How does radical Pistons shakeup affect Raptors?

HONOLULU, HI - OCTOBER 1: Blake Griffin
HONOLULU, HI - OCTOBER 1: Blake Griffin /

Blake Griffin is now a Piston. How does his presence, and traded players’ absence, change the matchups between Detroit and the Raptors?

Everyone and his dog Spot is weighing in on the monster trade between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers. The valuable Basketball Intelligence folks have consolidated the best thoughts, and here’s the link.

Now it’s time for Yours Truly to weigh in. My concern surrounds how the Toronto Raptors will cope with the radically revamped Pistons in the three games remaining between the two this season. (The Clippers visit the Air Canada Centre in late March, but we’ll leave them out of this dialogue until it’s time for our Preview on game day.)

HONOLULU, HI – OCTOBER 4: Blake Griffin
HONOLULU, HI – OCTOBER 4: Blake Griffin /

The acquisition of Blake Griffin gives Detroit a powerful 1-2 punch in the frontcourt. Paired with Andre Drummond, they should be able to own the glass in almost every matchup. Jonas Valanciunas is automatically the Raptors’ most important player when we face the Pistons. Serge Ibaka, who’s been caught for some silly fouls recently, will have to keep his pettiness under control and play major minutes.

Blake Griffin up close

Griffin is a scary proposition on offense. He has all the tools a modern power forward needs, and in bright colours. He can back you down in the low block, posterize anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way with a nasty dunk, or step outside to hit long jumpers. His range extends to past the 3-point arc.

Defensively, Griffin has never struck me as much more than competent. His defensive rebounding and shot blocking numbers for his career are mediocre, particularly when one considers his physical gifts. He checks in at a well-proportioned 6’10” and 250 lbs. (that’s 208 cm., 156 kg. for the rest of the world). Griffin has been victimized by injuries throughout his career, including this season, in which he’s played only 33 games. His latest knee injury may have been the final straw for Clippers management. A net rating of 0.9, the lowest since his rookie season, surely didn’t boost their confidence in him long term.

The Pistons paid a hefty prize for their new power forward. They surrendered Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris, a pair of versatile veteran swingmen, and giant backup center Boban Marjanovic. Last night was their first game without these people, and they managed a win over Cleveland. Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson and Ish Smith played significant minutes. They will miss Bradley and Harris a great deal.

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Bottom line it, Brian!

That’s the key point for me. The Pistons have lost speed and skill on the perimeter, without anyone looking capable of stepping in to fill the gap. Their last two high draft picks, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard, rarely see the floor. As a result, their roster is eight deep, no more.

Griffin at his best is a game-changer, a 5-time All-Star. At his worst, he’s a defensive liability, or in street clothes. Which iteration will show up in Detroit more often?

The Raptors’ first meeting with the new & improved(?) Pistons tips off at the end of February. I believe our front court can hold theirs to a draw, and our wings and depth will tip the balance in Toronto’s favour.