Detroit Pistons: 3 steps to improving the defense right away

Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) blocks a shot by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey (23) blocks a shot by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

If everything goes right this season, the Detroit Pistons could return to the playoffs. To achieve this goal, Detroit will need to improve in almost every category. Let’s take a look at the specific ways in which the Pistons need to improve defensively to take the next step in their development.

The Detroit Pistons need to stop fouling so much

The Pistons will need to defend without fouling. Both Killian Hayes (19th) and Jaden Ivey (7th) were in the top twenty of total personal fouls. Having two guards in this category means they’re pressing for steals, forcing a stop against a fast break, and out of position on rotation. In other words, these are bail-out fouls. They aren’t earned banging beneath the basket or meeting a player at the rim.

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Opponents earned .231 free throws per field goal attempt against the Pistons last season, and this placed the Pistons 29th in the league. To keep their opponents off the line, the Pistons will need to keep their matchups in front of them and off balance by managing space. This is easier said than done, obviously, and most nights every NBA team will face at least one player with the ability to shift speed or shoot off the bounce in the tiniest gap.

Make opponents take more difficult shots

Opponents shot an effective field goal percentage of .557, which slotted Detroit at 24th in the league. To lower the opponents’ shooting percentage, Detroit will need to understand the scouting reports, anticipate plays, and learn player tendencies. This will come with time and experience.

To counteract the high level of skill and talent in the NBA, Detroit will need to defend as a team, which requires personnel who can switch and who know their roles on the floor. This year, the Pistons have personnel who can handle switching in ways not seen since Tayshaun Prince. As the roster continues to develop, the defensive identity will continue to improve.

Defense isn’t always flashy. It often means turning opponents, forcing them to be uncomfortable, to step or drive where they’d rather not. Defenders need to remain active and affect shots, creating opportunities to rebound.

The Detroit Pistons need to finish the play

Last but certainly not least, the Detroit Pistons will need to finish defensive possessions by securing the rebound. The Pistons only corralled 74% of available defensive rebounds, ranking 27th in the league. With as many centers as Detroit had on its roster, that’s embarrassing. The team, as a whole, needs to retain position beneath the basket, anticipate the bounce, and secure space, not just keep eyes on the ball.

Most of these adjustments will come with time and experience. The Pistons have the physical tools they need to compete at a high level. The competition, however, is so strong and fast in the NBA, that once they’re on the run, cutting, or in their shooting motion, it’s too late to react.

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