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Detroit Pistons midway report

Josh Smith needs to improve his play if the Pistons want to make the playoffs.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Monday, the Detroit Pistons lost to the Los Angeles Clippers by the score of 112-103, a differential that flatters them. This game was notable because it was the 41st game of the season for the Pistons. That means they are halfway through their season. As such, now is a good as time as any to assess where Detroit currently stands.

The Pistons have a record of 17-24. This is, needless to say, disappointing. The East is so week, and some of the teams expected to be better have struggled. Detroit added talent this offseason. They traded for Brandon Jennings and signed Josh Smith to a huge deal. And yet, here they are. They are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference. They are just behind the Bobcats in the standings. This is particularly irksome because of all those bad games. All those terrible fourth quarters. I could live with this team being 20-21, but 17-24? No dice.

Of course, point differential is usually a better indication of where a team truly stands, but the answer is roughly the same. The Pistons are a minus-3.4, which is also ninth in the East. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and they happen to be 7-14 at home, while they are 10-10 on the road. That's surprising, and a bummer for the fans at the Palace.

Detroit is 20th in offensive efficiency, tied for 20th in defensive efficiency, and 26th in true shooting percentage. This last number doesn't surprise me. True shooting percentage takes free throws and three-pointers into account, two things the Pistons struggle with.

Five Pistons are in double figures, but nobody has more than 16.4, and that's Brandon Jennings. Andre Drummond has 12.7 rebounds per game, which is one of the best totals in the league. Jennings is also averaging 8.4 assists per game. Four Pistons are averaging a steal per game, and Monroe, at 0.98, almost makes it five. Both Drummond and Josh Smith are averaging at least 1.5 blocks per game.

The problem is efficiency. Jennings is averaging 15.1 shots per game. He is only making 37.4% of them. He's shooting over five threes per game, and is making 34% of them. Smith, who is a well-known poor three-point shooter, is taking 3.8 per game, and only making 24.3% of them. That's terrible. He simply needs to stop taking them. I could live with two a game, but almost four? He also is only making 59% of his free throws. Monroe isn't much better, and Drummond is still at 38%, which is awful. At least he has a field-goal percentage of .601. Lot of dunks there.

Smith also has a PER of 14.6, which is below average. Drummond leads the team at 21.3. Monroe, Jennings, and Rodney Stuckey are also over 15, which is average. So is Tony Mitchell, but he barely plays. Four Pistons have at least 2 win shares: Drummond, Monroe, Jennings, and, surprisingly, Kyle Singer. Drummond leads the team by a lot, at 4.5. He remains very good, even if I am starting to get concerned about his ceiling at this point.

The Pistons are very much in the playoff race. However, at best, I see them getting one of the last couple of seeds, and thus an early playoff exit. Still, that's a step in the right direction. I have my concerns, though. The spacing is an issue. Smith, Monroe, and Drummond don't work together. Their minutes need to be staggered, or one of them needs to be traded, and Monroe is the only logical one to be dealt. This is on Mo Cheeks. It would also be nice if Jennings could pick up his play a bit. They have 41 games to do it, and a trade deadline to work with. Maybe things will work out, but the first half of the season has not enthused me all that much.

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