If the season ended today, The Detroit Pistons would be in the playoffs. Uhhh ... the season doesn't end today. Instead, the team has 10 games left to shore up their spot, and the path of least resistance is to start playing some damn defense.
Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. For this week's column at the Detroit Free Press, we examine Detroit's defensive deficiencies and possible solutions to improve the situation next season. Here is a slice of that delish knowledge quiche.
Since the trade for Tobias Harris, the numbers are not pretty: From 25-29 feet, 22nd in NBA; 20-24 feet, seventh; 15-19 feet, 29th; 10-14 feet, 22nd; 5-9 feet, 28th; 0-5 feet, 25th. Van Gundy has talked about the team not contesting shots and not closing out on shooters, and whether the problem is effort, communication or simply skill, it can't continue if the team wants to make the playoffs.
Whether the team figures things out during this final stretch run or not, you can rest assured defense will be on the top Van Gundy's shopping list this off-season.
The team's two cornerstones - Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson - are also, unfortunately, two of the bigger defensive liabilities in the starting lineup. That being said, they are potent on offense, are young and are oozing with untapped potential. They aren't going anywhere.
The team also likely won't be moving its best on-ball defender in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. As for Harris, while he hasn't been a lockdown defender, he has helped the offense find consistency and allowed it to reach another gear.
That leaves small forward and an entire bench crew that could use a defensive boost. At small forward, Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson have played admirably and are far from a defensive liability. But if the team can find a top-flight defender, especially someone effective at snuffing out the pick-and-roll, it should pounce. The team also certainly needs a defensive upgrade at backup point guard to help spell Jackson.
I won't spoil the solutions I highlight, you'll have to read all the way to the end for that one.