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Film Don’t Lie: How the Pistons are getting beat on the switch

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Examining how Detroit continues to lose on their late switch possessions.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At 6-11, the Pistons have been knocked down more than expected in the first 17 games of the season. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. Thanks, Rocky.

Hopefully, you haven’t given up. They’re exactly who we think they are, it’s just taking a minute to get there.

To the tape!

Exploiting the late switch

While defending ball screens, ideally, Dwane Casey is hoping the on-ball defender can recover back to his check before switching with the defending big becomes a necessity. As some possessions progress, though, the only option to stop a guaranteed bucket is to switch. This reluctant real-time adjustment is known as a “late switch.”

The late switch is a concept we identified last season the Pistons employed to relative success. In more ways than one, though, the 2019-20 version hasn’t been as kind.

Detroit’s roster doesn’t scream defensive versatility and switching exposes this obvious shortcoming. On all three examples below, the Pistons late switch leaves a non-big wrestling with a big(ger person) for the rebound, guess who wins?

Detroit opponents have scored 117 total points on put backs this season which is the sixth most in the league. While the late switch isn’t fully to blame, it’s certainly played a concerning role.

The roll man is averaging 1.252 PPP against Detroit (ranked 28th), see if you can spot the difference on how the Pistons defended these sideline PNRs:

It shouldn’t have been too difficult. Indiana’s penetration requires Markieff Morris switching onto Edmond Sumner generating an easy look for Domantas Sabonis, now, defended by Luke Kennard. Against Orlando, Svi denies middle allowing Morris to stay home on Al-Farouq Aminu, his natural check.

Switching, late or otherwise, also leaves Detroit’s bigs defending the perimeter. In the case below, it means Blake Griffin defending in space and, by now, you should know how that ends:

Not a desirable look (high-five to Thon Maker for kicking Kennard out, though).

It’s not just PNR action that is burning the Pistons.

Functionally, DHOs can be defended like a pick-and-roll. Functionally, Langston Galloway (below) had no chance:

Picture that same play happening dozens of times this year.

Don’t blame the late switch as it’s not the scheme’s fault, the execution just sucks. Coach Casey doesn’t coach that stuff! The players rely too much on the late switch and are much better off staying true to their initial matchup integrity. Of course, that takes effort and it starts with the on-ball defender.

Welcome to Detroit, Svi

Svi Mykhailiuk made his presence known during Detroit’s 103-88 win over the Orlando Magic. The 22-year-old shooting guard scored 12 points on four made 3-pointers. On the season, Svi is connecting on nearly 47% from distance.

There were two Svi sequences that stood out against Orlando.

First, his PNR defense depicted in the late switch segment was part of a longer progression that ends with him knocking down a long-ball:

Next, he hits the open look then takes an elbow (charge) to the face:

A wing that cans open threes and gets stops? Now, I know that’s not amazing to some of you. But you ask one of these Pistons fans, that shit is fucking incredible, isn’t it? Thanks, Dave.