How Good Are the New-Look Detroit Pistons?
As most NBA teams sat idly by during this year's NBA trade deadline, Stan Van Gundy and his Detroit Pistons made a big move.
In a trade with the Orlando Magic, the Pistons shipped out backup point guard Brandon Jennings and stretch forward Ersan Ilyasova and, in return, received Tobias Harris. That is what we call highway robbery, ladies and gentleman.
And after 10 games, we can see that the roster shakeup has had a positive impact so far.
Detroit experienced two bad losses, at Washington and at home to New Orleans, prior to reeling off four straight victories, including a road win at Cleveland and a 13-point win over Toronto at home. In totality, Detroit is 6-4 since the All-Star break with a total of four wins against playoff-caliber teams -- one coming last night in a 102-to-96 road win in Big D.
Sharing Is Caring
In their new skin, the Pistons are showing some signs of improvement on the offensive end of the floor, averaging 101 points on 45.1% from the field, 37.1% from beyond the arc, and 19.5 assists per game. Their points per game are actually down a tick from where they were prior to the break, but their Offensive Rating is up two points per 100 possessions, from 102.3 to 104.3, and following suit, their Effective Field Goal Percentage of 50.8% is up from its 48.6% mark, as a result of Detroit's improved shooting accuracy.
Their passing and willingness to share the basketball has definitely played a significant part in that as well. How significant?
In their six wins, the Pistons are averaging 22 helpers per game and are assisting on 55.9% of their made field goals. In their four losses, those numbers fall to 15.75 assists on 45.3% of their buckets.
He's the New Guy
The newcomer, Harris, has been doing his part on both sides of the offensive bill -- that's for sure.
With 17.1 points per contest, the 23-year-old combo forward is second on the team in scoring behind only point guard Reggie Jackson. The manner in which he's doing his damage -- shooting 51.2% from the floor and 41.2% from three -- has been a prime example of Detroit's emphasis on getting the best shot possible on nearly every possession.
Harris isn't just doing his usual scoring, though. He's expanded his game to include what appears to be a very undersold and underused passing ability.
He's averaging a respectable 2.7 assists per game so far in his run with the Pistons, but he's shown the ability to do even more than that, with four games of 4 or more assists over the last six games alone. In fact, Harris has gone for 15 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in his last two games.
Since he's arrived, Harris has been nothing but a positive -- scratch that, a godsend -- for Stan Van Gundy.
|Offensive Rating||Net Rating||eFG%||TS%|
Harris' contributions have undoubtedly been a driving factor in Detroit going from 27-27 and a game back of the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference to 33-31 with a half-game lead on Chicago for the last spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
With the addition of Harris, the Pistons have formed a very impressive starting five of Harris, Jackson, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who have enjoyed some success in their little time together so far.
|Pistons||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|Team - L10||104.3||104||0.3|
|Team - Season||102.6||102.5||0.1|
It's clear that the Pistons and their fresh lineup aren't quite there yet on the defensive end. Their Defensive Rating of 103.1 isn't anything to brag about. Neither is their opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage of 53.4%. Despite those numbers, there are reasons for Pistons fans to be optimistic -- and here are three of them.
For one, they're young. With an average age a hair under 24 years of age, their starting five doesn't have a single member older than 26 years old. So the Pistons could keep them together for some time.
Another reason, better seen in the Pistons' on-court play, is their flashes of good defense. Since the addition of Harris and subtraction of Ilyasova, the Pistons have held their opponents to 97.8 points per game -- good enough for 10th in the league in that timespan. They've managed to outperform that average on five occasions, most notably holding the Cavaliers to 88 points on their home court.
The youngsters have proven that they have the ability to defend, so maybe it's just a matter of time before they completely gel and put their physical talents to good use.
Those same physical talents are another reason why the future looks so bright in the Motor City.
Without going too far into detail (matchups, skillsets, etc.), the Detroit Pistons' lineup has a very similar physical build to that of the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
Though his name isn't Stephen Curry, the Pistons have a 6'3" point guard of their own. That's the only position at which the two teams share a player of the exact same height, but the overall size is eerily similar.
At 6'7", Klay Thompson has two inches on the 6'5" Caldwell-Pope while the Pistons' forward combination of Morris (6'9") and Harris (also 6'9") have three inches on Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, who stand at 6'8" and 6'7", respectively. Andrew Bogut (7'0") rounds out Golden State's starting five at the center spot, with an inch on Detroit's man in the middle, Andre Drummond.
If you've done the math you know that both lineups have a total length of 397 inches, or an average height of 6'7.4". That isn't where the comparison ends.
The Pistons also possess the same kind of length the Warriors possess in their versatile defensive efforts. In fact, they're even lengthier, with an average wingspan of nearly 7'0" at each of their starting positions.
This kind of length doesn't always translate to the defensive success of a Golden State, but as we saw a season ago (and lately) in Milwaukee, it sure can cause problems for opposing offenses. The athleticism and versatility of this squad has the potential to do just that -- now and in years to come.
The key word there is "potential." That is the difference between what the new-look Pistons are right now -- good -- and what they could be -- really good -- if they can find a way to capitalize on that potential.