The Pistons may be sitting at about average with their record, but it’s been a season of extremes so far. And it’s all been about whether they’re playing at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Pistons are 7-2 when playing at home and 1-8 on the road. The difference in the team’s quality was fully on display over the weekend, when the Pistons knocked off one of the hottest teams in the league when the Clippers visited the Palace then were thoroughly dismantled by the Thunder the next night in Oklahoma City.
Digging into the numbers, the difference is dramatic.
At home, the Pistons have looked like an elite team. Their 93.1 defensive rating at home is the second best mark in the league and they’ve also put up a 104.4 offensive rating. Their net rating of 11.3 is the fourth best in the league, behind only the Warriors, Clippers, and Cavs.
At the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Pistons have controlled the glass, ranked fifth in rebounding percentage. And they’ve moved the ball reasonably well with a 55 percent assist percentage.
But it all falls apart when they’ve hit the road. When away, they’ve had the sixth worst offensive rating in the league at 96.6 and the sixth worst defensive rating at 109.8. Their net rating is the second worst at -13.2, behind only the 76ers astoundingly bad -21.3 mark.
They suddenly become a terrible rebounding team, with the second worst rebounding percentage in the league. They stop moving the ball, with the third worst assist percentage in the league at 50.6 percent, which helps drive their second worst effective field goal percentage of 44.9 percent.
How in the world does a team go from being an elite defensive and rebounding squad in one building, then hapless at both anywhere else?
Andre Drummond is one player who has stood out on those two fronts.
At home this season, Drummond is averaging 16.8 rebounds at home compared to 10.4 on the road. And defensively over those nine games, his opponent is shooting a whopping 11 percentage points above his average. At home he’s not been great defensively, still allowing 2 percentage points over their averages, but he’s just been getting dominated on the road. He has a team worst road net rating of -23.3 compared to a home net rating of 16.3, which is the team’s second best.
That’s not to single Drummond out completely - it’s a team effort to look so inept on the road, Drummond’s numbers are just dramatic and indicative of a larger problem.
For the offensive side of the ball, there’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP has historically been better at home than away offensively, and that’s certainly been the case so far this year. He’s averaging 16 points per game at home, shooting 48 percent from the field and 45 percent from three - while on the road he’s averaging 12 points, shooting 33 percent from the field and 28 percent from three.
He’s not alone on struggling to shoot on the road. None of the regular rotation players are shooting over 30 percent from three in away games - well, except Andre Drummond, who made his only three point attempt.
It’s still early on the season and is probably too early to draw too significant of conclusions over the results of just 18 games. But it’s definitely worth following, especially as the Pistons head into the upcoming week with three tough road matchups and 8 of their next 12 being away games.
There’s also a touch of irony to the situation, as the Pistons build excitement for their new location next season in downtown Detroit. With the way this season is going, they might want to hang around in the Palace after all.