POP 2019-2020 Season Preview: Be Cautious with Blake Griffin

Image: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Last season you could say that the 2018-2019 season was the year of the resurgence of Detroit Pistons star forward, Blake Griffin. He displayed again why he is one of the top power forwards in the league. To say he “carried” the Pistons to NBA Playoffs would almost be an understatement. Let’s be honest, without Blake Griffin, the Pistons don’t make it to the postseason – but I’m sure you already knew that. He became an All-Star for the sixth time in his career and led the Pistons in points (24.5) and assist (5.4) upon entering the playoffs. But as the regular season was winding down, Blake sustained a knee injury, missing out on 4 regular-season games and missing two playoff games against the Milwaukee Bucks. With Griffin expected to miss the first 5 games to start the regular season – Dwane Casey is changing his approach to how much he utilizes Griffin throughout the 2019-20 season.

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Image: Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

Blake Griffin is the star franchise-player for the Pistons and the team’s overall success is predicated on how far he can carry the team with his blend of scoring and playmaking. But Griffin isn’t the spring-chicken that he was earlier in his career as injuries have sapped some of his elite athleticism. After Detroit was swept in the postseason by Milwaukee, Piston Head Coach Dwane Casey felt that some changes needed to be made when it concerned the health of the team’s best player. During training camp, Casey stated that he plans on putting Blake Griffin on some load-management restrictions. Casey explained his reasoning an interview with the Detroit Free Press:

“We rode him like a cheap horse last year. If we didn’t, I don’t think we would have made the playoffs because he was that special to us.”

Even Griffin’s health factored into the players the Pistons targeted during free agency.

“With the additions of some other talented guys on our team, hopefully we don’t have to use him as much. I’m not going to put that in concrete but I have to be smarter as far as the usage because he takes a beating.”

With the additions of Markieff Morris and Christian Wood and the return of Thon Maker, this could allow Blake Griffin to take longer breathers on the bench and not be required to play 35-plus minutes on a nightly basis.

As Griffin continues to naturally age in his career, 30, and with his history of multiple injuries, it would be in his best interest to take a few games off to help preserve his health. The situation is similar to what the Toronto Raptors did last year with Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors only played 60 games last season, and the team did this to keep him fresh as he was still recovering from an ankle injury he sustained when he played with the San Antonio Spurs, before being traded to Toronto. The idea of load-managing Leonard to so many games, is probably why the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championship. By not asking him to play in all 82 games, Leonard started the postseason refreshed and energized to exert all his conserved energy into helping the Raptors get a championship.

Maybe…hopefully, the same method can help the Pistons as they attempt to reach the playoffs for a consecutive season and this time go deeper than just the first round. This time with a fresh and rejuvenated Blake Griffin leading the charge.

Griffin will miss the first few weeks of the season with knee and hamstring soreness, but the Pistons are taking the right approach with him. Be cautious, always. 

Featured Image: David Banks/USA TODAY Sports