Coming off an impressive weekend where the Detroit Pistons defeated both the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks, the Pistons lost both Tuesday’s game to the Cavaliers and Wednesday’s game to the Utah Jazz and neither game was close.
Results continue to be incredibly unpredictable for the Pistons. On any given night, the Pistons can hang with the league’s best, as they did when they defeated the Cavaliers just over a week ago. However, the Pistons really struggle at putting together any type of winning streak. The longest win streak the Pistons have had all season is just three games. Inconsistent shooting, poor energy and misfitting pieces all seem to be key reasons in the Pistons inability to put together a run of quality basketball.
In the Pistons’ most recent loss that came at the hands of the Jazz, the Pistons leading scorer was Ish Smith who had 16 points. In the game before, a blowout loss to the Cavaliers, their leading scorer was Tobias Harris with just 17 points. This points to one of the Pistons’ primary issues, their lack of a star player.
Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, the Pistons’ supposed franchise players, were removed by coach Stan Van Gundy in the third quarter of the Jazz game and never returned. Their energy was certainly in question, and both were outplayed by their reserve.
When a team’s best players do not bring consistent energy and play, the result are directly affected. If you look at the other top teams around the NBA, the dependable play of their star players is the cornerstone of their team. The Cavaliers never have to worry about if LeBron James is going to bring his best stuff or play with energy. Unfortunately for the Pistons, they do not have that luxury.
There is no doubt the Pistons have some nice pieces. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson are all good players, but none of those guys are stars. And what makes the matters worse is all of the aforementioned are overpaid, as the Pistons have the third highest payroll in the association.
As President of Basketball Operations, Van Gundy has made some great value deals. He got Marcus Morris for a second round pick, Tobias Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova and even though Reggie Jackson is having a poor year, getting him for just Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin was a fantastic deal.
While Van Gundy has done a nice job of acquiring talent, the pieces that he has gathered do not seem to fit into the puzzle correctly.
The Pistons are more than capable of being a top team in the Eastern Conference, but they cannot make it work on a night to night basis.
Obviously, none of these problems can be solved at this moment, as we are weeks past the NBA trade deadline. However, we are allowed to look ahead!
The Pistons need to make a few different moves this offseason. First of all, the Pistons should move on from point guard Reggie Jackson. Teammates have been critical of him at times throughout the year, especially regarding his lack of effort on the defensive end. On top of that, his isolation type of basketball is a recipe for inconsistency. Very few successful teams are built around guards who like to dribble the air out of the basketball and shoot a low percentage from the field. (cough cough Russell Westbrook)
The other move the Pistons should consider making is bringing in a chemistry guy, similar to the move the Cavaliers made last year by bringing in Channing Frye. The importance of having a good locker room in the NBA cannot be overstated. These guys are spending a ridiculous amount of time together between the practice, games, road trips etc. If they don’t like each other, there is simply no path to success. The Lakers can speak to that about the 2004 Pistons.
In conclusion, the Pistons have good players, but just not a good team. The good news for Pistons fans is the team is still fun to watch, as players like Andre Drummond, KCP and even Reggie Jackson can still put up great individual performances. The Pistons have a solid foundation for the future, now they just have to learn to play as a team.