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.