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The Pistons’ Offense is a Mess

Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports

Remember the first time the Detroit Pistons played a game this season? That is a question worth asking only because that team isn’t the same one that has been trotting about the hardwood recently. More so, incredibly early-season Detroit looked solid offensively. Actual sample size Pistons, though… not so much.

The issue Detroit has on offense is rather simple. They lack enough dynamic offensive players, who are efficient at scoring buckets to be consistent on that side of the ball. The reason they were built this way, however, is a bit more complex.

Some of the issues with Detroit’s offense probably start with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Thing is, he is the type of player he is and isn’t actually at fault for that. No. It is that Stan Van Gundy and crew expected (er, hoped) KCP to be the type of player this season that scores buckets in a more efficient way than he ever has.

All of which is a roundabout what of telling you that KCP has always been incredibly inefficient getting his buckets, yet Detroit’s roster is built in such a way that they were hoping a leap in development would mean a more effective Caldwell-Pope, and with that not happening at any level it is seriously hurting Detroit.

There was reason for some optimism with him, though. A very young player, one who is still very much in his development process, Caldwell-Pope shined in the season-opener. It wasn’t necessarily his productivity which was impressive, but how easily and efficiently he acquired buckets. Not that anyone expected him to keep pace with shooting over 50 percent from the field or 57 percent from three, but positive-outlook lovers used that as a harbinger of things to come.

Then, more games happened, as they tend to do. Then, also, KCP’s numbers reverted back to means, as they tend to do for guys who aren’t historically all that consistent. And, now, Detroit must deal with the elephant in the room.

A literal elephant?

A literal elephant?

Through 17 games this season, Caldwell-Pope is shooting 39 percent from the floor and below 32 percent from three. Those aren’t even decent numbers. They are, in fact, bad. In a vacuum, though, they could be forgivable. Except his performance ins’t in a vacuum. KCP’s primary goal on Detroit is to provide offensive production.

That’s the vacuum in which he lives. A vacuum that desperately needs to be cleaned or retooled or refurbished, as it isn’t picking up any of the dirt on the floor.

Not only is a mere 13 points per night with those wretched percentages a short-coming that is altering Detroit’s entire offensive structure, he isn’t contributing elsewhere on offense, either. His assist-to-turnover rate is nearly 1-1, he gets to the free-throw line under three times a game, and often simply looks like he doesn’t belong on an NBA court, which is is okay from a 22-year old from time to time, but should help to continue temper expectations in Detroit.

Caldwell-Pope isn’t solely to blame for Detroit’s iffy-offense, either. He is doing what he can, with the abilities he has, and could eventually end up being a better, more efficient offensive player (though, there’s little proof he will).

As a team, Detroit shoots under 41 percent from the floor, under 31 percent from three, under 68 percent from the line, scores 95.5 a game (29th in the league), averages 17.4 assists (30th) per outing, turn the ball over at a rate of 14.2 per, and their team-high efficient shooter is Andre Drummond, who is scoring on 52 percent of his buckets — with NOT ONE guard (or even small forward) shooting over 41 percent from the floor.

No, seriously. Enter: Reggie Jackson. The only guard/wingman/non-large human shooting over 40 percent from the floor for the Pistons.

Jackson has attempted 76 shots from three — second most shot attempt-types only behind layups — at a rather below ho-hum rate of 33 percent. Not oddly enough, everywhere else on the floor that isn’t within 10 feet of the bucket, Jackson has been an abomination. In all non-layup attempts, Detroit’s leading guard-scorer is shooting under 35 percent. To make matters even worse, it seems as if Jackson’s efficient points are all coming early in games, as his effective field goal percentage drops from 50 percent from the first half to close to 40 percent in the second.

Simply put: Reggie Jackson isn’t getting meaningful buckets. And the way in which he is getting most of them are detrimental to the success of the team.

But wait… there’s more!

Outside of Drummond — who, again, isn’t all that efficient for a big man  — KPC, and Jackson, Detroit truly lacks other capable offensive players. Outside those three, Marcus Morris is the only other Detroit player scoring in double-figures, and the only time he’s ever been as inefficient as he has this season (38 percent from the floor, 28 percent from three) was his rookie year.

Instead of continuing to hammer the point home, let’s acknowledge the obvious positive in all of this. Yes. There are certainly reasons to remain optimistic. Mostly, however, it is because Detroit has very little choice to do anything otherwise.

You see, the Pistons are incredibly young as a team. Their average player age is right around 25. Meaning, they presumably have a lot of potential floating around on that roster. Even better, this is the very worst version of this Detroit offense anyone will see. It should, theoretically, get better if guys like KCP, Drummond, Morris, Stanley Johnson, and a few others continue to develop.

On the flip side, there’s a chance that they won’t, either. That KCP might simply be a forever eh-offensive player; Drummond may forever be more forceful that fantastical in the post; and so on. It is a possible reality for the Pistons, but one that is too far off from a good enough sample size to declare it being likely.

Full Disclosure: I didn't think KCP was good coming out of the draft. I still don't. Nor do I think he'll ever be a real player of consequence. There, I said it. I declared it!

Full Disclosure: I didn’t think KCP was good coming out of the draft. I still don’t. Nor do I think he’ll ever be a real player of consequence. There, I said it. I declared it!

Regardless, this is what Detroit will look like on offense for the foreseeable future. Not a lot of roster moves can be made to help fix the issues they have on the offensive side of the ball, and only acquiring those types of players through another draft or two seems like a likely way to put a check-valve on the putrid offense flowing through the organization.

Luckily for them, the season is still as young as their team. Worse comes to worse; Van Gundy should be able to coach them up on defense to keep them competitive enough until their offense figures itself out. Well, if that ever actually happens might be the better way to put it, but it is too early to be completely negative on such a young team.

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