Why the Detroit Pistons are confident in their offense despite ugly numbers

Detroit Free Press

ATLANTA — The Detroit Pistons‘ front office knew the team would need to shoot the ball better this season. The majority of their cap space spent this summer went toward addressing that weakness.

Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles are proven floor-spacers. John Beilein has a well-established reputation as a shooting coach and was hired to help Detroit’s young players improve in that area.

Three games into the season, those efforts have yet to pay off on the stat sheet. The Pistons are shooting 22.5% from 3-point range, the worst percentage in the league and a significant decline from last year’s 35.1% clip. They’re attempting 29.7 3s a game, the second-lowest tally in the league. Along with turnovers, their poor shooting is the biggest reason why the team is mustering just 91.3 points per game.

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It’s not their biggest concern, though. Dwane Casey is confident those numbers will pick up as the season progresses, and for good reason. It would be shocking to see them shoot what they’re currently shooting through 82 games. 

It’s too early to say if they’ll improve enough to match last season’s numbers from deep, but they’ll eventually hit more shots. They have too many proven shooters not to. Until that happens, Casey wants to see the team control the areas they can. Namely, taking care of the ball and playing 48 minutes of defense.

“It’s (a shot) that guys have to get comfortable making because I look at their careers, that’s why they’re here,” Casey said after Monday’s 122-104 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “Some of them are career 40% shooters. And I have no question in my mind they’ll come around. In the meantime we have to hang our hat on our defense. We can’t give in on the defensive end.”

The Pistons fell apart late against the Hawks, who went on a decisive 13-2 run at the end of the third quarter to pull away for good. The Hawks, who were led by Trae Young’s 32 points and nine assists, shot 51.1% overall and 37.5% from 3. It was Detroit’s worst defensive performance of the season after holding a talented Chicago Bulls team under 100 points twice last week.

Detroit shot just 9-for-33 from 3 (27.3%) against the Hawks, and it was their best-shooting night of the season thus far. But many of the Pistons’ best shooters have been uncharacteristically cold. Saddiq Bey, who knocked down 38% of his 3s as a rookie, is 4-for-17 so far this year. Kelly Olynyk, a career 36.6% shooter, is 2-for-14. Frank Jackson, who had a career year last year shooting 40.7%, is 2-for-13.

The team is satisfied with the quality of the looks that have been generated thus far. They just haven’t fallen. Jerami Grant — a good shooter who was 3-for-5 from 3 on Oct. 20 vs. the Bulls but missed all three of his attempts on Saturday — will eventually return to the lineup after missing Monday’s game with a left elbow infection. Cade Cunningham, a 40% outside shooter during his lone season at Oklahoma State, could also help once he returns.

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And the Pistons can find other ways to generate offense. According to Cleaning The Glass, they were eighth in the league in percentage of shots taken at the rim entering Monday. Casey acknowledged they could do a better job getting more attempts at the free throw line as well.

Their schedule won’t get easier any time soon, with two games against the Philadelphia 76ers, two games against the Brooklyn Nets and a game against the Milwaukee Bucks within the next two weeks. But regardless of what the win-loss column suggests, the Pistons can make notable strides forward on offense if the shots begin to fall.

“Hopefully we can start knocking some shots down soon,” Josh Jackson said. “That’s one thing that we do talk about. We’re getting the right ones. We’re getting open shots. We move the ball. Like you said, we’ve got good shooters on our team. Every guy feels pretty confident stepping up there. Every guy from our 5 man to our point guards, everybody. Anybody gets an open shot out there, we all encourage them to take it..”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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