The Detroit Pistons got off to the start fans were hoping for, winning two of their first three games behind a stout defense.
The Pistons were near the bottom of the league on both sides of the ball last season, but Monty Williams made it clear that defense would be the priority and he has already gotten results.
Everything at this time of year has to be tempered by the sample size and the fact that we are just three games into the season, but there are already some numbers that stand out and show that this team is not the same one that won just 17 games last season.
The Pistons are trying to build their identity around defense and they’ve had some shocking leaps in that department early in the season.
Shocking early numbers for the Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are 6th in defensive rating
At some point this team will regress, but you have to be impressed with the Pistons’ 102.7 defensive rating so far, good for 6th in the NBA.
They were 28th in this category last season, a staggering 117.8 that was the worst in team history, so to say this is an improvement would be a massive understatement. I don’t expect Detroit to suddenly be a top-5 defensive team, but the difference is palpable and the Monty Williams’ effect is real.
The Pistons are dominating the defensive boards
Detroit is currently 3rd in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game and 10th in defensive rebounding percentage, both huge leaps from last season. If you are going to play two bigs, you have to dominate the boards and close out possessions, and so far, the Pistons have.
They were dead last in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game last season and 27th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Part of this is a big leap from Jalen Duren, who is much more dialed in on the defensive end, but the rest is really the impact of Ausar Thompson, who is grabbing over 10 rebounds per game so far, with seven of them being the defensive variety. Securing the defensive rebound is the final step of closing out a possession and the Pistons have been much better.
The Pistons are blocking shots
Detroit had next to zero rim protection last season, as they didn’t have a single player who averaged at least a block per game. The Pistons were 27th in the league in blocks per game with a paltry 3.8 swats.
This season they are 3rd in the NBA overall and have increased their blocks per game to 7.7, more than double last season. This again comes down to Duren and Ausar who have blocked 2.7 and 2.3 per game, respectively this season.
This will come down over time, but they are contesting everything and are making it hard for teams to score in the paint, another huge problem from last season, when they were 29th overall in opponent’s points in the paint, up to 5th this year so far.
It’s still very early, so the sample size disclaimers obviously apply, but these are great early signs for the Detroit Pistons on defense.