Were you one of the diehards who watched the Detroit Pistons entire 147-116 beat down by the Philadelphia 76ers? If so, I’m sorry. That was brutal!
You probably noticed the Detroit Pistons were missing Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, Bojan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley and defense. This has been a reoccurring theme all season, no matter the lineup. The Pistons have been one of the worst defensive teams in the entire NBA, and currently sit last with a rating of 119.
It didn’t make things easier with Joel Embiid returning from injury. He scored 36 points on a night where all but one 76er scored. They made it a point to attack the middle, which at times saw 6’5″ Hamidou Diallo defending the 7 foot Embiid.
As the game went on, it became increasingly clear just how wide the talent gap was between the two teams. Even when Philly would go to their bench, the Pistons looked even at best.
There are three things I’ve continued to believe since they started the season without Bagley. Losing Cade Cunningham for the season only magnified the Pistons biggest concerns.
Talent depth, Individual defensive ability and offensive identity.
The Pistons have some positive things trending in their favor beyond just another high lottery pick. Scoring wise they’ve made major improvements over last season. But when looking at the 76ers, a player like Tobias Harris is arguably their 4th option. Behind superstars James Harden and Joel Embiid, and former Kentucky Wildcat Tyrese Maxey. He’s up to 21 points per game scoring average tis season, while shooting over 40% from three.
SHEESH! That is enough alone to be an automatic playoff contender no matter how you fill out the rest of the roster.
Two of those players mentioned were drafted by the 76ers, Embiid and Maxey. While they were able to swing big trade deals with other young draft capital for players like Harris and Harden.
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has shown similar ability. Often swinging trades ending in his favor. Like Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles for Marvin Bagley III. But not to the magnitude of planting the team firmly in contention mode.
This off-season presents a great opportunity for the team to take a big step forward in this regard. In addition to a lottery pick, they have over $55 million to spend in free agency.
Individual Defensive Ability
The perimeter defense was exposed without the starting big man duo of Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart. Well, even more than it has in many games prior. Stewart and Duren have the ability to deter shots at the rim and leaving opposing players having to think twice before challenging them. The 76ers shot over 60% with 82 points in the paint without the Pistons pair.
Let that sink in. It further magnified the issues head coach Dwane Casey has lamented all season. Their ability to defend outside the paint has been beyond a struggle. Especially in situations where the opposing team runs a lot of dribble hand-off or pick and roll plays, further exposing the defense.
What became very apparent without either big man in the middle, was the lack of individually skilled defenders. Not that they need a defensive player of the year candidate, but it would be nice to see more consistency and aggression focused into staying in front of the offensive player.
This is another issue that may have to wait until the off-season to fix as well, though it’s intriguing to hear the Lakers interested in several Pistons players. Because Patrick Beverly’s name has appeared in different hypotheticals and rumors associated with them. Maybe Troy Weaver is already seeking to bolster the defense in a big way.
The Detroit Pistons play the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, January 11th, at 7 PM.
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