Pistons limp-wristed pass their way to another blowout loss

The Pistons five game blowout streak continued Tuesday, largely due to a familiar problem: turnovers. They turned the ball over 20 times against Dallas.

Detroit is now averaging 18 turnovers per game over their last four. Against the Mavs, it was pretty easy to see why — the guards are terrible passers. Brandon Knight, Will Bynum and Ben Gordon all had turnovers because they consistently threw careless passes. One-handed bounce passes in traffic. One-handed floaters that were easily picked off by defenders. Passes at horrid angles into the post. Bounce passes when there should be lobs. Lobs when they should’ve thrown bounce passes.

With Rodney Stuckey still out and Tayshaun Prince playing hurt and in a more limited role in the offense, the Pistons simply don’t have a perimeter player who can be trusted with the ball. Making matters worse against Dallas, the poor passing made it more difficult for the Pistons to get their best passer, Greg Monroe, more involved in the offense in the first half.

Bynum, Knight and Gordon individually are all capable of helping the Pistons. Knight continued to be a presence on the glass, collecting five rebounds against Dallas. He’s averaging 6.3 rebounds per game over his last four games. Bynum scored 20 points off the bench and continues to be the Pistons’ best guard at finishing drives inside. Gordon didn’t shoot the ball well, but got to the line and continued to make an effort to pass, with three assists. But collectively, all three are just way too mistake prone for the Pistons to have any success when they are all getting heavy minutes.

Picking on Monroe a bit

Greg Monroe‘s offensive evolution is the lone bright spot of the season. He didn’t get enough touches against Dallas. When they fed him in the third quarter, he scored efficiently using an array of post moves. But there was a consistent problem against the Mavs: he’s not a very good screen setter. On several possessions, he went to set screens and was kind of in a sideways position, making it easy for the defender to fight around him. Now, the guards are partially to blame here as well — Gordon, Knight and Bynum were, at times, all guilty of taking off too soon before Monroe could get into position.

It’s a nitpicky thing considering Monroe’s vast improvement in other aspects of the offense, but he could really help out the struggling guards by setting stronger screens allowing them to possibly get a bit more separation as they go around them.

Jonas Jerebko is not being Jonas Jerebko

In his Beyond the Boxscore column for Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie, Kelly Dwyer pointed this out about Jerebko during the Chicago game:

The group is run by a man in Lawrence Frank that has a clear understanding of what each player is worth, at this middling point, but he just can’t manage to get through to these dunderheads. Like, perhaps, the part where Jonas Jerebko is supposed to slide over and take a charge because his NBA type resembles a hustling role player who can’t really contribute anywhere else. Instead, Jonas declines, and prefers to launch a long two-pointer on the other end.

That passage can pretty much sum up Jerebko’s play of late. He’s become a jump-shooter (and not a good one) who is not making the hustle plays or crashing the offensive glass, the things that made him valuable in the first place. He shot 2-for-6 against the Mavs and had zero offensive rebounds. It was his second straight game getting shut out on the offensive glass. He’s shooting just 31 percent in his last five games.

There’s great debate around here about what Jerebko’s ‘natural’ position is. I’m of the opinion that he doesn’t have one. I will concede that he’s probably too small to be a full-time power forward. But the last handful of games make me question whether he has the skillset on offense (in particular, the ability to hit open jumpers) to be effective as a full-time perimeter player. Whatever he is, he’s been a very good player for the Pistons when he plays with energy and is active around the basket on offense. Those elements have been missing the last few games.

Knight’s shooting

I do want to close on a positive here. Knight knocked down all four of his 3-point attempts tonight. He hit his only attempt against Chicago, so he’s now hit his last five after a cold stretch that saw him hit just 5-of-24 from three. It was important for him to get on track simply because so many of the 3-point attempts he was getting and missing were good, open looks. This, of course, does nothing to disprove the knock on Knight coming out of college that he’s a notoriously streaky shooter. As we’ve seen, though, he’s just a tad less athletic than some of the other young point guards in the league. If he can add that 3-pointer as a consistent part of his arsenal, he will become a much more dangerous player.