The restoration of the Detroit Pistons is getting closer but there are still some major roster needs that Troy Weaver needs to address.
We talk a lot about the Pistons’ lack of shooting, which has been in full display in the first two preseason games, as they have hit just 30 percent of their 3-point shots. Even after adding Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, it’s pretty clear that Detroit will need better shooting (and better shooters) if they are going to continue to shoot 45 from long range per game on average.
But young shooters like Cade Cunningham are going to improve, and 3-point specialists aren’t that hard to come by in trades or free agency, as we just saw in the Bogdanovic trade, as the Pistons got one of the better long-range shooters in the league for practically nothing.
What is far more concerning to me is how un-athletic Detroit looks on the wing, especially on defense, where they lack the type of true wing stopper that all of the good teams have.
When you look at some of the top teams (Warriors, Clippers, Suns, Celtics) they all have at least one very good wing defender who they can match up on the other team’s best perimeter player and switch onto bigger and/or quicker guys.
Athletic, long and versatile wing defenders are a “must-have” in the NBA, and right now, Detroit just doesn’t have the guy.
Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey are too slow to defend quicker small forwards or guards and it’s fair to ask if coach Dwane Casey is going to be able to play them together much at the same time because of it. Isaiah Livers is a good team scheme guy, but not super athletic or a great one-on-one defender.
Hamidou Diallo has his moments, and he certainly has the athleticism to get steals, but often gets lost on the weak side and isn’t a great on-the-ball guy either. Cade Cunningham might be Detroit’s best wing defender, which is hardly ideal considering the burden he has to carry on offense and the fact that they need him to defend guards.
Detroit needs to get more athletic and better defensively on the wing, especially if they are going to run these types of defensive schemes.
The Detroit Pistons switching everything
So far in the first two preseason games, the Detroit Pistons have been switching on nearly every screen on the perimeter, which has become a common defensive tactic since the OKC Thunder had some success doing it years ago against the Golden State Warriors.
The idea is that if you have long, athletic defenders on the wing and bigs who can step out, you have an advantage if you switch, as it often forces isolation and contested shots on the perimeter, which is the goal of defense.
That’s great when you have a Kawhi Leonard or Jaylen Brown or Andrew Wiggins or Mikal Bridges roaming around out there, but Detroit doesn’t. The Pistons’ bigs seem up to the task of switching on the perimeter, as Isaiah Stewart is already good at it and Jalen Duren is showing signs of being elite in that department as well.
The problem is that other teams know this and can just run their pick-and-roll sets with the man Bogdanovic or Bey is guarding, forcing them to switch onto a quicker guy. The Pistons lack that lockdown defender who can move from position to position without giving anything up.
This is something Troy Weaver is going to have to address, as Detroit looks slow on the wing and can’t continue to run this defensive scheme of switching everything against teams that are quick on the perimeter.
Detroit doesn’t have the rim protection to bail out their wings when they get burnt, so Coach Casey is going to need to adjust until Troy Weaver gets him a true wing stopper.