How the Detroit Pistons can fix their biggest problem

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) and guard Jevon Carter (5) put pressure on Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) and guard Jevon Carter (5) put pressure on Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s early in the season, and throughout the year the young Detroit Pistons will be tightening their game and improving their execution. They came out of the gate with improved confidence, discipline, and focus, but turnovers have been an issue earmarked by both Coach Williams and fans.

The Detroit Pistons are currently 2nd-worst in the NBA in turnovers per game, coughing it up over 17 times per contest. What can Detroit do to avoid turnovers?

How the Detroit Pistons can reduce turnovers

Initially, they can look to score immediately in transition. Use youth and athleticism to push the ball and pace. Get to the rim and keep the defense off balance, which will allow players to move on a string and find open looks if the defense collapses and closes off the drive to the basket, the first point of attack.

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If nothing comes of the quick pace, see the middle portion of the shot clock as an opportunity to run action designed to shuffle the defense. Force switches and create multiple offensive options. Then, as the shot clock winds down, choose the offensive option with the highest probability for success.

For example, the Detroit Pistons can run screens to put a weaker defender on Cade Cunningham. Cunningham looks to score and draws a second defender which creates an open option. If the defense continues to rotate, keep moving the ball, which might move back into Cunningham’s hands as the help defender rotates. Jalen Duren or Beef Stew might look up to see nothing but a guard between them and the basket, or a shooter might be defended by a big drifting toward the paint.

By moving the ball, working screens, and continuously moving with purpose, the passes will be clean and options open.

The Pistons can’t stop passing in an attempt to reduce turnovers. In fact, holding onto the ball has created some of their worst offenses. When Cunningham or Hayes are already in traffic or doubled, the pass is too late.

As you can see in this clip, the screen comes too high and MBIII allows the defender to go underneath it, leaving Cade with three defenders to deal with. The pass attempt comes too late, which leads to a turnover.

The pass needs to come the moment before the second defender arrives.

This is a point of emphasis for both the passer and the cutter. The cutter needs to be in the passing lane at the right time, but Cade also needs to recognize the situation.

Against Portland, Detroit had seventeen assists in the first half and led by as many as eighteen points. Eight turnovers accompanied their seventeen points in that half. In the second half, they had seven assists to go with ten turnovers. The difference could be seen in off-ball movement, cutting, and rotation.

When the Detroit Pistons stop moving off the ball, they stop getting good looks, and teams take advantage.

The Pistons are young, and when you’re in the game, it can be hard to see the trees for the forest. In-game adjustments require a shift of mindset, which requires maturity and a sense of calm, a knowledge of proportion that comes only with experience.

Late in the season, the Pistons will commit fewer turnovers and the young players will have developed a broader awareness of details and nuance. We’re seeing it happen a little each game. The pieces are in place. All the team needs is time.

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