Detroit Pistons: 5 Keys to Make Playoff Push in the Season's 2nd Half
Any playoff aspirations the Detroit Pistons may have had coming into the season took a huge hit when the team stumbled out of the gate to an 0-8 start this season.
They've only managed a subpar 16-17 since then, but thanks to the generally mediocre bottom half of the Eastern Conference, the Pistons are still very much in the playoff hunt.
Here are five keys to look for if the Pistons want to make run at a playoff spot this season.
Find the Right Rotations
One major problem with the Pistons this season is their difficulty finding the right lineups to best utilize their talent.
Players like Will Bynum have commented to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press how confusing it is when lineups are constantly shuffled. However, Coach Lawrence Frank has made several changes during the season, including dropping Rodney Stuckey from the starting five in favor of Kyle Singler.
Moving Stuckey from his natural position of point guard to primarily a two guard last season has also seemed to affect his production. Given how poorly Brandon Knight has distributed the ball while running the point, it may make sense to swap the two.
The Pistons have certainly seen increased production when certain players play together, and moving forward it will be important for Frank to maximize minutes when these compatible players share the court.
Give Andre Drummond More Minutes
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Whatever rotations Lawrence Frank decides on, he will need to include more Andre Drummond to make a playoff push.
Despite ranking 11th in John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating (PER), ahead of superstars like Blake Griffin, Tony Parker and James Harden, Drummond is only on court for just shy of 20 minutes a game.
He only gets the seventh most minutes on his own team, yet he still leads the team and ranks 15th in the league in blocks.
This guy is a dominating presence in the paint, and he is continuously developing into more of a threat offensively. His seems to be improving on his Achilles heel, and his free-throw shooting.
Drummond connected on 6-of-8 free-throws to foil the Celtics' attempt to use a "Hack-a-Drummond" strategy in the Pistons' 103-88 win last week.
Granted Drummond is only a rookie, but he has shown superstar potential in his limited action this season, and the Pistons need to turn him loose.
Improve the Assist-to-Turnover Ratio
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The Pistons rank 28th in assist-to-turnover ratio this season. This is due to both low assist numbers and a high turnover rate.
The team ranks 23rd in assists per game, and their turnover differential is tied for second worst in the league. They turn the ball over on average two times more than their opponents.
Improving on these numbers will require more heady play from last year's NBA All-Rookie team member and from backup point guard Will Bynum, or potentially the return of Rodney Stuckey to the point guard role.
Give Greg Monroe More Touches
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The third-year star has established himself as one of the better centers in the league and a leader on this team.
His 15.4 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game lead the team, but just as notable are his 3.2 assists a game, which are huge for a team that has struggled with its point-guard play.
Monroe's consistency is demonstrated by his .475 field goal percentage, but with only 12.6 shots a game and not a lot of efficient scoring elsewhere on the team, this is an underutilization.
Teammates Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey both take a lot of shots, each taking more than 10 a game while both hover around only 40 percent shooting from the field. It may benefit the Pistons to give a few more of these looks to Monroe.
Playing inside-out more with Monroe on the floor could also open up more outside looks thanks to Monroe's passing prowess. This could greatly benefit a team that ranks 26th in three-pointers attempted per game despite having the seventh best three-point shooting percentage in the league.
Play Better Late in Games
Prince sinking one of his game-winning free-throws in a Dec. 30th contest against the Bucks
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The Pistons have been dismal this season in the fourth quarter and have lost each of their three overtime games.
Besides being 0-17 in games when down going into the fourth quarter, the team has let numerous leads slip away.
Just this past month, the Pistons let a 15-point first half lead slip away in falling to the Jazz and barely hung on to a 95-94 win against Atlanta after blowing a 19-point lead, getting outscored 22-11 by the Hawks in the fourth quarter.
A major cause for these collapses is stagnant offense for long stretches during games. The Pistons scored just two points in the final seven minutes against the Hawks, and they have struggled to find consistent production in several other scoring droughts this season.
The Pistons will need to find a go-to scorer late in games and find a way to play hard for 60 minutes for the Pistons to make a run at the playoffs.