Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
After a few days of looking at stats, advanced stats, and all things NBA, I actually found some interesting data. I was able to draw some conclusions, not really anything revolutionary, that could help narrow down what the Pistons need to get back into the playoffs and contend for a title. The main data I ended up with is PER differential by position. This is available at 82 games. I took the PER for each position on each team and subtracted the OPP PER to get a net PER for each position, I then added these up and got a total team net PER.
There are currently 14 teams with a positive net PER. There are 13 teams that hold an advantage of at least 4 at one or more positions. The Lakers are the only non playoff team in both groups, but we all know how much of a mess they are. Only 2 teams are positive at all positions, the Clippers and Nuggets, and only 4 teams hold an advantage at 4 of 5 positions, the Thunder, Heat, Spurs, and Hawks. The three highest positional advantages for non playoff teams is the Lakers at SG(+5.4), the Pelicans at PF(+3.8), and the Raptors at PG(+3.1). The four playoff teams without a +4 or better advantage are Atlanta, Denver, Milwaukee, and Golden State. These teams are definitely solid, but probably not championship caliber. I beleive we can infer from this data that if you can create a mismatch of 4+ at any one position you will become a playoff team with at least a shot to win it all. I think this just reinforces that it takes a star player to win.
Pistons PER differential:
PG: For as much flak as the Brandon Knight(-0.3)/Will Bynum(+0.7) combination is given, they have actually outproduced their counterparts. This is really a non factor now that Jose Calderon (+4.3) is here. He had the Raptors at 5th in the league almost by himself. Keeping him as a the new veteran leader should be a priority.
SG: I think we can see that the Kyle Singler at SG experiment has been a failure. We now have the Knight at SG experiment. I think for as well as the team has handled Andre Drummond, they have failed just as miserably with Knight. After Drummond was drafted the team said we are going to focus on what he can do, not what he can't do. If they took this approach with Knight he would probably be much better off at this point. What would it take for Knight to succeed? Well if he only improves his 3 pt % from 37% to 40%, it would push his eFG% above the league average for a SG. If he could also improve his 2 pt FG% from 43% to 46%, the league average at SG, his eFG% would be around top 5 for a SG. Could a real PG help produce a better shot selection to help him acheive these goals? If Knight can hold up on the defensive end and with Calderon at PG, he can be a top 10 SG in this league maybe even better.
SF: I went looking for some comparables for Singler (-3.9). I think for Singler to be successful in this league he needs to become the next Kyle Korver (+2.9)/Mike Dunleavy (+6.1). Be tough on the defensive end, and be a knock down 3 point shooter. He should do much better at SF than at SG, especially on defense. He is probably more of a bench player, but with a chance to start long term.
PF: Jason Maxiell (-2.6) is the main cause for the negative team number here. Charlie Villanueva (+3.9) and Greg Monroe (+1.2) are helping here in limited minutes. For the future this spot seems solid with Monroe who posted a +3.7 last year and is starting to get it going lately again lately.
C: This is where the Pistons are most likely to produce their star player. All the adavnced stats support that Drummond (+5.9) is well on his way. He should easily produce a +4 or more PER diffential here making the Pistons an instant playoff team. He is likely to become top 10 in PER differential in the league as soon as next year.
Bench: Bynum and Villanueva have proven to be quality bench players this year. Rodney Stuckey (-0.6) really hasn't provided much, while Jonas Jerebko (-12.4) and Corey Maggette (-8.3) have been terrible.
The evaluation of this team for the rest of the year starts and ends with the backcourt. If Calderon makes Knight an above average SG, then whether or not Jose resigns here, we know that Knight can succeed as a starter. The Monroe/Drummond/Villanueva combination is more than enough to put this team in the playoffs. The biggest improvement before next year must come from Singler or finding a starter allowing Singler to improve the bench.
While there isn't a whole lot new here, I think we can use this information to help us speculate on future players.