Blake Griffin trade a win for Pistons

The Los Angeles Clippers visited the Detroit Pistons last night, marking Blake Griffin’s first matchup against his former team since being traded Jan. 29.

After last night’s 108-95 loss to the Clippers, the Pistons are 4-1 since Blake arrived in Detroit.

When the trade first happened, it caught everyone by surprise.

The Clippers had just signed Blake to a 5-year, $173 million extension and sold him on being Mr. Clipper for the rest of his NBA career.

During their pitch to Blake - one of the stupid free agent pitches in NBA history - they put him on t-shirt with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in addition to fake retiring his jersey.

Several months later it was all gone and Blake made the move no one in their late 20s is trying to make – moving from L.A. to Detroit.

The trade was weird on the Pistons end as well. When Blake arrived, the Pistons were 23-26 and it seemed they were heading for a lottery spot.

For the past few years Detroit has been a team in the middle of the pack and multiple NBA media members have suggested Detroit blow it up and try rebuilding again.

Why would they bring in a player who, although he is a star, has injury issues and will cost them approximately $34.6 million per year for the next five years?

The truth is, Detroit was never getting a star of Griffin’s caliber in free agency. No one is voluntarily living in Detroit when you can move to far better NBA cities (no offense Detroit.)

With this deal, the Pistons have a top-25 player locked up for the next four seasons after 2018 and, so far, he’s had an immediate positive effect on the team.

Let’s a look at a few plays from the Pistons’ 111-91 blowout of the Portland Trailblazers.

Early in the game Blake showed off his playmaking with a half-court alley-oop pass on the money to Andre Drummond.

The package the Pistons sent back to the Clippers - Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first round pick and a 2019 second-round pick  - included no one with the playmaking abilities Blake possess.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons eventually try lineups where Blake is the primary ball-handler and they space the floor with shooters like Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Anthony Tolliver.

Speaking of spacing the floor, on this play, Blake is doubled in the post and makes a pass to Bullock, a 45 percent three-point shooter, so he can knock down an open jumper from beyond the arc.

Prior to the trade, the Pistons didn’t have anyone like Blake who commanded the respect of a double team in the post and had the ability to make smart passes out of the post.

Andre Drummond is an excellent passer but he still has a ways to go in his post game before teams feel the need to double him like they do Blake.

Then there’s the part of Blake’s game he added at the start of the season - the three point shot.

Blake had always been a serviceable mid-range shooter. According to Cleaning the Glass, he shot 41 percent from mid-range last year, which was about league average, and about 35 percent from three.

Coming into last night’s game he was shooting 34 percent from three. Although that’s one percent lower than last season, he’s shooting way more threes this season, taking about 28 percent of all his shots from three this year as opposed to about 10 percent last year.

If Blake can be a floor spacer, it makes his pairing on the court with Drummond even better than advertised because both of them aren’t clogging the lane.

By the way, Blake’s presence seems to be helping Drummond’s overall game.

Since Blake’s arrival, Andre Drummond is averaging 16.6 points per game and 19.2 rebounds per game, according to ESPN.com.

To Dre’s credit, he had a streak of good games at the end of January before Blake’s arrival. However, when you have a new star who can help carry the load it energizes the players around that star.

Plays like that half court alley-oop will make Drummond’s life much easier and keep him more engaged on defense.

The Pistons have arguably the best front court in the Eastern Conference and enter every night with a chance to punish teams in the paint and on the boards.

If Blake can stay healthy, he and Drummond - both all-star level players - could help the Pistons make some noise in the East.

Let’s just hope when Reggie Jackson returns – who we know loves to dominate the ball - things continue to run as smoothly as it has during the four-game winning streak.

Oh, I should add the trade seems to be working out for the Clippers too. They’re currently 28-25, the seventh seed in the West, and all-star caliber guard Lou Williams just signed a three-year extension.

This may be one of those trades that turns out to be a win-win for everyone.