The Pistons were in for an awkward adjustment period as coach Dwane Casey assimilated to his new surroundings. As expected, the offense during the first ten games of the season could best be described as abysmal, and that’s being rather generous.
Per Cleaning the Glass, the Pistons’ “offense” scored a measly 86.6 points per 100 halfcourt possessions in those ten games, ranking 29th in the league. Thankfully, their seventh-ranked defense (during those first ten games) performed most of the heavy lifting and carried the bucket-challenged Pistons to a few victories.
Starting with the November 9th win in Atlanta, though, the offense started to function as a somewhat cohesive unit.
In their last eleven games, the offense registered 91.8 points per 100 per halfcourt possessions, ranking 21st. Progress! The eleven-game stretch also saw an overall offense (including transition, putbacks, etc.) scoring of 111.1 points per 100 possessions, good for 10th in the league.
Oh, but that pesky halfcourt.
For the foreseeable future, the Pistons’ roster will revolve around their two brawny bigs, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Whether or not you agree with the atypical roster construction - at least in regards to the contemporary thought-process - doesn’t matter because, well, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Griffin and Drummond sharing court time is a unique trait and in an imitation-heavy league, “unique” can be a good thing. Trying to boost their subpar halfcourt offense while compounding Detroit’s big-man-having strengths, Casey constantly seeks out to exploit mismatches to turn his bigs loose on. In the switchy-switch NBA world we live in, mismatches aren’t hard to find.
Below, we’ll examine how Griffin and Drummond position themselves to attack the switch. Part 2, due out shortly, will take a look at how the point guards and wings blitz their bigger defenders.
Creating the exact mismatch for Blake Griffin isn’t rocket science: identify the defender you want to single out and use his check to set a dummy screen:
Above, Reggie Jackson’s purpose in setting the top-of-the-key screen is to not only free Blake from the clamps of defensive whiz Paul George but to also drag Russell Westbrook into Griffin’s lair. We’ve already witnessed this multiple times over the course of the young season. Locate the weak defender:
Griffin’s bully-ball works well on a wide-variety of weaker switch-everything players:
It’s not just the sheer strength of Griffin that presents nightmares for opposing players and coaches as the dude’s got skill, too:
Griffin is getting that shot off and there was nothing the six-foot-four Tyler Johnson could do other than hope and pray Griffin misses.
Methodically backing down a smaller defender after a switch means one of two things: a Blake beeline to the hoop or a double-team is on the horizon. In Casey’s eyes, either outcome is acceptable:
Accepting the ball closer to the basket is on the menu too and this perfectly executed slice screen is a great example of targeting James Harden:
Below, the Griffin-Drummond elbow PNR induces a defensive switch:
Griffin is now headed down hill with his strong hand and it only took two dribbles to get to the hoop.
A more controlled possession also includes this Spain PNR:
Essentially, it morphed into a Ish Smith-Blake Griffin ran PNR vs. Emmanuel Mudiay-Tim Hardaway Jr. and I like the Pistons’ chances.
Andre Drummond is an ever-evolving player whose best days are still, hopefully, ahead of him. Part of the ongoing development is an increase of offensive recognition allowing for Dre to put his athletic tools to good use.
The pick-and-roll is not only a staple of Drummond’s game but it’s also a hotbed of defensive switching. When the Pistons employ a conventional PNR (i.e. not Blake as ball-handler), teams still don’t hesitate to switch leaving a small checking Drummond. During these sequences, it’s an immediate post-up:
The sun-blocking seal provides the perfect target for an easy entry pass.
Depending on matchups, even the Griffin-led PNR could also produce the same look:
We all know he’s got to do better at consistently finishing at the rim but these are quality looks.
Drummond can also take advantage of PNR switching teams when the ball-handler keeps the rock, too. Attention to the now penetrating ball-handler creates a void in defensive rebounding and Drummond can easily clean up Pistons’ messes:
And for Griffin, too:
Similarly, when Drummond’s check holds defensive responsibilities outside of containing Dre, no one of rebounding significance is under the hoop:
Finally, for the pick-and-roll, we all know what happens when both defenders prioritize penetration:
Outright switching off-the-ball doesn’t happen too often with Andre Drummond, but aggressive shows on screens certainly do. When this happens, it should be a one-way ticket to Slip City:
Casey must squeeze out every ounce of talent between Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to help their ho-hum halfcourt offense and making teams pay for switching is surely part of that plan.
Let the DBB Book of Records forever show I hate switching everything and I’m glad Casey doesn’t subscribe to that theory.