The Detroit Pistons have to find Solace in their own Skin

Detroit Pistons

Projected Lineup and Statistics

PG Reggie Jackson 15.8 points 3.3 rebounds 5.9 assists

SG Luke Kennard 10.3 points 3.9 rebounds 2.9 assists

SF Stanley Johnson 8.7 points 4.3 rebounds 2.0 assists

PF Blake Griffin 20.2 points 6.5 rebounds 5.3 assists

C Andre Drummond 14.7 points 15.8 rebounds 2.4 assists

6 Ish Smith 9.4 points 2.7 rebounds 4.5 assists

7 Reggie Bullock 10.1 points 2.6 rebounds 1.4 assists

8 Jon Leuer 4.1 points 2.9 rebounds 0.5 assists

9 Khyri Thomas 9.1 points 3.3 rebounds 1.3 assists

10 Langston Galloway 3.9 points 2.1 rebounds 1.2 assists

Projected Points per Game: 106.4

Who are their X-Factors?

A breakout player and Dwayne Casey. The Pistons are not a premier free agent destination this Summer and are not making modifications before the trade deadline. The Pistons organization has gone to ruins along with its birth city, which went bankrupt in 2013. Kennard was picked above Donovan Mitchell, Stanley Johnson has shot less than 38% in his first three seasons, and their ‘franchise’ point guard, Reggie Jackson, has dressed in 60% of games in consecutive seasons. Stan Van Gundy made a last-ditch effort in trading for expired star Blake Griffin, whose knees are fabricated of paper mache. Motor city’s problems are a runaway train, and Dwayne Casey plays the part of the perplexed conductor, desperately trying to halt the train.

Dwayne Casey as the Conductor

Casey went 320-238 in his tenure at Toronto, leading the franchise to 5 consecutive playoff appearances and its best record in 2017-2018. But is he a fit in the motor city? How does the current roster fit his coaching style?

Casey’s overlying principles are as follows: drive and kick plays, three-point attempts, and on-ball and off-ball screenplays. In his seven seasons in the 6, Casey relied upon unselfishness, strong guard play, and bench play.

Using stocky point guard Lowry and slasher DeRozan, Casey employed a dribble-drive offense that looked for its shooters in corners and wings. The Raptors averaged the third most threes in the league. The Pistons were just 16th in the league in three-point attempts, yet composed the second highest percentage from deep. The Pistons will thrive by firing more three’s with a variety of marksman; Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Jon Leuer, and new addition Khyri Thomas. Thomas adds another threat from outside and will relieve Kennard of defensive duty and offensive workload. He could play a mitigating role of the role Avery Bradley played for the Pistons.

Of course, this Pistons team is constructed structurally different in comparison to Casey’s Raptors teams. There is a glaring lack of a dynamic point guard. Reggie Jackson does about half the things Lowry does as a quarterback. Lowry is a knock-down shooter, great pound-for-pound defender, and a visionary as a floor general. Of course, Casey is responsible for Lowry’s progression as a player. Lowry averaged just 10.3 points and 4.8 assists in the first half of his career and 16.9 points and 6.9 assists under Casey. Of course, Detroit fans are rooting for a Lowry-like renaissance for the former Boston College star.

Luke Kennard is not Demar DeRozan

In addition, the combination of Detroit shooting guards are not playmakers like DeRozan is. Kennard’s 3.1 assists per 36 minutes stark in contrast to DeRozan’s 5.5. Certainly, DeRozan was not always the passer he manifests now. His first two seasons without Casey as the coach, he produced less than 2 assists per 36 minutes.

Reggie Jackson is not Kyle Lowry

For Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard to excel, Casey will unleash his famous guard-friendly offense. Last season, Toronto was 8th and 7th, respectively, in pick and roll frequency and points per pick and roll possessions. They ranked 1st and 2nd the season prior. In juxtaposition, the Stan Van Gundy-led Pistons focused on post-up plays and less on the pick and roll, for which they were 22nd in total plays. The roster essentially forced Van Gundy’s hand in doing so though.

Detroit’s Yin and Yang: Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond

The team’s two best players are undeniably Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Blake Griffin is not the franchise player he was with the Clippers. In 25 short-lived games, Griffin produced just 19.8 points and 6.6 boards as the focal point on the Pistons. Despite deflated statistics, his usage rate hovered around the same as it did in LA, moving mere decimal points from 29.3 to 28.4. He just is not that dynamic scorer or intimidating board-grabber he was when he joined the Clippers. The trade for Griffin stripped Detroit of talent. Detroit sent what became the 12th pick, Avery Bradley, and Tobias Harris to LA. Management will be exceedingly influential in determining Griffin is a big part of the offense once again. This could hamper Casey’s gameplan.

It would not color me surprised if Andre Drummond became increasingly unhappy with his role in Casey’s offense. The former Raptor coach only designated 41 minutes per game split between his starting and backup centers, Valanciunas and Poeltl. Drummond practically matched that number, playing all of 33.7 minutes per game last season. The Detroit frontcourt accounted for 138.6 touches per game while the Toronto frontcourt of Valanciunas and Ibaka accounted for just 89.6 touches a game. Griffin and Drummond are superior players to the former and fairly expect to be treated like such within the confines of an offensive scheme. Dwayne has proven capable to make monumental changes to the fundamentals of his offensive scheme. His team went from 22nd in three’s to 3rd in a matter of one season. This time, he inherits a team that has the capacity to shoot from outside. For Detroit to reach its outstanding potential, Casey will need to not just integrate Drummond and Griffin, but feature them.

Projected Record: 43-39

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