Monday, November 11, 2013

From the weekend - November 11

Oklahoma City 119 - Detroit 110 (2-3)

Last season, the Pistons took 17.6 three-point field goal attempts per game, a number that placed them 24th overall in attempts. For a league shifting toward the three-pointer and away from the inefficient mid-range jumper, that number stood as a major factor in the Pistons' lack of efficiency. But the team's personnel wasn't suited for taking a lot of threes; Kyle Singler, Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, and the platoon of Charlie V/Austin Daye were the only players who the Pistons could reliably play and consider three-point threats. Compounding issues is Greg Monroe, the core of the Pistons' offense last season and a player who shoots almost exclusively around the rim. But, as is typical with low-usage rates, the Pistons shot a moderate percentage from outside last year: 35.6%, a number which ranked 18th in the league.

This Pistons squad is eschewing both of those trends--for better or worse--which helped the Oklahoma City Thunder win the Palace 119-110. On Friday, the Pistons took a whopping 31 attempts from outside and connected on only 11 of them (35.5%), a percentage that is actually an improvement on the team's season-long shooting trend. This year, the Pistons are averaging 22.8 three-point attempts per game (10th in the league). Unfortunately, a significant number of those shots are coming from Josh Smith, and the team's three-point percentage sits as 29.8% (26th in the league).

Against the Thunder, Smith went 3-7 from outside but was not the team's biggest shortcoming from three-point range. That designation fell to any number of players: Chauncey Billups (1-5), Kyle Singler (1-4), Luigi Datome (0-2). The problem remains, however, that even when Smith shoots a reasonable percentage from outside, it belies his 28% career and season three-point shooting percentages. Smith is not getting any better at outside shooting, and yet the Pistons continue to hoist more three-point shots than all but nine other teams in the league.

Of the Pistons' current roster makeup, only four players can be considered (potentially) consistent three-point threats: Billups, Datome, Singler, and KCP. Of the 1,225 available minutes for the Pistons this season, only 331 have been used by these four players (27.02%), most of which (252) have been used by Billups and Singler. For a team that has taken the 10th most threes of any squad, this stands as a troubling distribution. It becomes easy to see the Pistons' current and potential pitfalls.

I know I've been riding the KCP hype train all season, but at some point, logic must to overcome veteran loyalty. It remains early in the season, but Mo Cheeks' slavish loyalty to Rodney Stuckey in the face of an incoherent offensive strategy is a troubling sign of a coaching staff that many scouts doubt is up to the challenge of leading a contender. If the Pistons want to make the leap this year, Josh Smith will need to stop taking 30% (!!!) of the team's outside shots as he does now, and cede that responsibility to a cast of supporting players that are more adept from the downtown and can open opportunities for Smith and the rest of the front line to operate inside.

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