Detroit Pistons

Blake Griffin is once again an NBA superstar

Blake Griffin is off to the best start of his career
Blake Griffin is off to the best start of his career (Getty Images)

The Detroit Pistons have turned some heads in the first few weeks of the season.

The primary cause for all of that rubber necking?

The revival of Blake Griffin.

Once one of the most electrifying players in the entire league, Griffin has spent the last couple of years in and out of the lineup while tackling various degrees of turmoil. In a star-driven league, a once can't miss superstar made for the YouTube and social media era has slipped somewhat out of the limelight as other established veterans and rising stars have taken the biggest slices of the proverbial pie.

With a voracious appetite in Detroit, Griffin is back at the table and ready to feast as he's off to unquestionably the best start of his career.

In order to give full credit where it's due, here are some of the otherworldly stats behind Griffin's strong start that stand tall in comparison with some of the game's greats.

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Blake Griffin is like LeBron James

Whether in Cleveland, Miami or Los Angeles, LeBron James has always had the ball in his hands more than even his own point guards.

One of the greatest conductors in NBA history, James has redefined the 'point forward' on the NBA hardwood, orchestrating the movements of not only his four teammates, but at times all five defenders. Everything his teams have ever done offensively revolves around James making magic with the ball in his hands.

So far in the early going, Griffin has played this same role for the Pistons. How do we know?

Above every arena, there are six cameras that track every movement on the floor - all 11 players plus the ball. Beyond simply what appears in a box score, we know how far players run, how many times each player passes and even how many times each player dribbles.

Using this technology along with the machine learning courtesy of the company Second Spectrum, we can tell how often a player is in possession of the ball. And so far this season, the only frontcourt player with the ball in his hands more often than Griffin is James.

That's only because James holds on to the ball longer than Griffin. In terms of both total touches and total passes, Griffin has actually been more involved on offence than even The King himself.

In fact, entering the weekend Griffin actually led the entire league in touches per game, just ahead of Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Blake Griffin is like Russell Westbrook

One of the lasting images of Russell Westbrook's MVP season in 2016-17 was of Westbrook throwing Oklahoma City's offence on his back each and every night, creating almost everything for himself.

Sometimes playing one-on-five - not always a good thing, mind you - Westbrook typically created his own offence and very rarely was seen either spotting up or catching passes off screen or cuts.

During that season, 81% of Westbrook's made baskets were unassisted. Even last season with Paul George aboard, that number still came in at 80%. Though certainly early, 78% of Westbrook's buckets this season have been unassisted.

In Detroit's first seven games, a whopping 79% of Griffin's buckets have been created on his own. It's an incredible departure from the norm for Griffin who for years made a name for himself in Los Angeles as part of the Lob City crew catching alley-oops from Chris Paul. While it certainly make sense that Griffin would see a shift on a team without any Paul-like playmakers, this is still radically different than last season when Paul was already in Houston.

Blake Griffin's Made FG
Assisted Unassisted
2015-16 64% 36%
2016-17 54% 46%
2017-18 46% 54%
2018-19 21% 79%

No other volume scorer that isn't a guard is above 65% so far this season which makes Griffin truly one of kind.

Blake Griffin is like Dirk Nowitki

With apologies to Larry Bird, the greatest shooting frontcourt player in NBA history is Dirk Nowitzki.

Whether off the catch or off the bounce, Nowitzki has one of the sweetest strokes we've ever seen from a big man and has easily the most made 3s by any player 6'8" or taller. A career 38% shooter from beyond the arc, Nowitzki has made them at the same clip as Kevin Durant has for his career.

The most that Nowitki ever made through his first seven games of a season was 18 in 2005-06 when he drained 18-38. He would go on to average a career-high 26.6 points per game while connecting on just under 41% for the season.

So far this season, Griffin has been even better than Nowitzki at his very best as he's currently 19-39.

It's worth pointing out that 18 of his 19 makes have come with no defender within four feet of him. He's not exactly pulling up with a hand in the face or shooting in the midst of hard close outs. Regardless, Griffin is doing an excellent job of defences making pay for leaving him wide open.

If there's any part of Griffin's hot start most likely to regress to the mean, it's the outside shooting. But give credit where it's due: Blake has been Dirk-esque in the early going.

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