The Pistons offense has been bad this season (understatement of the century). Outside of the 4th quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, the team has not been making shots, not really generating easy shots at the rim, turning the ball over, and not moving the ball well. It is tough to make any judgment on a team after six games played. It is even tougher to make a judgment when those six games are mostly against likely playoff teams and you are a young team whose biggest offseason acquisition — Cade Cunningham — has been limited to 19 minutes.
However, there are aspects to this abysmal start offensively that still leave reasons for concern. Obviously, the shooting should be expected to improve a bit at some point. It started to on Thursday where Saddiq Bey broke out of his early-season shooting slump by shooting 4-of-9 from 3 point range. Frank Jackson also got himself back on track a bit by going 2-of-5 from 3-point range.
But outside of those two players, everybody is still a mess from behind the arc. Jerami Grant is at 25% from beyond the arc in five games played. Kelly Olynyk is at 30%. Isaiah Stewart, who showed a bit of promise from beyond the arc as a rookie, is passing on open 3s now and is yet to make one this season. Every player not named here is also below their career marks from beyond the arc, but you kind of get the point.
Here is a graphic made by our very own Bryce Simon that shows how many open threes each player is getting (through 3 games). It is a great way to put the shooting into perspective and provide optimism on who should improve
When Cade Cunningham and his 40 percent 3 point shooting from college is back in the lineup regularly, things will start to improve a bit more. But this roster still leaves a lot to be desired shooting the ball. But it is also only the second year in a rebuild and a lack of shooting was to be expected out of this roster.
The Pistons currently sit bottom in the league for 3 point percentage (25.8) and are only making 8.3 shots per game, which is 29th in the league. Once some of the player’s numbers start to normalize these numbers will improve. The team is currently 23rd in the league for 3-point attempts per game, so that should also tick up a bit once players start hitting shots and get more confident in shooting 3s. We saw that against Philly when Saddiq Bey took nine 3-pointers after he caught fire in the fourth. This roster is not built to be a volume 3-point shooting team, so it remains to be seen how many more attempts per game this team will actually take once they are fully healthy.
Dwane Casey wants them to shoot more 3s, but you have to have the personnel to do that and the current state of the offense along with the current personnel don’t really bode well for that happening.
The more concerning aspect of the Pistons early-season offensive struggles has been their lack of ball movement and the turnovers. They are currently 25th in the league in assists per game (21). And while assists per game is not the end-all be-all when it comes to determining ball movement, especially on a team that simply is not hitting their shots; in the case of the Pistons it is pretty indicative of how things are going this season. They are only 19th in potential assists at 45.3 per game, so even with the lack of shooting, the Pistons just are not creating a lot of opportunities for potential assists. Their assist to pass percentage is bottom in the league at 6.4 percent.
A funny thing about all these passing numbers is the team is actually first in the league in passes made at 328.5 per game. This means that they are basically just passing the ball for the sake of doing it and not really creating anything positive out of it.
This team’s offense is ugly right now. There is very little meaningful ball movement and the few times they are generating open looks through ball movement, players are not hitting their shots.
The Pistons also have the 7th most shots per game blocked by the opponent (6.0), which means that they are getting tough shots at the rim.
It is not all that surprising given the state of the roster, but the Pistons are also tied for 23rd in the league in turnovers per game at 16.5. This is to be expected with a young team with essentially a first-year point guard (Killian Hayes) and guys trying to expand their game like Saddiq Bey. However, if you think Cade Cunningham is going to cure these issues as a rookie, you are in for a rude awakening. Cade Cunningham averaged 4.04 turnovers per game in college. If there was any major flaw to his game coming out of college, it was the turnovers. And while some of that could be tied to the roster he was playing with at Oklahoma State, the current state of the Pistons is very similar to that roster at Oklahoma State.
All of this means that while Cade Cunningham will likely help the Pistons shooting woes and improve their ball movement and shot creation, they are still likely to struggle with turnovers, which can swing any game for a team with such a small margin for error like the Pistons in 2021-22.
I would like to say there is a silver lining to these offensive struggles for the Pistons, but there really is not. All I can really say is that it is a small sample size from six games in which the team shot badly. But the issues with ball movement and turning the ball over, likely aren’t going to improve anytime soon. The Pistons are second-to-last in the NBA in offensive rating (96.8).
Like I said, things will probably get a bit better once players start to hit their shots. But expecting a drastic change in the offense from a team that still lacks the necessary offensive creators that all the best teams in the league have, how much things improve remains to be seen.