The Detroit Pistons are a team that’s lost in time.
When they play, it seems as if they are trying to make a low post based offense work in a three-point crazy league. However, you can’t criticize the Pistons for making do with what they have.
For the Pistons, what they have is a traditional center in Andre Drummond. While the All-Star provides solid rebounding and rim protection, his offense is rigid and stifling. To try to compliment Drummond, Pistons GM Jeff Bower dealt Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and others to the Clippers for Blake Griffin on Jan. 29.
The ambitious trade was reminiscent of the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, a team with Anthony Davis. So far, Detroit’s version produced mixed and uneven results. After winning the first five games after the trade, the Pistons lost 10 out of their past 13 games.
The Pistons (30-36) are now 5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the 8th seed. Obviously, it will take a few losses to catch Milwaukee, but the only thing that the Pistons can control is the way they perform in the remaining games of the season. Here are a few ways that the Pistons can go on a run and sneak in the playoffs.
Drummond Adjusting His Game
Even in this “small ball” uptempo era of the NBA, solid interior defense and rebounding will never go out of style. Andre Drummond provides a league leading 15.8 rebounds per game for the Pistons. Those rebounds propelled the Pistons to 13 second chance points per game. He’s also top 20 in blocks.
However, Drummond struggles offensively. His point expectancy per possession in the post is lower than average at .711 points per possession on 5.84 possessions per 36 minutes. Drummond also doesn’t pass out of the post with the frequency that he should.
So the best thing for Drummond to do is pass out of the post more until a better option (i.e. mismatch) is available. Right now, the post will only thrive when a mismatch is available or a superior talent is operating out of it. But the thing is this: Detroit rarely gets the mismatches, and a lack of ball movement is the culprit. The Pistons are currently 16th in the league in assist ratio and passes made. They are also 26th in secondary assists. In order to get some mismatches with Drummond, coach Stan Van Gundy must implement some pick and roll action with Ish Smith (or another guard) and Griffin.
Lineup Change at Guard?
The Detroit Free Press highlighted the thoughts of some fans regarding the possibility of starting Dwight Buycks over Ish Smith at the point, and I agree. Why? Because Griffin have been running point forward for a few games. With Griffin assuming play-making duties, he is averaging 5.6 assists pre game to Smith’s 5.1 assists since the Jan. 29th trade. The logic is Buycks is a better floor spacer than Smith. In order for a Drummond and Griffin pick and pop to work, a floor spacer and shooter is needed.
Buycks is averaging 41 percent from the floor and 34 percent from 3. It’s worth a look.
But according to Van Gundy, Buycks committed back to back turnovers in the final minutes of a recent loss against the Miami Heat. He used those particular sequences as a reason why the young guard shouldn’t be an option.
To be fair, those two turnovers were in a game that was unwinnable. The Pistons trailed the Heat by 10 with 2:26 left in the game. Buycks has slumped as of late but even in his slump, he may be worth another look until Reggie Jackson returns. Van Gundy can stand to trust his young players more. Van Gundy should stop thinking about what he has to lose by giving Buycks and other young guards a chance and start thinking about what he can possibly gain.