We are only three games into the new season and a surprising team leads the pack in the Eastern Conference: the Detroit Pistons. At 3-0, the Pistons have yet to lose a game while beating the Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls. They made the difference in all three games in the second half, a testimony that the tough preseason practices, where a lot of emphasis was being laid on conditioning implemented by head coach Stan Van Gundy, are paying off.
The Pistons gave Andre Drummond a max contract this summer and he hasn’t disappointed, averaging 18.7 points and a league-leading 16.3 rebounds per game, of which 6.3 offensive rebounds. It is in this latter category that the Pistons are beating their opponents up. They have not been shooting well so far, averaging a meager 38.7% from the field (only two teams do worse), but they rank first in the league in offensive and total average rebounds per game. Their dominance on the boards should not be contributed to Drummond only. Van Gundy has been hammering on intensity and team effort, and it looks that the team is doing just that, crashing the boards on every occasion. As a result, eight of the nine players in rotation are averaging +4.5 rebounds a game.
The Pistons brought in Marcus Morris for Phoenix during the offseason and he looks already very confortable next to Drummond. Morris is a power forward that can spread the floor, giving Drummond more room to operate in the center, and Morris is taking advantage of the open shots he is getting.
Although the team is still gelling, the early signs are all positive. 51% of the shots Detroit are taking are from within 10 feet of the basket, and another 28% are from behind the arc, minimizing the inefficient midrange shots. As with his old Orlando team back in the early 2000s, Van Gundy is envisioning a team with a powerhouse center that can cause havoc in the paint, surrounding him with three point shooters. This Detroit Pistons team has not been hitting their long ball consistently yet, but they will become a handful if the players will learn to play together. If they can figure it out, we will witness some playoff action again at the Palace of Auburn Hills.