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Pistons by the numbers: Where Detroit is actually producing a competent offense

But Andre Drummond’s defense is a serious problem.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

So it’s a big season for the Pistons and there are a few key metrics that are essential for them to be successful. Here are a few I’m tracking from the preseason, along with some context.

True shooting percentage

2016-17: 52.1
2017-18: 54.6

The Pistons are actually around the league average in shooting efficiency. I can’t even remember the last time this has been the case.

Langston Galloway has been scorching to start his time with the Pistons, posting a 78 percent TS. It also helps that Stan Van Gundy read Laz Jackson’s DBB preview to give Tobias the fucking ball. Harris leads the team in shot attempts by a considerable margin and has a terrific 61 percent TS.

Three pointers per game and percentage

2016-17: 23.4 per game at 33 percent
2017-18: 28.6 per game at 34.3 percent

So far the roster has been a mix of highs and lows for putting the three ball in the bucket. Galloway, Harris, and Bradley have been hitting theirs while Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Jackson, and Stanley Johnson have started off slow. Jon Leuer’s perplexing disappearance as a three point threat since joining the Pistons has continued so far this year too.

Midrange field goal attempts

2016-17: 24.7
2017-18: 17.8

I’ll get to one of the major reasons for this below. But in the meantime:

Assist percentage

2016-17: 53 percent
2017-18: 52.6 percent

Though it’s seemed like the ball movement has been up so far this year, the numbers don’t really reflect that - even after a 32 assist game against the Timberwolves. Part of that is due to a few low assist games against the 76ers and Hornets, but also the return of Reggie Jackson gets the Pistons back their biggest threat to create his own bucket.

Offensive rating

2016-17: 103.3
2017-18: 105.9

Defensive rating

2016-17: 105.3
2017-18: 102.7

The biggest implication here is that the Pistons have flipped their team net rating from last season through the first five games. A 2.6 net rating would put the Pistons firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, would have been ahead of the Washington Wizards for the four seed last season.

Reggie Jackson TS

2016-17: 51 percent
2017-18: 51.4 percent

While Jackson mostly looks healthy, he’s still not able to get to the rim. His percentage of shots taken in the restricted area are actually lower than last year so far, 21 percent to 26 percent. In 2015-16 that figure was 30 percent. Though Jackson is playing better this season, there’s still definitely room for concern.

Jackson net rating

2016-17: -8.9
2017-18: 5.3

Perhaps the biggest reason for Jackson’s gain this season has been his work on the defensive end. He’s still not been a positive on defense, but he’s at least been less of a complete disaster that he was last year. He’s toward the middle of the team team in defensive rating, even a little ahead of Johnson and Bradley.

Drummond TS

2016-17: 51.8 percent
2017-18: 59.9 percent

I’ll give you two other percentages: 20 percent and 42 percent. Those are the percentage of shots Drummond has taken from outside five feet this year and last year. Guess which is which.

He shot under 40 percent on shots outside five feet last year. He took 379 shots from outside five feet last year. That’s just brutal for a guy who was also horrible from the free throw line. This year he’s on pace for 164. They’re still bad shots and he’s only made 3-10, but it’s a much better look for Drummond. Many of those were ill-advised hooks from Drummond that were so deep that they were credited as midrange shots for the Pistons, which is part of the overall drop for the team.

And hey, shooting 72 percent from the stripe certainly helps too.

Opposing starting centers’ field goal percentage

2016-17: 52.5 percent
2017-18: 62.5 percent

This is a true statement.

Opposing starting centers so far are averaging 18 points per game on 62.5 percent shooting and 10.6 rebounds per game. Sure, a big game from Joel Embiid is going to impact that figure, but Marcin Gortat, Dwight Howard, and Enes Kanter shouldn’t be games Drummond is getting dominated.

Drummond net rating

2016-17: -6.3
2017-18: -3.1

Drummond’s improvements on offense are noteworthy, but they’re not enough to make up for his awful defense. He’s even making plays on defense, averaging 1.8 steals and a block per game. Pushing toward three combined steals and steals will typically put a player toward the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

But going for those steals has left him often out of position and the number of clean looks his man is getting at the rim have made the risks nowhere near paying off. Add to that his continued difficulty in providing help defense while still finishing the play to recover to his man, Andre Drummond is instead making a great case for being worst defensive big man in the league.