Pistons

Pistons on the Road to Recovery

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After a rough, injury-riddled start to the season, the Pistons have started to improve.  Heading into a rugged December slate, they have won four out of their last five games.  The success hasn’t been random, it’s been intentional. Major changes have contributed to these new heights, so let’s examine what has fixed their season.

Improved Health

It’s almost too obvious to have to mention, but Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin being healthy makes this team better.  Since Griffin has returned, the Pistons are +5.2 in scoring margin and look like a playoff team.  While it is a bit alarming that Griffin is having the worst statistical season of his career (just as he turns 30, no less), the veteran still draws defenders and finds passing lanes for players like Andre Drummond and Bruce Brown.  He has also brought more structure to the offense and helped curb the team’s turnover rate — its most significant issue to start the season.

 

Rose has been inconsistent since his return to the lineup.  Rose got off to a hot start at the beginning of the year before his injury.  Then, he had puzzling mistakes in multiple losses to the Charlotte Hornets.  Still, he managed to change sentiments in the D with his 17-point fourth quarter — including a game-winner at the buzzer — against the Pelicans.  If Griffin, Kennard, Rose, and Drummond can continue to gel — then incorporate Reggie Jackson — more wins like that should be approaching.

Efficient Shooters

As fans had hoped, some of the secondary players are having great starts to the season.  Langston Galloway is averaging a career-high in points (12.8) and field goal percentage (44%), and is shooting a remarkable 42% from three.  He finally looks like the player former head coach Stan Van Gundy envisioned when he signed him just over two years ago.  He is a significant factor in the Pistons league-leading 3-point percentage, just as everyone would have expected.

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For once, the Pistons have a plethora of shooters on the roster.  They achieved the success by adding Tony Snell and allowing Luke Kennard and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to develop into their roles.  If the team can remain in the top ten in 3-point shooting, it will remain a premier offense.

Unheralded Young Guys

Ignoring the shooters mentioned above, two other youngsters have been contributing to the team’s chemistry.  Brown stepped into the starting point guard role, and while his counting stats do not stand out, his defense has been exceptional.  Management often tasks him with guarding the top player on the other team. He was excellent while guarding stars like Brandon Ingram and Trae Young.  Brown is also developing his corner three and floater, skills that are essential to keeping defenses honest.

By contrast, Christian Wood has played tremendously on offense. Whether it’s his career-high 28-point game against the Spurs or finishing lobs from Rose, good things happen when Wood enters the game.  He is still a little confused on defense, but he is learning and has the frame to develop.

The other benefit of Wood’s emergence is Thon Maker playing fewer minutes.  By all accounts, Maker is a great teammate and shows flashes on the defensive end of the floor. That said, it is uncanny how often he comes into the game and bad things happen.  Fans have seen enough leads evaporate as soon as Thon steps on the floor to let Wood earn their affection.  Developing a more efficient and effective rotation has put head coach Dwane Casey on the path to success.

Where We Go From Here – Trade Rumors and Tough Slate of Games

With over a quarter of the season gone, the Pistons are starting to figure out who they are.  Rumors have leaked from random sources on both sides of the trade coin.  Some have said Boston desires Griffin, and Charlotte is investigating the ability to bring in Drummond.  Other rumors have the Pistons sniffing around DeMar DeRozan and D’Angelo Russell.

However, it is hard to see any potential trade as imminent.  While the Pistons have expiring contracts, relinquishing young prospects and picks is tough to justify. This team has yet to see the expected starting five play together once this season.  The Pistons scheduled Jackson’s re-evaluation next week, and the following month will define the team’s season.

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It seems December has been the bane for Detroit for years, and this year’s slate is no different.  Looking at its next 13 games, Detroit will play eight teams currently over .500.  There are also seven road games, eight if you count the “home” game against the Mavericks in Mexico City tonight.  If they can finish that set around even, they could be buyers at the trade deadline.  If they continue the trend of recent years and struggle mightily toward the end of the calendar year, all bets are off.  Detroit will have to remember the last generation of great Pistons teams.  It is time to Go to Work.

Follow us on Twitter @PistonsLead for the latest Pistons news and insight.

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About Corey Rausch

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