This past Monday, the Detroit Pistons made a trade that left many scratching their heads. The Pistons traded forward Tobias Harris, shooting guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, and two draft picks to the Los Angeles Clippers. In return, the Clippers sent all-star forward Blake Griffin to Detroit, where he will join forces with all-star center Andre Drummond. The Pistons are also receiving Brice Johnson and Willie Reed as a part of the trade. Griffin who is averaging 22.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, is expected to make an instant impact on the struggling Pistons offense. The Pistons (23-26), are currently sitting at 9th in Eastern Conference. This mediocre record can largely be attributed to the loss of star point guard Reggie Jackson. Jackson, who is averaging a career best in both points and assists per game, with 14.6 and 5.5 respectively, has been sidelined since late December with a Grade-3 ankle injury that he suffered in a 107-83 win against the Indiana Pacers.
Since then, the Pistons had relied heavily on Harris to be the heart of their offense and pace them in Jackson’s absence. This is partially due to the lack of depth and experience that the Pistons have at the guard position. Veteran Ish Smith has started in Jackson’s absence, but has yet to generate any real success or offensive leadership. Rookie shooting guard Luke Kennard has shown promise providing relief off the bench, but he is not a true point guard and has yet to display the leadership needed to command an offense for 48 minutes. What the Pistons need is a dynamic guard if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs this season. It was rumored that the Pistons might go after Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker. Walker, who is averaging 22.1 points and 5.8 assists per game, could have been the spark that the Pistons offense needed. But what do the Pistons do instead? They trade for another big man, without anyone to control the ball and set the tempo on the floor. When this trade was finalized it sent Twitter into a frenzy as basketball fans everywhere reacted to the shocking deal. As many expected the Pistons to pursue an available point guard, this was a trade that very few saw coming, and it raises questions that can only be answered as time develops.
The first is: ‘How will Griffin and Drummond play together?’ The short answer is that they could have a relationship very similar to what Griffin had in LA with fellow big man Deandre Jordan. Their two-man game provided trouble for teams in the West Conference and with Griffin coming to Detroit, he could have that same type of success. But his relationship with Drummond will take time to develop. They will have to figure out how they can be dominant together, not just individually. Both players are used to the offense being ran through them, but this will likely to change when they are both on the floor. This is a trade that would have been better conducted in the off season, when both players have the chance to work and develop their game together. Instead they are trying to figure this out during the course of a season for a team that is trying to make the playoffs. The Pistons should spend this time and energy on trying to find a point guard that would help put them in playoff contention.
The second question is, ‘is Griffin really that valuable?’ Yes, he was the number one pick in 2009. Yes, he is a phenomenal athlete and has had a tremendous career. Yes, he is more than just a dynamic dunker. But, what has he done to make him worth trading two starters, a valuable bench player and two draft picks? With the Clippers, he had the help of Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan, but still couldn’t lead LA to a NBA finals, let alone a conference finals. Not all of this should fall on Griffin’s shoulders, but he couldn’t generate success with one of the greatest point guards of all time on his team. That doesn’t add any value to him. To add to that, Griffin had battled injuries over the past three seasons that have caused him to miss multiple games. Griffin has left the last two playoffs early due to injury and hasn’t been major injury free for the last four seasons.
His health concerns and inability to win in the playoffs could be a reason that the Clippers wanted to trade him away, especially if it meant getting more role players in return. This was a very risky move by the Pistons, who have had a string of bad draft picks and trade deals over the past couple of years. Since they drafted Andre Drummond in 2012, they have not had many of their picks contribute in a major way to the team’s success. Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard, both first rounds picks drafted in 2015 and 2017, respectively, are the only picks as of late who have contributed solidly off the bench and have made an impact on the Pistons rotation. The primary focus of the Pistons should be finding a team that gets the city of Detroit excited and out to see them play. The Pistons relocated from Auburn Hills to Detroit to be apart of the resurgence that is happening right now in Detroit. Little Caesars Arena opened in August 2017 and attendance is far lower than what was expected. This should be one of the main focuses on the Pistons front office right now. How do they create a team that is exciting to watch, that fills the seats in the new $863 million arena? Maybe they feel that Blake can help sell tickets. Regardless, this will be an interesting rest of the season for all Pistons fans as they look to see what impact Griffin and Drummond will have on the team success.