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NBA

What Blake Griffin’s return means for the Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons have gotten off to a 4-6 start this season, which is basically what everyone has expected from the Pistons for the last decade. Good enough to contend for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference, but not good enough to actually do anything of significance.

But you have to admit that Detroit’s performance over the first 10 games of the 2019-20 campaign has been somewhat admirable considering it has been without Blake Griffin the entire time.

Well, Griffin’s absence will end on Monday, as the All-Star big man says he will be returning from his knee/hamstring issue when the Pistons take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Griffin’s knee injury surfaced at the end of last season, limiting him to just two games in the playoffs and resulting in the 30-year-old undergoing offseason surgery to repair the problem.

Now, the former phenom is ready to retake the floor.

So, what does this mean for Detroit exactly?

Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, not too much.

Griffin is a terrific player and is probably even underrated at this point of his career. He had an outstanding season last year and has developed into one of the most versatile offensive threats in basketball.

The problem is the Pistons just aren’t good enough in general to make Griffin’s return count for anything more than another weak playoff push that could ultimately result in the seventh or eighth seed in what is a terrible conference.

Don’t get me wrong: Griffin will unquestionably make Detroit better, as he remains one of the best bigs in the NBA. But that means the Pistons could win 35-40 games rather than 25-30.

While that is a big difference from a numbers perspective, it doesn’t make much of a dent in the league as a whole.

There are at least five teams in the East better than the Pistons, and that’s a conservative estimate. Realistically, there are probably seven clubs that are superior to Detroit, and that’s with a healthy Griffin.

But this has been the Pistons ever since their run of six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances from 2003 through 2008 came to a close.

They have been a bad franchise, to say the least. They have handed out bad contracts, they haven’t made the most out of their draft picks and they have been the poster child for treadmill teams everywhere.

Even their trade for Griffin midway through the 2017-18 campaign was puzzling, as they decided to take on the massive contract of an injury-prone player even though they clearly were not even remotely in contention in the East.

To be fair, Griffin will give the Pistons one of the most formidable frontlines in the NBA, as Andre Drummond has been playing like an MVP candidate thus far. Given that Drummond is in a contract year, he might not slow down.

But Detroit is lacking pretty much everywhere else.

The Pistons have limited shooting, poor guard play and no bench.

This is not a good basketball team, and not even a healthy Blake Griffin will save it.