Tough way to start the season, but it’s not too disappointing considering they’re playing on the road against a top team in the Eastern Conference. It also doesn't help that they are still figuring out how to play without Reggie Jackson. Andre Drummond got into early foul trouble, and DeMar DeRozan was making shots like this: https://streamable.com/fnui.
Game 2 vs Orlando Magic, W 108-82
Pistons take care of business against a Magic team that is still clearly trying to figure out their identity. Balanced scoring effort with a solid 40 coming off the bench. Ish Smith and Jon Leuer really proved themselves as good offseason pickups. Andre Drummond gets his first 20 rebound game of the season. About time.
Game 3 vs Milwaukee Bucks, W 98-83
Drummond’s monster 20/23 game is too much for the Bucks to handle. Pistons put in a stellar defensive performance for their second consecutive game.
Biggest Takeaways from the first three games:
The Pistons will be just fine until Reggie Jackson’s return
So far Ish Smith has looked solid in his temporary stint as starting PG. There was no expectation for him to replace the scoring of Reggie, but rather to act as a more traditional point guard, distributing the ball and not turning it over. He has certainly delivered. He looks very comfortable running the offense, and when he pushes the floor off of defensive rebounds, the Pistons have not looked better. When Reggie gets back, Ish is going to run circles around opponents’ second units.
To replace Reggie’s scoring, the Pistons needed to find a replacement for the Reggie-Drummond pick and roll that accounted for a majority of the Pistons’ offense. Thankfully, Drummond’s post game looks greatly improved. His footwork looks much improved and he has been able to hit his baby-hook much more consistently. If he can continue to refine his post game, he is going to punish the league’s new breed of thin and lanky big men.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson were disappointing
So far neither have looked like they improved much in the offseason. KCP may have had a big game against the Bucks, but I’m going to see more performances like that before I consider it anything but an outlier. Especially considering his first two games were absolutely abysmal (4/14 shooting with 9 points total). Not only were his numbers bad, but he was taking shots that were flat out terrible. Not what fans wanted to see out of him in a contract year.
Johnson has also started the season struggling offensively. I don’t think he is entirely to blame, though. Stan Van Gundy has only played him 19 MPG, not allowing him to get into a rhythm offensively. This is particularly strange considering that the Pistons are missing rotational wing player Reggie Bullock. When Bullock returns from injury, he will be competing for the same minutes that Johnson gets. It will be interesting to see how SVG handles the rotations.
Andre’s free throw shooting improved!
He is still shooting a poor 50% (8/16), but I’ll take bad over historically bad every day of the week. It’s definitely too soon to start feeling all that great about his shooting seeing as he was shooting 58% from the line through the first 3 games of last season on a greater number of attempts, but he definitely looks way more comfortable shooting this year. As it is with most poor free throw shooters, his struggles at the line have always seemed to be more mental than physical. I think as his overall game improves, so will his confidence. He definitely has good reason to be more confident about his game. Besides the Toronto game, he has looked great at both ends of the floor, working out of the post really well and looking like an improved rim defender.