With Blake Griffin Down, It’s Time to See if the Pistons are For Real

With Blake Grifin out to begin the season, we will quickly learn how good the Pistons really are. Image: Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

News struck on Tuesday evening that Blake Griffin would miss the first week of the regular season, which starts on Wednesday for Detroit against the Indiana Pacers, and would not be re-evaluated until the first week of November. Griffin had appeared in just two preseason games for the Pistons as he had been dealing with left hamstring soreness. He had arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee at the beginning of the offseason. In a medical update from the Detroit Pistons, the team said Griffin would not travel to Indiana due to left hamstring and posterior knee soreness. 

So rather quickly this season, we’ll find out everything we need to know about the Pistons. They went into July of 2019 having to find an answer to a rather tough question, given their financial situation. How can we (the Pistons) improve our team for the next season while lessening the burden from Blake Griffin who was worn down by April? 

With little cap space, the process began. And if you ask Ed Stefanski, Dwane Casey, or any other member of the front office, they’ll tell you that the offseason was a success. 

When talking at Media Day, a little less than a month ago, Stefanski said, “I think it (the roster) has gotten considerably better.” 

We will see how just how much of a success it is tomorrow. 

Did they improve the roster enough to win games without Blake Griffin? 

They’ll be facing a team that was able to win with their superstar out on the mend, as Indiana maintained the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference last season even after Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending quad injury in January. He’ll be out tomorrow for the Pacers, as Griffin will for Detroit.

The burden for Griffin came mostly on the offensive end last season. He led the team in usage, field goal attempts, free throw attempts, points per game, and assists per game. He was fourth on the team in games played. He simply had to do way too much last season and when he went down at the end of the year there was little shock. 

The start of this season will be a test not only for the players, but for the front office as well. Opportunities will be plentiful. Markieff Morris, Christian Wood, and Thon Maker should all see an uptick in minutes with Griffin off the court. Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, Luke Kennard, and Tony Snell will be shouldered with the pressure of leading the offense for a full 48 minutes. There is no Blake Griffin to rely upon to put his head down and get a bucket when the offense goes stagnant for a full quarter’s length as it did at times last season. 

It seems likely that Markieff Morris will be tabbed as the opening night starter, if he’s even able to play himself. Morris is questionable to play tomorrow with low back tightness. He played 58 games last season, spending time with both the Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder, but missed time with various injuries. He had his least productive season in years in nearly every facet. Morris has a chance to rebound with Detroit. His brother, Marcus, catapulted his career with the Pistons when he was traded by the Phoenix Suns. While Morris is past the time to do that, he can show that he is still an effective player and an offensive weapon. 

Along with adding Morris, the Pistons added Derrick Rose, who, while he is no longer an elite player, still averaged 18 points per game last season and draws the defense’s attention. Tony Snell is a career 38% 3-point shooter and is the most talented small forward the Pistons have had on the roster since the first Morris brother. 

But Rose is bound to miss around 20 games per season. There’s a reason he signed to play in Detroit and will make less than $8 million a year. He is a good addition, who gives the Pistons a nice change of pace from Reggie Jackson, but he doesn’t solve the whole problem. Snell has never averaged more than 8.5 points per game in a season, and cannot be relied upon to be much more than a catch-and-shoot 3-point threat. 

Christian Wood, who earned Detroit’s final roster spot after an extremely productive preseason, could benefit the most from Griffin’s injury. If Morris can’t go, then Wood should be slated to start unless the Pistons go small. He was another addition by Stefanski, as a safety valve to the frontline should injuries occur or if Thon Maker wasn’t playing well. Wood has looked the part before, but he still had to fight his way onto Detroit’s roster. He’ll have to look the part once more. 

The Pistons have certainly added help, but is it enough? 

And while certainly mainstays in Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond are expected to be the catalysts of the team in Griffin’s absence, they will surely need a great deal of help.

To say the Pistons will be just fine without Griffin for the first few weeks of the season would be just as foolish as the idea that Detroit should call the season before it even begins. If the Pistons can’t survive without Griffin for less than a month than the team should have been torn apart in the offseason. If the team’s success soley relies on Griffin, then this team isn’t good enough to even try to compete anyways. Griffin going down certainly impacts the team negatively, there is no doubt. He is the team’s best player by far. He is a proven star. Not having him on the court will hurt. 

But the front office prepared for this exact situation over the past three months. Didn’t they? 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

Featured Image: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports