As I was meandering through some post draft thoughts, I suddenly had the realization that the Pistons are pursuing a specific plan to building and running a particular system. As I discussed in an earlier article, this is a solid step forward in the building process of any team. In that article the main issue was whether to build an offense around Monroe or a defense around Drummond. I think we have the answer to that question, it is both! The brain trust of this organization has shocked me in that I believe they have found the solution to add talent that compliments both players extremely well.
The system they are trying to implement is a fast paced running style. Most teams on all levels of basketball want to get out and run, but it takes some very specific team skills to accomplish that goal and win with it. The main components of a successful running team are:
1. Strong Defensive Rebounding
2. Intense Pressure Perimeter Defense
3. Fast Players who can finish strong on the break
The fist item of defensive rebounding should already be a strength of this team with Drummond and Monroe. It is very difficult to run when you have to inbound the ball, and giving up offensive rebounds leads to more easy baskets and more inbounding. The last item is pretty obvious, trying to run will get you nowhere if the other team is faster than you. The second item is much more difficult to accomplish. The main components of an intense pressure defense are:
1. Rim Protector
2. Agile Defenders
3. Height/Length at all positions, not necessarily vertical jump.
A shot blocking presence is essential to be an effective running team in the NBA. The perimeter defenders need to play extra tight, which will open them up to being beaten off the dribble. Having the deterrent at the basket will prevent too many easy baskets, preventing more inbounding. This is also why the defenders need to be agile. Keeping your man out of the lane is still a priority for any defense. The pressure defense's main goal is to create turnovers and bad shots, this opens up the transition game you are looking for. Steals don't typically come from picking the pocket of another player, but mostly come from bad passes, deflected passes, and poor ballhandling when facing pressure. This is where height and length are critically important. Every inch matters when you are trying to get a deflection, pressuring a player who picked up his dribble looking to pass, or defending a player who is trying to receive the pass. Those inches change the angle of every pass making them much easier to pick off.
At first I thought to Mo Cheeks hire was a bit odd. Now it make a lot more sense, coming from OKC who have been among the leaders in pace over the last few years. The current roster is very well equipped to run. Monroe and Drummond both have a very high steal rate for big men, with Drummond profiling as a top rim protector. Knight, Monroe, and Drummond are all have good height, length, agility, and great speed for their positions. The KCP pick and passing on Burke seemed odd, but KCP has good height and great speed and agility, while these are the exact flaws with Burke. I would think that KCP was close to the top of their draft board, maybe behind only Oladipo. Tony Mitchell is another great athlete with size who rebounds, block shots, and can get out and run. Siva again fits this mold being fast and forces turnovers.
Dumars has talked extensively about shooting, effort, and athleticism in his post draft comments. To be a running team you need that effort all the time, and you need to be more athletic than your opponent. The benefit of speeding up the pace is that you can improve your offensive efficiency by getting easier shots. These shots will not only come at the rim, but you will also get lots of open 3's. This is where the shooting they are looking comes into play. The best thing about the shooing is that it also helps space the floor when they are in the half court. We are also hearing some names being linked to Detroit, Iggy, Bledsoe, JR Smith, etc. All these player fit into the profile of a running team, some more than others. It would appear they are not interested in adding any player who cannot shoot or create steals and run. When free agency opens on Monday who is out there that fits this profile.