The Detroit Pistons have completed their first day of training camp and by all accounts it was a competitive atmosphere.
The Pistons will need to compete much harder on defense this season to have a chance, something new head coach Monty Williams is well aware of.
Detroit was 27th in the NBA in both defensive efficiency and opponents’ points allowed last season, which also had a big effect on the offense.
Defensive stops lead to fast break points and transition opportunities, which were few and far between for the Pistons last season, as they ranked just 27th in the league in fast break points per game.
With a young, fast and athletic team, that number should be way higher, but it starts on the defensive end, and coach Williams has already laid down the gauntlet.
Detroit Pistons: Monty Williams says play defense or don’t play at all
It was a group effort on defense last season but the Detroit Pistons had some of the worst individual defenders in the league by just about any metric you want to use. That’s something that has to change according to coach Monty Williams, who called these players “blow by guys” in a press conference after the first day of training camp:
That definitely sounds like a challenge and there are several players he may have had in mind when he made it.
Bogdanovic was one of the worst wing defenders in the NBA last season. He generally makes up for it by being a high IQ team defender who does give effort, but the 34-year-old isn’t getting any quicker. His inability to defend quicker wings is one of the primary reasons some people want to see Ausar Thompson in the starting lineup.
Bogdanovic’s shooting will be enough to ensure he’s not benched, but coach Williams is going to have to get creative and try to keep Bojan and Ausar on the floor together as much as possible.
Ivey was often found flat-footed last season while his man blew by him, though he did start to show signs of improvement later in the season. Ivey obviously has the quickness and athleticism to be a good defender, but spent most of last season adjusting to the speed of the game and learning where to be on defense. He should be more confident in year two, be thinking less and see fewer backs of players. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ivey hit the bench a few times this season when he does make mental mistakes on defense. Dwane Casey mostly just let his young players play through that stuff last season, but with more pressure to win, players will face more accountability. I expect Ivey to make a big leap on defense this season.
Harris, like Bogdanovic, wasn’t a great defender to begin with and then time took further toll. He’s actually had some good defensive years and is a better team defender than you might think, but that won’t stop him from getting blown by on the perimeter. One of coach Williams’ biggest challenges this season is going to be mixing and matching his poor defensive shooters with guys who can cover them on the perimeter. Keeping enough shooting and defense on the floor at the same time is going to be a challenge, as the best shooters aren’t good defenders and best defenders aren’t good shooters.
Wiseman falls into the Ivey camp, as he has all of the physical tools to be an elite defender, but has not mastered positioning, and that’s being kind. Wiseman’s lack of defensive awareness is the primary reason Golden State traded him according to Steve Kerr. With Wiseman, it’s all about positioning, as he has the quickness and length to stay in front of most bigs. But he often tries to block shots that he shouldn’t, putting himself out of position for defensive rebounds that lead to easy putbacks. His motor on the defensive boards lacks at times, which was a problem for Detroit last year as they were unable to close out possessions. Detroit was 27th in defensive rebounding percentage last season, which is one of the reasons they were 28th in opponent’s points in the paint allowed per game. Wiseman will be battling for a backup center spot and if he doesn’t improve on defense in both positioning and rebounding, he’ll be on the bench.
Marvin Bagley III
Same for MBIII, a very talented offensive player and beast on the offensive glass who doesn’t protect the rim or grab a high percentage of defensive rebounds, though he was better than Wiseman in that area. MBIII has been in the league long enough now to know where to be on defense, so for him, it’s often about focus and effort. He gives plenty when there are points to be scored, but not as much when there aren’t. He’s also terrible at switching onto the perimeter, where he truly was a “blow by guy” last season.
Williams will be quick with the hook when players don’t defend or make consistent mental errors, so things that slid in the past in the name of player development will no longer be tolerated.
This could lead to guys like Ivey and Bogdanovic hitting the bench at times, and a whole lot less of Wiseman and Bagley III.