Blake Griffin’s Pistons: Is their success sustainable?

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 3: Andre Drummond
DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 3: Andre Drummond /

The Detroit Pistons have recaptured it’s success from early this season. That early success ran out. With the acquisition of Blake Griffin can it last?

Exciting Basketball.

Draining Threes.

Defensive Intensity.

Winning Games.

This is the Detroit Pistons. This is Detroit Basketball. Or at least it was, at the beginning of this season. And it seems to be again in the seven games since the blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for superstar Blake Griffin.

The quality of basketball, and the excitement among Pistons fandom at the beginning of the season was sparked by, in my opinion, the defense of Avery Bradley.

The Pistons, however, hit a rough patch of games in the beginning of December and then lost their starting point guard, Reggie Jackson, to injury on December 26th.

The Pistons’ struggles culminated in an eight game losing streak that ended with the trade of two starters, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris, for Blake Griffin.

The basketball they played at the beginning of the season ultimately proved to be unsustainable.

With that being said,  is the Pistons current short-term success with Griffin (five wins, two losses since the trade) sustainable?

In short, yes.

Or at least, it could be.

To me, the success the Pistons enjoyed at the beginning of the season was brought about by three main factors.

  • Avery Bradley as an infectious defensive spark. That defensive intensity though faded after a rough stretch of games.
  • Tobias Harris was playing above his head, offensively. He was draining threes, and everything was clicking. Once he leveled out though nobody else could pick up the slack.
  • The rise of Andre Drummond. Simply put, Drummond started making free throws and that opened up the game for him as an individual, and the team as a whole.

The Pistons have lost two of those three factors. But there are some some reasons to believe that this current stretch of success is sustainable.

  • Blake Griffin has superstar aura. Whether or not you agree that Griffin is a superstar the referees seem to treat him as one, and so do opposing defenses. And to be honest, he’s been playing like one so far in a Pistons uniform.
  • Reggie Bullock is becoming a great shooter. His confidence is soaring and he has more room to work, thanks to Blake Griffin. I think his shooting is sustainable, because he rarely ever forces a shot.
  • Stanley Johnson is in attack mode. Whether it’s from Blake Griffin’s buzz, knowing he won’t be benched, or a a change in how Stan Van Gundy is utilizing him, Johnson is playing much more aggressively than before. He isn’t necessarily an above the rim player, but having him driving to the basket creates opportunities for himself and his teammates.
  • Andre Drummond is taking another giant step. The all-star snub seemed to drive him to be more aggressive. The Blake Griffin trade alleviated the pressure of having to carry the team, and Griffin’s play and presence made it that much easier.
  • Added depth. At the trade deadline the Pistons took the throw-ins from the Blake Griffin deal, WIllie Reed and Brice Johnson and turned them into Jameer Nelson (from the Chicago Bulls) and James Ennis (from the Memphis Grizzlies). The added shooting that these two bring should help keep the offense running when the starters get tired or the offense bogs down, as it did in the fourth quarter of loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

Next: Where will the Detroit Pistons rank at seasons end?

Of course I drink the blue and red Motor City kool-aid, and I don’t think I’ve seen enough of these new look Pistons to predict just how far Blake Griffin can take the team, but ultimately I think this level of basketball and success that has come with it is sustainable.

What do you think?