Portland at Detroit
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: DET -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Detroit Pistons recently acquired star forward Blake Griffin from the L.A. Clippers to pair with dominant center Andre Drummond. Whether or not this drastically improves Detroit’s plight is debatable, the trade did cost them Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley, two of the team’s most consistent producers all season. Notwithstanding, the Pistons are 2.5 point favorites at home against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers in the first of two games on NBA TV Monday night.
Detroit has gone 2-0 since interjecting Griffin into its lineup. Griffin had 24 points, five assists and 10 rebounds in the 104-102 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, as all Pistons starters scored in double-figures. Griffin followed that up with 16 points, seven assists and nine rebounds in a 111-107 victory over the Miami Heat. It may be that we see Griffin even more-utilized as a point-forward by head coach Stan Van Gundy. In parting with Bradley and Harris, the team gave up two of its best perimeter scorers, and the attack for Detroit has to change with Griffin in the mix.
Griffin has averaged 22.5 points, 5.5 assists and eight rebounds in 34 minutes a night this season, but his role could be bigger still as the No. 1 option on a competitive Pistons team. Drummond has already revolutionized his passing this season, and to see Griffin tally more than six assists the rest of the season per contest would be unsurprising. Losing Bradley hurts in a multitude of ways, but he is a free agent, and Detroit figured it better to risk it on Griffin than lose Bradley without compensation anyway. Beyond that, the move should open up some more time for rookie Luke Kennard. He has been good in limited minutes, and Stanley Johnson is still developing reasonably well as a defensive stopper with some scoring upside. The Pistons now seem to have more of a direction, albeit through just two games, with one legitimate star like Griffin on its roster.
Portland meanwhile has been getting its own superstar play from 2-guard C.J. McCollum. While Damian Lillard is having an outstanding season, it was McCollum scoring 50 points in just 29 minutes of play for his second career 50-point game. McCollum is averaging 23.8 points and 2.9 assists over his past 10 games, and Portland has won three of its past five. The most recent outings were losses to Toronto and Boston, but the Blazers were in the loss to Boston, before falling 97-96.
Portland is 29-24 and currently has a No. 9 ranked defense with a defensive rating of 107.0. Its offense ranks No. 13 with a rating of 108.4. The Blazers are seeded No. 6 in the Western Conference, but will have its hands full if it encounters either the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Blazers have one of the strongest backcourts in the Association, but it has issues with depth, particularly in the front court behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Meyers Leonard shows flashes but is a defensive liability, and rookie Zach Collins is not yet ready, either. Lack of depth and perhaps need for yet another perimeter stud caps Portland’s potential and makes them a likely first round out to a 3 or 4 seed in any showdown.
Nurkic was an upgrade over the departed Mason Plumlee, but he still is unable to play massive amounts of minutes and the Blazers struggle when he is on the pine. McCollum has emerged as a legitimate second star alongside Lillard, but the Blazers still seem a man short. Perhaps Carmelo Anthony even would have been better suited in the Northwest, but until the Blazers get Lillard another perimeter star and some depth behind Nurkic, they will likely even fall short against legtimate Eastern Conference playoff foes like tonight’s Pistons draw.