DBB on 3: Digesting a yet another dismal start

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons have been guilty of slow starts routinely throughout Troy Weaver’s “restoration” process. Most times, it’s warranted. The team has been bad more often than not, so losing games early in the year has always made sense. That doesn’t make it any less appetizing for the fans, nor for the Pistons players — many of which have been born and raised in the NBA through a constant stream of losses.

The last time the Pistons didn’t open the first 10 games of the season with a record of 2-8 was 2019-20 when they were almost mediocre at 4-6.

1. The Pistons are once again off to a horrendous start to the season, sitting at 2-9 through 11 games. Are you surprised?

Lazarus Jackson: Honestly, a little. They really needed the Portland game, things have been skidding since then. Sure, losses to Golden State, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Phoenix were all very foreseeable, but the WAY they lost some of those games has been disappointing.

Ben Gulker: Based on net rating, their expected Win/Loss is actually 4-7, thanks to a much improved defense, which would put them roughly in line with the Vegas odds going into the season. 2-9 is obviously disappointing, but it’s not surprising for a really young team dealing with all these injuries.

Brady Fredericksen: Yep. I didn’t think they’d get off to a red hot start, but they’ve taken all of the good things they did in the first three games and thrown them the garbage since. It’s something Monty Williams has discussed, but their bad habits are just so bad and so damaging that it’s kind of chaos theory – they keep doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result, losses. Something needs to change. That starts with Cade but it trickles down to these other guys. Part of me wonders if the constant culture of losing has made it hard for these guys to learn how to close games considering March and April in almost every year is a throwaway for lottery balls.

Justin Lambregetse: With a fully healthy roster, I would have been a bit surprised by this start, but given all the injuries I’m not that shocked. It is very difficult to win in the NBA when your whole starting lineup is 22 or younger and you are relying on 2-way guys for depth. This team fully healthy already has a very small margin of error and that is made even smaller playing with so many young players.

Wes Davenport: Well… no. But I’ll say this, after the first four games, there were a few of us who wanted to pump the breaks — that the team wasn’t as good as it seemed. Well, now that they’ve skid into a 2-9 record, I’d suggest that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Obviously health is a factor but there are some very fixable issues that they can flip rather quickly to compete (the first being playing more shooters with Cade). The point is, the sky wasn’t clear blue back when they were 2-2, and it’s not falling now that their 2-9. This is a young team with pretty obvious flaws and an injury torn roster. It’s not time to go looking at next year’s draft yet!

Austen Flores: I think I was more surprised by much of the fanbase and a portion of the national media ready to don the Pistons as contenders or “next up” after a 2-1 start, than I am about the 8 straight losses since. Weaver added solid veterans this offseason, younger players have another summer of development under their belts and the team’s best player is back – at the end of the day, the roster doesn’t fit together well. Yet? We’ll see once Morris and Bogey come back. But so far the team isn’t gelling through 10 games and you have to wonder if that’s a product of how it was constructed.

Ryan Caldwell: We are still a very young team made up of players who have barely played with each other. They have been bad and that’s obviously no fun, but I don’t think it’s surprising either.

2. What has bummed you out most about this start?

Lazarus Jackson: The offense. Yes, it’s really easy to point to the offense being less efficient and less productive because all of their consistent wing shooters have been injured, but I thought we’d see more of the whirling PNR creativity with Monty, more guard-guard screening actions, more cutting from the wing… the best thing I can say about the offense so far is that the Pistons now bring Killian off DHOs coming to his left, something they never did under Dwane that was mindboggling to me. Some of it is surely Cade’s deliberate / slow / probing pacing, some of it is the injuries (it’d be a lot easier to run some Spain actions with Bogey popping free being a threat defenses care about), but some of it is also the coaching.

Ben Gulker: The tangible excitement of the first 3 games evaporating so quickly.

Brady Fredericksen: The offense as a whole. I was very excited to see more ball movement and cohesion under Monty Williams. His five-second system was going to foster the kind of offense the Pistons sorely lacked in Dwane Casey’s iso-heavy system. Instead, it feels… the same. There are more passes, but that’s a byproduct of Cade Cunningham being back on the floor. He’s passing to guys. They’re passing to him. It’s not a systematic change. I just don’t think anything ever looks smooth for Detroit. Their defense has been up and down, but where they get in trouble and blow these games is on the offensive end. Cade tries to do everything and the other four guys stand, terrified, around the court watching. It’s a bummer and while reinforcements are theoretically on the way, I have no idea how you fit Bojan Bogdanovic AND Monte Morris into this rotation without gashing playing time for the young guys. Glad it’s not my job!

Justin Lambregetse: Everything going on with Jaden Ivey. Even before the illness, it seems like Monty Williams created a different set of rules for him for pretty much no reason. I get he might be trying to get the most out of him with “tough love” but pulling Ivey for defensive mistakes or bad decisions while letting Cade turn the ball over 7 times a game or letting Killian Hayes shoot 2-10 from the field and have no reduction in minutes makes me think the rules are different for them. There is no world where Jaden Ivey should not be starting, especially since the defense isn’t even that good anymore with your “defensive players” starting.

Wes Davenport: The lineup combinations, easily. Bummed probably isn’t the right word, confused and frustrated may be more apt. It’s not just that Killian is starting despite shooting 32.5% from deep and just recently air balling at least two three-pointers vs the Bulls. It’s that Killian is starting next to Ausar, who can’t shoot, and Stewart, who teams guard as though he can’t shoot. I firmly believe that you can create a successful offense with three non-shooter on the floor together, it will be difficult, but can be done. But four? Five if we lump Cade in here with his recent slump. I don’t get it. Keep starting Killian, that’s fine! But then bench one of Ausar or Stew or Duren in favor of a shooter. Please?

Austen Flores: Aside from Monty Williams being virtually unwilling to play one of the team’s best assets, it has to be the defense. It seems each off-season, Weaver or a coach will emphasize the teams attention to improving the defense but no real plan in executing an improvement. Ausar Thompson is a budding game stopper on that side of the floor but not too much more to be excited about beyond him. None of the pool of centers make a consistent impact, although duren has improved there. The team still ranks towards the bottom of the league early on in defensive efficiency.

Ryan Caldwell: Honestly, the fan overreaction to them being bad when they were obviously going to be bad bums me out. I was looking forward to watching the young team grow together, work through struggles, and inevitably land us another top 5 pick who can hopefully be a major part of the young core. We lost a year of growing pains with Cade’s injury, and I feel like a lot of people just expected us to be great overnight and wanted to skip the hard part and now are back to the “DOOOOOM” mindset. Don’t worry, I’m working on a draft article already.

3. What, if anything, has left you with optimism going forward?

Lazarus Jackson: We still haven’t seen what they look like with mostly everyone healthy, and despite the fact that the offense gets sludgy for seemingly whole quarters at a time, they have been mostly competitive in these games against really solid competition. If they ever get to a slightly easier part of the schedule healthier, they can absolutely win some games. And, they won’t win 2 games the whole season (although it feels like it sometimes), there will be wins coming.

Ben Gulker: The improved defense is sustainable, there are rotation-caliber players who will get healthy and unclog the constipated offense, and two of the team’s glaring weaknesses — turning the ball over and committing fouls – are things young teams should naturally improve on with time. There’s a lot of work to do with this roster, but the on-court product shouldn’t be league-worst bad all season. Relatively better basketball should be coming.

Brady Fredericksen: They can’t possibly be this bad, again. I think this roster is better than any they’ve had since Weaver got here. I think, if they ever get healthy, they’ll win more just based on not having to rely on James Wiseman and the two-way guys. But Monty really has a big challenge ahead because these dudes — starting with Cade — do not play winning basketball when it matters. The Pistons late-game execution on both ends of the floor is infuriatingly bad. They need guys to step up. They need guys to play smart. They need guys to be confident. They need everything it seems. Bojan and Morris are fine players. They are not “change the trajectory of your season” good. Cade, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren are those kinds of guys. They need to play better or this season (and this rebuild) are going to stall out before we ever have any fruit to bear.

Justin Lambregetse: My only bit of optimism comes from the fact that some of these close losses are probably wins with an adult in the room. Guys like Bogdanovic and Monte Morris aren’t some magical solution that will turn the Pistons into contenders, but when you are losing winnable games due to mistakes down the stretch, having some veterans to steer the ship is going to help. I think this team has at least 2 more wins if they had Bogdanovic and Morris, which still isn’t great, but the optics would look better than a 2-9 record with an 8 game losing streak.

Wes Davenport: I think that, despite his shooting slump, Cade has looked better than he has to start the year. He seems more in control, is getting to his spots, and just generally looks more comfortable. Hopefully whatever rust he has is starting to shake off. That, and we are closing in on the return of Monte Morris and Bojan Bogdanovic. Cade continuing to round into form and those two vets coming back should be a nice boost.

Austen Flores: Cade being closer to the star we all know he can be is great to see. I think we’ve all seen enough, even with a few down games, to know he’s the one Detroit needs to build around. And every team that doesn’t have that guy is truly lost. Duren seems to be an ideal lob threat to play alongside Cade for the foreseeable future and is scratching the surface of his potential. Thompson is already a connective piece any team would love to have. Foundational pieces are set but at some point Weaver will have to spend the money he’s saved to complement them and see if the team can dance. Sooner than later, hopefully.

Ryan Caldwell: If Cade starts getting a reliable whistle and the 3PT% goes up to league average (both of which I believe will happen) he’ll be a ~ 30 ppg scorer and that’s not hopeful, that’s math. Ausar is a great rebounder and defender, great secondary creator, tons of positional versatility. Doesn’t need to shoot to be good, sometimes when things are too good they have to be nerfed. Duren is a freak, still needs to work on some things but is a dominant rebounder, potential to be a great rim protector, great lob threat, flashes passing ability and a bit of a middy, still one of the youngest players in the league.

Stew would be an elite first big man off the bench and while maybe not a starter for the future, should still be an important member of the rotation. Maybe Sasser can be the guard you pair with Cade, maybe it’s Ivey, maybe it’s Killian, but we’re at the point where you need to determine what traits you’re looking for in the guard you pair with him.

Probably a top 5 pick (forward/wing in a forward/wing heavy draft) plenty of cap space, plenty of veterans and young players that could be traded. It’ll be okay.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments:

1. The Pistons are once again off to a horrendous start to the season, sitting at 2-9 through 11 games. Are you surprised?

2. What has bummed you out most about this start?

3. What, if anything, has left you with optimism going forward?

Articles You May Like

Pistons vs. Wizards final score: Detroit blown out by 2-win Wizards, losing streak at 14
Pistons vs. Wizards preview: The two worst teams in the league square off
The Motor City Cruise up toward the top of G League after hot start
Pistons injury updates: Monte Morris out 6-8 more weeks, Bojan and Duren close to returning
The Pindown: A Pistons Group Therapy Session

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *