After 20 games, the Detroit Pistons come in 22nd in offensive rating at 110.0 and 20th in points per game at 110.2. Those might seem semi-encouraging for those who watch the team closely, but the fact remains this is a team that simply is not good at making shots. The Pistons are have the second-worst field goal percentage at 44%, and their 3-point percent is 33%, which is good for 24th in the league.
The saving grace of their offense this season is the team’s league-leading 27.9 free-throw attempts per game, and 79% success rate, which is good for 14th in the NBA.
The Pistons have been middle of the pack so far this season in transition in terms of possessions and efficiency, which leaves plenty of half court possessions to analyze. All of the aforementioned stats come via NBA.com.
For this breakdown, we are going to look at some of the sets and play calls the Pistons have been running in the half court, after time outs and sideline out of bounds. These are possessions where transition, secondary transition or straight isolations were not the main action to start the possession.
It is important to note that there are more actions than just what will be shown and discussed in this breakdown but the recurring ones will generally be highlighted.
Here are 13 half court actions, after time-out and otherwise, that were identified through the past few weeks of Pistons games.
This will be the most easily recognizable action for NBA fans. Essentially, this is a ball-screen-and-roll at the top of the key with a shooter replacing the action to the top. An advantage of Bojan Bogdanovic playing the “4” is it gives the Pistons a shooter with great gravity while still having guard/wings in the corner.
A staple of the Pistons offense over the past few seasons under Dwane Casey is the weakside staggered action with multiple options. The initial off-ball player can utilize both screens and look to score. That player can go backdoor, which allows the first screener to come off a single screen. Even if that action is taken away by the defense, the set can continue into a ball screen.
Pindown into DHO
This is a pretty simple action but is, again, something you will see often from the Pistons. Instead of running a single ball screen or DHO (dribble hand off) the eventual ball handler will first get a pindown screen.
An action that many high school players, rec league regulars and others have run throughout their playing days is referred to as the flex cut or flex offense. Often run as a continuity, the Pistons will only run this one on one side of the floor, which leaves multiple options to explore. This is an action that they have been running far less this season compared to last by my eye test, but is still a regular part of the team’s offensive diet.
Mostly after time outs, Casey draws up some sets that are unique to getting a specific player the ball in a specific situation.
Handoff to Handoff to Ball Screen
Another staple of the Coach Casey offense is this set that moves the ball from one side of the floor to the other and back, which then leads into setting the ball screen. The primary ball handler will bring the ball down one side of the floor followed by consecutive DHOs and a ball reversal back to that primary ball handler. At this time, the ball screen action is set with a hopefully open lane and unsettled defense. Teams will often deny the reversal pass upon scouting this action, which Detroit counters with a pass to the big and a DHO.
Handoff to Handoff to Ball Screen No. 2
Very similar action to the previous one but the direction of the screen will change to attack the middle of the court initially.
Pindown to Push Away to Ball Screen
Another way to run some ball-screen action starts with a pindown for the eventual pick-and-roll handler. This is combined with some off-ball cutting and floor spacing to attack the defense.
Ghost Screen to Pindown to Corner Screen
Possibly the best action the Pistons run as it turns into simultaneous off-ball screening actions happening at the same time. The action starts with a ghost screen (explained in the video if unfamiliar) into a screen away on the weak side. At the same time a shooter is running off a screen to the strong side corner. Immediate action into a ball screen will follow if these are taken away.
Off Ball Screen to Ghost Screen to Ball Screen
A final action that ultimately gets to the ball screen, there is an initial off the ball screen set by the big for a wing. The wing will then ghost screen that is immediately followed by pick-and-roll with the ball handler and the big.
There are far more than three sideline out of bounds actions that Coach Casey implements throughout a game, but these were three of the most common that showed up during this time frame.
Jalen Duren Lob
Believe this to be a new action for the Pistons this season, they will run multiple offensive players off Jalen Duren at the elbow hoping to cause confusion and open up a potential for the rookie big man.
Exact same idea as the half court offense set but designed from a sideline out of bounds situation.
The seemingly most used SLOB (sideline out of bounds) so far this season. This one setup has multiple options including a shooter coming off a staggered screen to the top of the key, a weak side isolation for Jaden Ivey or a screen the screener.
The offensive playbook from Casey and the Pistons is sure to be more complete and complex than these 13 actions, but hopefully this gives you some insight some core elements of the team’s offensive attack. I would love to see them continue to implement more and more actions that have multiple options and are creative in getting specific players in specific situations to highlight their best skills.