In the one of their three games the Chicago Bulls didn’t play the Pistons this season, they scored 128 points and won going away. In the two against the Pistons, the Bulls averaged 95.5 points. That would have been dead last in the NBA last season by a whopping 8.3 points a game.
It’s never as simple as it seems, but it’s pretty clear the Pistons aren’t winless because of their defense through two games. The Pistons are 0-2 because their offense is bumping along at the bottom of the NBA across the board.
They’re last in offensive rating at 85.9, last in turnover percentage and last in assists-to-turnovers ratio as the only team in the NBA with more turnovers than assists. They’re last in effective field-goal percentage and last in 3-point shooting, hitting a bleak 19.6 percent from the arc – and they’re second to last in 3-point attempts per game. The only good news there is that Chicago is dead last in triple attempts, a measure of what Detroit’s defense is doing right.
Two games doesn’t quite constitute a trend, but given that Dwane Casey came into the season with scoring as his chief concern it’s something that surely will be the focus as the Pistons prepare to play at Atlanta on Monday.
Casey isn’t nearly as alarmed by the 3-point shooting as he is by the turnovers – 40 of them through two games.
“You can’t beat anybody in this league when you’re careless with the ball – behind-the-back passes, through-the-legs passes, no-look passes,” Casey said after Saturday’s loss to the Bulls. “You can’t do that and we can control that – and we’re going to control that as a group.”
It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who has yet to play in an NBA game – regular season or preseason – but the return of Cade Cunningham, on paper, is the surest path to getting the offense turned around. The qualities that made Cunningham the clear-cut No. 1 draft pick for months leading to the July draft – 3-point shooting, vision, passing skills, poise and sense of pace – should help cut down on turnovers and increase the shot quality.
Against the Bulls on Saturday, the Pistons scored just 26 points in the middle two quarters. Too many of those possessions ended with the Pistons dribbling or passing into traffic, resulting in turnovers or contested shots.
The Pistons have just two players who’ve made better than 23 percent of their 3-point shots so far, Trey Lyles (3 of 6) and Jerami Grant (3 of 8). The rest of the team is 5 of 42. Saddiq Bey, who made nearly 40 percent as a rookie last season, is 1 of 9 through two games. Frank Jackson, who hit 41 percent last season, is 2 of 9.
“I think it’s a cold start to the season because we have good shooters,” Casey said. “Guys work on them and they make them in practice. We have to transfer them from practice to the game. With a lot of wide-open shots, I don’t know if we’re overthinking it. I tell them I don’t care if they miss 15 of them – step into it.”