So now that we have seen 10 full games from the Detroit Pistons, I wanted to give some progress reports for players and coaches. I will briefly touch on each player remarking on the good and the bad we’ve seen from them on the court so far as well as give them a letter grade for these 10 games. For the coaches, this will be more of a way to speak on the team as a whole and give an indication about things such as team defense and the way the offense is being run (which we will definitely get to here). This will be a reoccurring article throughout the season so make sure to check in every 10 games to see how things have gone.
To start off, let’s look at the clubhouse leaders in the stats (jusy FYI, almost all the stats I will list in the individual player reports can be found in this hyperlink):
- Points: Jermai Grant (168)
- Rebounds: Isaiah Stewart (71)
- Assists: Cory Joseph (35)
- Free-Throw Attempts: Jerami Grant (45)
- Steals: Kelly Olynyk (14)
- Blocks: Isaiah Stewart & Jerami Grant (12)
- Turnovers: Jerami Grant (20)
- Personal Fouls: Kelly Olynyk (27)
- True Shooting Percentage: Isaiah Stewart (58.5%)
- Free-Throw Attempt Rate: Trey Lyles (48.3%)
- Total Rebounding Percentage: Isaiah Stewart (16.8%)
- Assist Percentage: Cory Joseph (27.2%)
- Turnover Percentage: Killian Hayes (18.6%)
- Usage: Cade Cunningham (29.2%)
The Coaches: B-
I’ll start with the positives because I do have major gripes with this coaching staff for the first time since Dwane Casey came to Detroit. First, I think the defense is still solid. Beef Stew serves as anchor and enforcer down low while also being able to handle switches. Grant is still happy to match up with the Giannises and KDs of the world. Saddiq has handled 2s through 4s without being outmatched. And Cade continues to line up his teammates and make incredible rotations and just cover loads of ground to keep the opposition’s offenses from getting easy buckets.
Now to the negative. To be blunt, this offense sucks. To be more specific, it is stagnant and predictable. For one, there is too much iso ball. Whether by design or by the players taking charge and doing something after a play breaks down there are too many possessions where it is clear where four guys clear out and just watch one guy (usually Jerami or Cade) go to work.
I also feel there is not enough off-ball movement. Too many times we have seen guys just standing around the arc watching one guy go to work. It’s not just in the iso stuff either. The team seems to like running Jerami Grant off a corner pin down, and while he and the screener move, the other three guys more often than not just stand there. I think this has been part of the reason why the three-point shooting for this team has been so bad. If the guys that are spacing don’t move, then it’s easy for defenders to just stick to them.
Of course, the team doesn’t have anyone who provides consistent pressure on the rim to draw defenders away from the guys off-ball ... but, again, it seems like the offense isn’t too keen on running high pick-and-rolls where any one of their guards could then use that pick and have space to drive. I know it’s just 10 games, but this offense is driving me a little bananas, to be honest, and I hope there are more actions and movement for everyone on the team going forward.
Hamidou Diallo, Luka Garza, Saben Lee, Rodney McGruder, Jamorko Pickett: Incomplete
I lump all these guys together because they are all out of the regular rotation even though all of them have seen actual NBA action. All have played less than 80 minutes in 10 games. This is just not enough time to grade them on anything, in my opinion. Special shoutout to Hamidou Diallo, as many in the fanbase are clamoring for him to have more minutes in the rotation as he had some great moments down the stretch last year that indicate he has much more to offer this team.
Cade Cunningham: B+ (141 total minutes)
Cade is still working his way back from that ankle injury—something that almost made me place him in the incomplete section—but it is clear he’s not hurting the team. His past 3 games in particular have vaulted him up the grading scale for me. 18 against Philly, 17 on Brooklyn, then 20 in the win against Houston show he’s getting comfortable. Even before then, he was lining up in the right spots on defense, calling out the correct rotations, and making good choices with his shot selection on offense. Still, his shots weren’t falling and turnovers continue to be an issue as he is second on the team with 17 despite only playing five games. 14 assists to go along with that is not helping either. This is his main area in need of improvement in the immediate future for me, and what keeps him out of A range for the first 10 games.
Trey Lyles: B (157 total minutes)
While he is regarded as a stretch four, Lyles has shown to be a legit big man who is not afraid to do the dirty work. The No. 1 indicator of that is his team-leading Free Throw Attempt Rate. He may not have the big minutes of his teammates, but he is throwing his body around and initiating contact to get to the line a lot when he is in the game. This is also evidenced by the fact he has hauled in 45 rebounds—tied for fourth on the team with Jerami Grant. He, Kelly Olynyk, and Beef Stew also remain the only guys on the team to maintain a true shooting percentage of 55% or better so far. His long-range shot is not falling, and he has made some downright boneheaded plays at times so he is not in the A range at all. Also, he NEEDS to be a stretch four in order for the offense to work better.
Frank Jackson: F (184 total minutes)
This one pains me as I really like Frank and want him to succeed, but let me just give you some numbers to keep it real. While his 55.6% from two-point range is great, it only comes on 27 attempts. Compare that to the 42 attempts from three-point distance. Diving further into the numbers: he has only hit NINE of those 42 three-point attempts for an abysmal 21.4% from deep; shot 62.5% from the free-throw line; has eight turnovers to just four assists, and he has not shown much improvement on defense. Jackson has to be the first guy this season in danger of losing his rotation spot as his primary role is as a floor spacer and he has not done that at all so far.
Cory Joseph: B (206 total minutes)
This is a hard one for me as I feel Joseph does a lot of driving without a plan, hence why no A, but he’s also the team leader in terms of playmaking. His 35 assists lead the team, and he is also the ONLY Piston currently clearing 19.0% in assist percentage. Also, I understand why Troy Weaver and Dwane Casey wanted him back this year as he is one of the few guys that know how to run an offense. He’s only had 12 turnovers so far which indicates he knows where to go with the ball and does not press. I guess the best way to put it is he is an adult in room full of kids. He gets the offense, he does his best to execute it, he focuses on defense, he doesn’t try to do too much…most of the time. The drives into no man’s land definitely knock him down a lot as do the fact that he is holding back Saben Lee. I try not to let that affect my grading too much, but with how Saben played last year and him dropping 42 in his first G League game this season, it is not uncalled for when we as a fanbase wonder out loud if the team would look better with Saben out there.
Josh Jackson: B- (221 total minutes)
Great on defense, and an enigma on offense. His three-point shot comes and goes (three games shooting 40% or better, four games of shooting a big fat 0%). Great two-point percentage (56.1%), but bad free-throw percentage (63.2%). He’s not a bad playmaker with 21 total assists, but that’s only good for sixth on the team. And for someone who likes to drive and cut as much as Jackson does, he gets to the line considerably less than someone with his skillset should as he posts a 25.0% free-throw attempt rate. Yet, he stays in the B range because he does lock in and fight on D, always fights for rebounds (34 on defense good for fifth on the team), and is one of the few Pistons who can create his own shot. Granted his shot selection is less than stellar, but he remains aggressive even if his positive contributions remain inconsistent so far.
Killian Hayes: C (228 total minutes)
Killian is what he is so far. Teams know that his shooting is a work in progress, he can playmake some, and he still remains a nonfactor when driving to the right side of the basket. Part of Killian’s lackluster performance so far, in my opinion, is the coaching staff’s inability to figure out what they want him to do. Is he a floor spacer for Cade and Jerami? Is he the secondary ball-handler who can drive-and-kick or run pick-and-roll? Is he the primary playmaker setting up his teammates to score using his ball-handling and vision? I don’t think we have definitive answers to this yet. But Killian’s lack of assertiveness is what is hurting him more than anything in my opinion. The last game against Houston was a great example of this as he played 30 minutes and 54 seconds yet only managed FOUR total field goal attempts and scored 4 points. He did manage three assists, but his one rebound was the only other stat he placed into the box score. To say he is a non-factor out there on offense is a fair assessment. Defensively, though, he brings it every night and is there to chase around opposing guards. Although, early returns are not great in terms of stops as we haven’t seen him frustrate or shut down anyone yet. The spirit is willing, but the game is still developing in all ways for Killian.
Isaiah Stewart: B+ (229 total minutes)
It would not be a complete stretch to say if there is no Isaiah Stewart on this team then there is no rebounding. Saddiq and Olynyk have definitely done their share of work on the glass, but everything starts with Beef Stew’s tenacity and strength to clear bodies out down low. Defensively, he has been the anchor and THE rim protector that meets any and all opposition that makes it down low. And just from a teammate perspective, he is the enforcer that shoves Blake Griffin to the ground, gets fired up over blocks and dunks, and is there to step in should it come to blows. THAT is always an underrated part of any team, and having a guy like this helps bring the rest of the locker room together as they get fired up and feed off energy like Beef Stew brings 24/7. On offense, though, Beef Stew is still a question mark. He has only taken six three-point attempts all season (only knocking down one). He has made just five attempts to the free-throw line. And I don’t have the numbers, but just watching the games you can see he is not utilized as a roll man as much as he should be. He is eighth on the team in field goal attempts. Some of his offensive holes are due to the coaching staff not making him a priority on offense, but he still hasn’t shown much in terms of offensive development this early in the season scoring only 74 points in these 10 games. This keeps him out of the A range as well.
Kelly Olynyk: A- (230 total minutes)
Third on the team in points with 125, third in rebounds with 53, fourth in assists with 23, number one in steals with 14, and second among the guys in the regular rotation in true shooting percentage posting a 55.1%. I feel these are above just about everyone’s expectations for Olynyk, and are the main reason why we see our first player in the A range. Olynyk is exceptional passing the ball, not wasting shots, and being a pest on defense that the opposition does not want to see. And for extra Bad Boy cred, he leads the team in personal fouls with 27. The main reason he gets the minus along with that A is his 34.1% from three-point distance. He needs to be a consistent floor spacer in order for this team to operate at its peak on offense as spacing has been one of the main issues early in the season. Like with Frank Jackson as well, one of Olynyk’s main jobs is to be a shooter and has been okay so far. Here’s hoping he just continues to improve. Get well soon Kelly! This team needs you.
Jerami Grant: B (298 total minutes)
This is the one I have the hardest time with and as a result, I will be writing a longer column breaking down Grant’s game with the help of Bryce Simon (aka Motor City Hoops), but the best way I can sum up why I gave Grant a B here is one word: stagnant. Yes, he is scoring, and yes, he is one of the best, if not THE best, player on the team, but he is not any different than the player he was last season. To give you some ideas here: Coach Casey talked in the offseason about telling Jerami that he needed to rebound better to become a better player. So far Grant has pulled in 45 reounds … the same amount as Trey Lyles … who has played 141 fewer minutes than Grant. Also, many have labeled Grant as an iso-scorer only, and while I don’t think that is quite fair, he has only managed to dish out 23 assists … the same number as Kelly Olynyk. What’s worse is that Grant leads the team in turnovers at 20. Still, he was matched up with Giannis and KD when the time came. No one can really slow those guys down so kudos to Grant for taking the assignment. But again, he is still solid there on D but what has he really done to be more? Again, I’ll have more in detail in an article focused specifically on Grant, but I do think he needs to be evaluated with much higher expectations as he is who the team turns to many nights to be the focal point of the offense.
Saddiq Bey: A- (331 total minutes)
Well ladies and gentlemen, here we have it. The team leader in minutes played, three-point attempts with 61, offensive rebounds with 26, and turnover percentage at an absolutely stellar 7.6%. Saddiq has taken on A TON more responsibility this season and held up remarkably well, in my opinion. About the only thing one can criticize him for this season is that dip in three-point percentage which currently sits at 27.9%. And while that is fair—and also why he has a minus next to that A—he also has HAD to take all those threes to keep defenses honest and this team in general is absolutely ice cold from deep. Care to guess the team leader in three-point percentage? It’s Killian Hayes at 37.5%! Everyone else on the team is shooting BELOW 35% from deep. That’s a tough environment for any shooter to thrive in. Also, Saddiq has had to take more shots off the bounce as well as more contested looks late in the shot clock when no one else has gotten open. I imagine as Cade settles in and Grant has a night like he did in the last game against Houston, we’ll see Saddiq start sinking shots from deep again as he is not having to force them. In addition, Saddiq is second on this team in assists and second in rebounds. I don’t think ANYONE predicted that coming into the season and just goes to show how much Saddiq has expanded his game and worked on opening up to be more than just a shooter. Thankfully this team's leader in minutes continues to grind and is leading the team in a lot of different ways that will pay dividends in developing his game even further. My personal wishes for Saddiq is he is able to find his teammates more on those awesome spin drives to the basket he does and he is able to get to the foul line more. With how he crashes the offensive glass as well as those drives it would stand to reason he could and I will continue to keep my hopes up for both aspects of his game.
Let us know what you think in the comments and give us your grades for the 10 game progress report. Remember to look for these after every 10 games so we can keep you up to date on how the team is developing.