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Reducing turnovers would improve Pistons’ defense

The Pistons rank 27th in defensive rating (all data for this post was updated Sunday). Obviously, the Pistons require work on the defensive side of the court to fix that dreadful number.

But improving their offense would help a lot, too.

The Pistons turn the ball over on 18.3 percent of their possessions, worst in the league. More specifically, they have the ball stolen on 9.9 percent of their possessions (third-most in the league).

This makes a difference because offensive possessions that end in steals lead to easier opportunities for opponents.* Ideally, we could find the Pistons’ defensive rating after allowing a steal, but there’s no reasonable avenue to do that. But we can come close enough that we can estimate how big a problem Detroit’s turnovers are for its defense.

*I have no data to support this, but logically, I’m totally convinced. Steals often lead to fastbreaks and layup, more so than any other start to a possession does.

Using points-off-turnover data graciously supplied to me by Michael Wilczynski of Weak Side Awareness – a very underrated blog that you should check out – here’s how Detroit’s defense compares:

  • Pistons’ defensive rating after turnovers: 119.0 (25th)
  • Pistons’ defensive rating on other possessions: 103.8 (27th)

The Pistons have the eighth-largest drop in defensive rating after turnovers compared to other possessions. They’re not good on either type of possession, but they markedly better when they don’t throw the ball to the opponent first.

Lawrence Frank has said he spent more time in training camp working on defense than offense. I think it’s time to give the offense a little more attentions – for the defense’s sake.


  • Jan 18, 20123:11 pm
    by apa8ren9


    Very good analysis and very good article.  And the newspapers wonder why their readership is down.  Do they even bother to try and give us some insight to the sports we love?  Its good you guys have this site to put up insightful, meaningful articles for Pistons fans.

  • Jan 18, 20125:20 pm
    by wiLQ


    Thanks for the shout-out!
    “This makes a difference because offensive possessions that end in steals lead to easier opportunities for opponents”
    I’ve tried to tackle this issue on my blog at some point but in the end I filed it under “I’ll do that later” ;-)

  • Jan 18, 20125:40 pm
    by Max


    The most underrated and overlooked aspect of defense is offense.
    Stuckey needs to start with Knight because it would alleviate a lot of the ball handling and running the offense pressure off of Knight.   They would at least immediately be a good rebounding back court  and the front court could use the help.

  • Jan 18, 20126:48 pm


    My name says it all!

  • Jan 18, 20126:50 pm


    But lets now focus on the offense please, LAST IN THE LEAGUE.  Are we going to be anybody with Defense, no its the offense that needs attention.

  • Jan 19, 20125:45 am
    by Jakob Eich


    Has anyone read the piece on Truehoop where it explained that the teams with the lowest turnover ratio tend to have the highest offensive ratings in the league. The Hawks are one of the examples given. They have one of the highest offensive ratings per 100 possessions in the league. The Clippers drastically improved their rating by adding Chris Paul …. A Hall-of-Fame PG usually helps if you want to reduce your turnovers. Anyway the point is turnovers and offense seem to correlate significantly, it could really improve our performance. After all, a bad shot is still better than no shot. A turnover always creates a four or five point swing, usually that’s only said in crunch time, but it happens throughout the game.

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