Though the Detroit Pistons finished week two with a 1-3 record, they continued to be competitive and show some reasons for optimism.
The most positive development for the franchise is Jerami Grant emerging as a legitimate No. 1 option. Grant has been surprisingly effective and in much different ways than how he found success in Denver.
Grant leads the Pistons in scoring with 22.8 points per game, more than 7 clear of second-place Blake Griffin. He’s scoring those points on 55.8% true shooting despite his below-average shooting from behind the arc. Given his increase in usage and early three-point shooting, Grant’s been about as good as could have been expected through seven games.
Grant has been remarkably good when able to attack the basket this year.
Through January 3’s games, he’s the most-efficient shooter on drives in the league among players with 5.3 drives per game or more.
The primary reason for Grant’s efficient start is the concerted effort to create space for him in a variety of ways.
The most common mode of creating space for Grant has been through some form of a high screen. And Mason Plumlee’s excellent screens have been a significant factor.
Watch here how Plumlee gets just enough of Grant’s defender to propel him unimpeded toward the paint. Jerami catches the drop coverage flat footed and explodes to the rim for a dunk:
Grant has averaged two handoffs per game and rates in the 60th percentile on those plays, so they’ve been a positive force thus far.
More effective have been pick-and-roll situations, where Grant ranks in the 95th percentile.
Against the Celtics, Plumlee removes Marcus Smart from the play with a screen, creating tons of room for Grant to get downhill for the and-one:
Detroit is also creating space for Grant is through down screens. Because of the necessary path to defend these actions, Grant again gathers momentum prior to attacking downhill, giving him an advantage.
When both Saddiq Bey and Plumlee set screens against the Hawks, Grant has a step on his defender and the help is late due to its responsibilities on screeners turned scoring options. The result is an easy layup opportunity for the Pistons’ leading scorer:
Against the Warriors, the down screeners were Sekou Doumbouya and Isaiah Stewart. After being freed by a (perhaps illegal, definitely beefy) Stewart screen, Grant recognizes a vulnerable defense on its heels and drives largely unimpeded to the paint for a dunk:
Detroit has also been able to aid Grant through simple actions that increase his probability of success.
With Grant playing power forward and Boston employing two centers, he and Bey swap defenders with a handoff that leaves Daniel Theis defending him. Grant uses his quickness advantage while also getting his body into Theis for two points:
Watch how Svi switches from the corner to above the break. Once the switch is complete, Grant begins his drive and beats his man off the dribble. The nearest help defense is Steph Curry, but he can’t fully commit because Svi is a pass away, giving Grant some extra room to set up a floater:
Occasionally, when Grant has a quickness advantage, Detroit will just completely clear out one side to let him do his thing:
The scoring hasn’t all come off designed action, though. Grant has also proven a real threat to attack defenses as a secondary playmaker.
With Derrick Rose driving and Plumlee and Griffin cutting, most of the Celtics defense has its back turned to the kick out pass to Grant. Grant takes full advantage by attacking the scrambling defense for another great look in the paint:
Obviously, it’s still very early in the season. Grant’s numbers could certainly regress, but it’s encouraging to see the coaching staff scheme to his strengths. It will be an important factor in the development of the young roster. Pistons fans should hope that their younger players get schemed for on a similar level.