It’s been a pretty ugly start to the season for the Detroit Pistons.
The 0-3 record isn’t the problem, per se, it’s more the fashion in which they’ve lost. On one hand, it’s been good to see this team defend its ass off, that’s a positive and shows real effort from a young group. The offense has been b-r-u-t-a-l though.
Help miiiiight be on the way in the form of Cade Cunningham next week, but we’ll get to that later. Here are a few areas where Detroit is trending in the wrong direction and needs to figure it out ASAP.
TAKE CARE OF THE BASKETBALL
This is like Basketball 101 stuff — don’t turn the ball over.
It’s funny that the Pistons brought in former Michigan and Cavaliers coach John Beilein to help sure up their fundamentals... only to be a fundamental mess early this season. The biggest culprits: turnovers and missed shots.
Now, it’s certainly not Beilein’s fault. He’s not out there throwing up enough bricks to build a house nor is he competing with Jared Goff to see who can turn the ball over more in Detroit this year. But, fundamentally, the Pistons have been very sloppy this season.
Detroit is turning the ball over 18 times per game — a 20.6% increase from last season — and its 15.7% turnover percentage ranks 27th in the NBA. Each of Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Jackson are averaging north of two turnovers per game.
Meanwhile, the point guards, Killian Hayes and Cory Joseph, have taken relatively good care of the ball. That, to me, shows that Dwane Casey’s iso-heavy offense early this season is resulting in the Pistons’ wings and forwards doing way too much with the ball.
They won’t turn the ball over at this rate all season — they had stretches last season where they were relatively good in this facet — but until the shots start falling, this try-to-make-something-happen approach is going to keep resulting in ugly turnovers.
SHOOTERS KEEP SHOOTING
The other side of the fundamentals coin? Shooting.
And, boy have the Pistons stunk here.
After lamenting his team’s lack of perimeter shooting throughout the offseason, Casey’s crew has opened the season as the worst shooting team in the NBA. They’re last in 3P% and 3PM while ranking 29th in 3PA.
It’s tough to assign blame here. The low attempts are baffling, but part of this is just unlucky bounces.
Underachievers like Bey (24% from 3), Olynyk (18%) and Frank Jackson (18%) are going to regress in a good way, while it’s not impossible that Hayes (currently at 40%) ends up being a decent low-volume shooter from deep ala Hamidou Diallo last season.
This all goes back to the Pistons’ offense, though. They’re ridiculously iso-heavy and simply don’t have the personnel to play that way. It’s easy to spread the floor and let your iso-scorer go to work when he’s a Grade-A stud... but Grant and Bey aren’t that.
It’s also the rotations these guys are making on drives. Too often, we’re seeing the driver get to the rim only to be met by three defenders because a guard in the corner is running to the rim (or not being respected in the corner) while a big man (mostly Isaiah Stewart) is clogging up the paint and leaving his defender in prime position to help on the drive.
That results in, as Stan Van Gundy so poetically put it, a f*cking wall. Their spacing needs to be better, and for opposing defenses to react to that correctly, you need to be in the right spots and be a threat to make shots.
CAN CADE SAVE THE DAY?
Maybe this whole offense is just missing something. Like a car without an engine.
It’s entirely possible this is built around Cunningham. Think about it: plenty of teams fall off the tracks when the focal point of their offense is out. Perhaps Casey restructured his system to operate around Cade and his strengths? It’s not impossible.
In fact, that would be ideal.
Again, we have to remember that he’s a rookie. He’s not coming to save the day, though I’d love to be wrong there. He isn’t going to make those open threes for Bey and Frank Jackson, nor is he going to help Josh Jackson throw smarter passes in transition.
The Pistons have problems, and Cade will help with some. However, the guys who are struggling now need to solve their own problems in order for the ship to steady when Cunningham is finally in the lineup.