Through Christmas, Detroit ranked No. 12 in the NBA in points per possession. The Pistons’ offense wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
Since then, the Pistons have the NBA’s 26th-most-effective offense.
It has gotten so bad, Detroit’s offense (20th in the league for the season) has nearly caught its defense (21st) in ineptitude. Since Christmas, the units are running even: 26th and 26th.
What has changed from before and after Dec. 25? Three areas stand out, one positive and two negative.
On the bright side, the Pistons have gone from above average to very good at getting to the free throw line. Unfortunately, the benefits are muted when Detroit makes a league-worst 66% of its free throws.
The negatives are much more pronounced.
To start, the Pistons have gone from making a woeful 32% of their three-pointers to an abhorrent 27%.
They’ve also started turning the ball over much more. Doing it at slightly better than the median rate before Christmas, Detroit ranks among the NBA’s worst ball protectors since.
These are the perils of building a team that is led by Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in field goal attempts, three-point attempts, assists and turnovers. The offense is bound to be erratic — particularly in the halfcourt.
The Pistons went from a strong fifth in fast-break points and eighth in second-chance points before Christmas to first in both categories after Christmas. They’re cleaning up when it comes to those defense- and rebounding-fueled methods of scoring.
That means the set offense has become the issue.
Turnovers and three-point shooting are both the root and symptoms of the problem.
Running the offense through Jennings and Smith, the Pistons frequently get themselves into trouble. If Smith and Jennings don’t turn the ball over or force a three-pointer early in the possession, the play too often still goes nowhere. That leaves mere seconds on the shot clock and little option to do anything but force a risky pass or a long shot.