How the Detroit Pistons Are Slowly Making Progress

Eric VincentCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2013

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 3: Brandon Jennings #7 of the Detroit Pistons drives to the basket against the Miami Heat on December 3, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2013 (Photo by Issac  Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

To quote media legend George Blaha, "Don't look now, but" the Detroit Pistons are building a wave of momentum.

With all of the talent they put together over the summer, it would take a minute for this team to jell. It's still extremely early in the year, but there are plenty of signs already pointing to a bright future for this franchise. The NBA is a game of runs, and Detroit is slowly hitting a stride.

The Pistons are coming off of three straight victories pushing them to a 9-10 record. Each victory had a special significance, blowing out the Philadelphia 76ers at home, then winning back-to-back road games against the defending champion Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.

During these victories, Detroit has jumped out to fast starts, including 40 first-quarter points against the Sixers and holding a double-digit, first-quarter lead against Miami.

Not only are the Pistons starting off hot, but they're learning to close out basketball games. The double-digit road leads against Miami and Milwaukee were challenged, but Detroit found a way to answer every run. Whether it's a clutch Brandon Jennings triple, or a putback by Andre Drummond, this team is growing and learning to close out games.

Detroit's roster is one of the youngest in the NBA with an average age of 25.5 years and only 3.9 seasons of experience. Not only are they young, this is a brand new roster with only one returning starter.

A 9-10 record is nothing to throw a party for, especially in the Eastern Conference. Only two teams in the East have a winning record (Indiana, Miami), and the rest have a .500 or losing record. But for a brand new team like Detroit, around now is when you expect its identity to start taking shape.

If you're not completely sold on the Pistons quite yet, there's one piece everybody is on board for, and his name is Andre Drummond.

After slowly making strides his rookie year off the bench, the second-year center has emerged as the next big thing in the NBA. Drummond absolutely dominates the paint, averaging 13.5 points and shooting a league best 64.6 percent from the field. He also lives around the rim, grabbing 12.8 rebounds a game, including a league-best 4.9 offensive boards.

Drummond's athleticism as a 6'10", 270-pound 20-year-old is off the charts, but it's complimented by a unique hustle you don't see often from NBA big men. Similar to Pistons legend Ben Wallace, you see Drummond pressuring point guards off of inbound passes, creating turnovers for the Pistons. Detroit leads the NBA with 9.9 steals a game, and Andre Drummond is a big reason why.

The effort shown from a kid like Drummond is prime for a young team like Detroit.

Drummond anchors the strong point of this Pistons team, the frontcourt. Drummond and forwards Josh Smith and Greg Monroe were the biggest experiment for Detroit to figure out because of their size, skill set and floor spacing. The Pistons lead the NBA with 14.1 offensive rebounds and keep life alive on second-chance scoring because of those big bodies down low.

The biggest X-factor this season was newly acquired point guard Brandon Jennings. He's been able to prove he's a good enough passer, averaging 8.4 assists a game, fifth-best in the NBA.

Before the start of the season, I mentioned Jennings needed to play slower in half-court sets and faster in the full court. Thus far, one of those tasks has been mastered.

Courtesy of Jennings, the Pistons are tied for fourth in fast-break points, averaging 17.1. Jennings makes his best decisions in space and on the run. He's been able to find his teammates in the open floor. He's building a great bond with Drummond and Josh Smith.

Jennings is one of the biggest risk takers in the NBA. While some of his shot selection is a complete enigma, Jennings somehow finds a way to make big plays when the Pistons need them most. He's only shooting 38 percent, but he's knocked down clutch jumpers in pivotal moments.

He's not a great defender with his feet, but he has some of the quickest hands in the NBA. LeBron James learned that first-hand Tuesday.

Outside of the stars, the Pistons have found improving play from role players like Rodney Stuckey, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler. Stuckey has been one of the most dangerous sixth men in the league, averaging 16.2 points.

This team still has a long way to go and plenty of improvements to make. The Pistons can't establish themselves in the NBA shooting a league-worst 67.1 percent from the free-throw line. They also goat themselves into foul trouble going for too many blocks and being unable to defend the paint.

Nineteen games in, you have to be encouraged by what the Pistons have displayed. It's a long road to the postseason and a tough December schedule looming. But stretches like these will test the character and progression of Detroit.