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Detroit Pistons' Massive Front Line Proving They Can Thrive Together

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Detroit Pistons' Massive Front Line Proving They Can Thrive Together
Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

There are just too many big bodies up front. 

There will be major spacing concerns. 

This team is not built to succeed. 

As members of Detroit Pistons Nation, we have been subjected to all of these diagnoses when it comes to this year's squad. Heck, I personally have been lobbing some of these accusations.

Who can blame us? This team, at least on paper, looks ridiculous. They have two centers in the starting lineup and a power forward playing the 3. This really shouldn't work. 

But so far this year, the Pistons' massive front line has been thriving together.

 

Represents a huge advantage

The Pistons knew before this year that spacing would be a concern. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are both used to playing down low, and when you include the players guarding them, you are faced with four big bodies vying for a small amount of real estate.

Next you add Josh Smith to the equation and the fact that he too is more comfortable playing in the post and you should have an absolute cluster down there.

Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

Sure, some nights there have been issues. These guys have played so few minutes together there are bound to be some growing pains.

But more often than not, this team has looked really good on the offensive side of the ball.

Monroe and Smith have become facilitators on the offensive side, exploiting passing lanes and using their size to see over defenders.

And Drummond has been reaping many of the rewards, accepting slick passes and cleaning up busted plays.

The Pistons have been doing a great job of keeping either Smith or Monroe up top and moving their other big men around down low. This has showcased how effective passing the ball Smith and Monroe can be.

There is not another team in the league that can boast both as athletic and as big of a front line as Detroit, so this has been turning into a nightmare for opponents.

They essentially have to pick their poison. Either they press the high post feed guy or they sink back and try to crowd Drummond down low. Both options have proved fairly fruitless.

Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

The Pistons are currently 11th in the league in scoring offense, averaging nearly 103 points per game while allowing the 10th-fewest points in the game at just under 97.

They are playing unselfishly, with Smith averaging over four assists per game.

Smith has really flourished as a point forward in this offense, initiating the offense from the high post and finding teammates down low.

Monroe is slowing finding his shot on the perimeter and looks more athletic near the hoop.

And the record is showing the improvement, as the Pistons should probably be 3-0 after blowing a lead late against the Memphis Grizzlies last week.

 

Still room for improvement

What is truly scary about this team is that they are just scratching the surface of their potential, and the statistics bear that out.

The Pistons are just learning how to play alongside of one another, and there certainly have been growing pains.

The biggest concern for the Pistons has been their turnovers. They currently are averaging over 20 turnovers per game. That figure is alarming on many levels, especially in comparison to only 20 assists per game.

Ideally, Detroit would like to see the assists go up to around 25 per game and the turnovers drop to somewhere around 15.

There are plenty of reasons why those numbers are currently off.

First, the Pistons have been playing backups an unhealthy amount of minutes. Brandon Jennings only recently made his debut and he figures to be the Pistons starting point guard this year.

Rodney Stuckey also was limited early this season and should help with setting up the offense.

But what really is encouraging is how eager the bigs are to share.

Sure, Smith and Monroe are committing a ton of turnovers (a combined nine per night), but those two were the biggest challenges in this new offensive setup.

By initiating the offense from the high post, Smith and Monroe have to learn when to force passes and when to just kick the ball out and let the guards line things up.

Too often Smith and Monroe are making impossible passes and giving away possessions.

Now, that isn't a bad thing, just merely growing pains. These guys are feeling their way through possessions.

What would be discouraging would be if they were playing selfishly. The fact that they are trying to involve their teammates is a good sign.

 

Defense needs work still

The Pistons' defensive numbers aren't bad thus far, but they hide some issues.

First, both Smith and Drummond have been doing a great job of protecting the rim and blocking shots. But Drummond in particular is still struggling with foul trouble and is often getting to shots too late.

This is a matter of instincts and developing a feel for the game. These should come with time.

The most alarming thing has been Monroe's effort on defense.

Nobody is asking Monroe to turn into Dikembe Mutombo. That just isn't his game. But he does need to start anticipating his opponents' movements a little better and using his mind to get to spots before they do.

Monroe does not have quick feet or excellent athleticism. But he does have quick hands and good size. He needs to take a lesson from Vlade Divac and use his strengths to make things a little more difficult for opponents.

Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

The guards are doing a solid job of keeping opponents out of the lane, but some of that has to do with the level of competition. We could see a different story this week as the Pistons take on some powerhouses like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.

If guards are able to get into the lane, the bigs need to help erase those mistakes. And thus far, Smith and Drummond have been doing a solid job.

The next step will be to get Monroe onto the same page.

 

Optimism ahead

For all of the subtle problems that the Pistons have been encountering, there are lots of reasons for optimism.

The Pistons have been playing with strong effort on both sides of the court and have a winning record despite dealing with some early-season injuries.

The next step will be to play more efficiently.

The Pistons need to limit their turnovers while improving their passing.

They are already doing a great job on the offensive glass, snatching up 14 offensive rebounds per game.

But their defensive rebounding needs some work.

Beyond anything else, this year's squad is exciting to watch. There is an actual buzz surrounding this squad that hasn't been present in well over five years.

The key moving forward will be to tweak the offense while keeping the excitement.

This massive front line could in fact work this year. That being said, keep an eye on this team heading into the trade deadline, as there still could be a chance that Monroe is traded at some point.  

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