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3-on-3: Digging for improvement with the Pistons

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 Pistons aren’t doing a whole lot well right now, but if you had to pinpoint something they’ve done well lately, what would it be?

Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Limiting and forcing turnovers. If there’s one thing this team does relatively well, it’s forcing turnovers. They’re third in the NBA in steals with 8.8 per game, and that kind of defense is what fuels an offense. When the Pistons are forcing turnovers and getting out on the break, they’re a relatively effective offense — unlike when they dribble 10,000 times and isolate every trip down court. Brandon Jennings has also done a great job taking care of the ball under John Loyer. Since Loyer took over seven games ago, Jennings has turned the ball over just seven times.

Jameson Draper, PistonPowered: Staying tough all game. It sounds dumb, but that’s really the truth. The Pistons early on in the season consistently collapsed late in games. Now, it’s arguable that they’re a team that plays better later in games.

Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: Sadly, this is still a really hard question to answer. When the biggest issues are so glaring (poor team defense, horrible fourth quarters, inexplicable player rotations) it’s hard to find the silver lining. The best I can offer is that if we’re defining “lately” as the post-Maurice Cheeks era then I would say that the emergence of Will Bynum and Kyle Singler as reliable options on the offensive end has been a pleasant development. Unfortunately, of course, everything they give you on offense they give back on defense, but we’ll try and focus on the positives for now. Singer is up to 46 percent from 3-point range under Loyer, and the coach does seem to be doing some things schematically so that Singler gets open looks from deep. Bynum, likewise, has been hovering around the 50 percent mark shooting and has been a willing passer. His emergence has enabled Detroit to not be so shy about not putting the game in the hands of Jennings, who has really struggled to be effective late in games all season.

2. With the ever-shuffling playoff picture in the East, what should the Pistons focus on as they press through the final quarter of the season?

Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken, well, you know. This is an imperfect team in an imperfect place with an imperfect goal. They can make the playoffs — and they’re probably still focused on that — but if they’re going to focus on anything in particular, figuring out how salvageable the big lineup of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith is may be first. I know, it’s been a trainwreck so far this season, but the Pistons are stuck with the pieces they’ve got, so why not try different combinations to see what the best result is between those three guys.

Jameson Draper, PistonPowered: Sigh, tanking. After being swept by Charlotte, myself and I’m sure a lot of Pistons fans out there lost hope in the season. They keep losing, and although the picture for the playoffs continues to shuffle, the Pistons’ chances seem to get slimmer and slimmer with each passing day. Just let this bad season ride out and get a better pick in the draft. Plus, that will for sure be the end of Joe Dumars. From here on out, losing more is winning more.

Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: If I was in charge I would be shifting focus to giving the young players time on the floor. Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes per night, giving Peyton Siva time to run the offense and Tony Mitchell the chance to fill Jonas Jerebko‘s limited backup power forward role could be invaluable going forward. Learn by doing and all that. I’d also like to see if Luigi Datome could ever start consistently hitting shots now that the team is actually able to run plays to give guys open looks. But, of course, there is no indication the team is doing anything other than fighting tooth and nail for that final playoff spot. The playoff rotation has gotten shorter, not longer and the “big 3″ of Drummond, Monroe and Smith are still playing 16+ minutes on the floor together on a nightly basis. So with that in mind, it is imperative that the team develop a late-game rotation and a set of plays that offer quality looks. The defense is in shambles and there is no time to shore that up in the final 20 games. But the team has been effective on offense sporadically all season but will eventually and inevitably collapse. Preventing those collapses is the only way the team will turn some of those losses into wins.

3. There is a lot to choose from, but what are the Pistons doing worst right now that they need to figure out ASAP?

Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Defend something — anything — reasonably well. These guys are never going to be a fluid, shutdown defense, but they’ve got to keep improving. Early in the season, they were bad defensively anywhere on the court (literally), but they’ve slowly improved. They’re still horrific from outside 15 feet, but if they can get better from the free throw line in, that’ll be huge. This is a team with two above average shot blockers in Smith and Drummond along with an big body in Monroe — they’ve got the potential to make things difficult in the paint. Of course, that also would require the perimeter players to defend well… but hey, if there’s one thing they can figure out soon-ish, it’s protecting the rim.

Jameson Draper, PistonPowered: Uh, win? Is that a legitimate answer?

Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: Easy, avoid the dreaded fourth-quarter collapse; it’s actually gotten worse under Loyer. The Pistons have gotten out-scored by an average of 5.1 points in the fourth quarter under Loyer. That is easily the worst in the NBA as only six teams even get outscored by as many as two points in the same span. For the season, the Pistons are last in the NBA in the fourth quarter, getting outscored by 3.2 points per game. Exactly zero other NBA teams average as much as a two-point fourth-quarter deficit. This team collapses and in spectacular fashion. And in case anyone is wondering, the team actually has a positive point differential for every quarter except the fourth. That truly is where the Pistons go to die. Loyer needs to figure out who deserves to be on the floor in crunch time, and if there name isn’t Drummond, Smith, Monroe or Jennings than hell with it, too bad, put their butts on the bench.


  • Feb 26, 201412:50 pm
    by JoeA7


    Guys i love what you are doing and i love red & blue, but please please make the background WHITE(like in the recaps for the games), black letters on red background is just really difficult to read.

  • Feb 26, 201412:57 pm
    by Huddy


    I agree on inserting the young guys (not really on Siva though).  Even KCP has dropped out.  I don’t even think they need to start forcing the 2nd rounders into the starting line up and tank or anything, like the writer said just try someone besides Jerebko out for a significant amount of time or sit Stuckey on nights he is 1/10.  Maybe that is too much of a “you never know unless you try” philosophy, but nothing is working.  Harrellson got a significant chance for a while despite having low upside, why can’t Mitchell?  Datome was given a pretty significant contract to be sitting him or playing him 1.5 min a game sporadically.  Lets at least find out who is worth waiting on, who we should get rid of, or even who has value in trade next year or in the off season.

  • Feb 26, 20142:35 pm
    by Birdman84


    Gotta agree with Sean on playing the young guys. There’s nothing to lose by giving Siva, Mitchell, and especially KCP more playing time. Datome, too, to give him more opportunities to adjust to the NBA.
    Brady, good points on the steals. The team is also great at points in the paint, which is fueled by running more. I have to disagree with you on continuing the jumbo lineup. Smith at small forward was a bad idea before the season started and it’s only looked worse since then. I guess if we want the team to tank, Loyer should stick with it.
    It’s remarkable that the Pistons have a positive point differential in any quarter.

    • Feb 26, 20142:36 pm
      by Birdman84


      I apologize for that terrible formatting. PP needs a preview button!

    • Feb 26, 20145:23 pm
      by sebastian


      There’s nothing to lose, while playing the young guys and the Italian League MVP, but games. But, losing games, means WE still have a chance to retain OUR 2014 draft pick.
      So, losing is winning.
      Lord knows, all WE have to look forward to at this point, is the possibility of retaining OUR 2014 pick.
      Damn, this has been the absolute worse season, since the Don Chaney days!

  • Feb 26, 20142:56 pm
    by pablum


    Bow wow I say, all 3 of you seem to be missing the obvious when you’re not cheering for Joe’s firing or advocating full out Tanking (Play Peyton Siva? Are you fucking kidding me? Why not start Hooper while we’re at it?)
    This is about the 4th time I’ve shouted this to the ruins, but right now THE STORY of this team is Brandon Jennings and whether or not he will or won’t be our PG for the future. It is a defining moment for him because Loyer has no baggage, and thus Brandon has no one to blame. And Loyer — to his immense credit — has seized the moment and is throwing his lot with Bynum. Loyer’s taking a page out of Tennessee Williams and telling Jenning’s “You can’t cut the mustard!” What theatre is unfolding before our eyes!

    • Feb 26, 20143:12 pm
      by Huddy


      A week ago it was the disparity at SG that was the main issue keeping this team from contention (according to you).  That issue hasn’t been fixed.  Team defense is a glaring issue, the SF position is a glaring issue, PG play is a glaring issue.  There isn’t one storyline here. 
      Jennings is on a contract thats low enough that if he doesn’t work out he can still be moved or even brought into a 6th man role next season without too many groans about how much he is being paid.  Josh Smith’s high dollar long term deal is a much more pressing matter as well as Monroe’s impending deal.  This front court really needs to be figured out.  As hard on Jennings as I am his contract is such that I am less concerned going forward with what happens with him.  Theres only one position in the starting line up with a clear cut player going forward (after the offseason) and that is Drummond. 

    • Feb 26, 20144:12 pm
      by oats


      I can’t see the answer to what kind of future Jennings has with the team coming any time soon. There are just too many variables. If he plays out the rest of the year like he has that won’t mean he can’t figure it out, and if he makes significant strides it doesn’t mean he won’t revert to playing like Brandon Jennings next year. The team might keep it’s pick and if Tyler Ennis is still there then the odds are decent that he would be the best talent and might signal a need to move on from Jennings no matter what happens this season. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the contract thing. If the team stands pat this summer then Monroe at near max, Smith on his deal, and Drummond getting a max deal when Brandon’s contract is running out might make it so they couldn’t afford Jennings if he does improve. If they do make a trade then it’s possible that the best value could involve bringing in a PG. There’s just too much uncertainty all over the place to get a definitive answer on this topic.

  • Feb 26, 20144:02 pm
    by Edgar


    I still wonder if the organization truly understands how good Drummond is and good he can become. To me, he’s the answer to basically every organization question. Any personnel decisions should be made with Drummond’s best interests in mind and certainly any questions of improving the team are directly connected to improving Drummond. Playing him 25 minutes in a tight game against a good team doesn’t really help him improve. Neither does playing him in funky five-man lineups and basing your offense on a ton of Jennings and Smith jumpers. A smart organization would use this last stretch of the season to give Drummond a steady dose of scoring opportunities so that he can truly figure our what he does well and what he needs to work on offensively (besides free-throw shooting).

    • Feb 26, 20144:24 pm
      by MIKEYDE248


      On the contrary, I think Drummond playing with Smith and Jennings is one of the things making Drummond look better than he really is.  They let him pad his stats by being the best offensive rebounder in the league.  That is also where he gets the majority of him points too, on the put backs.  How else can Drummond do that, but with all of their missed shots?

      • Feb 26, 20144:38 pm
        by Sean Corp


        Even on a percentage basis, Drummond is a beast. He grabs 22.1 percent of all potential rebounds, first in the NBA. This controls for the fact that he has a few chuckers on the team  that give him ample opportunity. He is 10th in DREB% but is first in OREB% by a mile, grabbing nearly 4 percent more boards than his closes competitor (Robin Lopez).
        Based on the advanced SportsVu player tracking data, Drummond trails only DeAndre Jordan in percentage of rebounds per chance (a chance = any rebound within 3.5 feet of the player) and is No. 1 in Contested Rebounds Per Game, which means he isn’t just a product of being in the right place at the right time. 
        Drummond is simply a beast on the boards. 

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