After years of obscurity at the center spot, the Detroit Pistons finally looking as if they figured out what to do with that position. The Andre Drummond trade brought significant cap space, but also a new approach to filling the center position. In place of an elite rebounder and role player who was paid and acted like a team’s superstar, the Pistons have a well-defined role already allowing more modestly paid bigs to flourish with veteran Mason Plumlee and rookie Isaiah Stewart (so far we can’t be sure if Jahlil Okafor will join them). Now, Troy Weaver is adding depth at the position by adding second-year big man Tyler Cook on a 10-day contract.
The Pistons’ motion offense relies heavily on playmaking Cs. Mason is 6th among NBA centers with 4.9 assists per 36 minutes. His passes from high post/pin down and handoffs hub, from down low or on a roll are crucial feature of current Detroit basketball. But he facilitates not only with his passes. He does it also with the screen assist, being in 93rd percentile in this category with 5.9 per 36 minutes. Isaiah lags behind in the assist department with 1.5 assists per 36 minutes, though he’s visibly progressing, averaging 2.1 assists per 36 minutes in his last seven games. But he’s right behind Mason with 5 screen assists per 36 minutes which puts him in the 90th percentile in the NBA.
The other important part of Plumlee and Stewart’s input to the Pistons offense is their efficient scoring around the basket off of lobs, dump-offs, drop passes and other dishes, and post plays. Mason is elite with 74.3 FG% in restricted area; Isaiah again lags some behind with 60.7 FG% there, but in this case too he’s progressing aggressively – 77.3 FG% at the rim in his last seven games.
Now what is interesting is that, although it’s Mason who is the pacesetter here, both Isaiah and Tyler can advance the role of the center in Pistons’ offense. Mason acting as a hub in thehigh post is limited by his lack of shooting. Defenders can sag off him which deflates the space for his teammates to cut, spot up etc. Detroit’s veteran center tries to mitigate this with some dribble plays. He has some handle, but it’s not enough.
Stewart deals better with this problem with the signs of a very good midrange jumper at his disposal (more on this in a future piece). Cook on the other hand? Ha! Let’s see…
First, let’s focus on the positives of what Cook can do that Detroit’s offensive system demands from its bigs. In the just ended G League season, the young player averaged 4.7 assists per 36 minutes. As we can see, he can pass the ball in accordance with the requirements of Motown’s offensive system.
Passes from high post/pin down and handoffs hub, from down low, on rolls – it’s all there.
Cook is good at setting screens that lead to points too.
He already made his mark in that category this season in the NBA playing on a 10-day contract with another team and posting a 6.4 number that is better than Mason and Isaiah’s numbers (though we need to notice that the sample size is very, very small here – he played a total of 17 minutes; last year in 54 minutes of NBA game, that number for him was a still respectable 4.7).
Tyler also can convert effectively as a recipient of passes inside.
He makes 63% of his shots at the rim (which constitute 89.3% of all his takes). Those scores make up a little less than a half (46%) off all his points. The rest is partly covered by some dynamic post plays which show great athleticism merged with quite finesse footwork.
And partially it’s covered by his ability to drive to the basket. And this is his mean to go beyond Mason’s limitations.
In contrast to Plumlee, Cook doesn’t mess around with the ball much. He just goes straight to the hoop. Even though he doesn’t look to have a mid- or long-range jumper, with his athleticism and length he appears to be very efficient in those actions.
If he doesn’t score, he often at least draws a foul.
His 27.7 FTr was among the best in the G League.
It really seems that such drives to the basket could make the job of Pistons’ center easier, and Cook could really flourish with them when had a chance in Detroit. However, it isn’t an unconditional implication, and he need to show that he’ll be able to address the following problems. First of all, the defenders in the NBA are much more athletic than those from these clips. Next, sometimes the situation requires from Tyler to use a little more advanced dribble to make the drive and he stumbles in his own way (his 18.8 TOV% sat in the lowest quarter of the G League).
His 25.5 USG% would be an obstacle for offensive diversity the team is aiming. His lack of height was sometimes troublesome even against less nimble players who play in the minor league.
Finally, there’s also a litany of defensive issues, best summarized by his disappointing DEF WS (45.5 percentile) and DEFRTG (26.8 percentile) in G League this past season, that can cross out his future with the team altogether. Here, for example, we can see him in questionable P&R defense.
After some encouraging signs from his rookie season two years ago, Elie Okobo is below average shooter from the paint non-RA, so why committing so much to him and bailing him out with the possibility to pass to roll man? Although Cook’s numbers on the defensive glass look very good (74.4 percentile), they’d look much better if not those kind of poor performance in boxing out.
Also, his lack of height can hunt down him on this end as well.
And for a man as long and nimble as he is, you’d expects much more of such steals than his 1.1 STL% (Basketball Reference) shows.
Moreover, the scales of his help-side rim protection should be much more tipped toward the second clip from the film below than the first.
Opportunely, at least his on-ball defense displays some good signs.
Yes, we pointed that incumbent Pistons starting center also has defensive issues. But we also emphasized that despite them, he can still make an useful job for Pistons future. However, a young player with this kind of underwhelming defensive performance might be quickly cut by Troy the Reaper. But if Tyler Cook can address these defensive and those others issues, he definitely could complement Detroit Pistons program.