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Pistons by the Numbers: Losing streaks make for ugly statistics

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Who would have guessed.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-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.

Last time we checked in on the Pistons numbers, there were good vibes all around. Detroit was in a hot stretch, led by Andre Drummond serving as a bonafide franchise player. And things were only looking up.

Well, the Pistons haven’t won a game in the month of December. After a 14-6 start, they’re now risking falling back to .500.

Pretty well sums up my thoughts.

In this iteration of Pistons by the Numbers, in addition to the overall season comparisons, I’ll also include the splits for October-November and December.

True shooting percentage

2016-17: 52.1 percent
2017-18: 54.2 percent
Oct-Nov: 55.7 percent
Dec: 49.6 percent

After starting off the season in the top half of the league in true shooting percentage - unknown territory for the Pistons - oh hey, there’s a cliff. Since then, the Pistons have had the lowest TS in the league.

Though Tobias Harris and Drummond haven’t been as dominant as they were while the team was winning, they’re not the primary culprits of the drop. Not even Reggie Jackson, despite a few ugly games from him.

Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, and Ish Smith have just been disastrous. Bradley has had a TS of 44 percent while Johnson and Ish have each posted 37 percent.

It’s nearly impossible to win when three key players are shooting that horribly.

Sure, Ish and Bradley are veterans. We know what we’ll get from them. But Ish is a traditionally low TS guy and Bradley’s career number is only 52 percent.

Meanwhile Luke Kennard continues to play better and better as he gets more time in the rotation. With a 54 percent TS, it might be time to start bumping his minutes up from the 16 minutes per game he’s getting so far this month - even if it comes at the expense of Bradley and Johnson’s perimeter defense.

Three point attempts per game and percentage

2016-17: 23.4 per game and 33 percent
2017-18: 29 per game and 37.5 percent
Oct-Nov: 29.1 per game and 39.1 percent
Dec: 29 per game and 33 percent

The Pistons had 12 games at 40 percent or higher from three through their first 20 games. In the past 7 games, there’s been just one game over 40 percent.

Midrange shots per game

2016-17: 24.7 per game
2017-18: 16 per game
Oct-Nov: 15.4 per game
Dec: 17.4 per game

Still not an abundance of midrange shots from the Pistons compared to last year, thanks in a big part to the continued abandoning of Drummond’s post up game. But they’re still converting at a terrible mark, making just 35 percent on those 17 shots per game in December. The Pistons clearly have not been able to get the kind of looks they were in the early part of the season.

Let’s go back to that good news about Drummond’s post ups though. After constantly competing for the top spot in the league for field goal attempts out of post ups, this season he’s 45th in the league. He’s averaging just barely over one post up field goal attempt per game.

He still stinks at them, posting just .59 points per possession, but with these making up such a smaller portion of his game, they haven’t been nearly as damaging to Drummond and the team.

Assist percentage

2016-17: 53 percent
2017-18: 56.3 percent
Oct-Nov: 57.1 percent
Dec: 53.8 percent

Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Stanley Johnson have combined for just 29 assists in the 7 games they’ve played in December so far. That’s barely over one each per game. They were averaging five assists between the three of them through the first 20 games - nothing to write home about, but still contributing at least.

Especially when they struggle with their shot, those three really need to find a way to contribute to the offense.

Offensive rating

2016-17: 103.3
2017-18: 103.8
Oct-Nov: 106.8
Dec: 95.1

Defensive rating

2016-17: 105.3
2017-18: 104.6
Oct-Nov: 103.7
Dec: 107.2

The Pistons went from the sixth best net rating through the first two months of the season to the worst net rating in the league in December.

giphy.com

Reggie Jackson true shooting percentage

2016-17: 51 percent
2017-18: 56.2 percent
Oct-Nov: 58.2 percent
Dec: 48.4 percent

Jackson net rating

2016-17: -8.8
2017-18: -1.5
Oct-Nov: 2.6
Dec: -13.7

I’m on the fence over whether this is just a slump from Jackson or an indication that he’s reverting to his 2016-17 form.

His numbers were particularly hurt by two quite bad games, his 0-9 shooting performance against the Celtics and 5-14 shooting against the Bucks. Take out that Celtics game and his TS would be 57 percent. It’s possible we’re seeing some skew from a small sample size. So I’m not quite ready to jump off the ledge just yet, but I’m definitely making sure I know where the ledge is at.

Andre Drummond true shooting percentage and net rating

2016-17: 51.8 percent and -6.3
2017-18: 56.4 percent and -1.4
Oct-Nov: 57.5 percent and 2
Dec: 52.7 percent and -11.3

Like with Jackson, I’m not signaling the alarms here just yet. In fact, there’s actually a lot of promising stuff in Drummond’s numbers.

He’s still taking the shots he needs to take. 80 percent of his shots have been inside five feet during December, which is in line with his mark of 79.8 percent in the first two months. His free throw percentage is down to 57.4 percent on the month, but that’s still reasonable for the guy who shot 38 percent through his first five seasons.

Perhaps most compelling is that he has his turnovers a bit more under control. He posted 4 turnovers per game in November, but is down to 2.4 in December - and this comes while still averaging over 4 assists per game.

Drummond’s had some struggles on the offensive end, but there’s reason to believe those are temporary.

Drummond opposing player field goal percentage

2016-17: 52.5 percent
2017-18: 52.2 percent
Oct-Nov: 53.1 percent
Dec: 50 percent

Drummond’s defense is worth continuing to monitor. Despite similar numbers to last year, he certainly hasn’t been the train wreck defensively that he was last year when the number of terrible nights vastly outweighed the mediocre or good ones.

Dre did a great job in his rematch against Joel Embiid, forcing the injury prone loudmouth into a 7-21 shooting and 6 turnover performance. Mason Plumlee, Aron Baynes, and John Henson were a bit more effective than you’d like to see.

His defensive playmaking numbers have also dropped off a bit. Through the past four games, he’s averaging just .5 each for blocks and steals per game. Some of that may be due to the matchup, but it’s also been a sign that Drummond really hasn’t made much of a presence on the defensive end.

But the good news is that there haven’t been any opposing centers who have really blown up the way that players would against Drummond last year. He’s also been playing the pick and roll and help situations as well as I’ve ever seen him.

Drummond’s issues with focus and consistency have always been a topic of conversation. Despite the occasional slip, all seems ok on this front. It’s just worth continuing to watch.

***

Losses lead to ugly numbers. And with the losses piling up, the numbers are certainly gross. Ugly performances like against the Nuggets and Wizards have been the exception during this losing streak.

But if they can get back to playing competitive ball like they did against the Spurs and 76ers, they should start getting those numbers back where they belong - and more importantly, win some games.