Piston Update: Perhaps you've heard? The Philadelphia 76ers were one game away from setting the all-time NBA record for consecutive losses, but along came the Pistons who decided that they'd heard enough about how bad Philly is. They wanted some of those sweet headlines for themselves. So they went out and lost by 25 to a team that, as currently constructed, might be the single worst roster ever assembled in the NBA.
That disastrous loss was really just the expired mayonnaise on the nightmare sandwich that Detroit's season has become. After a monster free-agency spending spree that brought in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, Detroit had its eyes set on making a big push into the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. Things haven't gone according to plan. Josh Smith is obliterating his previous career-low in TS% with this year's 45.6 mark, fueled by his continued attachment to an inaccurate long ball (3.4 att/gm at 24.4%). Brandon Jennings' inefficiency is as bad as it's been since his rookie season, though he has at least continued to skew his attempts beyond the 3-point line (career-high .396 3PAr). The Pistons shoot the ball so poorly that their offense sits in the NBA's bottom-third despite ranking ninth in turnover rate and first in offensive rebound percentage.
The only good news? Detroit's sinking rock impression has dropped them all the way to 8th in the lottery standings. As it happens, the first-round draft pick owed to Charlotte this season is top-8 protected, so if things hold as they are today, Detroit can at least take comfort in keeping the pick in this loaded draft class.
Troubled Twin Towers. Perhaps more disappointing for Pistons fans than any of the struggles of their two big FA acquisitions in the failure of Detroit's big man combination of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Drummond has put up sensational numbers in his second season, leading the league in both total and offensive rebounding percentage and ranking second in field goal percentage. Granted, it helps that the vast majority of his shot attempts are dunks and putbacks, but he's simply filling his role beautifully.
Or at least, it would appear that way, until one digs a bit deeper. The Pistons were a much better team with Drummond on the floor last season, but this year he's been a net-negative, with all the damage being done on defense. Detroit gives up almost five fewer points per 100 possessions with Drummond on the bench, a confusing trend for a player who seems to have every characteristic one looks for in a dominant defensive presence.
That disturbing on/off trend rears its head even higher when Drummond's partnership with Monroe is examined. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Pistons lineups featuring both of their young big men have been outscored by 7.1 pts/100 possessions this year, the worst mark among all of Detroit's frequently-used pairings. A match that would seem to be made in heaven--a physical anomaly with terrific production at center next to an offensively-gifted high-post magician at PF--has proven downright unworkable. It's a problem that will surely drive Detroit's management team bonkers as they consider how to handle Monroe's impending restricted free agency.
Tanking Intertwined. Detroit's loss was Milwaukee's gain, as the 76ers' monster win, while surely a relief for the weary players, bumped Philly back to two games behind the Bucks for top lottery odds. If Milwaukee can extend the Pistons' misery with a win tonight it will be all for naught (many have pegged this as the most winnable game left on Milwaukee's schedule), but failure to secure victory could be enough to ensure the Bucks hold the most ping-pong balls at season's end. Of course, Detroit's own pick scenario as mentioned above might have them shifting gears themselves as the year winds down.