Roundtable: Before and After Griffin’s Return, Biggest Fear, and What We are Thankful For

The health of Derrick Rose is something to monitor, and his ability to stay on the court is something to be thankful for this basketball season. (Matt Rourke/AP)

There are plenty of things to nitpick with the Pistons. A poor defense, a lackluster offense, Thon Maker still being on the roster, the list could go on. But today’s roundtable is not here to be overly negative. Tis the season for self-reflection, joy, and thankfulness.

Yeah, I still had to throw a question regarding “fear” in there. Sometimes things are hard to avoid.

The word “tank” or phrases like “blow it up” and “tear it down” are the talk of Pistons Twitter. Should the reset button be mashed? What the team looks like over the next few weeks with Blake Griffin back will help the front office determine where to go from here.

For this roundtable, I asked the guys about the Pistons prior to Griffin’s return, their expectations going forward, what their biggest fear is, and what they are most thankful for – to be festive. You may recognize a new name (or not, if you are a member of the Pistons Twitter scene)…

Q: The Pistons looked pretty different without Griffin patrolling the court asserting himself. What is your assessment of the team during that period in time?

Dustin Schandevel (@D_Schandy24), Staff Writer

“The biggest storyline of the 10 games without Blake was Andre Drummond. Drummond completely hushed the haters and had people tweeting #PayDre as he averaged 21.2 points, 18 boards, 1.5 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game. What was even more impressive was his 70% mark from the free throw line. Since Griffin’s return, though, those averages have dropped to 13 points, 15 boards, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Although it is not surprising that Drummond saw a dip in scoring, he has simply looked different since Griffin’s return. Even in two games that Blake sat out, Drummond only averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds in those contests.”

“The other storyline was that a rebuild may not be so bad in Detroit. If the Pistons decided to re-sign Drummond and move Reggie Jackson and Griffin this year, that early stretch was a good glimpse of what the future of Detroit basketball would look like. Bruce Brown showed offensive flashes and Luke Kennard showed his offensive performance against the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs last aseason was not a fluke. Christian Wood showed that he is more than the last guy on the roster, and Sekou Doumbouya is only 18 years old. I was once against a rebuild, but the first 10 games without Blake Griffin made me feel a little more comfortable with it. It will be a very interesting next three months in Motown.”

Noah Sall (@iamnoahsall), Staff Writer

“What did we really expect? Luke and Andre played very well at varying times, Christian Wood has been a bright spot, and Bruce Brown can play point guard when needed. However, that star factor wasn’t there. The Pistons couldn’t turn to Blake in crunch time, and it showed. Derrick Rose played well in spurts but also made poor decisions late. As we said before the season started, this team is not a playoff team without Blake and it showed.”

Jacob Rogers (@JRogersNBA), Staff Writer

“We’re nearly a quarter of the way into the 2019-20 NBA season and let’s face it, the Pistons have not been good. Detroit has played 12 games without their superstar forward Blake Griffin this season. In those 12 games without Griffin, Detroit has gone 4-8. I would expect the Pistons to still have a losing record in games played without Griffin active. As seen last year, a good amount of Detroit’s offense was predicated on the play of Griffin. In the 12 games played without him this year, a good bunch of Detroit’s offense has looked lost. Sure, Andre Drummond has had monster games, Luke Kennard’s shot the ball well for the most part, and Derrick Rose is getting to the rim. But outside of that, there has not been much on the offensive end for Detroit when Griffin doesn’t play.”

Ashley Gross (@Ash_Ketchum313), Staff Writer

“To be honest, in the beginning, our team didn’t look that bad. Even with the loss of Reggie Jackson with just two games into the new NBA season, I thought that the core of our team looked solid. Drummond was trying to prove himself as a top-tier center by scoring more and being more effective on defense—Derrick Rose was a lightning rod coming off the bench and breathing new life and excitement to the team and having Luke Kennard as his partner in crime only added more fuel of excitement to the fire.”

“But after Jackson went down with a back injury and then with the injury bug attacking Rose and third-string backup point guard Tim Frazier, the Pistons were rail thin at the 1-spot. This forced the team to rearrange their rotation and bring players like Kennard and Galloway, players who were tailor-made for bench rotation and provided them with starter minutes, but also sapping away some of the scoring prowess the bench had.”

“In their win against Brooklyn back in early November, I’ve never seen a team hand off the role of point guard duties to multiple players in a game. They looked as if they were a JV high school basketball team that just lost their only point guard. They had to rely on other players to help chip in to just bring the ball up the court.”

“Without Griffin or Jackson helping orchestrate the offense, the team becomes stagnant and no one seems able to create a shot for others or himself (outside of Derrick Rose). When Griffin is feeling…well…like GRIFFIN, the ball is in constant motion and he is continuously looking for open teammates or ways for him to score. The Pistons will need the help of Griffin sooner than later if they plan on seeing any parts of a 2020 Playoff spot.”

Q: Now that Blake Griffin is back, what are your expectations for the rest of the season?

DS: “If Blake was 100% healthy, my expectations would be a second straight playoff berth with a celing of the five seed. After watching him return, I am not so sure we will get to see last year’s version of Blake again. Granted, it could easily be a conditioning issue as he continues to get back into the NBA groove, but there have been noticeable moments of him favoring his left leg. The expectations also change some since the team has been missing their starting point guard in Jackson and have already dealt with Derrick Rose missing multiple games. If this team was 100% right now, there is no reason to think they could not reach the playoffs and win a few games. Now, it may be in the Pistons’ best interest to ship Griffin out for some value if he can string together a streak of good games. His window may be closing quicker than some anticipated.”

NS: “If Blake can return to 100% or even 90% of what we had last season, I expect this team to be a slightly above .500 team. The Pistons have already dug themselves a little hole to start the season and definitely need a healthy Blake to help pull them above .500. I expect Detroit to make some kind of deal to give the team a sense of direction. Tom Gores has made it clear that he wants this squad in the playoffs and if we have a healthy Blake, I expect the Pistons to flip Langston Galloway for an asset and make a buying move for a playoff push.”

JR: “On the flip side, when Griffin has played, Detroit has been just as bad, partly because Blake hasn’t looked fully healthy. The Pistons are 2-3 in games that Griffin has played, being having a point differential of -4. However, Griffin looked a lot better in a 128-103 win against the Atlanta Hawks. In this game, Griffin had 24 points on 9-16 shooting and seemed to have some of his lift back. He followed that up with an efficient 17 point performance, finally looking healthy again. If this version of Griffin, the one we all know and love, continues to play like this, I see no reason why Detroit can’t get back to playing a .500 record by mid-December.”

AG: “From what I’ve seen from the team in the few games that they have played with Griffin—he looks to be a bit rusty. I don’t know if it is from the lack of playing basketball and being in game shape, or him trying to get himself back into a rhythm offensively…or are we now witnessing the naturally and steady decline of Blake Griffin? To me, he appears to be a player that might have lost a step athletically from suffering multiple injuries, but a player whose skills are all still intact:

“Say whatever you want, Griffin is still an impact player in this league. The key is now just keep him healthy and rested. His presence from being on the court alone, will still make teams have to game-plan on how they can try to stop him.”

“With him back in the fold for the team, their overall performances should start to tick upward and be more focused and consistent as a unit. Their play as of late has been viewed at times as sloppy, uninspired and unfocused. Griffin also brings a certain level of accountability for himself and his teammates in order to assure a victory works into their favor.”

It it unlikely the Pistons will retian Reggie Jackson beyond this year, but watching him walk for nothing would certainly be disappointing. (Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports)

Q: So we know that losing Griffin for the year would be the most scary thing for the Pistons, as it kills their playoff chances AND ability to ship him out of town for a decent return. Aside from that, what is your biggest fear with the team right now?

DS: “The biggest fear has to be that the organization loses Reggie and Andre for absolutely nothing, right? The argument is there that the team would need those pieces to compete for a playoff spot, but the team will have to make a tough decision before the trade deadline. If the team is floating around .500 and Griffin has shown he can stay on the floor, the best course of action may be to get as much value on those three pieces and as possible and focus on the future. Drummond will probably want more money than Detroit will offer, and we know that there is close to zero interest from the front office in bringing Reggie back. The biggest fear is that the front office truly holds the future of this organization in their hands – what will they do with each?”

NS: “That Tom Gores forces the front office to make a future-compromising move. We all know this team is a 5(?)-9 seed in the Eastern Conference. Cap space is coming with Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway, maybe Andre Drummond, and yes Josh Smith coming off the books. The Grand Rapids Drive have shown that the Pistons do have promising young talent that we could see in the Motor City soon. It would be painful to lose sight of that and ship out that young talent and/or picks for another cap-heavy asset.”

JR: “My biggest fear for the rest of the season is none of our young guys developing. I know I could have said that I was fearful of a Derrick Rose or Andre Drummond injury, but it’s basketball and injuries are something we must always be mindful of. As far as the young guys developing, the Pistons have never done a good job of developing young guys (i.e. Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Henry Ellenson, etc). We have started to see growth in Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown, but we have three really talented guys currently in G-League, including first-rounder draft pick Sekou Doumbouya, who have shown some promise in Grand Rapids. I’m fearful that if the Pistons season goes downhill quickly, we won’t see those young guys in Detroit uniforms, and if we do, they won’t have any valuable minutes. The best NBA teams these days have a lot of homegrown talent on their rosters; something Detroit doesn’t have. With an average age of 25.7, Detroit has some young guys that could really help us down the road.”

AG: “With the Pistons already suffering with the lack of depth at the point guard position, they cannot take a lose to their most vital asset outside of Griffin, and to me that is Derrick Rose. I’ve been saying it for a while, but I think that if it wasn’t for Derrick Rose, Detroit would be dead in the water at this point in the season and would probably still be sinking.”

“He has been the spark plug that keeps surging the team to the few victories that they have accumulated. Whenever he comes off the bench and stands by the scorer’s table as he patiently waits to enter the game, the crowd (whether it’s an away game or home game) erupts into a frenzy of excitement and admiration for his legacy as a player…and Rose rarely disappoints.”

“Even at 31-years old, Rose still has quickness and speed that is almost unfair for any opponent to match. He is already averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game, in only 24 minutes of play.”

“THAT’S PRETTY DAMN IMPRESSIVE! I can only imagine what would happen if he received over 30 minutes a night.”

“But Rose has a lengthy track record of injuries and the Pistons medical and coaching staff is trying to be smart in how they utilize his availability to play—which means when they feel the need to, they will rest him some games or place him on minute restrictions.”

“But if he were to (God forbid) severely get hurt, the Pistons would lose one of, if not at times, their best player. So as much as it may suck sometimes to see Rose play in only so many games and under a certain level of minutes allowed to play—I would much rather have a healthy Derrick Rose, than no Rose at all.”

Q: Thanksgiving is right around the corner, a time to take stock of the important things in life. I know you all care about your families, significant others, or jobs. But what are you thankful for from a basketball perspective?

DS: “I am thanful for a new sense of competition in the NBA. The Warriors fell of the throne and the league is exciting again. The devestating amount of early-season injuries has put a dark cloud over the first two months, but it has been entertining to watch new-look teams gel and young stars continue to rise (Luka Doncic, baby). As a lover of all things NBA basketball, it is nice to see the league be a little unpredictable again. Although I think one of the Los Angeles teams will make it to the Finals, it is refreshing to not already know in November that the Warriors would face a lesser Eastern Conference opponent in June.”

“Ask me in April if I am thankful for the Pistons. You can probably just mark me down for “no””.

NS: “I am thankful that Dwane Casey is finally realizing what Pistons Twitter has been screaming. Christian Wood>>>>>>Thon and Luke Kennard needs to shoot the rock more.”

JR: “I’m thankful for the Detroit Pistons organization. I know that this team is in an awkward position of whether or not to push for the playoffs or rebuild, but the Pistons stand for the city of Detroit. The organization does a lot for the city, i.e. rebuild parks, put in basketball courts, etc. I just appreciate and respect everything the organization does and I hope they continue to give back.”

AG: “Basketball wise—I’m thankful for the future of this team with the group of young talent that they are currently developing. Sekou Doumbouya, Louis King and Jordan Bone are players, whom games I enjoy watching. I think Doumbouya can be the next Greek Freak or Pascal Siakiam. King has Khris Middleton potential, as his ceiling for his ability as a shooter and a scorer. Jordan Bone has the athleticism and skillset to become a solid point guard in this league, in the same comparison as Terry Rozier. 

“With patience, I think Detroit will finally be able to reap the benefits that they are sowing with this group of players. Not to even mention they still have Kennard and Bruce Brown also.”

“So even though we might be on panic mode at this current time with the direction of the team—I believe that the future is bright!”

(Featured image by Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports)