Disappointing would accurately describe the Detroit Pistons season thus far. After signing players Markieff Morris and Derrick Rose in the offseason to improve depth, the Pistons expected to have a better season than the one before.
Blake Griffin was coming off arguably the best season of his career, making All-NBA third team while putting up 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, while shooting a career-high 36.2 percent from deep.
Reggie Jackson, after dealing with injuries from 2016-2018, was coming off a season where he played every game.
The future was looking as bright as it’s been in the last 10 years for the Pistons.
However, the injury bug wasn’t feeling too kind.
Griffin dealt with a hamstring injury in pre-season, holding him out the first 10 games of the season. Upon returning, Griffin hasn’t looked 100 percent and struggled from the floor. Shooting a career-low 41 percent from the field, Griffin is still trying to get back into basketball shape.
Jackson dealt with a back injury early in the season and has been out since the second game of the season. He was recently re-evaluated last week and the latest news is Jackson will be checked up on again in another two weeks.
Rose has also dealt with injury this season with a myriad of problems that have held him out of five of the Pistons 23 games thus far.
Due to this, the Pistons have started out the season rockier than they expected. They’re currently 9-14 and 2.5 games behind eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Pistons plan on making the playoffs this season, they need to turn the corner quickly and put together some wins.
Has Detroit already turned the corner, though?
The Pistons started out this season 4-10, with a 5-game losing streak in the midst of that start. Through these first 14 games, the Pistons had a defensive rating of 112.0 which was ranked 25th in the NBA. Detroit had the second-highest turnover percentage at 17.5 percent.
Without Griffin and Jackson, the Pistons had to rely upon Bruce Brown and, when Rose was out, Tim Frazier to do a lot of the point guard duties. The Pistons also were asking a ton out of Andre Drummond playmaking wise, which had resulted in the 26-year-old averaging a career-high 3.9 turnovers a game.
The high turnover rate was resulting in easy baskets for the opposing team, which speaks to the horrible defensive rating. It was also affecting an offense that had actually been shooting the lights out.
The Pistons, as a 4-10 team, had a true shooting percentage of 57.2 which was ranked seventh in the league. The only other non .500 team in the top seven were the Washington Wizards. Detroit was also third in the NBA in three-point percentage at 39.2 percent.
For a team shooting so well from the field, it’s strange to see the record not really reflect that. Turnovers were giving the other team more possessions and easy baskets while taking away possessions from a team that can shoot you out the game.
If the Pistons wanted to keep this season within reach, they needed to win some games and turn it around fast.
Since losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on November 23rd without Griffin, the Pistons have picked up the pace.
Detroit played seven games since. Seven games in which Griffin and Rose have played in.
The Pistons are 4-3 in the during that stretch, with two losses coming to the Charlotte Hornets by a combined four points. Detroit wishes to have closed out those games against Charlotte, who they’ve now lost 12 straight games to.
Those two losses make their record look worse than how they’ve actually played.
Remember that turnover percentage that was ranked second-worst in the league through the first 14 games? They’re ranked 13th in the league through the past seven games.
The defensive rating of 112.0 that ranked 25th in the league? Yeah, that’s down to a defensive rating 107.1 and is ranked at 13th in the NBA.
The Pistons net rating during this stretch is third-best in the league, at plus-9.6.
By eliminating a large number of turnovers the Pistons were suffering without Griffin and Rose, Detroit has now functioned at an even higher level of offense these past seven games compared to the first 14.
Their true shooting percentage has raised from 57.2 percent to 58.1 percent. The three-point percentage has gone even higher, going from 39.2 percent to 40.5 percent.
This improved play directly correlates with the return of Griffin and Rose to the lineup. Griffin has played over 30 minutes in each of the last seven games, outside of a blowout win against the San Antonio Spurs. He hasn’t had to sit anymore back -to-backs due to his injury recovery and a highlight dunk in the Pistons latest win over the Indiana Pacers suggests Griffin is getting back to himself.
It’s been a while since we have seeen a vintage Blake Griffin dunk🔥pic.twitter.com/2MRA8cTMSz
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 7, 2019
Combine this with the steady play of Drummond, who’s averaging a career-high across the board in points (17.7), rebounds (17.0), and blocks (2.0), the Pistons frontcourt is back to dominating opposing teams.
The Pistons dug themselves quite a hole with their superstar forward out, but seem to be trying their best to climb their way out. This is a deep team of shooters surrounding their two twin towers, such as Langston Galloway, Svi Mykhaliuk, Tony Snell, and breakout player Luke Kennard.
The offensive firepower on this team is legit, and they score very efficiently. Drummond is currently playing out of his mind defensively, ranking top-5 in blocks, top-10 in steals, and fifth in the NBA (first among centers) in deflections with 78, doing his best to cover for his teammates that struggle to stop dribble drives. Cutting down on turnovers, along with Drummond’s insane play on defense, has improved a once horrific defense.
The Detroit Pistons are 9-14, but their play doesn’t reflect that. Any team that assumes such will just be helping the Motor City race back towards the front of the pack.
It took roughly a quarter of the season, but the Detroit Pistons have indeed turned the corner.