Stan Van Gundy is a coach known for building great defensive teams. His teams haven't been bad offensively, either. Being able to get teams to excel on both sides of the court is the reason why in his professional coaching career he has never missed the playoffs nor had a losing season. Last year the Detroit Pistons were horrible both offensively and defensively. I am sure Van Gundy wants to change that, but is he going about it the right way?
Many coaches have subscribed to the following: "Good defense leads to good offense." They are correct. If Team A plays good defense and causes a change of possession without Team B scoring, Team A then has a chance for transition points before Team B gets back defensively. But that really depends on the teams. Van Gundy is one of those coaches that believes in this and has been concentrating on defense first, as noted by Vince Ellis:
With one of the worst offenses in the NBA, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said that end of the floor remains a work in progress.
But until he gets the offense running at a better level, Van Gundy has to emphasize defense even more.
Also, as brought back up by Keith Langlois yesterday:
It came on media day, Sept. 29, and the question was whether he believed the Pistons could be a playoff team in his first season.
"I want to get them to run back on defense tomorrow in a scrimmage," he said. "That's it. That's my No. 1 priority tomorrow. If you want the team goals, that's it. That's on Tuesday, September 30th. We run back on defense consistently. Then we build from there. If you build the right habits and take care of the right things, then you're going to be in a position to perform at as a high a level as you can, because so many other things come into it that you have no control over."
It has shown. If you were to look at Basketball-Reference.com at the Pistons' opponent stats, the Year/Year row has 15 green values (not including Minutes Played) versus six red values. The defense has been better. Not great, but better than last year. Though Defensive Rating has its issues, the Pistons are 19th in the league this year at 107.2 whereas they were 25th last year at 109.7. But just as there has been improvement on the defensive end, there has been major regression on the offensive end.
Again, looking at the Pistons' stats for the Year/Year change, there are 14 red values versus seven (not including Minutes Played) green values. The Pistons were ranked 19th last year in offensive rating at 105.9. This year, they are 29th this year at 100.0. The "best" offensive change Van Gundy has installed is, as was expected, at the 3-point line. The Pistons have increased their 3-pointers made from 6.2 (27th in the league) to 7.8 (11th) per game. Their attempts have also had a similar jump from 19.3 (22nd) to 22.8 (9th) per game. Sadly, the conversion rate has barely increased, going from 0.321 to 0.344. But there is time, and Jodie Meeks has not returned from injury yet.
If you dive into the numbers even further, it gets even uglier. Considering the players the Pistons have on the roster, there is no excuse that the Pistons are dead last in the league at 0.526 percent shooting within five feet. They are doing this while having the fourth-most attempts in the league (per game) at that distance. Last year they were 18th in the league in field goal percentage from that range while being second in attempts at that distance. You mean to tell me that with a 6'10" Drummond, 6'11" Monroe, 6'9" Smith, and 6'10" Jerebko the Pistons are the worst team in the paint? That is sickening!
Once again, taking the players on this roster into account, the offensive rebounding issue is also troubling. Now some would say there is no offensive rebounding issue. However, I have to disagree. This year the Pistons are third in the league at offensive rebounds per game at 12.4. Last year they lead the league with 14.6 which was 2.1 more per game than any other team in the league. "So what Jason, they have only dropped four spots and two per game." But there are more opportunities this year as we are shooting horrendously. If we were shooting league average, I would tend to agree that it is natural to have some regression. But we are 4.6 percentage points away from the 15th place team in terms of field goal percentage. I know Van Gundy said he wanted the boys to be just as active on the defensive boards as they were on the offensive glass, so maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe they are trying to get back on defense more than they are worried about the offensive board.
The Pistons also are not sharing the ball as much as they were last year. They are currently 26th in the league with 19.0 assists per game. Last year they averaged two more assists per game. There might be some correlation between this and how many post up plays were being run through Andre to begin the season. Or, maybe it has to do with D.J. Augustin who while he has the same usage rate Will Bynum had last year, has a 8.8% assist percentage lower than Bynum. Lobs to Dre, people. Lobs to Dre.
Also in the article from yesterday by Langlois, Stan is unhappy with where the offense is:
"Our energy level in general, at both ends – half court, full court – needs to improve. We've talked about that a lot as a team. It's probably the No. 1 priority and encompasses a lot of things. We've got to get a higher energy level, a better motor. I don't totally know how to do that. A lot of that is within you. If I could only change one thing and I could wave a magic wand and change it, that would be my thing. We have to play with higher energy because it would take care of a lot of things. We do a lot of walking and jogging."
So the question Stan needs to ask himself now is does he need to stop the work on the defense and start working on the offense, or stay the course. After the game against the Lakers, I think that answer is obvious.