Biggest Issues Detroit Pistons Must Address This Offseason
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With just a single game remaining in the 2012-13 season, the Detroit Pistons must be looking toward next season. They are guaranteed an 11th- or 12th-place finish in the Eastern Conference and have now missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
With just 29 wins on the season, the Pistons are clearly a team with multiple needs. They struggled on both ends of the floor this season and are in the bottom third of the NBA in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
There is hope, as they will have a draft pick in the lottery and potentially more than $20 million in cap space to spend on free agents. There are five issues they must fix in order to be competitive in the 2013-14 season.
Protecting the Paint
Andre Drummond needs help protecting the rim for the Detroit Pistons to succeed.
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The Pistons are ranked 24th in defensive efficiency this season, giving up 105.7 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. The biggest reason for their poor defensive performance is the fact that they just can't keep opposing teams out of the paint.
Teams have shot 61 percent from within five feet against the Pistons, which ranks 27th in the NBA. Only eight teams have given up more shot attempts from that distance.
The Pistons need to add interior defenders for their rotation. Andre Drummond and Jason Maxiell are the only players on the roster who average over one block per game, and Maxiell will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends.
Drummond missed significant time with injuries and only averaged 20.5 minutes per game when he was healthy. He should see significantly more playing time next season if he can avoid injury, and that alone will improve the defense to an extent.
The Pistons will need to find at least one good defensive big man this offseason and ideally another shot-blocker. Greg Monroe has been a below-average defensive player in his three NBA seasons, so the Pistons need to pair him with a defensive-minded post player. If Drummond is on the bench, they simply don't have another player currently on the roster to fill that role.
The Pistons almost certainly won't use their first-round pick on a post player, and NBA-ready big men are hard to find in the second round. This will be a need that they will have to address in free agency.
Maximizing the 3-Point Shot
The Pistons are a good three-point shooting team overall, but not from the corners.
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Despite having an offense that has ranked 21st in offensive efficiency this season, the Pistons have at least managed to shoot the league average of 35.9 percent from behind the arc. Their problem is that they don't utilize the three-point shot enough.
The Pistons are averaging just 17.6 threes per game, 24th in the league. This season, the NBA has seen a drastic increase in three-point shooting as teams look to become more efficient offensively. Last season, teams averaged 1,213 attempted threes; this season, they have averaged 1,612 (per basketball-reference).
Most of the top offensive teams are taking a large number of threes. Seven of the top 10 teams in offensive efficiency are also top 10 in three-point attempts. While those teams have excellent shooters, they also maximize floor spacing and utilize the corner three effectively.
The corner three is considered one of the most efficient shots in basketball, which Zach Lowe explained on SI.com last season. The Pistons are in the bottom half of the league in corner-three attempts and rank 25th in corner-three percentage at 36.3 percent.
The Pistons need to redesign the offense to better incorporate the corner three but also add better three-point shooters to the roster. Jose Calderon, Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler are the only players on the team to shoot at least 35 percent from behind the arc this season, and Calderon can leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Pistons should be looking to draft a talented wing player in the draft, and that player ideally will have NBA three-point range. Even so, the Pistons could stand to add one or two more quality shooters in free agency as well.
Rodney Stuckey's Shot Selection
Rodney Stuckey needs to limit the outside shots he takes for the Pistons to be successful.
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Rodney Stuckey regressed this season after leading the Pistons in PER in 2010-11 and finishing third last season. His field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages are all down this year, and his 13.0 PER is the worst of his career.
A lot of his problems are directly related to shot selection. Last season, Stuckey shot 117 times from 20 feet and out, which accounted for 19.6 percent of his shots (per NBA.com). This season, 26.6 percent of his shots have come from that distance.
His increased volume of outside shots didn't come with increased accuracy, as he shot 31.6 percent from that distance in 2011-12 and 29.9 percent this season.
Taking all of those outside shots has dropped his free-throw attempts per game from 5.8 last season to 3.6 this season. In 2011-12, he ranked 14th in free-throw attempts per game; this season, he ranks 53rd.
He has been been better at drawing fouls in April, as he has handled the ball more often with Jose Calderon missing five games. The Pistons need him to get back to attacking the basket next season to improve their sub-par offense.
The Detroit Pistons need to get more consistent play out of their young guards.
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The Pistons have two guards, Calderon and Will Bynum, who have a PER above the league average of 15 this season. However, they are also both on the wrong side of 30 and will be unrestricted free agents at season's end.
If they don't return, Stuckey, Knight and Singler are the only three guards on the roster that have averaged double-digit minutes this season. Stuckey's shot selection has been bad this season, but he has still been a more efficient offensive player than either Knight or Singler.
April has been a great example of Knight's up-and-down season. On back-to-back nights, he scored a combined 45 points on 16-of-17 shooting from the field against the Timberwolves and Bulls. However, he also played three games against the Raptors, Celtics and Cavaliers where he scored in single digits while playing at least 29 minutes in each game.
Knight is just 21 and has plenty of potential, so there is no reason to write him off. How quickly he develops into a dependable NBA point guard will have a lot to do with the Pistons' success over the next few seasons.
Singler joined the Pistons this season after playing in Europe for a year and has played in every game for Detroit, starting in 73 of them.
He hasn't played very well offensively for them, however. His 10.03 PER ranks 351st in the NBA, and only Avery Bradley from the Celtics was worse among players who played 28 minutes or more per game.
That being said, Singler, 24, is still young and should be a capable rotation player in the future. He is shooting 35.4 percent from three and the Pistons are 1.1 points better defensively per 100 possessions when he is on the court, per NBA.com.
The Pistons should still look to add backcourt talent via the draft or free agency, but developing the young talent already on their roster will be just as important to their success next season.
Taking Care of the Ball
Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe have struggled to take care of the ball this season.
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With several inexperienced players on the roster, the Pistons have struggled all season with turnovers.
The two biggest culprits for the high turnover rates are Knight and Monroe. They turn the ball over 2.6 and 2.9 times per game, respectively. Among 183 qualifying players, both rank in the bottom 25.
Turnovers will happen in the NBA, especially for young players with high usage rates. However, neither player is productive enough to justify the number of turnovers they have averaged this season.
The Pistons don't have many options to fix this problem. They can either hope that their players develop and cut down their turnover rates, or take the ball out of their hands.
Again, it comes down to the Pistons needing growth from their young core of players. With a relatively weak draft class and free-agent crop, the Pistons will need their own guys to develop in a hurry.