The Detroit Pistons are a game below .500, which suggests they are a mediocre team playing to their limits. This is true – the Pistons are a mediocre team. Coming off their first three-game road winning streak in several seasons, the Pistons have nearly identical home and road records. However, when you begin to look at the numbers, you begin to see a stark contrast between their wins and their losses.
I wrote before the season that Brandon Jennings would be the most important player to the Pistons’ success, and his shooting numbers in wins and losses are showing why that is true. Shooting and scoring well is obviously a key component to being a successful basketball team. Detroit is not a team loaded with scorers, so they are going to be inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball. In wins this season, the Pistons are converting the same amount of field goals – 38.0 in wins, 38.4 in losses. The difference is that they are averaging eight more shots per game when they lose.
Initially, I thought I could chalk up the extra shots to the team hitting cold streaks and settling for bad shots more often, something that could commonly be referred to as “Josh Smith Syndrome.” Instead, the problem appears to lie mostly with a single player – Jennings. Keep in mind that the Pistons are taking eight extra shots from the field in losses and read these next few sentences slowly.
In Detroit victories, Jennings is shooting 37.8 percent on roughly 11 attempts from the field and 40.6 percent on roughly four shots from behind the three point line for 13.5 PPG. In losses, Jennings is scoring 18.1 PPG on a significantly higher amount of shot attempts. Jennings makes the same amount of three-point shots, but his percentage drops dramatically to 29.8 percent. His field goal percentage is slightly increased in losses (38.4 percent), but he is launching seven extra attempts from the field.
Jennings is taking seven of the Pistons’ eight extra shot attempts in losses, and he is doing so for less than five additional points. The only reason I bring up his three-point shooting as well is to show that he is having a significantly more difficult time deciphering what qualifies as a “good shot” when the Pistons lose. The rest of his numbers remain fairly consistent regardless of the outcome of the game.
Jennings has the skills to be a very effective point guard in the NBA. Unfortunately, he also has the mindset to become a highly inefficient floor general. One of those most admirable aspects of Jennings is that he wants to be “the guy.” When his team desperately needs somebody to step up and make a difference, Jennings will always be the first one to raise his hand. Unfortunately, he wants to be that guy so badly that he appears to be very poor at assessing when these moments are.
If Jennings feels a sense of urgency too early, he loses trust in his teammates, dominates the ball and takes bad shots. If he wants to lead his new team to success, Jennings is going to have to learn how to pick his spots and the let the game come to him. If he doesn’t, the Pistons will likely remain on the dreaded treadmill of mediocrity until his contract expires.