The Detroit Pistons are off to a 2-3 start after last night’s frustrating loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
There has been plenty to be excited about, as Cade Cunningham has mostly been great, Ausar Thompson is a game-changer, Jalen Duren a stud and it looks like the Isaiah Stewart experiment might actually work. Stewart has been Detroit’s most consistent player, a leader and that contract is looking better by the day.
They obviously have some issues, as they’ve gotten nothing from starter Killian Hayes, have spacing problems without three of their best shooters and have struggled in the half-court offense because of it.
The good news is that their two biggest problems are under their control and things that should improve as the season goes on, the Detroit Pistons get healthy and their young players start learning from their mistakes.
The Detroit Pistons are the worst in the NBA in turnovers
The Detroit Pistons are currently averaging 18.6 turnovers per game, worst in the NBA, which is something they have to fix.
It doesn’t take a basketball expert, you can just watch the games and see them committing unforced errors all over the court. This starts with Cade Cunningham, who has to cut out the lazy passes and quit jumping before he knows what he’s going to do with the ball.
I’m not worried about Cade, as a lot of his turnovers are the product of not having anyone to pass the ball to in the half-court, where teams are just sagging into the lane with absolutely no respect for or fear of their shooters. But Cade has to keep it moving and quit trying to dribble into traffic, which is the root of a lot of his problems.
But it’s not just Cade, four out of the five starters are averaging at least two turnovers per game and Jaden Ivey and Marvin Bagley III are adding another four combined off the bench.
Part of this is adjusting to new teammates and a new scheme that asks them to make quicker decisions with the ball, but part of it is just carelessness, and those are the turnovers that are completely under their control.
The Detroit Pistons foul way too much
The Pistons are also worst in the NBA when it comes to fouls per game, committing a mind-boggling 25 per contest so far this season. It’s allowing teams to stay in the game even when Detroit is rolling, like it did last night, when the Trail Blazers shot 33 free throws and swung the score by 17 points.
To show you how bad they’ve been, Detroit was worst in the NBA in this category last season, but had three fewer fouls per game than they are averaging now. The Dallas Mavericks, who are best in the NBA this season, are committing 10 fewer fouls per game than the Detroit Pistons.
That’s a lot of free points the Pistons are giving the other team, a huge gift to Portland last night, as they struggled to shoot early and free throws allowed them to stay in the game.
Part of this is aggressive defense, and you don’t want the Pistons to stop playing it. You take fouls when they come out of defensive pressure. But they have to cut out the dumb ones, the reaches 40 feet from the hoop, the obvious offensive fouls (hi Marvin!) and the frustration fouls where they are upset about not getting a call on the other end (I’m looking at you Cade).
There is good news here, mostly that Detroit has won or been in every game even though they are turning the ball over and fouling at a historic rate. The other good news is that these things are fixable with focus, patience and time.