The Detroit Pistons have acquired a legitimate star in power forward Blake Griffin, yet it wasn’t the right time for the franchise to do so.
Before acquiring Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 2019 second-round pick on January 29, the Pistons had lost eight games in a row, and looked more likely to press the restart button than to go all in on winning now.
Some Detroit fans wanted to see team president and head coach Stan Van Gundy go, while others, at least, wanted to see Van Gundy start to trade off players.
Staying stagnant would not have been acceptable for the Pistons.
Bradley, with his expiring contract, had to be moved, and others could have been dealt as well in order to start rebuilding.
Pistons fans surely would have embraced a full-on rebuild since the team isn’t going anywhere this season. At best, it looks like, even with Griffin, the Pistons will finish with the eighth seed.
And what does that guarantee you? Nothing more than a first-round exit. That’s not going to get any Pistons fan excited on a Monday morning at this juncture.
What could have been exciting for Detroit fans, though, is tanking, so that the Pistons can eventually acquire Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons-type players through the NBA Draft.
Yes, I am fully embracing the Philadelphia 76ers “Trust the Process” movement, although the Sixers have hovered around .500 all season long.
Embiid, as a 23-year-old, is averaging 20-plus points per game and 10-plus rebounds per game, and was just named to his first All-Star Game.
I know Pistons two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond is only a year older. However, remember that while he’s in the midst of averaging 13-plus rebounds a game for a fifth consecutive season, he’s never averaged 20 points a game.
In fact, he has never averaged more than 16.2 points a game, which came during his first All-Star campaign in 2015-16.
Drummond appears to have hit his ceiling, and shouldn’t be expected to drastically improve offensively moving forward. Embiid, in stark contrast, has already become a dominant offensive force, and should be expected to keep improving.
Pistons fans surely would have embraced a full-on rebuild since the team isn’t going anywhere this season. At best, it looks like, even with Griffin, the Pistons will finish with the eighth seed. Click To TweetThat’s the difference between picking No. 3 in the draft — where Embiid was taken in the 2014 draft — and No. 9 in the draft — where “Dre” was taken in the 2012 draft.
And the way in which you can start picking in the top three of the draft consistently is by tanking.
The Pistons have gone completely in the opposite direction by acquiring a five-time All-Star in Griffin.
So, why would Van Gundy & Co. add to the team instead of beginning to tear it down?
Two words: Job security.
Van Gundy’s five-year contract with the Pistons expires at the conclusion of next season.
Tearing it down in Motown, which would consist of dealing guys like Drummond and Reggie Jackson, out until after the All-Star break with a sprained right ankle, would lead to a lot more losing than winning in the foreseeable future.
And if Pistons owner Tom Gores delivered a mandate to Van Gundy to turn things around quickly, tanking clearly would not have been the way of doing so.
The fans also already haven’t been showing up in large numbers to watch the Pistons play at Little Caesars Arena. And Stan Van realized the fans have been hard to come by.
Making moves involving Drummond and Jackson for draft picks and expiring contracts would have led to even more empty seats at the Pistons’ new home arena.
Yet, he made quite an unpopular decision in dealing for an individual that could easily be termed “Mr. Hollywood.”
Heck, Griffin’s a man that has done stand-up comedy, has done a skit on the ESPYs with musical artist Drake and is dating model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner.
Yet, Detroit fans don’t care much about any of that or his high-flying ability on the court.
Detroit’s a blue-collar town that doesn’t care about all the glitz and glamour that L.A. and its stars bring with them.
And over and above that, he’ll never be fully embraced in Motown because Stan Van should have pursued the start of a long-term rebuild.
Next season, the best-case scenario for the Pistons, equipped with Griffin, is likely grabbing a fifth or sixth seed.
That doesn’t make the Pistons title contenders, let alone Eastern Conference title contenders.
Griffin’s fun and exciting, and will provide fans with plenty of highlight dunks.
However, he’s not the right fit for this Pistons team that should be moving on from players like Griffin and embracing tanking.