Blake Griffin refused to be left behind by the ever-changing NBA. He refused to be left behind as a traditional power forward, a player who would stay in the paint area, seldomly handle the basketball, and shoot a 3-pointer. He refused to become a relic.
He was the focal point of the Pistons’ offense. He handled the ball more than ever before, averaged a career-high seven 3-point attempts per game, and in turn, benefited with a career-best season. His 2018-2019 campaign saw him return to the All-Star Game for the sixth time in his career. He posted near MVP level numbers while leading the Detroit Pistons back to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2016. The first full season of the Blake Griffin Era was a success for both he and his team.
Griffin appeared in 75 games this season, the most since he played 80 games in the 2013-2014 season. That fear alone was rather meaningful for Griffin, who had set out of the beginning of the year to quiet the notion that he was an injury prone, declining superstar. He also played 35 minutes per game, the most he has averaged since the 2014-2015 season when he played 35.2 minutes per game. He boasted the highest usage percentage of his career, 30.2 percent, this season. Safe to say, Griffin emphatically shut down the talk of him being prone to missing games, while having more responsibility on the court than he has ever had before.
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Scoring wise, Griffin displayed a transformed offensive repertoire. Backed by the previously mentioned newfound shooting stroke, he averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game. He shot 36.2% from behind the arc, and had a 58.1% true shooting percentage, second best in his career, a remarkable accomplishment considering his shot distribution from around the court.
If they weren’t more impressive than his display of scoring ability throughout the year, Griffin’s playmaking tendencies were equally impressive. He led the Pistons in assists per game, averaging 5.4. Detroit ran their offense directly through Griffin at times, using him in pick and rolls with Andre Drummond, or a dribble-handoff two-man game with a multitude of Piston wings including Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, and Wayne Ellington.
There were plenty of memorable moments from his first full season with the Pistons. You may not need to look past the third game of the season for the top moment, as he hung 50 points on the Philadelphia 76ers, including the game-winner to cap off the night. He scored 26 and 33 points respectively in the Pistons first two games, phenomenal night’s in their own rights, but the 50-point bomb was special. Even with Detroit already being 2-0, that night was a sincere look at the warrior the Griffin was, and just how important he would be to Detroit’s success.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, Griffin was dealing with a left knee injury, one that he’s already had an offseason procedure on, but was able to play in Game 3 and Game 4 of Detroit’s series against Milwaukee. He scored 27 points and added seven rebounds and six assists in Game 3, while scoring 22 in Game 4.
After drawing the Bucks first round, the Pistons odds were long to do any damage in the 2019 playoffs. Sure enough, they were swiftly eliminated. But Griffin led the Pistons back to the postseason, and this season was a precursor of what is to come for Detroit. They are expected to improve, and be more than a sweep in the opening round of the playoffs.
The season Griffin has is deserving of All-NBA consideration. He’s more likely to make the All-NBA second or third team, as he will have to compete against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and other elite forwards for a spot on one of the three teams.
Griffin is the exact type of star the Pistons have dreamed about. He’s a workhorse with intoxicating leadership abilities. A rather young Detroit team did their best to mimic Griffin and followed his lead throughout the year. When he got on the ground to fight for a loose ball, they got on the ground to fight for a loose ball. When he took a charge, which he finished second in the league in this season only behind Ersan Ilyasova, they took a charge.
The brain trust of the Pistons are hoping Griffin’s work ethic in the offseason travels like the rest of his leadership qualities did. As a team with little wiggle room cap wise, they’ll need their young pieces such as Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, and Thon Maker to show significant signs of growth next year after a summer of development.
It’s only logical that the Pistons will continue to build around Blake Griffin, and after the 2018-2019 season that he had, they should be. He’s a superstar that has embraced the city of Detroit, and in return, the fans have embraced him back. Blake Griffin dispelled the rising whispers that he was no longer the player he once was and his best days were behind him. Next season, the revenge tour will continue for the thick-bearded, 3-point shooting, power forward, who dunked his way through the league for the first eight seasons of his career.
Featured Image: David Banks/USA Today Sports
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