A few days ago, I sat in my cubicle talking to a co-worker (a die-hard Detroit fan) about the state of his Pistons. Like many Pistons fans, he is upset about the downfall of the Pistons. He highlighted bad front-office decisions and NBA Draft blunders and bad luck over the years.
You know, like drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, and more recently drafting Luke Kennard one spot in front of Rookie of the Year candidate, Donovan Mitchell. Those decisions alone will lead someone to need to drown their sorrows.
After a few more minutes of chatting, he asked: “When will the Pistons ever get a star?” I sat there perplexed, thinking about the possibility of them trading for someone, but it never crossed my mind that they could land Blake Griffin.
And what do you know? A few days later, Griffin is the newest member of the Detroit Pistons. Crazy right?
Yes, the same Blake Griffin that was pegged to be the next superstar in the NBA. It’s crazy to think that he was regarded as such, given how he is viewed today. Years ago, he had the big endorsements, his games were nationally televised, his dunking montage rivaled Shawn Kemp’s and, he had the charisma to fill an arena.
While he is best known for his jaw-dropping dunks, he has several flaws that couldn’t be covered up. Injuries, lack of likeability, and his inconsistent jumper (coupled with the absence of low-post moves) kept him from being one of the top 10 players in the NBA.
In nine years, Griffin has only played one full season. To add insult to injury, he has yet to play over 68 games in the last four seasons. Even when he teamed up with Chris Paul to create “Lob City”, the magic never transpired that was expected of out them. Although they were a part of the best Clippers teams in their history, to a certain extent, they didn’t live up to the expectations. As injuries piled up and the ongoing playoff failures haunted them, their relationship grew stale. By the end of their run, their bond was akin to Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty’s.
Though Blake is not a top 10 player, he is still very, very good. The evolution of the “big man” has blurred many people’s perspective of what makes a good power or stretch forward in this era, but despite the hate, Blake can still play and he continues to add new wrinkles in his game. The five-time All-Star shoots a respectable 34 percent from deep and he does most of his damage from three or in the paint. While the NBA continues to fade away from the mid-range game, Blake has followed suit. His ball-handling skills allow him to take guys off the dribble and his passing skills are vastly underrated. Griffin will become the first Pistons player to average 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists since Grant Hill did over 20 years ago.
After more than a decade of missing on stars through the draft and in free agency, the Pistons get a once perennial All-Star that is still in the prime of his career. Yes, there are concerns with his attitude, injury history, and his battle with the Kardashian/Jenner curse. But Detroit is getting a basketball player that can put people into seats and could alter the landscape of the team. While he isn’t the same version of himself that finished in the top 3 in the MVP race in 2013-2014, he can be more than effective.
Griffin’s career as a Clipper has come to a bitter end, but he can rejuvenate his play on the court and become a major player (again) in Detroit. The Pistons will unleash him, because they don’t have a player of his caliber. Andre Drummond is good, but Griffin is far and away a better player. Detroit is a tough place to win over the fans, and with Blake’s Hollywood-esque mantra, it may be an uneasy start. Blake may have to embody the Detroit culture by sporting a pair of “Buffs” or saying “What up doe” to win them over at the start, but on the court, he has to remind them that he was one of the top five players in the NBA not too long ago.
The No.23 has been a thorn in the Piston’s side, referring to Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but the new No.23 will attempt to bring some life to a dormant franchise. The Blake Griffin experience may not generate immediate success, but for the first time in forever, the Pistons have a star that can put the city and team on his back–or at least try to.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp