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Film Don’t Lie: Pistons’ turnover problem goes under the microscope

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Detroit Pistons rank 24th in turnover percentage this season

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Are Detroit’s 17.4 turnovers per game a long-term mountain or a short-term molehill? It’s the only question worth asking regarding the high-volume giveaways that have plagued the Pistons’ 4-5 start.

Before we delve into the tape, though, let’s add some important notes:

  • The Phoenix Suns averaged 17 turnovers last year which ranked dead last. There are 12 teams, including Detroit, who average more than 17 turnovers per game right now. Point is, it’s super early.
  • Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Reggie Jackson, (whoops) and Tim Frazier have all missed extended periods of time. What do all four players have in common? They are all primary ball handlers who can be trusted with the ball.

It wasn’t an issue last year, we’re barely past Halloween, and the Griffin-Rose-Frazier trio are all likely to return to the lineup momentarily, so, to me, the problem isn’t much of a concern...

...but I’m a bored blogger and over-analyzing is what we do.

Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond added a large scoop of responsibility to his already full plate thanks to all those sidelined ball-handlers and the increased demand has directly affected the play-making numbers. Dre’s four turnovers per game lead the team and dwarf last season’s 2.2 average.

Most of Drummond’s unintended gifts to the opposition can be placed into four distinct categories.

Right idea but poor execution

The correct read has been made but the application falls short. Generally, I can live with these:

Too cute

Hunting for highlights is kindling for a Drummond-hater’s fire:

General carelessness

(a clear upgrade from the general cluelessness days)

Shit happens, but this type of shit is gasoline for a Drummond-hater’s fire:

Bringing the fucking ball down

No smoke and mirrors with this category, stop bringing the fucking ball down:

When it comes to turnovers, though, there are two things coaches and smart fans understand: they’re going to happen, and, as all things basketball, context matters.

With the Pistons up seven points late in the fourth quarter during their opening-night win at Indiana, Dre earned a stop on defense then began to push the ball. Before anything detrimental to winning took place, though, he located the point guard and the patience helped Detroit put the Pacers away for good:

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose has been nothing short of fantastic this year but in losses to Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Chicago, his late-game miscues proved too costly for his shorthanded team to overcome:

Atlanta:

Philadelphia:

Chicago:

35% of Rose’s turnovers have occurred during the fourth quarter this season. In these cases, he’s keeping both teams in the game. On this injury-riddled squad, though, he needs to have maximum aggression to give the Pistons a chance and an uptick of turnovers is to be expected.

Also, while Rose is thought of as a high-risk, high-energy player, his 18.6% turnover rate with the Pistons is by far a career high. Last season in Minnesota, his turnover rate was 9.1%. For his career he turns the ball over just 12.9% of the time. That’s less than Jackson’s also-respectable 13.6% rate.

Bruce Brown

Some players, though, well, turnovers are just going to be part of the story this year. And nowhere is that more true than with budding point guard (maybe) Bruce Brown.

The lengthy limbs of professional basketball players along with their world class speed are two huge adjustments for which all players entering the league must account. The court shrinks with each competitive level a player moves up and the sloppy play they could get away with in college simply doesn’t fly in the NBA. As starting point guard, Brown is learning this the hard way:

For Brown, logging reps as the lead guard is valuable on-the-job training and the experience is priceless. From the Pistons’ point of view, they’re hoping these growing pains pay off down the road. Sure, Summer League run is valuable but ain’t nothing like the real thing.

At this point, the only thing I’m looking for regarding turnovers is how the players immediately react — do they compound the mistake or continue to hoop? Below, in probably his worst game as a member of the Pistons, Bruce Brown turns the ball over on one end then intensifies the situation by receiving a technical foul on the other:

Basketball isn’t a game of perfect, Bruce. Plus, you’re not good enough to get a “frustration” tech. Blake? Yes. You? No.

Now is not the time to worry about Detroit’s turnover bugaboo, but let’s make a mental note to circle back in about a month.