Surprise in the Motor City: The Pistons are Running Hot
So far this NBA season has been filled with surprises. No one expected the Cavaliers to look like an average team in the NBA, the Orlando Magic to go on a run looking like the best team in the league before falling back into obscurity, the Oklahoma City Thunder to start slow despite their on-court three-headed monster, or for the New York Knicks to not be front-runners for the first overall pick in the draft. The storylines are all over the place, which is what makes the NBA such a fun mess — but one of the least mentioned stories is that of the shockingly successful Detroit Pistons.
After moving into a new arena this season the Pistons are off to the races with a monumentally unexpected hot start. Much like the Orlando Magic, the Detroit Pistons were ranked in the bottom third of the league by the OTG Staff in the beginning of this season. Ranked as the 21st best team in the league, Detroit has overcome expectations. This can all be attributed to solid team basketball. No one player is dominating the games, but coach Stan Van Gundy has his team looking inspired. Andre Drummond has been eating and definitely looks like a new man, but Detroit’s success can be boiled down to the team’s commitment to defense, ball security, and a refusal to bail out opponents with free-throws.
Detroit is ranked 7th in points allowed per game with 101.2 (per teamranking.com). This means that they are not letting the opposition score nearly as much as other teams in the league. At the Little Caesars Arena, the team is only giving up 98.4 points per game in the young season. That is the fifth best rating in the NBA. A good home-court advantage can really go a long way. A lot of this success on defense can be attributed to newly-acquired guard Avery Bradley. He was on the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2016. Bradley is easily one of the better defensive players in the league and brings that with him to Detroit.
Along with the great defensive play, the Pistons have been turning the ball over less than other teams. Detroit is giving away the ball just over 14.4 times a game. That number might seem high, but it is good enough to give Detroit the fourth-lowest amount of turnovers per game. One of the easiest ways to win NBA games is by maintaining possessions. If the Pistons can continue this trend they will be in for a great season.
The Pistons also are playing smart basketball by not committing too many fouls. Coming in with the fifth-fewest personal fouls per game, the Pistons only commit 19.1. That shows discipline as a team, which is important to the success of the franchise. Giving away free throws or possessions is a recipe for disaster in the NBA. When teams play the game properly they are rewarded with wins.
Overall, this team is reminiscent of some of the other great Detroit Pistons teams: they play excellent team basketball with discipline. That blends well with what the Pistons were doing during their NBA Championship in 2004. What was so exciting about the team in 2004 was that they played unselfish basketball. No one expected them to beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers because the Pistons did not have the star power. The NBA has never been about the names, it has always been about the basketball. A team that plays the game the right way will always beat the big names. An easy way to see that is how bad the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked this season. Stan Van Gundy has a group of guys that are coming together to play basketball and it is really showing with early success. It will be fun to see if the Pistons can make some noise towards the playoffs this season.