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At first blush, Andre Drummond appears to be getting a fellow frontcourt star who boasts three-point range. It seems like a solid fit, essentially allowing Detroit to procure a poor man’s version of the Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins fire-and-ice combo.
Except Griffin’s presence may be problematic for the breakout big. So many of his strides have come from his willingness to handle the ball all over the half-court set and attack a vacated interior without fear of exposing what used to be a weakness at the charity stripe. Now he has a teammate lining up at the 4 who, unlike Tobias Harris, likes to operate from the blocks.
But even more troubling is the usage inevitability.
Drummond’s additional time with the rock is masked by a declining usage rate, falling from 22.4 percent to 21.0 percent this season. But he’s assisted on an additional 12.4 percent of his teammates’ makes while he’s on the floor, and that’s a clear-cut indication that the ball is in his mitts more frequently. Indeed, the center’s half-court touches and minutes of possession per game stand at 43.9 and 2.1, respectively. Last year? A relatively paltry 38.2 and 1.2—the larger gap in the latter stat serving as a giveaway that his role has shifted drastically.
Growing pains are inevitable as he learns how to function aside another playmaking big who’s far more comfortable with the ball in his hands.
A partial tear in his right glute has limited Danilo Gallinari to only 11 games for the Los Angeles Clippers, and he wasn’t particularly impressive while he was on the floor with his new teammates. Before succumbing to the injury imp, he averaged a meager 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists while forgetting how to shoot a basketball. Seriously, his slash line stands at—avert your eyes if you have a squeamish stomach—34.5/25.8/97.2.
Now, to what kind of role will he return?
Let’s first turn to what Erik Olsgaard wrote for Clips Nation immediately after Gallinari came to terms with Los Angeles:
“Despite what certain news outlets felt was a “same old Clippers” move, the fact is the 2017 Clippers, now extremely deep but far less top-heavy, needed a versatile scorer who could be counted on in crunch-time. Though he’s always been injury prone, Gallinari fits the bill and is entering his prime years. Yes, he gives up a lot on defense (particularly as his injuries have piled up), but last year he had his most efficient season since his rookie campaign, and that’s not nothing. He’s a guy who can play both forward positions, legitimately stretches the floor, and figures to fit well next to the rest of the Clippers front-court.”
Hmm…doesn’t that sound awfully similar to how you might describe Tobias Harris? Versatile scorer? Counted on in crunch time? Gives up a lot on defense? Starting to play his best basketball? Plays both forward positions? Stretches the floor?
Checkmarks all around, which could be troubling for the Italian forward as he works his way back from injury and finds a younger version of himself already filling his role.
Detroit Pistons, Despite Getting the Best Player
Frequently in NBA swaps, the team that gets the best player wins. And the Pistons unequivocally acquired the premier contributor in this particular deal, landing the only established star who’s still in the midst of his prime.
Blake Griffin is only 28 years old, and he’s under contract for another four seasons (assuming he picks up a player option for a staggering $39 million in 2021-22). Though injuries have slowed him in 2017-18, he’s been an offensive force with a developing defensive game whenever his body is in working order, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
And yet, the Pistons gave up so much.
Trading Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and a second-round pick for Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed would be just fine. So too would including a heavily protected first-round pick. But the selection is only covered for the first four slots, which means Detroit will almost assuredly be conveying a late lottery pick (or one just outside the top 14) in what’s expected to be a star-studded 2018 NBA draft.
Maybe you’re still willing to pay that premium just for access to Griffin over the duration of his current contract. But depleting the team’s depth isn’t a good way to kick things off.
With Bradley and Harris leaving, the Pistons could be looking at a starting five of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Griffin and Drummond. That’s fine. But the leading backups would be Ish Smith, Langston Galloway, Stanley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver and Eric Moreland.
That’s where things get more troubling, particularly if any key pieces twist an ankle and need a few days off. And with Griffin and Drummond combining to make—pulls out the calculator—a metric boatload of money throughout the next few calendars, building up the supporting cast could make for quite the challenge.
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