Let’s cut to the chase. The Detroit Pistons have regressed. After a wonderful year last season when it seemed they had broken through and put their miserable past of scratch your head moves in the rear view mirror here they come with this season. It was normal to start off slow. Reggie Jackson was going to be out of the lineup because of a sore knee. The backup was Ish Smith. So the Pistons were going to lose a lot at the point guard position. Jackson isn’t the greatest point in the league but he does play with a chip on his shoulder, he still feels wronged by OKC and in tough games his mental anger is good. It fuels his game.
But not much is fueling the Pistons game. They got rolled by a not very good Bulls team. This Pistons club is never going to set the league on fire scoring so if they can’t defend, they can’t compete. It caused Stan Van Gundy to go nuclear after the Bulls humiliation.
“It was a disgusting performance. By all of us, me included. It was unprofessional, embarrassing, humiliating, whatever you want to say. It was terrible. “
The players were concerned enough about their play and effort that they had the infamous players meeting before the Bulls game to which Van Gundy was not impressed. “Team meeting my a**. That stuff means nothing. It is what you do when you are on the court. It looks to me like a lack of effort and a lack of heart. And if you don’t play hard, things aren’t going to go your way. ”
Van Gundy implied that the starting five: Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson may not be the starting five any longer. He wasn’t happy with their combined -153 for the game. But is it just a slump or are the Pistons heading for a huge fall?
The Facts: The Pistons don’t score 100 points a game which puts even more pressure on their defense. They are a miserable three point shooting team. They don’t protect the rim. Only two teams are worse at blocking shots, Dallas and the Lakers, and both of them will be in the lottery. The don’t create turnovers with steals. The bench is pretty worthless, fifth worst at putting the ball in the hole. Their collection of point guards only score 18.5 points a game. Their shooting guards only score 19.7 points a game. They have mediocre small forwards, third worst in the league at offense. So that’s why they are here. Two games under .500. This time last year, after 30 games, the Pistons were 17-13. Their worst loss up to that point was at Charlotte on the second game of a back-to-back. They lost by 20. Clearly, the Pistons have regressed.
The Blame Game. Who gets stripped of the starter status?
Andre Drummond: He admits there is tension on the club. As for Drummond his rebounding is down but that is splitting hairs. Nearly 14 rebounds a game is still elite level. He is moving the ball more, not just holding it for himself. His steals are up but his blocks are down. He is playing the best defense of his career but don’t expect any offensive efficiency. He is scoring 2.2 points less than last year which was a career year for Drummond. He is ranked 24th out of 69 centers. Last year he was ranked 6th. (Real Plus-Minus)
Tobias Harris: The noted underachiever is doing what he does best: less is not more, particular with his perimeter shooting, 32.7%. His rebounding has taken a turn for the worse. As has his assists. His defense is pretty good though; he can guard his position. Harris is who Harris is, a quality forward but not a great one. He is ranked 36th out of 80 small forwards.
Marcus Morris: He is playing fewer minutes but the production is the same. Morris is a below average small forward, a position that is offense dominant but Morris only shoots 43% for his career. His three is down this year too. HIs rebounds have taken a dip, as has his assists. He is scoring less this year. His defense is strong but he can’t match it with any kind of offense that is consistent. Morris is my pick to go to the bench. His mid-range game is on summer break. He is ranked 17th out of 93 power forwards.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: He had a strong post-season in 2016 but the Pistons passed on a contract extension which more than likely means Caldwell-Pope’s days in Detroit are numbered. He’s playing for a contract so good numbers were expected. But he isn’t shooting the ball well overall even as he’s the best thing the Pistons have going on perimeter shots, 38.5%. His assists are way up and his scoring numbers are identical to last year’s. His defense is comparable to last year too. Caldwell-Pope is draining 46.4% of his catch and shoots but just 34.7% of his pull up jumpers. He is ranked 2nd out of 99 shooting guards.
Reggie Jackson: Any team with Jackson on it is always going to have turmoil. Jackson is one of those players who can never ever be happy. His return to the lineup was supposed to make the Pistons better. Except he has been horrible. 38.7% shooting. Can’t even pull down 2 rebounds a game. 4.6 assists when last year he averaged 6.2 assists. Scoring 5 points less than last year. His defense has been good but his offense is in the tank. 23% on shots 3-10 feet. 35% on catch and shoot jumpers and pull up shots. He is ranked 59th out of 85 point guards.
Stan Van Gundy didn’t invent ripping your team to the media but he has perfected it so that it comes off less angry and more emotional. He just can’t seem to help himself when the camera is jammed in his face and he has to respond to what his team is not doing. Blaming Reggie Jackson for not shooting after Reggie Jackson said he was just following the game plan reeks of Dwight Howard 2011.
The wisdom of the moment is that the Pistons are underachieving but there is another way of looking at it too. Last year the Pistons overachieved. Perhaps this really is who they are, give or take a few bad nights or a few excellent games. The Pistons are nothing more than a 41-41 team. And they are playing like it.
Chuck Daly famously said, “you are your record.”
photo via llananba