toll on the other end of the floor. The energy that Blake uses on offense needs to be recharged on defense. Thus we can observe such instances of him letting go there.

And this is regrettable because he’s a very skilled, intelligent and capable defender as can be seen here.

He reads plays greatly and has very good tools, instincts and timing to make winning defensive plays both inside and on the perimeter when he’s engaged. And he’s unparalleled at taking charges.

His engagement on D probably won’t be able to be any higher this year. Still, he’ll be able to showcase more examples of his sometimes skillful defense, our youngsters will get lessons to learn and players like Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee will get chances to earn their hefty contracts by covering for Blake.

A great leader and teacher

Blake Griffin is not only a great basketball player, he is also a great leader.

And as much as the timing between his basketball craft and our roster's ability to actually contend is bad, the timing between his leadership skills and our current squad couldn’t be any better. Svi, Sekou, Deividas, Isaiah, Killian, Saben, Saddiq, Jahlil and Josh, even Delon and Jerami couldn’t find a better teacher to show them how to hustle relentlessly, how to be vocal, how to support your teammates and how to respond to any forms of provocation, in addition to showing how to prepare for NBA season.

If everything will go according to the plan, Blake will have a few months to school the kids. It should be enough. If some of the youngsters won’t be able to keep up with this timetable, after their time spend with Blake, Delon and Jerami will definitely be prepared to continue the courses. If things won’t go according to the plan, Blake will stay longer which will only help in this regard.

Blake Griffin probably won’t mark a new golden era of Detroit basketball. But he certainly can lay the foundations for one. And the basketball craft he showed and hopefully will show a little more will be among the most skilled players in the pantheon of our franchise’s golden history. And hopefully, he’ll get a chance to chase that title on another team — sooner rather than later.