It’s not quite time to elevate the panic meter to a ten, but after a sluggish 2-5 start and a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night the Detroit Pistons need to consider making some changes.
One of the biggest issues plaguing the Pistons is three-point shooting. They are ranked 27th in the NBA shooting an atrocious 27.4 percent.
When the Pistons have had open opportunities from long range they just haven’t been knocking them down. This coupled with the fact that they take a ton of bad shots has been detrimental to the team’s success so far.
One of the main culprits of this futility has been Josh Smith. Smith, who was benched for most of the second half against the Warriors and played a season-low 19 minutes, has shot 27.5 percent (11-40) from three so far this season. His 40 attempts also leads the Pistons.
There is no way Smith should be leading an NBA team in three-point attempts. J-Smoove is built for the paint and needs to assert his talents from the wings on in. Smith has shown flashes of brilliance on the block as a scorer and passer. When he parks himself down low he’s dangerous and will become a fan favorite and eventual All-Star.
Smith isn’t the only Pistons newcomer struggling to find their shot from the outside. Brandon Jennings is shooting 26.9 percent (7-26) from three and only 39 percent from the field overall.
The careers of Jennings and Smith have been tainted by their inability to shoot the ball at a reasonable percentage and their preferences for taking bad, head-scratching shots.
So far, the Pistons are getting exactly what they paid for.
With that said, it’s too easy to cast all the blame of the 2-5 start on the new and highly-paid faces. Bad shooting obviously hurts a team’s chances, but the Pistons aren’t playing well defensively.
Coming into the season it was expected that the Pistons would dominate the paint defensively with the big three of Monroe/Drummond/Smith and be in the upper echelon of NBA defenses.
Well, not the case so far.
The Pistons are giving up 104.3 points per game ranking them 25th in the league. They’re also surrendering 14.4 fastbreak points per game, also near the league’s bottom.
Although these three have struggled on the floor together, they also don’t see very much time as a unit. All the different lineup combinations have been brutal. Monroe struggles in fastbreak and pick-and-roll situations because of his lack of athleticism and Drummond and Smith can be over aggressive at times.
The perimeter defense has also been lackadaisical. The Pistons are allowing teams to shoot 39 percent from three and are a league worst in overall opponent shooting percentage at 49.3 percent. The Pistons have given up a countless amount of wide-open three-point attempts and have been unable to prevent penetration into the lane.
There’s been an utter lack of communication between the guards and bigs in pick and roll and pick and pop situations. It would be easy to blame these simple issues on the lack of camaraderie and time playing together, but a lot of this comes down to effort.
What can the Pistons do to solve these issues?
The Pistons need to implement Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the starting lineup and increase his workload overall. KCP will give the team a spark on the defensive end and pressure the ball, something Billups can’t give the team at his age. With the team’s biggest issue at the moment being poor defensive play, inserting a young athletic rookie with a lot to prove should up the ante in terms of effort.
KCP can also rebound at an extremely high rate for a guard. Having a guard that can mix it up inside will give the team another much needed spark and take some of the pressure off the frontline.
Giving KCP more minutes could also give the offense a nice boost. Billups, who lacks a quick first step and playmaking ability in general, hasn’t been very productive at the two-guard spot and would be much better served as the team’s full-time backup point guard. KCP has a really good first step that can get him to the rim and draw fouls and wheels that can match Jennings in the fast break.
Although he has struggled with his shot, if Cheeks gives him minutes to find his way and get more comfortable in the offense, maybe his stroke will come back into fruition.
The Pistons should also look to give Luigi Datome and Kyle Singler even more minutes at the small forward slot to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter jump shots. Datome and Singler have nowhere near the talent that Smith does, but if Smith continues to take bad outside jumpers and not rebound at the clip he’s capable of he’s a liability.
Maurice Cheeks has a lot to consider and is going to bear the primary grunt of criticism if things don’t change and the Pistons continue their current slump. Expect an inspired and regrouped effort Friday night in a nationally-televised game on the road against the Sacramento Kings.