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The Close Out: Drummond is not a point-center (and that’s ok!)

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The label “point-center” is being thrown around and I don’t like it.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit spent the entire week in hotels and arguably could’ve won all three road games.

As-is though, the Pistons are 11-5 after losing a block party in Milwaukee, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Indiana and relying on an old friend in the fourth quarter for a win in Minnesota.

Below we take a look a Eric Moreland’s career week, check in on the progress of the pick-and-roll defense, see how the Pistons rely on Ish Smith to bail them out, and I tell you why the label of “point-center” doesn’t fit Andre Drummond (yet).

Inside the Pistons’ playbook

Like any team, the Pistons have a go-to collection of sets and play types. Here we’ll break down the plays used often by the Pistons, along with variations and break down the process and the results.

The pick-and-roll is alive and well in Detroit and don’t let people tell you otherwise. Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated:

The difference, however, is that everyone is enjoying and contributing to the action as appose to just Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.

The Pistons’ comeback win in Minnesota was behind a serve amount of PNR:

As we’ve noted and discussed, what has dramatically changed is where Drummond conducts business. Take a peek at all the positive looks spawned by Dre at the top of the key just from this past week:

As Drummond logs more real-time reps away from the basket, his confidence and efficiency should skyrocket. Easy to say now, but image had Van Gundy started his tenure in Detroit with this mindset - Drummond might actually be a point-center by now.

Which leads us to....

The whole “point-center” label being thrown around for Andre Drummond - I don’t like it and here is why:

First, this isn’t a knock on Drummond, rather, it’s a small beef I hold with the people who are casually tossing around the label of “point-center” so loosely for Dre; it’s becoming quite the popular buzz phrase (along with “new motion offense” being a default answer for everything Pistons).

Anytime you preface a position with the word “point” the connotation is of a playmaker.

Is Drummond a playmaker?

To me, the answer is no. Playmakers put their teammates in a position to succeed by a variety of ways including: intelligent use of dribbling or movement, leaning a certain way, or creating passing angles/lanes out of thin air among owning countless other subtle IQ qualities.

What Drummond’s accomplishing is making the correct read and generating the correct pass—which he deserves kudos for—but it’s far from playmaking. He’s not creating plays (my definition of a “playmaker”) he’s reacting.

Which is great! But not a point-center.

While everyone is quick to point out the assist total for Drummond, they’re not so trigger happy on talking turnovers. He’s at three per game which, if continued, would easily be a career high. Yes, there is a definitely a learning curve for Dre and I’m not overly concerned about the turnovers just yet, however it wouldn’t fit my stance if—at the very least—I didn’t bring them up.

Also, don’t forget the seemingly arbitrary role in defining an assist plays. Dre has bumped his total up with many feeds coming via hand-offs while poor Eric Moreland gets screwed:

No assist for Moreland and a pretty generous assist for Drummond. Sure, it goes both ways (haven’t seen it yet, though) but you have to bring more to the point-center table than sketchy dime totals. If Moreland doesn’t get any love above, I could cite no less than a dozen similar Drummond credited assists. Moreland’s per 36 assist rate, by the way, is comparable which somewhat implies it could simply be system based.

Is this an argument of semantics? Absolutely but it’s what I do best and I’m more than willing to die on this hill! I have trouble sleeping at night knowing people are prematurely coining him as a playmaker.

Look, there is a very good chance he could develop into a Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Nikola Jokic type passer—and I hope he does— but he’s not there yet.

So knock it off with all the point-center stuff because I will find you.

Ok, where were we?

Even though Tobias Harris missed the jumper, the same set (example of prior weeks’ looks here and here) set up a back door cut by Avery Bradley to burn a cheating Tony Snell (you’re gonna have to show some internet trust with the corner obstruction):

It’s not complicated but quick hitting and effective.

This Week’s Trends and Dead Ends

A closer look at the habits —both good and bad—of players, coaches, and maybe even DBB commentators. Discover what the Pistons are getting really right, and understand what to look out for going forward.

Postive trends

Eric Moreland may have secured a spot in the rotation after this week which will have the #FreeBoban crowd yelling aimlessly at the sky:

No other rotation decision has caught my attention more than the back-up center. Moreland earned a Pistons’ uniform with his defensive prowess during the Summer League but in no way, shape, or form did I see him garnering meaningful minutes.

Good for him and I sincerely hope it continues.

I harp on pick-and-roll defense a lot and refuse to let up. On average, teams must navigate through 75 on-ball screens (not possession ending, just screens) per game making it an incredibly influential play. If you can’t defend the PNR, you can’t defend.

The Pistons are making significant strides in this department and no one in the metro-Detroit area this side of SVG is happier than me:

Especially against Indiana, Detroit’s PNR defense was on a string and it all started with Andre Drummond. An engaged Dre can wreck havoc on would-be penetrators for no other reason than he’s so damn athletic. Seeing that—after spending all year blasting him—makes me feel like a proud (overbearing) Dad.

Now, if they can sure up the rotation on an aggressive Tobias hedge:

Then teams are going to be in trouble. The hard show/trap is what made the Miami Heat defense elite during their Big Three era.

Bradley defending the post against the much bigger Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins:

And finally, how about some easy looks by pushing the ball in Minnesota:

Negative trends

While the PNR defense is getting better, it wasn’t all roses:

Progress nonetheless.

I’m starting to feel bad for Ish Smith. 20% of his possessions have ended with four seconds left on the shot or game clock. Again, that happens to all ball-handlers but his percentage is the highest (next highest Piston is Jackson at roughly 13%) in the league of qualified players. In an era of non-stop stats and analytics, it’s something to consider:

If I’m Smith, one of these days I’d pass the ball right back and say something to the effect of: No, you take this bullshit shot ‘cause DBB is gonna roast me on eFG%.

The Milwaukee Bucks blocked 16 of your Detroit basketball Pistons’ shots during their 99-95 win:

By my count, Tobias Harris was on the wrong side of a Bucks’ block 32 times.

Certainly debatable (and I’m not willing to die on this hill), I’d rather see Drummond shoot:

High/Low: One Highlight, One Lowlight of the week

Not all good and bad plays are created equal. Some stick out and make you take notice. Or they’re just so funky they deserve a special place of their own.

High

Luke Kennard slides over just enough to bother John Henson and force a shuffle of the feet.

Low

15 seconds left on the shot clock, five feet past the three-point line, the extended follow through and no one getting back leads to the easiest two points the Pacers will score all year.

Peering into the Crystal Ball

What to look for in the next week.

As an unapologetic LeBron stan, I’ll be glued to the tube on Monday night and I suggest you do the same. The Pistons suffered their first losing week of the 2017-18 season and the Cavs game will be the back end of a back-to-back. I wonder what’s left in the tank?

The 9-7 Cavs aren’t exactly lighting the league on fire and have their own issues to deal with, specifically on the defensive side of things. They have no one who can bang with Andre Drummond but will Drummond impose his will?

Dre has shown a great deal of progress all season but we’ve seen spurts of incredible play followed by ineptitude in the past. Questions surrounding consistency will be an issue....until they’re not not.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time, take care of yourself and each other.