It’s already hard to get excited about this year’s Detroit Pistons three games into the preseason, and the team’s latest loss, 115-99 to an undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder team, is the latest evidence.
The Pistons’ switching scheme was once again a shambles with poor communication, late or nonexistent rotations and open lanes to the basket as far as the eye could see. The offense isn’t much better, with the team’s big men accomplishing little and Cade Cunningham looking rusty, ineffective and with all the same turnover problems he had last season.
To make matters worse, the team lost potential starting big man (Center? Power forward? Tough to tell with this ramshackle lineup) Marvin Bagley III to a potential serious knee injury a minute into the game. There will be more information on his condition some time soon, but it seems to be a question of whether Bagley will miss months or the entire season.
The Pistons started off the game well, and it looked like things were finally starting to jell as the team held a 57-54 lead and had 18 assists to just five turnovers.
But the second half was an unmitigated disaster. Five quick turnovers and some foul trouble left the Pistons relying on an undersized unit on the floor with no offensive flow and providing little defensive pressure.
Second-year guard Josh Giddey scored 8 points and notched 4 assists in the third frame as the Thunder scored 28 points on 57% shooting and putting the game mostly out of reach.
The Pistons, meanwhile, had more turnovers (7) than field goals (6) and the team shot just 3`% from the field.
By the fourth quarter, the Pistons had little fight left in them and the Thunder lead ballooned to as much as 20 points.
Detroit again struggled to protect the rim, allowing the Thunder 60 points in the paint. They also couldn’t contest perimeter shots, allowing 39 points from the long line.
The Pistons have been preaching forcing the “tough 2” when discussing their aggressive switching approach, but Oklahoma City shot a grand total of five shots between the paint and 3-point line and made two of them.
It’s a shame the majority of the game was so miserable, because there was a solid Killian Hayes game buried in there. He looked every bit the capable point guard, running the show, aggressively attacking the lane and hit 4 of his 6 three-pointers.
You will take 20 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover on 61% shooting and solid defense any day of the week from Hayes.
He is being overly aggressive, and that is exactly what he needs to be to finally figure out the contours of his game and learn how to be an effective offensive weapon on a nightly basis. Keep shooting, Kill.
Jalen Durn also impressed, though he had plenty of rookie mistakes and fouled five times in just 24 minutes.
But the building blocks are there. He corralled 10 rebounds, showed some nice vision and passing ability and couldn’t be pushed around inside the paint.
As the team considers what to do in Bagley’s long-term absence, giving Duren a bigger role earlier than anticipated is certainly on the table, and I think he would far surpass expectations. He’s the real deal.
Jaden Ivey shot just 4-of-12, but he showcased that elite first step, an ability and willingness to drive into the teeth of the defense and also some tough contests at the rim including ripping the ball out of a player’s hands on a dunk attempt.
Ivey is not going to be an efficient scorer in his first season, but he will be an explosive scorer, and he’s got a good sense of the floor and high basketball IQ.
The Pistons have one more game to figure out all these issues in the preseason, but all signs are pointing to this being a long season and plenty of development time for all the young players.