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3-on-3: Shooting Shortage

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. The inability to space the floor and shoot was a fear of Pistons fans entering the season. Well, four games in, do you feel any better about those concerns?

Dan Feldman: Yes. I’m still concerned, but Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have been aggressive passers. That has helped create space – and turnovers. If those three can protect the ball a little better, the floor spacing could be workable. But better outside shooting would be even more helpful.

Brady Fredericksen: Not really. There hasn’t been a whole lot to like when it comes to the Pistons’ shooting thus far, but that doesn’t mean the offense has lacked likability. Josh Smith has found a way to be a productively, counterproductive player at times. When he’s facilitating from the elbow and on drives, the Pistons’ offense has been very effective. The shooting will improve — it’s very early in the season, remember — and once Maurice Cheeks finds a way to expand the spurts of offensive success, the team will lay fewer bricks.

Tim Thielke: Somewhat better. This is definitely an issue that would come back to bite them in the playoffs. But the Pistons aren’t contenders this year anyway. They just need to address this issue in the offseason. There are two teams this season putting up 30-35 percent of their shot attempts at the rim, 12 teams are in the 35-40 percent range, 10 are in the 40-45 percent range, 4 are in the 45-50 percent range. Only the Pistons and Rockets are attempting more than half of their shots at the basket – that’s really good.

As long as the Pistons can keep up that volume near the rim, continue to hit 60 percent of those shots (the above-average clip they are presently converting), and don’t turn the ball over too much in getting those shots, they’ll be fine. The last point is important though. Teams that get more close shots turn the ball over more. Detroit is currently second in attempts at the rim and 10th in turnover rate. I’ll take that.

2. Josh Smith is hoisting a cool seven 3-pointers per game, which ranks as seventh-most in the NBA. Is this something that will slow down as the season progresses?

Dan Feldman: Yes. Smith still might set a career high for 3-point attempts because he’s playing more small forward than usual and more minutes period than usual. But if he finishes the season with even half as many 3-point attempts per game as he taking now, I’ll be shocked.

Brady Fredericksen: Of course. There’s no way Smith continues to chuck up shots at this pace… right? Seriously though, he’s definitely shooting too many 3-pointers. It seems like every time the ball gets swung around the 3-point line and he has a glimmer of a look, he’s taking it. That can’t happen, and I’m pretty sure he’s aware of how poorly that’s worked out for him and the team thus far.

In his defense, he has to shoot some of them, and he’s the only big-man shooter struggling so far this year — Kevin Love has shot just as much from deep and is shooting a similarly terrible 29 percent. Smith isn’t the shooter that Love is, of course, but the Pistons have thrived when Smith is looked to pass, not shoot. Let’s just hope that’s something he realizes sooner than later.

Tim Thielke: Definitely. Smith’s career high for 3-point attempts per game is 2.6. It’s hard to imagine him finishing this season over 3.5 attempts per game.

Also, right now, non-shooters (Monroe, Drummond, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Jonas Jerebko) are playing 77 percent of their minutes alongside Smith. Shooters (Chauncey Billups, Luigi Datome, Kyle Singler, Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) are playing just 71 percent of their minutes alongside Smith. Throw in the fact that Caldwell-Pope’s and Datome’s roles are probably only going to increase, and it would be shocking if Smith doesn’t end up sharing the court with more floor spacers as the season goes on.

3. Following Jonas Jerebko’s benching against Indiana, Maurice Cheeks went to Luigi Datome as his backup power forward. Is this a long-term move?

Dan Feldman: No. Datome might be the best option, but he’s not good enough to secure the job this time around. Charlie Villanueva, Josh Harrellson and/or Jerebko again will probably get shots. Then, once Cheeks sees all his backup bigs are only OK at best, he’ll be pick one. Handicapping that race, I give Datome the lead with 35 percent.

Brady Fredericksen: If he starts hitting shots, definitely. It’s tough to just assume that Datome will be a savior as a shooter for this team considering he’s never made a 3-pointer in the NBA. He played well enough in his first action against Indiana, and if he finds his stroke, well, I’m going to unleash so many Mario and Luigi puns — be ready.

Tim Thielke: It will be a long-term change, but I hesitate to say that it is quite yet. It will take a lot more than one game to convince me that a guy whose entire skill set is shooting can’t shoot. And Datome’s defense was passable. But Jerebko is a known quantity. There is security in that. And Datome has yet to knock anyone’s socks off.


  • Nov 7, 201310:51 am
    by pt


    You want more shooting? Rudy Gay attempts 17 shots per game. That ball gonna FLY. 

    • Nov 7, 201311:43 am
      by Tim Thielke


      If the goal were merely to shoot the ball more often, the three most important factors to concentrate on would be (in order): increasing pace, minimizing turnovers, getting more offensive rebounds.

      However, the goal is not more shot attempts; it’s to have more of the attempts go in.

  • Nov 7, 201311:17 am
    by greg


    i feel like josh smith does everything for this team to win. somebody has to keep the defenses of the opponents honest and as long as stuckey and bynum have major roles on this team smith will have to throw up some threes. I think starting jennings and billups was a right move even though billups seems uncomfortable playing the 2. At least it gives us two  shooters. Playing datome instead of jerebko gives them another shooter to swing the ball to, which will cause smith to shoot less. The next step should be to replace one of bynum or stuckey with kcp in the rotation. ideally he would start and give us another stopper on the wing and allow billups to play backup pg. For me stuckey is more valuable than bynum because of his defense. All that will leave to smith shooting less threes.

  • Nov 7, 201312:16 pm
    by Otis


    On Question 1, particularly Tim’s segment: I am absolutely not impressed or interested in this stat about how they take all their shots at the rim. Of all the paradoxical situations I’ve seen with this team, this is probably the most perplexing. It’s an established rule of thumb that you always want to go towards the basket and try to get shots at the rim if possible, but I’m very uncomfortable with the fact that this team is basically powerless to score from anywhere but the paint. And this isn’t something I’m content to wait 78 more games to address. I mean, right now it looks like you need a completely overhauled perimeter. Sure, one excellent wing scorer who can play 35 or so minutes, but it would not be wise to hold our breath hoping one will sign here.
    If you’re basically conceding the season by saying, “Hey we’re not winning the championship this year anyways,” then your priorities should relate to areas that will help this team have sustainable success in the future. Steamrolling your way to the basket possession after possession is going to get this team to 41 wins or so, but they’re all going to come against teams that don’t matter. If we want to beat legitimately good teams, we’re going to need SOME sort of inside-out game. This team is heinously unbalanced, and even though it’s obviously looked a lot more watchable than in years past, we waited through five years of Joe sitting on his hands. This should look a lot more like a finished product than it does, and it’s troublesome. I don’t think we can afford to have Joe “just worry about it in the offseason,” especially not until we’ve seen some real evidence that this jumbo lineup isn’t going to do more harm than good. So far it’s been terrible.
    On Smith’s shooting, I think it’s fair to guess he’ll set a new career high for three pointers attempted. Mo Cheeks isn’t a strong enough coach to slow him down, and Cheeks even said in a presser, in response to Smith taking so many threes: “Well, he’s going to get a lot of open looks.” As in, this is what the defense is giving him, so I’m okay with him shooting an infinite number. There’s a lot wrong with that train of thought, and if we spend the season taking the shots that opposing defenses want us to take, it’s going to be a long season, because we can’t win games with those shots.

    • Nov 7, 20132:19 pm
      by Tim Thielke


      Of course teams want to take as many shots at the rim as possible, but guess what? Most teams can’t take that many. Getting those shots isn’t easy. Yes, it’s a concern that the Pistons are bad from long range. But we knew that would be the case. I was worried that teams could also take away Detroit’s strength just by packing the paint. So far, they haven’t done that very effectively. That is why I “feel any better”.

      Every team beats bad opponents more than good ones. That’s what makes those opponents good or bad. So what’s your point? So far, Detroit has lost to two superior opponents, beaten one inferior opponent, and beaten one opponent most projected to be roughly equal. If you can get to OT–as the Pistons did against the Grizzlies, you can win. It wasn’t in the cards that time, but it’s absurd to suggest that this team is only capable of beating bad teams.

      Is this team all you could hope for and dream of after 5 bad years? No.  But those weren’t 5 years of bottoming out. I wish they were, but there’s not much that can be done about that now. For a product of 4 years of 30ish win seasons, today’s Pistons are pretty solid.

      • Nov 7, 20132:58 pm
        by Otis


        My point is that it doesn’t mean a damn thing if we’re #1 in points in the paint if that’s the ONLY place we can score. I’m not sure what you’re so proud of so far, but whatever Memphis and Indiana did to defend us, it worked. It worked great. There might not be a team in the league who can take the paint away from us completely because of our sheer size, but Memphis abused our Jumbo lineup in crunch time to erase a late 7 point lead, and Indiana sure as heck dominated it to the tune of a -29 through the first and third periods (which were dominated by our big lineup).
        We’ll never have any problem steamrolling right through bad teams, but that’s not any sort of measuring stick for what the team is capable of or what they need to do to beat teams like Memphis and Indiana. Sure we should have been bottoming out but Joe refused, and he’s the one stuck with the burden of expectations he created by not doing anything to help this team for so long. “Solid” doesn’t cut it (not that I think this team is especially solid, since it’s so grossly unbalances). The expectation is that this team needs to put itself in position to win a championship eventually, and this formula looks pretty bad through four games. A small sample size, yes, but across a spectrum of teams from the best to the worst. Our worst lineup has featured our three best players. This is a recipe for establishing a very low ceiling.
        Waiting until the summer to make any changes is a recipe for defaulting into giving Monroe a max extension, which will drastically hamper our flexibility and ensure that the formula never changes much. If KCP and Gigi establish themselves as sweet shooters and we can get enough solid production out of Jennings, Billups, Singler, etc. on the perimeter, then by all means they should go forward with this experiment. But assuming perimeter help is going to fall into our laps and that the rest slides right into place would be foolish. On the other hand, if you’re content to be a .500 team for eternity, then this formula already looks like it’s worked. I just set my sights a little higher. I can’t see the justification for keeping all these bigs around on bloated contracts and paying the luxury tax just for the honor of being a second-tier Eastern conference pretender.

        • Nov 7, 20133:18 pm
          by Max


          @Otis  I know you’re not going to respond to me but Memphis didn’t abuse the Pistons lineup to erase that 7 point lead but rather got extremely lucky.   I’ve argued the refs stole that game by calling a bullshit goaltend on Drummond but even if I’m wrong, they are very lucky that Drummond didn’t tap the ball a fraction of a second later because then there would have definitively been no goaltend and the Pistons win period.   Even if that hadn’t happened, the Grizz were even luckier that Billups missed a free throw because if he hit the free throw the Pistons win period.   So there was no abuse since it was the Pistons game to win and none of the factors that you cry about regarding the team really came into play as much as a missed free throw and an offensive rebound tap/goaltend the Grizz were powerless to effect.  Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.   

        • Nov 7, 20136:02 pm
          by CityofKlompton


          A legitimate reason to feel good about this is because it is a major improvement and something the team can build around. Where we saw very little to no major advantages over other teams the past few seasons, we now have (at least) one in getting to the hoop. The current Pistons team is going on game #5. Let’s not jump to any conclusions just yet. It is not going to be built overnight, and we shouldn’t become too worried until we see the issue of no adjustments being made over time to resolve the situation. As it stands right now, we’re still (appearing to be) improving.

        • Nov 7, 20137:16 pm
          by Tim Thielke


          “My point is that it doesn’t mean a damn thing if we’re #1 in points in the paint if that’s the ONLY place we can score.”

          Well then you’ll be pleased to know that the Pistons can in fact score from other places and have done so in absolutely every game (as has every team ever in the history of the NBA). So it’s not a dichotomous matter of whether the Pistons can score elsewhere or not. It’s a matter of the degree to which they can do so. And the degree to which they can cover their shortcomings on the perimeter with their strengths on the interior.

          So far, that strength and that weakness have added up to a slight overall positive. I expect that to continue to be the case. In other words, work remains to be done to make this team a contender, but that would be the case even if all the pieces fit perfectly. The team still needs some more talent. 

        • Nov 7, 20137:29 pm
          by Otis


          At the risk of sounding relentlessly negative (too late), I’m just not sure this is something the team can build around. Like I said, our big lineup has been our worst lineup so far, and the only thing that kept us in the Indiana game, and to a lesser extent the Memphis game, was taking one of those bigs out. So once you’ve paid Greg Monroe $60+ million I’m not sure what’s even left to “build around” these guys with. Maybe one significant addition, at which point you’re on a crash course towards the luxury tax, and that’s before you account for Drummond’s looming extension. This just doesn’t look sustainable or worth sustaining so far. It’s early, but the early returns have been ugly. You can’t just be satisfied that we’re better than last year; it took a lot of excruciating years to get to this point, and if we’re not on a path towards a championship, Dumars had better do some adjusting before he’s committed to this bunch.

          • Nov 7, 20139:23 pm
            by CityofKlompton

            But that’s the thing, this team could be on a path to a championship. We’re not even a quarter of a season into this era and already you’re ready to call it a bust? They may not be constructed perfectly right now, but Joe has some flexibility between expiring contacts, possibly dangling Monroe for perimeter help, and cap space. We don’t have to improve this team through FA. The 2004 team was built via savvy personnel moves. Do you think the 04 team could have won a ship w/o Sheed? Probably not.  Let’s wait and see what is ahead of us before we start calling our current lineup a major disappointment because it’s probably not the lineup we’ll have in three years when this team should start seeing the real fruits of its labor. Big picture.

          • Nov 8, 20132:35 am
            by Otis

            For the record, I am not calling it a bust. I’m just saying that I’d pull the plug if I could get a good package for Moose, but I won’t call it a bust until February, if things go the way they’ve been going. If you sense an urgency in my comments, it’s because my focus pretty much relates to what this team does between now and the deadline, because the trade deadline is really where this team makes a decision on Monroe. It’s a big $60 M decision, and you can cash out now and get some great value or you can lock yourselves into a Jumbo lineup that isn’t really an advantage. There isn’t going to be a Sheed type trade because we don’t have a pick to sweeten it. And nobody on our team who’s tradable is likely to give you a serious upgrade at any position. Plus there’s nothing savvy about stubbornly locking into a roster that doesn’t seem like it would fit on paper and also doesn’t fit on the court.
            Again, this all assumes we don’t improve the chemistry and that this team is pretty much what it looks like through the first 5% of the season. How many teams in the league are suffering from chemistry issues right now? I’m sick and tired of hearing excuses about chemistry. We haven’t had a balanced roster in over five full calendar years. Trading Monroe could balance it out instantly. I have no problem waiting until the deadline, but I haven’t seen a gutsy move by Dumars since he traded Chauncey.

          • Nov 8, 20131:07 pm
            by CityofKlompton

            I’m not saying they’ll make another trade like Sheed, but who saw that move coming when that season began? We’re only in step one of the process right now. Too early to judge.
            Though, I think I agree with you about Monroe. He’s probably our best opportunity to improve this team even though I would hate to see him go. It’s possible that is all part of the plan, too. The Smith signing would make even more sense if that were the case. There is still lots to see.

      • Nov 7, 20133:06 pm
        by Max


        Thank you, Tim.  Everything you say is clear as an unmuddied lake and it’s only a matter of time before Detroit busts Otis’ theory wide open by beating a superior opponent.    Who knows whether it might not happen on Friday?  Will Otis stop his boohoohooing if the Pistons beat the Thunder?   Of course not but it will be interesting and funny to see how he contorts and finds a way to dismiss the first and tenth great win the Pistons achieve.    

        Also, there are going to be nights this year when the Pistons’ “powerless” perimeter shooting is going to shoot great and hit lots of threes.  It hasn’t happened yet but Jennings is going to have a decent number of games where he hits five or more threes. Remember, he has finished in the top 10 of made 3s 2 out of his 4 seasons. 

    • Nov 7, 20132:58 pm
      by frankie d


      There is a reason smith is so wide open for 3s.  Teams know that they can bait him into taking that shot – which is a bad shot for him.  He needs to learn – or remember because woodson forced him to stop shooting that shot one year, his best season – that it is in his best interests to avoid the temptation.  Otherwise it is going to kill the team…ultimately.

  • Nov 7, 20133:12 pm
    by D_S_V


    Adding Josh Smith with intention of playing him alongside Monroe and Drummond is asking him to shoot 3′s. I don’t like him taking so many, but I also can’t blame all of his attempts solely on him. It’s the position he’s been put into by management and coaching. I do think he needs to take the blame for those god awful dribble-around-for-6-seconds-and-chuck-it 3 pointers, but considering his track record, even that blame should ultimately be shared by Dumars/Cheeks. 

    Basically, I see two types of 3′s Josh takes:
    1. In flow of offense
    2. Iso-Tayshaun perimeter fucking around and chucking

    The first kind is what happens when you’re playing the 3. The second is more of a lazy/selfish play that Josh needs to be held accountable for. Any Atlanta fan will tell you they don’t miss that type of shit.  

    • Nov 7, 201310:39 pm
      by frankie d


      i agree wholeheartedly that the blame should be shared by dumars/cheeks.  in fact, i would go farther and say that the lion’s share of blame is on dumars and then cheeks.
      dumars knew the kind of player he was signing, and cheeks knows what kind of player smith is…they should do what they need to do in order to reign him in.  they have, so far, failed miserably.
      was it predictable?  yes.
      is it something that needs to be controlled for the benefit of the team?
      is it going to be controlled?  
      i doubt it, considering dumars’ and cheeks’ history.
      josh smith is who he is: a top 5 talent and a 10 cent head.  it is up to the front office and the coaching staff to deal with that reality and do their best to deal with the problems associated with having that kind of player on their team. 

  • Nov 7, 20138:40 pm
    by Corey


    I suspect this will stay a little ugly until Cheeks figures out that the right answer is to come as close as possible to this:
    always having 2 of his 3 good bigs on the floor, with at least two shooters (ideally 3). It can work because we could relentlessly pound the ball inside while still spreading the floor well. Very few teams could stand up the that in the paint the entire game. This is NOT ideal come playoff time when you want to ride your best players big minutes, but sure looks like it’d be an improvement over trying to play all 3 together extensively. Give them a little time together to try to work it out, but mostly play 2 at a time. We’ll eat other teams alive when their backup bigs play.

    only way I see it really working. 

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