We’re almost a quarter of the way through the NBA season, and the Detroit Pistons sit in second place in the Eastern Conference Standings with a 13-6 record. The Pistons have some impressive wins this season, beating the Warriors, Clippers, Timberwolves, Thunder, and Celtics all on the road.
This comes as a surprise to most. The Pistons missed the playoffs last year and seemed to be trending downwards coming into this season. However, Stan Van Gundy made some adjustments to the roster during the off-season, and he has his team playing some excellent basketball.
Let’s break down some keys as to why the Pistons are finding so much success early on this season.
The Health of Jackson and the Dominance of Drummond
After coming off a tremendous season two years ago, last year’s season for Reggie Jackson was one to forget. He struggled with a knee injury all season long, and it clearly hampered him.
Jackson ended up being shut down towards the end of the season, and Van Gundy admitted that he probably should have shut him down a lot sooner than he did. This season, however, Jackson has found his groove again.
He has shown signs of being that fourth quarter closer that he was two years ago, and he is back to being effective in the pick-and-roll game with big man Andre Drummond. Reggie is vital to the Pistons success, and now that he is healthy, his 15.1 points per game and 5.9 assists per game are helping the Pistons win.
Andre Drummond, similarly, was also underwhelming last season. It was obvious, with Jackson not being 100%, that Drummond’s numbers on the offensive end took a hit because there was nobody to frequently lob him the ball in pick and roll situations.
This year, however, Drummond is averaging 13.7 points per game, and is still one of the NBA’s top rebounders at 15.2 per game. He seems to be playing with a renewed energy, and that is an encouraging sign for the Pistons.
There has also been a huge spike in Drummond’s free throw percentage, which is important considering that teams can no longer foul him down the stretch of games and send him to the bench.
The Pistons decided a couple of years ago that they wanted these two players to be the faces of this organization, and this is the type of play the fans have been waiting to see. The Pistons will need them to keep playing well in order to sustain success this season.
Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris
The addition of Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons may have been quietly one of the best moves made by any team this past off-season. This is a player who plays both ends of the floor every single night. The energy he is bringing to the floor really seems to be rubbing off on the team.
The importance of having a player who can slow down the other team’s best player just about every game is undervalued, and Bradley thrives at that. His defensive intensity alone is enough to impact every game, but that’s not all Bradley does.
Bradley is second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game, while shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the three point line. He has been a phenomenal addition to Stan Van Gundy’s roster.
The player Bradley is second to in scoring is Tobias Harris. Harris has come into his own this season, leading the team in points per game at 18.4. He has had three games already this season scoring more than 30 in a game.
Harris has been great from the three point line as well, shooting a stunning 45.5% from downtown. Harris worked on his three point shooting in the summer, and it has paid off for him so far this season.
Aside from the impressive statistical data, Harris is the guy on the Pistons roster that can go score basically whenever he wants to. He is very strong around the rim, can face up his defender when he needs to and hit the jumper, and he can also take them off the dribble.
He is the Pistons’ best 1-on-1 player, and Detroit often goes to him when they need a big bucket or when they need to stop a run.
Great Bench Play
While the Pistons have a solid starting five, the bench play cannot be underestimated when we talk about the Pistons early success. All 14 guys on the roster have contributed this season in some way.
Backup point guard Ish Smith leads the charge coming off the Pistons bench, averaging 9.6 points per game. He can change the pace of a game and gives the Pistons energy when they need to mount a comeback. He has been the glue to a deep Pistons bench, but he is not doing it alone.
Luke Kennard, Anthony Tolliver, Langston Galloway, and Eric Moreland have all found ways to give the Pistons significant minutes at key points in games.
Also, although they haven’t played a ton as of late, Van Gundy can go to Henry Ellenson and Reggie Bullock when called upon, as he did a little earlier on in the season.
Van Gundy has some major flexibility when it comes to who to play on a given night. This allows him to play certain matchups he wants, or to simply ride the hot hand.
One player that hasn’t been mentioned is Stanley Johnson. While he is no longer a bench player, he is worth mentioning because he did come off the bench last year and is making the transition into a starting role.
While he has struggled shooting, he is using that defensive intensity that he used to bring off the bench in previous years. He has been a healthy change to the Pistons’ starting lineup.
- Freshmen Step up as Michigan Finds Success Early in Big Ten Play - January 15, 2018
- Michigan Football Needs a Change in Offensive Philosophy Going into 2018 Season - January 8, 2018
- Missed Challenge in Bengals Game Should Seal Jim Caldwell’s Fate in Detroit - December 28, 2017
- Matthew Stafford Having Another Stellar Season as Lions QB - December 17, 2017
- Dantonio, MSU Fans Take Pettiness to a New Level - December 5, 2017
- Get to Know Future Michigan PG David DeJulius - December 4, 2017
- Detroit Pistons Continue Early Season Roll - November 28, 2017
- The Game: Does Michigan Have a Shot? - November 22, 2017
- Quinn Nordin Struggling, But No Need to Panic - November 16, 2017
- Michigan Coach John Beilein is Under-Appreciated - November 9, 2017