The Detroit Pistons inefficient offense is a problem

Nov 19, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) shoots as Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) defends during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) shoots as Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) defends during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

More concerning than the Detroit Pistons lack of energy and effort at times this season was their struggles on the offensive end of the court.

The Detroit Pistons had one heck of a frustrating season. A year removed from going 44-38 (with only 27 games of Tobias Harris), the Pistons fell to 37-45 in 2016-2017. That’s frustrating. Not getting consistent effort and completely collapsing down the stretch? Also frustrating. But the offense that this team generated? It was inefficient, ineffective, and quite maddening, and the numbers bear that out.

Detroit scored 103.3 points per 100 possessions this season, an offensive rating that ranked 25th. Last season, they were 15th in offensive rating. But hold on. They netted the exact same 103.3 points per 100 possessions in 2015-2016. What gives with the drop from 15 to 25?

The league has, is and will likely continue to change. It’s a spread pick-and-roll and three-point league, where analytics are present and being used like never before to mold the shot selection of teams.

The numbers say an efficient offense is one that maximizes shooting layups/dunks, free throws and threes. The Houston Rockets, of course, took this too an extreme this season — just check out their shot chart.

The Pistons, meanwhile, lived on mid-range looks and continuously tried to get Andre Drummond going on post-ups. As a result, Detroit churned out one of the least efficient offenses in the NBA.

Digging deeper still, the Pistons took the most field goal attempts per game in the NBA (88.8) and made the seventh most per game (39.9), yet they finished 25th in offense. That discrepancy highlights just how poorly and inefficiently Detroit shot last season.

The three-point shooting was abysmal. The Pistons made just 7.7 three-pointers per game (ranked 27th) and shot just 23.4 attempts per game (26th), bringing their three-point shooting percentage to 33.0 (28th). Only 26.3 percent of their field goal attempts were threes and just 22.8 percent of their points came from deep, both ranked 27th.

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Things at the charity stripe weren’t much better. Detroit was dead last in personal fouls drawn per game. As a result, just 13.7 percent points scored came from the free throw line, down from 16.7 percent last year.

But the Pistons did rank first in one shooting category this season — just not the one you want to the leader in. At 20.9 percent, they led the league in terms of what percentage of their points came from mid-range two-pointers. Last season, just 14.1 percent of their points came from mid-range twos, which was the ninth-lowest mark in the NBA.

In the end, Detroit finished 22nd in field goal percentage at 44.9 percent, 27th in effective field goal percentage at 49.2 percent, and dead last in true shooting percentage at 52.1 percent. Their inability to generate offensive looks was a huge reason why this team went through prolonged rough stretches.

In a league where defense is more difficult to master than ever, thanks to the incredible talent and the rules favoring the offense, Detroit is in trouble if things don’t change. So, what can they do about their inability to generate efficient offense?

That’s the hard part. For starters, you don’t exactly want average three-point shooters chucking up a bunch of attempts, and Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons are largely much devoid of outside shooters.

But the numbers show me that the crux of the problem is Reggie Jackson. Detroit sorely missed his ability to get to the rim for easy looks for him and Drummond, to get to the free throw line, and to get shooters involved on spread pick-and-roll sets.

With Jackson lacking burst all year, Detroit’s offense devolved into a team that too often settled for the wrong kinds of shots. Getting him right, a concept that SVG is confident will happen, is step one to curing their offensive woes. Step two is praying that younger players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Harris continue to improve in terms of accuracy. Then they also need guys like Jon Leuer and Stanley Johnson, who both shot just over 29 percent from three, to turn things around.

That’s asking a lot, but I, unlike the majority of the fanbase after the 2016-2017, still believe in this core’s ability to be competitive in the East. As we saw with Washington and Milwaukee a season ago, a young team’s path forward is not always linear. Bumps along the way are to be expected.

Next: Detroit Pistons Draft Prospects: Frank Ntilikina

While this group will be never be world-beaters on offense, they have to do something about the types of looks they lean on to generate points.