Detroit Pistons must balance quantity with quality in 3-point shooting

Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons are shooting 6.1 more 3-pointers per game than last season. It’s a change that’s long overdue. But to truly improve, the Pistons must learn to balance quantity with quality.

When I went to see the Detroit Pistons get trounced by the Boston Celtics last month, a fan sitting in a neighboring section caught my attention.

“Stop shooting threes,” he yelled in disgust.

I couldn’t help but chuckle.

That isn’t to say that I was laughing at him, because I wasn’t. Watching your team go 7-for-37 from beyond the arc (as the Pistons did that night) is frustrating.

But I found his outburst somewhat comical.

Dwane Casey has made it clear since his arrival that the Pistons must embrace the 3-ball. It’s where the league is at right now, like it or not.

At the time of this post, Detroit ranks 29th in 3-point shooting at 31.4 percent. Yet they’re attempting 35.0 triples per game. That’s the fifth-highest average in the league, behind only Houston, Milwaukee, Boston and Atlanta.

According to Synergy, 75.4 percent of Detroit’s jump shots are 3-pointers. That’s the sixth-highest percentage in the NBA.

There’s nothing wrong with the amount of triples the Pistons are taking. In fact, it’s what they should’ve been doing years ago. You must be a viable threat from beyond the arc to compete.

This is especially true for a team built around its frontcourt like Detroit. Outside shooting opens up the lane for Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to work in the post.

And once their back to full health, the Pistons possess multiple knock-down shooters: Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, and Langston Galloway to name a few.

But when it comes to 3-point shooting, quality is just as important as quantity. The Pistons don’t need to take fewer threes. They need to take better threes.

Here’s what I mean.

What’s bad

I use this clip not to pick on Reggie Jackson, who is currently shooting 30.9 percent from deep. Every Piston is guilty of taking ill-advised shots. But it’s a perfect example of the kind of 3-pointers Detroit shouldn’t be taking.

In the video above, Jackson receives the outlet pass from Blake Griffin just across half court. He then takes a few dribbles forward, and pulls up for a left-wing triple. It bounces off the back-end of the iron, but the Pistons are fortunate enough to come up with the offensive board.

Now the problem here isn’t that Jackson missed the shot, it’s that he even took it in the first place.

First, Jackson doesn’t wait for his power forward and center get back down the floor. So Detroit doesn’t even get a chance to run a set play.

Second, he attempts the 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Unless you’re Steph Curry, that’s too much time to leave on the board.

To make matters worse, the Detroit Pistons are in no position to grab a rebound – Drummond is still trailing, and all five Miami players are within the 3-point line.

Yes, I know Galloway came up with the loose ball. But he just happened to be in right place at the right time. More often than not, that’s an easy board for the defense.

Jackson knows better. How do I know that? Watch what he does on this play to create a quality, 3-point shot.

What’s good

Just like in the previous clip, Jackson has the opportunity to take a 3-pointer from the left side.

Markelle Fultz closes out, and instead of shooting the three, Jackson uses a pump fake to get Fultz in the air. He then dribbles towards the top of the key, as Griffin sets a head-up screen on Fultz.

The 76ers’ guard decides to go under Griffin’s screen. Jackson notices, gathers himself, and squares up for an open triple.


Before you offer a rebuttal, I hear you. All I did was pick two plays out of the several hundred the Pistons have run this season. That’s correct, and it’s also true that players miss quality 3-point shots all the time.

That’s basketball. But it doesn’t mean every missed shot is created equal.

The difference (regardless of whether or not the ball goes in) is that quality field-goal attempts keep the defense honest. A “good look” comes at the expense of a breakdown by your opponent. That’s what offensive plays are designed to do.

If you’re just jacking up shots with no rhyme or reason, you allow the defense to relax.

Again, if you’re Curry, you’ve earned the right to do that. But it’s unacceptable for the Pistons.

Three-pointers are here to stay in Detroit, and that’s for the better. It’ll take some time, however, fans start seeing results.

When Dwane Casey took over the Toronto Raptors in 2011, they were coming off a season where they ranked dead-last in 3-point shooting (31.6 percent). From that point on, the Raptors never shot below 34 percent from deep in the following seven seasons under Casey’s watch.

Related Story. Pistons continue to live, die by the three. light

So if the gentleman I mentioned earlier it out there reading this, I have a message for him.

There’s a method to the madness. It’s just a matter of when the Detroit Pistons will start following it.