The Detroit Pistons are about a third of the way through their season, so we have a good enough sample size to start evaluating their performance as a whole. Likewise, we can make some individual judgments based upon the data. Previously, I looked at who the Pistons’ most improved player is so far this season. Now let’s take a look at who has been their most valuable player.
To get started, we might as well see who the team leaders are. Brandon Jennings leads the team in both points per game (17.4) and assists per game (8.0,) but he has a less-than-satisfactory field goal percentage of 39.4 percent. He also has shown a tendency to play “hero ball” a little too often, trying to take over games by passing on open teammates and over-dribbling his way into contested shots.
Andre Drummond leads the team on the glass with 12.6 RPG, and just under half of them are coming on the offensive end (5.2 ORPG). He is also shooting 61.4 percent from the field – that is tops on the team and second overall in the entire league. While his defense can be called into question, he still leads the team with 1.7 blocks per game. His free throw shooting leaves plenty to be desired, though. He is shooting a historically-bad 37.9 percent on freebies.
Josh Smith is probably the team’s most well-rounded player. He is Detroit’s second-leading scorer (15.4 PPG), second leading shot blocker (1.5 BPG) and despite playing on the wings this season, he is still grabbing the third-most rebounds on the team (6.5 per game).
Smith has also been one of the team’s best defenders. He leads the team in total steals (47), and outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, you probably could not name another Detroit player who has defended well for extended periods this season.
Smith is also dishing the ball fairly well, averaging more assists per game (3.3) than Will Bynum, Rodney Stuckey and Chauncey Billups. However, his shot selection is a large contributor to the Pistons’ offensive woes. He has scored efficiently in the paint, but defenders continue to leave him open from deep because they know he lacks any kind of self-control with his wildly inaccurate jump shot.
Each player has a vital flaw, but you could make a decent case for Smith, Drummond, or Jennings as the team’s MVP. Jennings has kept the Pistons in some close games. Smith can be credited for being the difference in the recent games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.
It is Drummond that has consistently been Detroit’s best player though. Of the team’s significant contributors, Drummond is the only player with a player efficiency rating above 20. Smith, on the other hand, has the team’s third-worst rating (14.9) among rotation players. If it weren’t for Drummond’s rebounding and efficient scoring, the Pistons could be in a much worse place right now.
Even though he has been horrific at the line, Drummond is Detroit’s best player through the first third of this season. While it is good news for the future, the fact that the Pistons’ best player has been a 20-year-old in his second season who still has some serious flaws in his game has to be troubling.