The Pistons, winners of seven of their last eight games, have a realistic chance of ending the season on a 10-game win streak. Playing and executing at high levels heading into April would normally send their fanbase into a bit of a frenzy but, sadly, it seems as if it’s too little, too late. Detroit is four games back of the final playoff spot with five winnable games remaining on the schedule.
It’s a damn shame we only caught a glimpse of a fully-healthy Pistons squad.
Reggie Jackson spent his first few games back in action re-acclimating himself to the team. This past week, however, had his much-needed fingerprints all over each win. In Jackson, the Pistons have a creater who must be taken seriously as a scorer and, just as important, a distributor.
Fingers crossed for a healthy 2018-19.
Below, we’ll take a look at Jackson’s impact on both sides of the ball, check in on Henry Ellenson’s extended minutes and reluctantly highlight Julius Randle’s big boy play against Detroit this year.
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.
Below is the same look for Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson with multiple morphs:
In the Pistons motion-based offense, the bigs are exchangeable in terms who will initiate the DHO, but, typically it’s the job of the on-court center Andre Drummond, Eric Moreland or Blake Griffin.
As the season carries on, more offense is being conducted solely to get the ball in the hands of Luke Kennard:
- Anthony Tolliver and Andre Drummond emphatically slam the elevator door shut as Kennard finishes off the switched and much slower-footed Ivica Zubac
- Like a quarterback putting his wide receiver in motion, Drummond signals for Stanley Johnson to clear out as Kennard prepares himself to use the sun-blocking screen.
Feeling frisky, Stan Van Gundy cleverly uses Kennard as a screen-setter before the real PNR takes place:
It’s a sneaky fun idea as it gives the defense multiple opportunities to screw up. Kennard’s man is now also the tag-man on the PNR. Does he tag the roller or stay at home on the 40+ percent three-point shooter?
The much celebrated return of Reggie Jackson also indicated the reboot of Detroit’s Snap series:
And, of course, old faithful:
Go ahead, call me a kool-aid guzzling homer but I like a healthy Pistons squad.
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 doing really well, and understand what to look out for going forward.
Hank the Tank
So Henry, I hear you want to get consistent run on my team. Well, I need to see a few things in order to feel comfortable.
Offensively, I like my guys to see one pass ahead. If you’re reacting instead of anticipating - at this level - it’s too late. Next, nothing warms my basketball-heart faster than off-hand capability. Third, you better hustle your ass off (until you make an All-Star team, then I’ll happily cut some slack). Finally, you better be confident in your own abilities as hesitation is a death sentence (and earns a one-way trip back to the bench).
What do you got for me?
OK, then. We can continue to talk.
With the absence of Blake Griffin, Henry Ellenson filled in admirably and didn’t shit his pants. This is good. Also, are all Hanks automatically “Hank the Tank”? They are for me just as all Eddies are “Fast Eddie”.
Improving on the small things
Detroit, believe it or not, has significantly improved this season on many non-highlight worthy aspects of defensive basketball and it showed up loudly on film this week. For instance, steady weak-side help is hard to ignore:
And so is a properly executed x-out:
He hit the shot? So what, tip your cap and move on. Progress on weak-side defense is directly related to communication. Quiet teams simply don’t win.
Loud and early conversation also, obviously, improves the strong-side. Below, Kennard hears Drummond’s call and switches into an ICE stance:
Doing so helps to funnel the ball into help and/or into a non-scoring threat.
Remember these SLOB sequences from weeks’ past?
It’s not nearly as fun for the offense when defended properly:
Now, wasn’t that easy? A+, Reggie.
Speaking of Reggie...
Jackson’s defensive reputation isn’t anything to brag about but one thing he’s always done well is the use of his “stick arms”. As we’ve often discussed, hoops lingo is different depending on where you earned your basketball education.
Growing up on the eastside of metro-Detroit, stick arms referred to putting your arms directly in the path of the passing lane in an effort to make to passer throw the ball around out-stretched arms. The idea is to make the passer take the longest route possible to get the ball to their target. Stick arms might only shave off fractions of seconds, but in hoops, that’s an eternity.
Above, as Jackson recovers (ideal stick arm time), his right hand goes up making the pass go over his head. NBA players aren’t dumb and most will assume Jackson will use his go-go-gadget arms and plan accordingly. On the Pistons, no one is better than Jackson at this facet of the game.
Usually, employing stick arms simply leads to a longer passing route, but sometimes, it creates a turnover as Stanley Johnson kindly demonstrates:
Get your stick arms up!
Finally, if my life depended on choosing one person to take an offensive charge in transition, selecting Anthony Tolliver is a no-brainer, and, in this case, a life-saver:
For my money, no one is the league does it better. Also, I have no idea how I ended up in a situation in which an Anthony Tolliver charge was needed to save my life. Must’ve been a fun night.
Ish Smith continues to dabble with off-the-dribble three-point attempts:
In his last 15 games, Smith is connecting on 43-percent of his long-balls.
Nit-picking Stanley Johnson
Stanley Johnson’s season has - like his three-year career - been somewhat of a rollercoaster. The difference, though, is that his highs were higher and his lows not as low. It’s progress.
With that said.....
If he has any thought about being a permeant fixture of the startling lineup, these corner-threes must start dropping at a higher rate:
On the year, Johnson is 20-of-68 from the corners. Nowhere near good enough.
He can make his offensive life easier in a few ways.
First, these types of shots keep making an unwanted appearance:
Instead, on semi-transition, he should always look to touch paint. Two more aggressive dribbles capture additional attention and opens up the floor. Kinda like this:
Or, by all means, take it directly to the hoop:
Next, take what the defense gives you. In this case, slip the off-ball switch:
In both cases, Johnson is left alone for a brief second. This should mean a dart to the hoop.
For the most part, I’m OK with “right idea” turnovers.
Three missed oops? That’s pushing it. It’s hard to argue the thought process, though.
Drummond shot selection
What’s the rush big fella?
The object of most NBA defenses is to keep the ball out of the middle. When a PNR is executed directly at the paint it can expose the single-tag side:
Above, staying with the shooter or bumping the roll man makes for an unfavorable scenario.
For those keeping track at home, Julius Randle manhandled the Pistons this year:
Whoa, a Jon Leuer sighting.
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.
In what could go down as the worst pass ever, Eric Moreland is let off-the-hook thanks to the rim protecting Ish Smith:
Ish, maybe give Stanley some lessons? Just a thought.
This defensive possession from James Ennis quickly takes a turn into low-lightville:
Peering into the Crystal Ball
What to look for in the next week.
As the season winds down, it’ll be important to experiment with lineups and variables. I’m hoping to see Luke Kennard handle the rock some more while also giving extended minutes to Hank the Tank in hopes that Ellenson channels his 2017 Orlando Summer League shot chart.