Stan Van Gundy
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has the team headed in the right direction. (The Associated Press)
Deep team scoring more, better from beyond the arc
The Detroit Pistons aren’t playing to capacity crowds – there have been a sea of empty red seats every game at Little Caesars Arena.
But this team is giving fans many reasons to believe. They’re playing an exciting brand of basketball and winning.
Detroit’s 10-3 start is its best after 13 games since 2005-06 (11-2) and its 7-1 record at home leads the NBA.
This a deeper team that competes harder and has improved offensively, averaging 106.5 points per game and shooting 38 percent from 3-point range (compared to 101.3 points and 33 percent from beyond the arc in 2016-17).
The Pistons will be tested over the next several weeks with nine of 11 games on the road, including three this week against teams they have already defeated at home.
Here are five things to watch for this week:
The Pistons’ Andre Drummond is leading the NBA in rebounds. (The Associated Press)
Drummond’s dominance on boards
Andre Drummond is leading the NBA in rebounding (15.6) and has grabbed at least 12 boards in each of the first 13 games. The only other player to do that in the past 40 years was Moses Malone in 1978-79 with Houston.
Drummond has improved all-around. He is averaging a career-high 3.2 assists in his new role as the point center (his previous best was 1.1). He has made 36-of-57 free throws (63.2 percent).
Tobias Harris,Justin Jackson,Garrett Temple
The Pistons’ Tobias Harris has made a significant improvement from beyond the arc. (The Associated Press)
Harris launching from deep
Tobias Harris is taking more open threes and driving less, and is reaping the benefits. He made 21-of-35 shots from 3-point range during the homestand (60 percent) and is averaging 50.6 percent this season (42-of-83), up from 34.7 percent in 2016-17. Harris leads the team in scoring with a career-best 20.1 points-per-game average.
Harris on Monday was named the Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 21.3 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 49 percent (22-of-45) from the field and 64 percent (14-of-22) from beyond the arc.
Luke Kennard,Josh Richardson
Pistons’ rookie Luke Kennard is trying to show he can do more than shoot. (The Associated Press)
Kennard bucking for rotation spot
Rookie shooting guard Luke Kennard is coming off career highs in points (14), rebounds (five), assists (three) and minutes (28) in Sunday’s 112-103 victory over the Heat. Beyond the numbers, coach Stan Van Gundy lauded the rookie’s compete level. He was aggressive in driving to the basket, battling for rebounds and contesting shots.
Kennard has played the past four games, after being inactive or not getting off the bench in the previous four, stating his case to be part of the rotation. The Pistons have good backcourt depth with Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and Kennard behind Reggie Jackson and Avery Bradley.
Van Gundy, depending on matchups, has also used three-guard looks, so Kennard can fill in at small forward, where the team lacks depth.
Eric Bledsoe,Jarell Martin,Dillon Brooks
Eric Bledsoe has bolstered the Bucks’ backcourt. (The Associated Press)
Bucks roll with Bledsoe
The Pistons put their five-game winning streak on the line Wednesday in Milwaukee (8 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) against a Bucks team they defeated 105-96 on Nov. 3 at Little Caesars Arena.
Milwaukee (7-6) has since added point guard Eric Bledsoe from Phoenix for former Pistons center Greg Monroe. Bledsoe has averaged 13 points and 4.3 rebounds during a three-game winning streak.
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in scoring (31.3 points per game).