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.