Excuses aside, the Detroit Pistons have been bad, really bad. The Pistons are 4-10. They have losses to the Hawks, Hornets, Pacers, and two to the Bulls. They are tied for the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and third-worst in the entire association, with just one more win than the Warriors and one less loss than the Knicks. They have the sixth-worst plus-minus in the league.
Offensively, the Pistons are pedestrian. They don’t score a ton of points, as they rank 22nd in the NBA in points scored per game with a 107.3 average, but they make up for their lack of scoring with top half of the league shooting. They are 10th in the league in field goal percentage, 46.1%, and have the third-best 3-point percentage, 39.2%. They are right among the league average in free throw shooting, as they rank 16th with a 76.9 shooting percentage from the charity stripe. The shortcomings for the Pistons on the offensive side of the floor starts with their proneness to turn the ball over. While they average 24.6 assists per game, they negate their at times fluent ball movement with a putrid tendency to make poor decisions with the basketball. They rank third in the NBA with an average of 17.5 turnovers game. Derrick Rose and Andre Drummond certainly play a large part in that issue, as they both average over 3.5 whoopsies per game, and the return of Blake Griffin certainly hasn’t quelled the issue as he’s averaged four turnovers in each of the three games he has played in. Coincidentally, they allow 20.9 points per game off of turnovers, third-most in the league. The issues for Detroit certainly don’t end there.
Rebounding wise, even though the Pistons have perhaps the best rebounder in the history of the game, as a team they are 29th in the league in rebounds per game. They’re 26th in offensive rebounds and 27th in defensive rebounds.
Defensively, the Pistons allow 14 second-chance points per game and are the fifth-worst team in the league when it comes to defending the game, as opponents average 51.1 points down low on a nightly basis versus Detroit. Overall, teams shoot 45.9% from the field against the sluggish Pistons, the second-highest percentage in the NBA, only behind the Nuggets.
When Blake Griffin returned against the Minnesota Timberwolves, an expectation was set that he would stymie the larger issues surrounding Detroit. But he hasn’t. And that’s a major concern.
Excuses have been aplenty for Detroit’s slow start. Injuries have been the biggest voice of reason, as Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Tim Frazier, and Tony Snell have all missed time. It’s a fair excuse, but Detroit hasn’t won since Griffin and Rose returned.
As a final plea for the holding of pitchforks, some have asked to remain calm about the Pistons struggles due to the absence of Reggie Jackson, another Piston who has missed time this season.
But quite simply, Jackson cannot save this group.
First of all, there is no timetable for Jackson’s return to the court. He has been out with a lower back injury since October and the Pistons haven’t released any information as to when he may be back. Due to Jackson’s injury history, that should raise concern to the hopeful. Even once he’s able to return, there shouldn’t be an expectation for him to play all that well. Each time Jackson has returned from an injury, it has taken him ample time to refacilitate himself on the court in an effective manner.
Second off, the Pistons have so many issues that Jackson’s return simply won’t mask. He isn’t solving their interior defense issues. He’s not solving their team rebounding issues. And he’s not solving their issues on the defensive end of the court. Sure, he’ll help offensively, specifically in the turnover department, but he isn’t capable of solving all the issues that the Pistons are plagued with.
At the end of the day, Jackson is a middle-of-the-pack starting point guard. He’s not bad, but he isn’t a top-end lead guard. Detroit is not Portland. They aren’t waiting for a top-ten player like Damian Lillard to get healthy, they’re waiting for a player that very likely will not be on the roster next season because his tenure with the team has not gone as planned.
Also, back injuries are not easy to come back from. Back injuries can easily linger for a very long time. It’s an injury that could nag Jackson throughout the rest of the season, even if he is able to return at some point.
It’s why there should be real concern about how the Pistons have been playing lately. It’s why the Pistons may have some franchise-altering decisions to make if they can’t turn things around quickly. Their schedule right now is rather easy compared to how it will get. If they aren’t able to beat the Bulls or the Hornets, how are they supposed to compete with the other playoff-hopeful teams throughout the league?
The focus and hope should be to get Blake Griffin going. He continues to preach that he is healthy and that he just hasn’t been playing well, so hopefully, for Dwane Casey and Detroit, that is the case. Get Griffin healthy, implement him into the offense in a way that still maximizes Luke Kennard and Andre Drummond, and go from there. Drummond also has to play better than he has in the past few weeks, but that’s a whole nother couple thousand words for another time.
If you’re expecting Reggie Jackson to come back and everything settle for the Pistons you’re sorely mistaking. This time has too many deficiencies at this point in time for a player of Jackson’s caliber to be able to solve. Time may be ticking not just on Jackson’s time in Detroit, but the Pistons playoff aspirations as well.