The Detroit Pistons came into the season with high expectations. A playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference was a goal, and something that they probably should have accomplished with the talent they currently have. The Pistons finished the season with a brutal 29-53 record, but all is not lost. There were certainly positive takeaways from the season, and a Philadelphia 76ers style tank and rebuild isn’t needed with the pieces this Pistons roster has on it.
Detroit opened slow, posting a 5-10 record in the opening month of play. People seemed to think that there were just chemistry issues as the Pistons brought in two big name players in Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. That eventually Mo Cheeks, and this new group of Pistons would figure things out. That never happened. Jennings and Smith just had bad years, no other real way to put it. The guys got paid, then coasted through a year of losses. Smith’s numbers were down across the board. His worst offenses came in field goal percentage, and blocks where Smith posted career lows. Jennings didn’t help much with his 37% shooting, and absolute lack of effort defensively.
The season went all the way into the tank when Mo Cheeks was fired 50 games in after posting a 21-29 record. John Loyer took over with absolutely no hope of turning things around and guided the Pistons to a dismal 8-24 record to close out the season.
Offensively, the Pistons were a solid unit, putting up 101 points per game. They certainly weren’t running teams out of the gym, but they got their points on a consistent basis. Smith led the Pistons with just over 16 points per night, with Jennings, and Greg Monroe also pouring in over 15 points per night each. The problem was that the Pistons got their points more due to the pace of their play rather than their offensive prowess. Detroit played a wide open style of basketball that allowed for more possessions and therefore more points, but the same was also true for their opponent. Opponents generally went the route of just outscoring a Pistons team that had trouble in half-court offense in clutch situations. When the game got close down the stretch the Pistons couldn’t generate the same amount of offense that they got for the first three quarters against a set half-court defense in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons routinely declined to participate on defense for most of the season. They allowed 104.7 points per night, good for just 27th overall in the league. The team isn’t full of amazing defenders but any team that plays position defense without fouling can have a decent unit in the NBA. With Josh Smith and Andre Drummond patrolling the paint, the Pistons have the start of a solid defensive lineup. The trick is to get Smith engaged offensively, which leads to him being much more active defensively. Smith has shown he can be a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball, he just has to want it. The real problem is the backcourt where Brandon Jennings looks allergic to defense at times, and Rodney Stuckey is much more concerned about his offensive game. Greg Monroe and Kyle Singler are also below-average defenders at best. The Pistons definitely need to add perimeter defense in the off-season, and a coach that will preach defensive principles.
What did the Pistons really excel at? Rebounding, rebounding, and rebounding. We knew that Detroit’s big, long frontcourt would be good on the glass, but their numbers, and play were pretty exciting. Drummond finished second in the league with 13.2 rebounds per night, and was posting crazy numbers when Josh Smith sat out the last few game of the season. Monroe was also a force down low as he grabbed just under 10 boards per night. As a team, the Pistons finished with over 45 rebounds per night, good for third in the NBA. Rebounds are huge in any level of basketball, and this is definitely a positive to build on.
Overall, the Pistons had a poor season. Though hope springs eternal with Detroit in the lottery, and one of the deepest draft classes in a long time. The Pistons won’t be able to do a ton of major off-season maneuvering due to the big contracts they already have on the books. The draft will be key as the Pistons look to improve a solid, young nucleus of talent. With the Pistons losing both their head coach and President of Basketball Operations, the immediate needs are in the front office. The Pistons will look to hire a new a new President who will need to hire a head coach. It is now up to owner Tom Gores to find the right people for the jobs in a big off-season for Detroit.
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