It’s the early goings, but we’re quickly learning about the 2019-20 Detroit Pistons. They’re the walking wounded already, with Blake Griffin sidelined for at least the near future, and Reggie Jackson physically hampered when he is actually able to play. Losing two of your top five players is a challenge for any team to overcome, but the Pistons are exposing their weaknesses in their attempts to do so.
With Jackson out on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Dwane Casey chose to start third point guard Tim Frazier in his place. This formed an offensively-inept starting unit of Frazier, Bruce Brown, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris and Andre Drummond, and that leads us to the first of three observations we have so far this season about the Detroit Pistons.
You Can’t Play Tim Frazier And Bruce Brown Together (Without Luke Kennard)
While Jackson may be back in the lineup any day, he likely won’t be close to 100% which means Frazier will likely get no shortage of minutes. Some of those will come with players in the starting lineup, and it’s fair to assume that as long as Casey insists on starting Bruce Brown, this duo will play together.
That’s fine, if necessary, but with a caveat. A backcourt with absolutely no scoring firepower like this one needs an offensive catalyst, and that needs to be Luke Kennard. To give an idea of how poor the offense is when Frazier and Brown are on the floor without Kennard, this combination has an offensive rating of just 62.5.
Obviously, this is a tiny sample over just 13 minutes, and over the course of a season is likely to be much higher. That said, the evidence points in one direction, and that is that this duo absolutely needs a dynamic scorer like Kennard if it is ever to see the floor.
Derrick Rose Has Been Great, But Be Wary Of Small Sample Size Theater
While we’re on the topic of small sample sizes, we need look no further than Derrick Rose’s early season performance. He has been nothing short of outstanding on the offensive end, scoring an impressive 25.3 points per game off the bench and 34.6 points per 36 minutes.
He’s doing this on the strength of truly preposterous shooting, with a field goal percentage of 64.6% on a high usage rate of 36.6%. Many of his shots have been of the difficult variety, whether tough layups around the rim or a high volume of mid-range jumpers.
In fact, he’s shooting 83.3% at the rim, and he’s shooting a staggering 72.7% from the range of 10-to-16 feet from the basket. These rates are simply unsustainable, and the true test for Derrick Rose will come when those lower-expectation shots stop falling at such a high rate.
Mind you, Rose is a well-above average shooter from the mid-range, and these shots are absolutely acceptable in general from him especially given the offensive cast he often features with. Sometimes, the Detroit Pistons just need him to get buckets while surrounded by guys like Thon Maker and Bruce Brown, and he remains dangerous from that range.
What Of Bruce Brown?
Through three games of basketball in this early season, life hasn’t been kind to Bruce Brown. He has been a complete black hole on offense, shooting 35.7% from the floor, and he has a truly spectacular turnover rate of 30.8%.
Indeed, somehow Brown has more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five) in his 62 minutes of action so far. He got into quick foul trouble guarding Trae Young when the Pistons played the Atlanta Hawks and was utterly ineffective while checking him.
Of course it’s no indictment to have a hard time guarding one of the best young scorers in the NBA, but when you can’t score or control the ball to save your life at this point, you need to have something going for you.
Unfortunately at this point Bruce Brown does not.
A big mark in his favor for the starting two-guard spot is that he does not need the ball in his hands to be effective, but that’s exclusive to lineups including Blake Griffin. With him (and potentially Reggie Jackson) out of the lineup, the Detroit Pistons need players who can carry an offensive load.
Thus far, that does not appear to be Bruce Brown, and his defense has not been adequate to offset his offensive shortcomings.
As with all these observations, this comes with the caveat that things are in the early going. He was better with the ball last season and only had an 11.8% turnover percentage. His defense is to the quality where giving up on him is out of the question, but he does not fit the current requirements of his role in this starting lineup, and moving him to the bench until Blake Griffin is back should be considered.