Column: The Detroit Pistons are legit, and you should be watching
Unless you’re a diehard Detroit Pistons fan or casual twitter goer, the following statistic may be a complete shock based on your preconceived notions of how this team has performed the past couple of years.
This year’s team is currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 14-6, ahead of Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but only by a tad.
It's a baby step, but it's one awesome baby step. So save this moment while it lasts because it's probably going to be gone soon. Think of the last time you’ve heard “Pistons are better than” and “Lebron James” all in one sentence. Never heard that? Same. Well, not since Lebron was just 24 years old and I was in middle school.
Although it’s still very early, the Pistons' hot start has been no fluke. The formerly known “Bad Boys” have already pulled off wins against NBA powerhouses, including the Oklahoma City Thunder; the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors; and—this season’s best-record holder—the Boston Celtics.
That 118-108 road victory over the Celtics on Monday was the Pistons' most complete showing of the entire season. Whether it was efficient 3-point shooting, stingy defense to force turnovers, rebounding over a tall lineup or stopping star scorer Kyrie Irving, Detroit finally showed something that has been missing for the past several years:
No, there is not a measurable statistic to determine how much heart a team has. But watching this team play with a certain level of intensity on the defensive end and bursting with excitement after a great play has just been fun to watch as a fan of basketball in general.
With all that, the true question remains, "What’s the difference between this team and last year’s 37-45 disappointment?"
Ball movement and 3-point success
With last season’s team ranking 28th in the NBA in terms of 3-point success rate, other teams didn’t even plan on guarding our perimeter. And with a lack of success scoring inside, especially from a slumping center Andre Drummond who couldn’t score inside or hit free throws, the plan effectively worked for other teams.
But this season has been a whole different story. With the additions of Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway and first-round draft pick Luke Kennard, the Pistons have bolstered their roster with assets that can finally hit 3-pointers, open or not, on a consistent basis. It’s been paying off, as Detroit is currently hitting 39 percent of chances behind the arc, good enough for third in the league.
Oh, yeah, the Pistons' leading scorer Tobias Harris is currently hitting 47 percent of his 3-point chances. If that stat doesn’t appear impressive, Steph Curry, arguably the greatest shooter of our time and (probably) all time, is shooting 37 percent right now. Ten percent doesn’t seem like much, but imagine if you got ten percent boost on that class you might fail. I thought so.
But the reason the shots are going in has come from the team’s ability to move the ball around better than ever. Point guard Reggie Jackson has playing back to his old self, sparking the offense in the pick-and-roll offense with Andre Drummond or coming up clutch in late-game situations.
Not only that, but Drummond has adapted his game to become a source of offensive production away from the basket. Passing has finally become a major asset to his skill set, averaging 3.5 assists per game, compared to his career high before of--well-- 1.1 per game. Most of Drummond's dimes have been from consistently finding Bradley, who runs like he's Dash from "The Incredibles", cutting to the paint for an easy finish.
There is a player on the Pistons named Boban Marjanovic. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s a 7-foot-3-inch Goliath out of Serbia who’s currently getting paid $7 million a year. If you haven't seen a picture of Boban, just imagine if the “big friendly giant” was a basketball player. He’s just so friendly and giant. Also, his hands are way bigger than your entire face, he loves Ariana Grande and his name is Boban.
All that said, he has only played in two games this season, which is weird because he is in perfect health. But it’s not because he’s not good, it’s just that the people in front of him are just simply better for the team.
From elusive playmakers like Ish Smith, to 3-point threats like Galloway to an all-around "spark plug" veteran like Anthony Tolliver, there is a certain trust with each player from Van Gundy to go on the floor and produce numbers.
And it’s been working for this team, as the all major bench lineup (Smith, Galloway, Kennard, Tolliver and center Eric Moreland) are simply more productive than all other benches in the Eastern Conference, besides Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Without this man, there would be no national spotlight on this team or even a glimmer of their success. Last year I said I wanted him traded and out of my sight. I thought his freestyle raps on social media were wack.
To Andre, I’m sorry, I was wrong. The raps got even better too.
In the offseason, he received this certain surgery that opened up his left nostril that was closed for the past four season. How in the world can you run up in down a court hundreds of times a game with that?
After the surgery, he went from shooting an atrocious 38 percent from the free-throw line to a current 62 percent. That jump has finally allowed Drummond to play his offensive game down low or without being taken out in later minutes because teams would just foul him right before he shot the ball to send him to the charity stripe.
Not only that, but his defensive effort in the paint has seen a rebirth of efficiency. So whatever surgery he got, I’m thinking that I should get the same one before finals. If he doubled his numbers, I could do that too before finals, right?
While there is still a lot of season to be played, it’s hard not to believe that the Detroit Pistons' complete turnaround from last season is the NBA season’s most interesting story so far. I’m knocking wood for luck just incase.
But somehow, the team has still struggled to get any attendance at the newly built Little Caesars Arena, a head scratcher for a city that seemed to want the Pistons back where they belong.
To those people who refuse to believe that this team is legit, just watch one game and I bet you'll jump on the bandwagon. It’s okay, we’ll let you come along the journey. For those who have been on the bandwagon since day one, thank you for still believing in Detroit basketball.
Wait, that didn’t sound right.