Five Questions back!
Today, we’re talking with Steve Hinson of Detroit Bad Boys, SB Nation’s Pistons blog, about the Pistons’ season, what’s gone wrong, what they expect in the offseason, and how they match-up against the Grizzlies. Check it out below!
1. Detroit was the 8th seed last year but will miss the playoffs this season. We know about the Reggie Jackson injury, but what else went wrong this season?
Lots! It’s been a disaster of a season and there have been plenty of contributors.
Let’s start with the offense. It’s never a good thing in the league today when you’re 28th in three pointers made and 29th in three point percentage or last in free throws made and 29th in free throw percentage. Or finishing second in the league in shot attempts from midrange. Or if you have a guy who has taken the fifth most post up shots in the league, despite averaging .73 points per possession on them. Put all of those things together and you’ve got a great recipe for the least efficient offense in the league. The Pistons are last in true shooting percentage.
On an individual level, none of the team’s players really progressed this season. Coming into the season as one of the younger teams in the league, that was unexpected.
Most notable was Andre Drummond. He’s still a dominant rebounder and actually manages to continue to improve on that front. In fact, his 36.5 percent defensive rebound percentage is among the best of the modern era. But he still continues to struggle to return to being an efficient offensive player thanks to the overuse of his post up game, which remains among the league’s worst. And he’s been stunningly bad on the defensive end. His defended field goal percentage differential is one of the worst among centers in the league, as is his defensive rating (as calculated by NBA Stats rather than Basketball Reference). Don’t be fooled by the stats that rely mostly on just blocks, steals, and defensive boards, where Drummond does actually make an impact. Y’all saw what Marc Gasol did to him this year when he dropped 38 on 14-17 shooting? That’s happened far too often this season.
Lastly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t been the same player since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out for four games in January. His shooting has slumped, but even worse has been the drop in his performance defensively. He went from holding opponents to 43 percent shooting from the field and a 105.2 defensive rating prior to the injury to 49 percent shooting and 109.5 defensive rating. He’s always been up and down as a scorer, but without consistent defense from KCP the team really struggles on that end.
Now, that’s a lot of words...but perhaps it’s even more telling that I could go on. For a while.
2. What’s your outlook for this offseason and next season? Are you optimistic they’ll be able to make it back to the playoffs?
The offseason is certainly an unknown. They’ve got some big decisions to make in regards to their core. Do you hold on to Reggie Jackson to see if he’s able to return to form? Do you trade Drummond while a team might still be willing to buy on potential, thanks to the fact that he’s still 23 years old? How much are you willing to pay KCP, particularly if another team offers him the max?
For the playoffs though, there’s still talent on this team. Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower have typically made astute moves to continually improve the roster from that standpoint. It wouldn’t take much for them to be back to the playoffs or to make that jump many Pistons fans were looking for out of them this season. Even if they do unload some players from the core, I expect it will likely be to take a step forward rather than to take a step back - or in other words, to target a top 25 player rather than dumping for the sake of dumping.
3. Who’s been the biggest surprise this season? Who’s been the biggest disappointment?
Surprise: There’s not many good things to point to on this front, but perhaps the biggest has been KCP’s development as a secondary ball handler. His 11.5 assist percentage may not seem like much, but you’ll find that he’s much more involved in the offense than he ever has been before. In particular, look out for his handoff and roll with Andre Drummond. That’s not been a play he’s been able to run in the past as effectively, but has been a staple of the offense this season.
Disappointment: Andre Drummond’s defense. We’ve been looking for him to take the next step as a defensive player ever since Stan Van Gundy took over. Instead, he’s actually gotten worse each of the past three seasons. And as an inefficient offensive player, poor defensive player, it begs the question: even with elite rebounding carrying his value as a player, how good is Andre Drummond?
4. For Grizzlies fans who haven’t seen a lot of the Pistons this season, outside of KCP and Drummond, who’s the most fun to watch?
Ish Smith. He’s blazing fast, runs a very pretty offense, and he plays hard defensively. Perhaps one of the more fun things that we’ve found with him is that he blocks a surprising number of shots. With a few games left to go, he’s already blocked the sixth most shots for someone six feet tall or shorter in a single season.
A second guy I’ll point to is Tobias Harris. He’s not flashy, but you can set your watch to him. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, playing small forward or power forward (the latter is where he spends most of his time), you can count on him for an efficient 16-17 points per game and with surprisingly not bad defense. Plus he’s a weapon in such a variety of ways on the offense, Harris has become one of the more sneakily underrated, versatile players out there.
5. Where do you think the Pistons match-up well with the Grizzlies?
On the boards. Behind Drummond the Pistons have been one of the best rebounding teams in the league all season, a place where it looks like the Grizzlies have struggled. It’s the closest thing to a competitive advantage that Detroit has these days.
Thanks again to Steve Hinson for taking part in our Five Questions series, and be sure to check out Detroit Bad Boys for all your Pistons news updates!