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Detroit Pistons are perfect in first week of season … lottery odds-wise

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Breaking down the highs and lows of the first week of Pistons basketball

Golden State Warriors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the Pistons went 0-4 in their first four games of the young NBA season. They achieved that playing competition that won 28% of their last year. This isn’t a revelation. The pleasant surprise for fans is that for the first time in 12 years, the Pistons aren’t just bad — they are really bad. And that might finally deliver something good.

On the one hand, the longer the odds of competing in the postseason, the sooner we’ll play young players and not overtax vets and risk their health to chase illusory victories. Additionally, the vets won’t be put in situations exposing that they’re no longer suited to carry the team themselves. On the other hand, it looks like (you can see by yourself here, here and here) it’s going to be a draft loaded at the top with potential superstars.

Since we have a few months before we start talking seriously about draft prospects, let’s concentrate on the play of the Pistons.

Jerami Grant is so far validating his contract with interest. He is averaging 22.8 points on great shooting splits of 47/36.7/85.7. He shoots in bunches with above-average efficiency at the rim (66.7%), from the three-point line (2.8 makes per game) and from the charity stripe (.318 free-throw rate). These are the three most important shots in today’s game. His triples are also coming more frequently in off-the-dribble situations.

And among his shots close to the basket, we find another new form of offense in the form of such dribble drives.

He is also showing good vision with passes like these (his AST% is up from 6.8 last year to 8.2).

His scoring numbers are borderline-star-like, but his borderline stardom doesn’t inhibit the development of youngsters as his usage is not so far from average because he does his job efficiently (60.5 TS%) and carefully (5.7 TO Ratio). He plays heavy minutes, but that means Dwane Casey needs to figure out a rotation that maximizes Grant and young players. Grant also provides terrific defense. He can block a shot anywhere and stop everyone’s dribble with great on the ball D.

Jerami’s shot blocking

Jerami’s on ball D

Even though he must cover for a lot of blind spots on perimeter defense, Grant is still able to show improvement in his presence on the defensive glass (13.2 DREB% compared to 9.9 from a season ago).

If Grant can keep this up, he can be the perfect player to provide a steadying, energetic presence on a rebuilding team without diminishing the main task of collecting and developing young prospects.

Speaking of young prospects with potential, Josh Jackson has made a strong statement in his first week with the franchise. As a reclamation project, Josh knows his job is to work his butt off on defense, run in transition and shoot open threes. He does all three aggressively.

Josh’s defense

Josh’s transition

Josh’s triples

But Jackson’s doing them so well he’s already second on the team in scoring (17.3 PPG), second in stocks (1 SPG and 0,8 BPG) and third in rebounding (6 RPG). Casey’s shot chart serves him well, as he’s converting in volume (4.3 FGM) and efficacy (85 FG%) in the restricted area. Until last game, in which he missed all five of his triples, Josh posted also good numbers from beyond the arc (2 3PM on 35.3 clip with most of them off the dribble or off movement). And he also upped the number of his visits to the free-throw line (3.5 vs. 2.3 a season ago). He already played his way into a starting role short-term, if he’s able to keep going he’ll become a full-time starter and get a longer leash from his coach.

Josh has a versatile skillset, and when he’s able to do them with the confidence of a 50.9 FG% scorer then the sky is the limit. Moreover, the Detroit native is showing an inclination to create for others.

However, let’s get ahead of ourselves. First, let’s hope Jackson ups his 3P% again and maybe adds one more assist per game.

Another young prospect showing a lot of promise in the first week is Isaiah Stewart. We’ve already noticed that he’ll try to grab every loose thing there is around.

But what he’s now doing on the glasses looks special.

The kid averages 7.5 RPG in 18.8 MPG which translates into 14.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. He has an OREB% of 20, best in the league among players who played more than garbage time. Detroit knows a thing or two about taking largely unheralded players who have a nose for rebounding. Stewart is showing that, but he also has some offensive potential yet to be unearthed.

The stats won’t tell you that, but Svi also is developing his game. In the preseason, he showed to be more eager to shoot the long ball off of movement.

Now he shows eagerness to make you pay when you dare to run him from the long line.

He probably read our analysis pointing that Coach Casey’s offensive system puts a premium on scorers that can score in spades outside and in while also creating opportunities for others.

It was already mentioned by Brady, David and Matt, but you can’t emphasize it enough: Mason Plumlee looks like a quality signing. It’s not only that he passes the ball well (4.8 assists against 1.8 turnovers) to get our scorers into motion. He also complements our playmakers with his own scoring abilities.

Yeah, the defense is not always what you would call good, but it’s not like we pay him money to be a two-way impactful player.

We pay that kind of money to Jerami and, as we mentioned above, he’s already shown he could provide a good return on that investment.

As with the Mason signing, the Delon Wright trade looks to be delivering. As we thought, his ability to read the defense and react works superbly in Casey’s offense.

Wright’s stat line of 11.8 points, 3.5 assists, against 1.5 turnovers, 3.8 rebounds with shooting splits of 50/50/82,4 (with 70% shooting in the restricted area and a .607 free-throw rate) confirms the eye test. Most of the time he doesn’t need anybody else to cover for him on defensive end.

This rebuild is not flawless, of course — hence the losses. Our stars are not off to a good start. Blake Griffin seems to still be bothered by his knee or maybe he’s a bit lost in how he should best fit into this new team and changed offensive system. Derrick Rose said in preseason he had more important things to care about in the offseason than playing basketball. He’s playing like it.

Our young dynamic duo of Frenchmen is definitely French but not so clearly dynamic. After showing determination early on, Sekou is starting to fade into the background.

Sekou showing determination

Sekou without determination

Killian can look good when he’s subtle.

But he needs to learn that what worked in Europe could be too lazy and nonchalant against NBA defenses.

Saddiq Bey has also registered in this grey zone, showing a cold-blooded trigger with a long gun but shooting blanks closer to the basket. He is also displaying intriguing footwork, which is good, but showcasing awful shot mechanics.

Finally, there’s lots of bad stuff to report about the defense’s performance early in the roster overhaul. In the preseason, the team’s blitzing P&Rs looked good, now not so much.

Casey is known for his emphasis on defense against threes. Well, you might forget that when you see a drop coverage with a recovering on-ball defender going under the screen against a solid three-point shooter.

Or this transition D that leaves the perimeter unguarded.

Or this 2-3 zone that neglects the long line.

Or switches against ATO that leaves Blake torn between two shooters.

It’s no surprise the Pistons are in the bottom third in opponent’s 3PA, 3PM and 3P%. You probably think that we have a better defense inside the arc instead… eeeeeee, guess again.