Stan Van Gundy has done a remarkable job since becoming GM and coach of the Detroit Pistons. The team’s offense has improved immensely, despite the departure of current Bucks center Greg Monroe. The system revolves around the pick and roll ability of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Any team can run a successful pick and roll but when the big man is a nightly 20/20 threat, the dynamic switches completely. Jackson’s athleticism is essential but he plays a secondary role. Drummond routinely forces the point guard and one other perimeter defender to compensate and that is not because he is likely to receive the pass. Drummond averages 7.2 offensive rebounds per game; far ahead from second place Dwight Howard who pulls down 4.8 per game. When Jackson takes a shot at the rim after a pick and roll, two or three defenders will crash to combat Drummond and one covers Jackson.When Drummond gets the rebound,which is pretty often, he is likely to do one of two things. The first and most common is Drummond puts the shot up himself, shown here:
In rare cases, Drummond will pass out to one of the lethal three point shooters SVG has brought in. The Pistons currently have five players shooting over 31% from three. In many situations, one of these defenders will have to collapse down on Drummond, leaving their man wide open for a Drummond kick out. Either way, the key here is Drummond’s rebounding. Drummond has an 18.9% offensive rebound percentage. Pulling a defender off the three-point line mitigates the risk that Drummond gets the board but heavily increases the risk of a big play if he does. The second situation is unlikely however; Drummond only averages 0.8 assists per game. The system goes against every trend in today’s NBA. The Warriors' fast-paced offensive system, popularized by the Mike D’Antoni Phoenix Suns, has started to take hold as more and more teams attempt to emulate their ability to efficiently convert three pointers in transition. The Pistons prefer to run an offense that ranks 22nd in the NBA in pace and 24th in efficiency. The inefficiency would be troubling if you don’t consider how many of their points come from Drummond offensive rebounds.
The Pistons have everything to look forward to in the coming seasons. The cap increase means one more powerful offensive option can join in the offseason, relieving the pressure on Drummond and Jackson while also removing one more defensive rebounder from every situation. No, I did not say Kevin Durant (but could you imagine), but the addition of someone like Bradley Beal could be the link that this team is missing.
Just like the 2009 Orlando Magic team that went to the NBA Finals under Stan Van Gundy, this Detroit Pistons squad has potential to be something special for years to come, especially in the East. Everyone mentions the Bucks and Magic, but the Pistons might be ahead of them.
As mentioned in the statistics above, Andre Drummond is a beast. He is a man among boys when it comes to crashing the boards in the NBA, something like Dwight Howard back in his prime. Howard was averaging 20.6 points per game while grabbing nearly 14 boards and blocking 3 shots per game when the Magic reached the Finals. Interestingly enough, neither big man can hit a free-throw. Howard is better from the charity stripe, though.
Reggie Jackson has been playing out of his mind this season and will have a better year than Jameer Nelson ever did for the Magic, but both are similar in how they use their big men. Nelson and Howard seemed like lob city before lob city. However, Jackson and Drummond run their own pick and roll. Theirs seems much more fluid because Jackson is a better passer than Nelson. There are also more teams playing small ball now compared to before. Many centers falter, but Drummond takes advantage of this with the use of his athleticism.
Marcus Morris doesn't shoot the ball as well as Rashard Lewis, but has surprised everyone with how well he has played for the Pistons this season. Or maybe he was just living in his brother's shadow before in Phoenix. Both players are similar heights and try to stretch the floor for their respective big mans (Howard and Drummond).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has modest numbers at the moment, but the dude can stroke it from beyond the arc. He caught fire near the end of last season and could get hot again soon. Although smaller than Hedo Turkoglu, both players are snipers from behind the arc. Neither have a threatening post game, which is fine because all four of their frontcourt players can bang down low.
Stanley Johnson is the Courtney Lee of the roster. Both players are young (Lee was 23 at the time) and Johnson is currently 19. Lee never panned out to what was expected of him, but played and still plays well defensively. Johnson is know for his defense and scoring ability. He should become a better player than Lee, but still has room to grow. The potential is there for him to one day be an All-Star.
Both teams have players that are capable of scoring off the bench. The 2009 Magic are obviously the better team, but the two rosters are similar and it's all thanks to Van Gundy. He is excellent at developing big men. Dwight Howard never reached the superstar level without SVG and Drummond is now taking that All-Star step with him on board.
Detroit has a special team. For the first time in a while, the fans can be happy to watch some Deeeetroit basketball.