(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
8. Detroit Pistons: Over 37.5 wins
2017-18 record: 39-43
Newcomers: SF Glenn Robinson III, PG Jose Calderon, C Zaza Pachulia
Losses: PF Anthony Tolliver, SF James Ennis
New Pistons coach Dwane Casey announced a goal for the upcoming season shortly after he took the job in Detroit: he wants five-time All-Star Blake Griffin to be the NBA’s best-passing power forward.
Griffin is, at worst, not far off from that already. Former Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy quickly turned to Griffin as a facilitator after trading for him midway through last season. It makes sense. Even when Griffin was the league’s premier aviator, he was at his best in a distributing role. After all, an injury to his former point guard, Chris Paul, is what turned him into a lead option in 2014, when he climbed to third in MVP voting.
Van Gundy encouraged Griffin to lead the break, find the sometimes lacking shooters lining Detroit’s perimeter, simplify from the elbow. He’s one of the few “conventional” bigs who can run pick-and-roll. It’s a reason he was always able to make it work next to rim-diving center DeAndre Jordan, who shares offensive similarities with Detroit’s Andre Drummond — except Drummond can post up more and is a far superior passer.
Griffin would be better with shooters around him, and he’s never been in a perfect situation to show off his offensive skill, but it had also been too long since he was in a leading offensive role. If he can stay healthy and slightly bump up from his least efficient scoring season, he’s good enough to help Detroit feast on the weak, East teams and reach .500.