Detroit Pistons' Dominance In The Paint Is Somewhat Misleading

By Mike Klompstra
Detroit Pistons
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons had intentions of dominating the paint this season after adding Josh Smith to an already formidable front court combination of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Through the first couple of weeks of the NBA season, the Pistons are doing just that, or so it seems.

The Pistons are dominating the offensive glass, racking up blocks and steals, and scoring inside of the painted area at will so far this season. With the numbers they’re putting up, it is possible that both Monroe and Drummond will be in the All-Star conversation; Smith could be too if he can get a handle on his terrible shooting.

As a team, the Pistons are currently at the top of the league in offensive rebounds per game, steals per game, and points in the paint. They are also sitting near the top of the league in block percentage. After reading all of this, you would probably be under the impression that Detroit is near the top of the standings. However, the opposite is true, and the Pistons are bottoming out in the central division.

How could this happen? They’re dominating the inside game and leaving opponents with little recourse when trying to penetrate, right? Wrong. Despite high numbers of blocks and steals, the Pistons are dwindling in the bottom third of the league for opponents statistics in the same categories. Just as the Pistons are scoring in the paint, so are their opponents – they rank 21st in opponents points in the paint per game.

Unlike the Pistons, however, their opponents have moved the ball around the floor exceptionally well. Detroit’s opponents are averaging around 23 assists per game, which is eighth worst in the league, while the Pistons are averaging around 19, which is seventh worst. So, while they’re swatting shots away frequently, they’re also allowing their opponents to pull them out of position, draw double teams, and continually find open shots at the rim – also not something they can claim.

Detroit is dead last in opponent field goal percentage as well, and fifth worst in opponent three-point percentage. Again, this is likely due to their lack of stopping the ball and over-pursuing with help defense. Look to the games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors for some fine case studies. (If you are a Pistons fan who loves excellent ball movement, these were two excruciatingly beautiful games to witness).

On the opposite side of the ball, the Pistons are shooting the ball at a mediocre rate and have one of the worst team three-point percentages in the league. While nobody has shot the three particularly well, I’m blaming this on Smith. Thanks, Smith. Please stop shooting the ball.

So, it appears the Pistons’ paint domination numbers are a bit misleading. I suspect they are simply playing the game much closer to the rim than other teams are, and because their perimeter defense is so lacking, their opponents are playing just as close. The results are higher “in the paint” statistics and a smorgasbord of blocks and steals as players run into one another.

The major X factor is that Detroit’s opponents have shown an ability to knock down jump shots and spread the ball around the floor to get open looks, while the Pistons seem to be mashing the ball inside or launching and missing long jumpers due to poor ball movement. Therefore, the Pistons are reeling with a losing record.

Mike Klompstra is a Detroit Pistons blogger for Follow him on Twitter @CityofKlompton, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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