Numbers vs. perception for the Pistons and why it matters

Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have lost 12 in a row, have the worst record in the NBA again and are zeroing in on the franchise record for consecutive losses.

But it hasn’t all been bad. No, seriously.

The two rookies have been good and getting some national love for their efforts. The Pistons are trying to put at least one player on the All-Rookie team for the 4th straight season and are well on their way.

We’ve also seen leaps from a couple of core players, particularly Isaiah Stewart, who has arguably been the best Piston this season or at least the most consistent.

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Stewart is averaging 11.9 points (a career high) and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41.4 percent from long range, which leads the team among players with the requisite number of attempts.

Stewart is the best defender among their bigs and is providing the type of shooting that shows he can be the stretch four the Pistons need him to be.

But the floor is not stretched at all, and space is even more limited than it was last season even though the Pistons have several guys shooting over 40 percent.

Teams are not afraid of Isaiah Stewart

Stewart is knocking down 3’s at a high rate, but it hasn’t showed in the spacing, as most teams are perfectly willing to let him have that shot all night. Here you can see the Warriors, who barely even noticed that Stewart is wide open and are happy to let him have it:

In the NBA, perception is often more important than reality. Stewart is shooting at a high mark, but teams are not afraid of him getting hot and are happy to let him shoot because he has not yet earned the respect of opposing defenses.

Klay Thompson is only shooting 34 percent on the season, but you can bet that teams are not going to sag off him. Even if Thompson is not making them, the perception that he will is enough to get defenses to stay close, which is why he creates space even at 34 percent.

It’s more important for teams to think that shot can go in than for it to actually go in, which makes no sense, but you see it in Detroit’s lack of spacing.

So how does Isaiah Stewart change the perception?

Easy, he needs to shoot more and do it consistently.

Stewart is only taking 3.9 attempts from long range per game this season, so even though he’s hitting a high percentage, there isn’t enough volume for teams to care. That only comes out to 1.6 makes per game, an obvious and easy trade off for teams that just want to pack the lane to stop Cade Cunningham.

For Stewart’s shooting to matter, he needs to start taking 7-8 from long range per game and knocking them down at the same rate. Teams will start to notice when a guy is hitting 3-4 of them per game instead of one.

Until that happens, teams are just going to sag off Stewart, who does not yet have the rep and isn’t doing enough of it for teams to care.

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