Film Don’t Lie: A closer look at Dwane Casey’s offensive playbook

Detroit Bad Boys

I would love to see an analysis that could quantify who was more polarizing within the Detroit Pistons fan community among Jerami Grant, Killian Hayes, and coach Dwane Casey. At this point in the season, I felt I “went to the film” quite a bit on those two players, but had less of a handle on the head coach in question.

We know Killian Hayes is a VERY good defender with the potential to be great but still needs to find his offensive game. We know Jerami Grant has taken the “role” fans believe he is best suited for and then will backslide into too much heavy in isolation. But on the coach we don’t have as firm a handle. So, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at coach Casey and what the Pistons are doing offensively.

This is not a comprehensive look at what the Pistons are doing on every possession. I did take a look at ball screens a few weeks ago but that was more of an emphasis on what individual players were doing with their opportunities. For this, I wanted to keep it focused on a few specific situations. What are the Pistons running ATO (after time outs), at the beginning of each quarter, and in baseline/sideline out-of-bounds possessions?

A couple of things to keep in mind is that what we saw materialize on the floor may not be exactly what was drawn up on the whiteboard during the time-out or practiced in shootaround that morning. More than anything, my goal is to find trends in terms of “actions” that we were seeing in any of these situations OR if specific players were “getting their number called” more so than others. Let’s go to the film!

ATO (After Time-Outs)

As I went back through all of the possessions I clipped over a four- to five-game sample, the first thing that stood out to me was some actions I remember from last season. As with most of this article, the video will do a better job of showing than I can do explaining, but one is a simple ball reversal into a ball screen, but I noticed an addition to the end of the action this year. The other is a “Ghost Screen” (very popular within the Pistons offense) with a strong-side corner pindown, and I noticed at an addition to the end of that action as well.

The next thing I picked up on was some ATOs that looked to be designed specifically for players to get a scoring opportunity. For example, you will see a design to get Killian Hayes downhill going to his left AND a couple of post-up opportunities for Cade Cunningham against the Bulls.

Finally, for as much as we all in the fanbase want to see the Pistons ball screen more, a lot of these actions in this situation did end up with a “ball screen(ish).” I put that in quotations because sometimes those do end up being the aforementioned “ghost screens” or the very polarizing DHO (dribble hand-off). I will highlight a couple of actions that were at least new to me compared to when I dove into this last year and at the beginning of the season.

***Just quick mention that for the sake of time I did not include some “Spain PnR” actions that were run ATO or a cleared outside ball screen with Marvin Bagley IIII. The Spain action is a pretty common action in the NBA (and will be shown in the final video breakdown) and the video will show quite a bit of MBIII in the PnR and this would just have shown the same type of thing but from a different angle.

Start of Quarters

In all honesty, I probably could have included this with the ATOs since it is technically after a timeout, but I wanted to see if there were any major differences with what Casey was doing to start games/quarters. Of course, you will see some similar actions from the ATO video breakdown but it will also include some weakside staggered and actions for Cunningham and Bagley.

One of my overall biggest takeaways had to be how much I do believe Casey is trying to run stuff for specific guys in these situations. I talked a little about it in the previous breakdown with a guy like Isaiah Livers, even. There are plenty with Cunningham but MBIII truly might be the guy getting his number called the most.

BLOB/SLOB (Baseline Out-of-Bounds/Sideline Out-of-Bounds)

Starting with BLOB, the action I tend to notice the most is some version of a screen the screener which I will highlight on the video breakdown including what it looks like when the personnel does not execute the correct way. There is also some “Flex” action which is an action I have noticed Coach Casey likes to go to. I think my biggest takeaway with BLOB is teams just do not get that creative with it because you do not have that many opportunities in this situation throughout a game.

One SLOB action I have noticed all season will be the Saddiq Bey staggered coming to the top of the key. It immediately stuck out to me because of some Bey breakdown articles earlier in the year and the action was very familiar. You will also again see them running some mid-post Isolations for MBIII, I am telling you…they seem to be running a lot of stuff for this man in these types of situations. I will also show what may have been my favorite action of the ones I saw during this stretch AND highlight some lack of execution.

I want to reiterate that this is not even close to a comprehensive look at the entire Detroit Pistons offense under Casey. it is just a few specific situations throughout the game over a four- to five-game sample size, and I probably even missed a few actions at that. I also want to make note that I am not sure how often these things change, are added to, and removed from the playbook throughout a season. It is very possible that doing a similar five-game sample during the month of December could have yielded a completely different set of actions. Although, as I highlight in the ATO breakdown, there are definitely some I remember from last season.

I doubt we see much change moving forward, outside of some possible actions to highlight specific players getting more opportunities (ala Isaiah (de)Livers). but it will be a lot of fun to watch at the beginning of next season with a new, and hopefully improved, roster to see what kind of actions we may see from Coach Casey and staff.

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