2016-17 Detroit Pistons Season Preview: The Extreme Team

The Dunkyard’s NBA season preview continues, with the Detroit Pistons.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 44-38 (8th East)
  • Offensive rating: 103.3 (14th)
  • Defensive rating: 103.4 (13th)
  • Pace: 97.4 (20th)
  • True shooting: 52.2% (28th)
  • Turnover rate: 12.2% (5th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 27.0% (2nd)
  • Defensive rebounding: 79.3% (2nd)
  • Giveashitameter: 25th
  • Highest PER*: 21.2 (Drummond)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).



It may have been utterly predictable and some of the moves made may have been very questionable, but you’ve got to give Stan van Gundy credit: he knew what he wanted, went out and made Orlando 2009 v2.0 happen and delivered Detroit what it had been lacking for the last seven years – a solid winning record and a playoff berth.

As simple as van Gundy’s HR strategy seemed, the product on the court was a tale of extremes.

On the positive side of the ledger, the Pistons were the second best rebounding team in basketball, ranking 2nd on both offensive and defensive rebounding. However, if there ever was a microcosm for the Pistons’ overall extremity, it was this. Firstly, Drummond was a monster, pulling down nearly a quarter (24.5%) of ALL available rebounds while he was on the court – best in the league by a mile. Baynes was also a solid rebounder in the 15 or so minutes he played each night (17.0%). However, from there, the Pistons’ next best rebounders were Ilyasova (10.7% – ranked 50th among 77 power forwards) and Harris (10.2% – nominally ranked 10th among small forwards, but who played significant time at power forward).

While the overall result was great, the Pistons had a lot riding on Drummond.

The Pistons were also great at looking after the ball, ranking 5th in turnovers. Interestingly, the credit here doesn’t go to Reggie Jackson, who ranked 35th among 77 point guards. Instead, it was the Pistons’ big men in Harris (21st among small forwards), Drummond (12th among centers), Pope (15th among shooting guards) who were best at not gifting the rock.

While they were great at keeping the ball, the Pistons learnt the hard way that there’s only so much you can do if you can’t put it in the hole. Overall, they ranked 25th in true shooting and the main reason was their free throw shooting, which ranked dead last in accuracy. It comes as no surprise that Drummond was the main cause, putting up 586 free throws at 35.5%. If he could have at least shot 50.0%, then it would have added another point to the Pistons’ offensive efficiency and put their offense in or about the top 10. As for the rest of the team, it was another case of extremes, as they were more or less great – with Harris shooting 91.1%, Jackson 86.4% and Pope 81.1%.

Elsewhere on offense, the Pistons were well below par in both two point (23rd) and three point (22nd) shooting accuracy – with Drummond’s offensive rebounding and the team’s overall ball handling bumping the overall product up to 14th.

Reasons to be optimistic

All the major pieces of this roster are 26 or younger and have now racked up some good miles together. Some organic improvement is almost certain. Drummond, Jackson and Harris could all find another level and help take this team over the 50 win mark.

Boban Marjanovic!

Reasons not to be

The Pistons still don’t have a credible long range threat and it’s hard to see how they’re going to make any real improvement on last season’s 28th ranked shooting. Pope is a major problem here. He’s supposed to be a 3 and D guy, but has been anything but at as he launched a team-high 369 threes at 30.9% last season. He’s been in the league long enough now that he should be better than this. With his three seasons so far netting three point percentages of 31.9%, 34.5% and now 30.9%, the signs don’t look good.

Jon Leuer put up some solid numbers for the Suns last season and showed some good range on threes for a power forward (42-110 @ 38.2%). However, he’s not worth $10 million per season, even at today’s inflated numbers.

If you had to bet on whether Drummond will ever shoot 50.0% from the line, which way would you bet? When you make Shaq look like Reggie Miller from the line, then you’ve got a serious problem that’s going to keep dragging your whole offense down.

Reggie Jackson will miss at least the first 6 weeks of the season with knee tendinitis and a thumb injury. If you thought he had issues with his outside shot, just wait until you see Ish.

Major Ins

Boban Marjanovic, Henry Ellenson, Ish Smith, Jon Leuer.

Major Outs 

Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Jackson
  • Caldwell-Pope
  • Harris
  • Morris
  • Drummond

Dave’s lowdown

Here are the 3 worst free throw shooters in NBA history*:

  • 3 – Chris Dudley 45.8%
  • 2 – DeAndre Jordan 42.1%
  • 1 – Ben Wallace 41.4%

Over the first 4 years of his career Andre Drummond is currently shooting 38.0%. If it wasn’t so shocking it would be hilarious, however it’s the one thing that threatens to derail his career. If he can improve to even 50-55% he’s the doppelganger of young Dwight Howard, and Stan Van Gundy took young Dwight and Orlando all the way to the 2009 NBA Finals. Honestly, it’s a more detestable shooting performance than the US Police Force.

* minimum 500 attempts – Clint Capela currently shoots 35.9% on only 234 attempts.

Forecast record: 47-35

Continuity and organic improvement from the young roster should see some small improvements. However, the bottom line is that this team can’t shoot and the game is all about putting the ball in the hole. Unless, Jackson, Pope and Harris can kick it up a serious notch from the outside – and Drummond picks it up from the line – then it’s hard to see this team reaching the next level.

In the meantime, Pistons fans should enjoy making the playoffs, possibly with a top-4 berth, and having a tiny chance at a conference finals appearance – with a first or second round exit being much more likely. While they won’t be serious contenders, it sure as hell beats the previous seven years before last season.