The Detroit Pistons are currently 6-6 through the first 12 games of the season, holding the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons picked up wins against the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. They lost to the Nets, 76ers, Boston Celtics (twice), Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets. One thing is noticeable through the beginning of the season: the Pistons are playing with a refreshing energy under new head coach Dwane Casey.
Looking At The Detroit Pistons Optimistic Start
The Casey Effect
Dwane Casey was hired by Pistons owner, Tom Gores, in June 2018. Casey inherited a Stan Van Gundy top-heavy roster headlined by Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and Reggie Jackson. The reigning 2018 Coach of the Year led the Toronto Raptors to a franchise record 59 wins before being eliminated by LeBron James and his Cavaliers.
This off-season was Griffin’s first healthy summer in three years, while also being his first off-season with his new teammates in Detroit after the mid-season trade. Casey emphasized in this off-season that the Pistons will be playing up-tempo to adjust to today’s NBA style. In addition, they will focus on the most efficient scoring methods, which include increasing three-point attempts and attacking the rim. Casey’s plan was to run the offense through Griffin as a Point Forward.
Based on The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III, Griffin had a “scientific off-season”. He trained with Noah LaRoche, who has worked with plenty of other NBA all-stars in the past. His regimen did not focus as much on conventional drills and volume shooting, but rather on dynamic “read-and-react” exercises. This meant that Griffin ran the offense in a full-court set in order to focus on executing the most efficient decisions for his team as a ball handler.
Casey had the summer to instill a change in culture in a fairly consistent roster after signing a five-year deal with the Pistons. Increasing the pace, shooting three-pointers and attacking the rim are the three building blocks of this new era.
Evaluating the First Eighth of the Season
The Pistons started off the season with a 4-0 record before slightly regressing and ending up at 6-6. Many of the Pistons’ games so far have also been close games. Detroit has had one of the easiest schedules in the NBA, and only one of their six wins came against a possible contender in the Philadelphia 76ers. However, they were missing one of their all-stars, Ben Simmons, and it took a monstrous 51-point performance from Griffin to seal the win in overtime.
It is evident that Dwane Casey is instilling confidence in his role players such as Langston Galloway and Reggie Bullock. The team as a whole is buying into Casey’s new philosophy in order to remain competitive in the league. Detroit is attempting 35 three-pointers per game this season, six more than last season. In addition, the emphasis on pace has resulted in Detroit ranking 14th in the league at 100.9 possessions per 48 minutes, as opposed to ranking 21st last season with 4.7 fewer possessions per 48 minutes. The problem so far has been the Pistons shooting almost 31 percent from beyond the arc, and about 49 percent from the field. Those numbers need adjustment if Casey plans to contend in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.
The Pistons have some challenging games ahead against the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets. There are some easier games in between against the Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns. Casey needs to take advantage of the easy schedule and emphasize constant improvements from his team. This is the only way that Detroit can guarantee a long-awaited playoff berth.
CHICAGO, USA – MARCH 22: Reggie Jackson (1) of Detroit Pistons in action during the NBA match between Chicago Bulls vs Detroit Pistons at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on March 22, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)