On Saturday, the Detroit Pistons played their 20th game, beating the Chicago Bulls. Usually, I try and write something about the team after they play 20 games, since it is close to the quarter point of the season and also a round number. Then, the Pistons played on Sunday, losing to the Heat, so I didn't get a chance. Oh well. Technically, if I wanted to cover the team at the true quarter point, I would have had to write about them at halftime of the Heat game, and then the information would have become dated quite quickly. So, instead, here's a look at the Pistons after 21 games.
At the moment, the Pistons are 10-11. In a vacuum, that's not all that good. In reality, it is more than sufficient. Detroit is currently sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference, and one of the teams ahead of them is Boston. Of course, one of the teams behind them are Chicago, and that likely won't continue to be the case. However, in terms of trying to gauge their value, it is perhaps more relevant that they have a zero point differential. So, basically, they are a team right down the middle in some ways.
In the East, that more than suffices. Plus, they haven't played a ton of the lower level teams in the East yet. If they beat those teams, as they should more often than not, they'll be fine. A .500 record in the East this year should definitely lock up a playoff spot. Maybe even the fifth spot, and almost certainly the six seed. As long as you avoid Indiana and Miami in the first round, a trip to the second round could be in the cards for anybody, the Pistons included. Also bear in mind that Detroit is still trying to get their new roster to gel together.
Using the Hollinger advanced statistics over at ESPN.com, the Pistons are 15th in offensive efficiency and 17th in defensive efficiency. Again, middle of the road, but most of the teams above them are from the West. Also, the Pistons are quite good at rebounding. Because Andre Drummond is great.
Brandon Jennings is leading the team in scoring with 17 points per game. Five players are averaging double-digit points. One of then is Rodney Stuckey, who has been a pleasant surprise off the bench thus far. Drummond is pulling down a whopping 13 rebounds per game. Greg Monroe is at nine per game. Jennings is averaging 8.1 assists per game, which I did not expect. Of course, he also is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game. Drummond and Josh Smith both are averaging over a block per game. Several players are averaging a steal per game, with Drummond at also two per game. Oh man, do I love Andre Drummond.
There have been some shooting issues. Both Jennings and Smith are shooting over four threes per game, and Smith is only posting a .274 three-point percentage, which is bad. He needs to stop shooting those. Meanwhile, Drummond is leading the league with a .635 field goal percentage, but he is only making 38 percent of his field goals, which is awful. He needs to improve this. No matter what else he does, he can't keep shooting free throws at this clip.
Drummond is leading the team in PER, or Player Efficiency Rating, at a whopping 23.8. Coming in second at 23.7? Charlie V! Well, he's always had efficient offensive skills, while being a zero on the defensive end. Stuckey, Monroe, Jennings, and Josh Harrellson are all over 15, which is the league average. J-Smoove is not over that, which is not good. Also, Peyton Siva is at -5.6. That is the worst PER I have ever seen.
In case you are interested, Drummond is three in the league in rebounds per game, while Jennings is fifth in assists. Drummond is tenth in PER and sixth in Estimated Wins Added. This just in: Drummond is great. Over at Basketball Reference, Drummond is eighth in Win Shares, and ninth in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes. I don't mean to keep harping on Drummond. The point is that his stats are amazing so far.
So, in essence, the Detroit Pistons have been a middling team so far, which is good enough in the East. Drummond is fantastic. Smith has been a little disappointing. Jennings has been alright. Stuckey has been a nice surprise. If Detroit can just keep things going at this rate, they will make the playoffs, and that is a major step forward for this team.