NBA Daily: Dwane Casey Faces Uphill Battle In Detroit

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On Monday, Dwane Casey agreed to terms on a five-year contract to become the next head coach of the Detroit Pistons

While Casey has proven himself to be a quality NBA coach, he is now working with an expensive roster that is in need of some bolstering. Casey has talented players, including Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin. Griffin was acquired in January from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers traded Griffin, along with Willie Reed, Brice Johnson and a second-round draft pick to Detroit for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first-round and a second-round draft pick.

In acquiring Griffin, the Pistons took on the power forward’s max-contract, which will pay him roughly $142,306,920 (assuming he exercises his player option for the 2021-22 season) over the next four seasons. Between Griffin’s max-contract and the contracts for Drummond and Jackson, the Pistons will likely be in the luxury tax next season and have limited means to bolster the roster this offseason. With this in mind, it makes sense that the Pistons were eager to come to an agreement with Casey, who helped the Toronto Raptors improve each season he was at the helm.

Casey is going to have to maximize the talent he has on this roster considering he has limited means of improving it for the foreseeable future. Casey proved himself a more than capable player development coach in his time with the Raptors. Several key players took significant steps forward under Casey’s guidance, which made Toronto a postseason threat in the Eastern Conference for the last few years.

Fortunately for Casey, he will have a long grace period to turn things around in Detroit, according to David Aldridge.

Casey has already mentioned that a key aspect of turning the Pistons around will be the health and overall play of Griffin.

“We’re going to empower him to expand his game, a lot like DeMar DeRozan in Toronto,” Casey said on ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith Show. “Expand his game out to the 3-point line, have some point-forward responsibilities with the basketball out on the floor bringing it down. Because he’s more than just a back-down, post-up player.”

Griffin has been a dynamic playmaker from the power forward position since he first entered the NBA and he has added three-point range to his arsenal. At times, Griffin has shown flashes of being one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NBA. But recurring injuries have seemingly robbed Griffin of his elite athleticism, which may explain why he drives to the lane with less frequency and favors jumpers at this point in his career. If Griffin can stay relatively healthy and Casey can structure Detroit’s offense to maximize Griffin’s unique skill set, he may be able to improve on Detroit’s offense, which ranked 19th overall in points per 100 possessions last season. However, considering Griffin’s injury history, there is reason to doubt he will be able to fight off the injury bug.

Casey is also tasked with maximizing the talent of the team’s role players, as he did with the Raptors last season. Players like Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Delon Wright played a significant role for the Raptors last season and rounded out a roster that needed more production outside of its star players. Casey has some young talent he can turn to in Detroit, including Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and possibly Reggie Bullock. Johnson has the skill and athleticism to become a solid player on both ends of the court. Kennard shot over 40 percent from three-point range and projects to be a well-rounded player. And Bullock has developed into a marksman from distance, shooting 44.5 percent from beyond the arc on 4.5 three-point attempts per game last season.

Casey also has some veterans in Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and Jon Leuer. If Casey can tap into this group’s collective talent and design offensive and defensive systems that account for and address this roster’s shortcomings, he could get Detroit back into the playoffs as early as next season. However, everything starts with Drummond, Jackson and Griffin. These three players will need to stay healthy, develop cohesion on both ends of the court and buy into Casey’s offensive and defensive schemes. If any of these three player gets injured or struggles to make a positive impact consistently next season, there is little chance of Detroit being able to turn things around as quickly as Casey and the rest of franchise would like.

The Pistons should be commended for convincing Casey to take on the challenge of turning around the franchise’s fortunes. Detroit has talent but it will take Casey’s notable player development skills to turn things around sooner rather than later.