Tag Archives: Greg Monroe

Detroit’s domination and struggle inside the paint

Last night wasn’t exactly a spectacle between the Knicks and Pistons. I spent most of the first half staring at the box score as their combined made field goals, assists, and turnovers were all about the same. Eventually, with the help of Andre Drummond tying the league’s highest total for rebounds this season, Detroit pulled away and revived hopes of making the postseason. The Knicks, meanwhile…

Neither team was an offensive masterpiece. Detroit was the only one to make over 40 percent of their shots, shooting 35-for-83 with 48 of their 96 points coming in the paint. That’s typical of Detroit. Their point distribution graph from last Friday can be found here, but it’s worth noting in this post that they lead the league in the percentage of their points coming around the rim.

But the other portion of the paint was a pain. The Pistons score at a bottom-10 rate inside the paint but outside the restricted area, and it only got worse last night when they put up a donut — 0-for-12. It’s the most attempts taken in the non-restricted area portion of the paint without making a single shot.

Last night’s looks against the Knicks from that area of the floor were probably what would be expected. Some were altered by Tyson Chandler, others were forced attempts like Kyle Singler slashing after being run off the three-point line, and a few were blown looks by Greg Monroe or Brandon Jennings. It happens, especially when over three-fifths of the Pistons’ attempts come from players anywhere from below-average to awful finishers from that area. It’s also not completely unheard of for a team to go scoreless from there when the league average for attempts per game is about 12.5, nearly half the average from mid-range and around the rim.

However, it’s still pretty impressive that Detroit’s 12 attempts resulted in no production. Variance is weird like that.

Below is a breakdown of games where a team went scoreless from a specific area of the floor:

As for a team neglecting an area of the floor:

  1. No team has completely ignored the non-restricted area portion of the paint in a game, but there have been games where only one attempt was taken – two of the occurrences coming from the Knicks and one from the Bulls. The Knicks love to shoot outside the paint in general while the Bulls, well, at least Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, among others, have helped right their ship lately.
  2. Houston’s the only team to take less than five mid-range shots, which they’ve done in four games. Moreyball!
  3. 11 times has a team not taken a corner three. Detroit isn’t found in any of those games, but four games were from the Pelicans. I guess Anthony Davis can’t do everything.
  4. No team has not taken a three from above the break, but Memphis holds the season-low with three attempts on January 31.
  5. Around the rim, Sacramento’s the only team to take less than 10 attempts in a game, which they accomplished on January 24 all while nearly toppling the Pacers. That counts for a moral victory, right? Right?!

Around the rim is where Detroit thrives. The least amount of attempts they’ve taken within the restricted area is 22, which is Brooklyn’s average per game. They also hold the two season-highs for attempts at 53 and 51 on November 29 and January 10, respectively.

It’s that other portion of the paint that’s been tricky for the Pistons, as well as just about everywhere else. Things happen when a team’s composed of players whose ways of scoring overlap with each other’s.

But at least they got the touch around the rim…

Is that not what the Pistons would say to themselves? Long live Caddyshack.

All stats are according to NBA.com.

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Hack-A-Drummond could be wakeup call for Detroit

If there’s a great thing about being a basketball player in a small market, it’s that nobody knows your weaknesses. DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard play in two of the biggest markets, unlike Andre Drummond who resides in Motor City, which explains why the first two are widely known as terribly free throw shooters and intentionally fouled because of it while Drummond has gone unnoticed. 

Actually, that was a terrible attempt at sarcasm. Also, I have no idea why teams haven’t intentionally fouled Drummond yet. Sure, Howard and Jordan’s shooting woes from the line are discussed more frequently, but Drummond’s percentage has been far worse, down to 16 percent after last night’s loss to the Lakers. That percentage comes from a small sample size, however, since he’s only attempted 1.3 free throws per game.

But there lies what’s so surprising. Why haven’t teams intentionally fouled him? It’s not like Drummond’s an energy guy off the bench; he plays 35.1 minutes per game, right up there with Howard and Jordan. He also logs 7.4 minutes per fourth quarter, according to NBA.com, so the opportunity to put him on the line is there when opponents need to make up ground and quickly. This isn’t meant to rip on Drummond, who’s one of the most intriguing players in the league and uploads some of the best Vines,  among other things, but he has a glaring weakness in his game that teams haven’t taken advantage of. 

Maybe the intentional fouls are coming, but if they could actually be a blessing in disguise for Detroit. This is a reach, but hack-a-Drummond could signal Maurice Cheeks to further stagger the minutes of Detroit’s best three frontcourt players of Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith, who play 20 minutes together per game according to NBA.com. They’ve bled points on defense and cramped the spacing on offense no matter who has started in the backcourt, though the CaldwellPope and Jennings pairing at the guard positions has yielded solid defensive numbers through two games. It’s also been at the expense of having even an average offense. 

That doesn’t mean Drummond’s free throw shooting makes him unplayable, but when teams are in the penalty and outside of two minutes, they can hack away and grind Detroit’s offense to a halt. It also doesn’t mean Drummonds at fault for the frontcourt’s failures. It would be unfortunate for its split to come at the hands of teams exposing his poor free throw shooting, but if that’s the calling card for Mo Cheeks to search for more efficient frontcourt combos, then it could be for the better. 

Overreaction of Week 1: Josh Smith’s shot selection

overreaction

This post was initially devoted to all sorts of weird happenings over the first week of the NBA’s season. Michael Carter-Williams and the 76ers tanked so hard they ran over every team with their tank (until the Warriors ran them out of their own building), Boston was in pole position for the 2014 Draft as a result of the 76ers’ (and Suns’) unexpected starts, there were struggles from Derrick Rose and John Wall, and Milwaukee’s bench (21.5 points per game per-48-minutes) was the third-stingiest in the league and gave the incredibly average Bucks some hope for the postseason again.

But screw it. Of all the storylines to discuss, I wanted to write about what could possibly be this decade’s Rasheed Wallace in Detroit: Josh Smith. We’ll take a look at his offense through three measly games.

Last season, Smith took 363 shots (!) between ten feet and the arc which were good for just 30.5 percent. He also made only 29.9 percent of the 221 threes he hoisted. Overall, he was only a 30 percent shooter when he took jump shots. That’s just not acceptable for anyone, let alone a player where well over half of his field goal attempts were came from them.

What’s actually most frustrating though is how good he was around the rim at 77.1 percent, yet only about a third of his shots came from that area. His PER of 17.7 was his lowest since 2009, his three-point attempt rate of .170 was the highest of his career, and he recorded -0.3 offensive win shares. (All the stats listed so far are according to Basketball-Reference.)

It triggers the same reaction I had about Wallace, who’s now on the sidelines for the Pistons: Just get in the paint! Wallace was a much better three-point shooter than Smith has ever been, but the Pistons of the mid-2000s could’ve used more of a paint presence alongside the barrage of mid-range jumpers they were known for taking (but at least they made a respectable percentage of them).

Fast forward to this season as Smith enters the first year of his four-year, $54 million contract with the Detroit Pistons. The paint, where Smith is so good yet often neglects, is even more crowded with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe starting alongside Smith, who’s now playing small forward. 25.6 of Smith’s 40 minutes per game have been spent with Drummond and Monroe with respectable results so far. Detroit’s outscored their opponents by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when all three are on the court.

But Smith’s shot selection has been controversial as usual. He’s averaging 7.3 three-point attempts per game — including an 11-attempt outing in a three-point loss at Memphis — and making only two on average. That’s good for 27.3 percent and he’s shooting only 20 percent on jump shots overall. Smith’s more than doubled his three-point rate from 2013, with 44 percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc. If anything, the frequency of his three-pointers could turn into a drinking game.

As a result, his free throw rate has been sliced by more than half. Smith’s typically been below average from the line, shooting a career-worst 51.3 percent last season, so there could be a correlation between that percentage and the decline in free throw attempts overall. But it could also be the result of a feeling out process now that Smith is playing with two frontcourt players who also work around the painted area.

There’s good news, though. Check out his shot chart through three games:

Shotchart_1383690868809

He hasn’t hugged the dead zones (at least so far) like in previous seasons. Only five of his first 50 shots have come between ten feet and the arc while eight have been attempted from five to nine feet where Smith has also typically struggled (and continues to do so, making just two shots from that area so far).

The rest of his shots (15) have come within five feet where Smith’s been terrific, making 13 of them for an 86.7 percent mark. It would be nice to see more of his shots taken there—as well as his three-point rate dropping back to a less-ridiculous level for his skill set—but Smith would be viewed differently so far if a couple more of those threes dropped.

If anything, his shot chart actually looks promising even if all the X’s from the arc say otherwise. If he’s going to chuck the long-range jumpers — and there’s barely a difference in accuracy between his 18-footers and three-pointers — wouldn’t you rather have Smith chuck from behind the arc? If both go in at a 30 percent clip, it’s an extra 0.3 points per attempt when Smith shoots from three. Whether that cures the headaches of fans of Detroit though is anyone’s guess.

There’s plenty of time to bring Smith’s game to the paint more frequently—and whether Pistons head coach Mo Cheeks wants it there—and for his jump shot to be a little less brick-worthy. Here’s the most Josh Smith three pointer of them all, by the way, unfortunately happening in the preseason:

We’ll see if his offense improves as the season goes on or if dedicating a post to his shot selection, with a tiny, tiny sample size, was just a waste.

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