The first game of the season looked good. It might not have ended the way Detroit fans wanted, but it gave a lot of reasons for optimism. The Detroit Pistons played strong defense. They paid attention to detail and adjusted as the game developed.
Offensively, however, the Pistons needed a second point of attack.
Bojan Bogdanovic and Monte Morris are out with injuries. When they return, they will both contribute outside shooting and improved offensive awareness. As mentors, they’ll help the younger players improve their positioning and ability to read defenses.
Bogdanovic and Morris are the types of veterans who make their teammates better. The younger players will have more space and better offensive opportunities.
Unfortunately, neither are players who can get their own shot.
Bogdanovic is, by a significant margin, the best shooter on the team. Playing alongside athletic bigs and quick, long wings, Bogdanovic should find himself open, and he’s more than capable of making shots, cutting behind screens, and passing to the open man as action develops. He can’t, however, break down defenses on his own.
The Detroit Pistons need offensive help
Either Jaden Ivey or Ausar Thompson or both need to become the complementary scorer to Cade Cunningham.
Ivey has the speed and athleticism to attack defenses and put them on their heels. As he learns to read not only his defender but also the defense as a whole, his natural abilities will allow him to score more efficiently.
Thompson’s situation is similar to Ivey’s, although Thompson has only played one regular season NBA game. Nonetheless, Thompson appears to be ahead of the curve, at least in comparison to other rookies.
Both Ivey and Thompson shot an abysmal 14.3 percent in the game vs. Miami, tied for a game-low shooting percentage among players who actually made a shot.
Their shooting will improve when their game adapts, when the Pistons develop and execute a more nuanced offensive approach, and when Bogdanovic and Morris return to help diversify the offense.
And, more to the point, there isn’t an alternative. One or both of Ivey or Thompson need to develop into a second option. The other, hopefully, would become the third option, although Bogdanvoic is a strong third option on a competitive team. As we saw in Utah, however, his offensive game might not be athletic enough to keep a team competitive with him as the third option against a top three team in the NBA.
The good news: the Detroit Pistons have the pieces they need to become a versatile and competitive team.
The bad news: those pieces need time to develop in order to realize their potential.
Despite what advertisements might want you to believe, the future is never now. That’s why it’s called the future. In Detroit, the future looks like a house being slowly built with bricks.