Cade Cunningham

The Detroit Pistons have now played 20 games in the 2021-22 season and they have shown that developing young talent is not for the weary. The Pistons have won just four games as a few self-inflicted wounds have left them a little less competitive.

Detroit ranks toward the bottom of the league in scoring and rebounding. On top of that, they’ve struggled with turnovers, something that they’d tried to work on this offseason with their focus on fundamentals.

The team overhauled its assistant coaches bench and brought in people who specialize in player development. They also brought aboard John Beilein as a special advisor to the team’s player development coaches.

With this season’s focus centered on the development of the Pistons’ young players, fans are witnessing them learn on the job. But Detroit’s young core is showing that is taking some steps in the right direction.

One thing head coach Dwane Casey did not anticipate was the team’s shooting struggles. He also did not expect that his team would have some trouble igniting their competitive fuse. The Pistons have not been able to put together four full quarters of games.

They’ve had several slow starts or complete collapses at some point in the second half.

Casey and his staff have mentioned that they would evaluate the young team on a 20-game basis and make any major adjustments then. The Pistons may not overhaul its starting lineup but it could provide even more clarity on the roles of players.

Until then here are some things that stuck out during the first 20 games of the season.

Cade Cuningham: The rookie has made an immediate impact on the team since he’s returned from an ankle injury that kept him out of the preseason and first five games. He’s scoring points and his clutch gene has already flashed in some of Detroit’s games.

He’s been a solid defender for the Pistons and has shown plenty of hustle and has averaged about 2.5 deflections per game.

All four of the Piston’s wins have come since Cunningham returned to the lineup. He has averaged 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his first 15 games. He’s shown that he has the ability to find his spots to get his scoring going but he hasn’t been that efficient.

Of the 16 rookies who have played seven or more games this season and have attempted five or more shots in the field, Cunningham is the least efficient. He’s averaging 4.7 makes on 14.1 attempts (33.5 percent) per game.

Like his teammates, he’s had his struggles from distance, making 24.5 percent of his attempts from three but he’s been able to sink a number of them when the Pistons have looked to cut some big deficits.

He’s also had some trouble with taking care of the ball, like many young guards at the beginning of their careers. On average, he has 3.6 turnovers per game but as he continues to learn how defenses attack him.

Scoring: The Pistons have struggled with getting points up. They rank toward the bottom of the league in points per game and they have had some trouble in knocking down their shots from distance.

Detroit made several moves over the offseason to bring in players who could help give them a bump from distance. In August they signed Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles while bringing on Beilein to help improve the shooting form of some of the team’s young players.

The Pistons on average 37 shot attempts from three, which is ranks them at 18th in the league. But that hasn’t transitioned into makes. They’re sinking just 11 three-pointers per game for a league-low 29.7 percent.

It’s tough to tell why that could be. The team ranks third in the league in wide-open threes.

But the Pistons could be turning a corner. Over their last 10 games, they’ve made 31 percent of their three-pointers, up from 28.5 percent in the first ten. Plus some of the team’s top shooters have seemingly begun to find their strides.

In that time frame, both Jerami Grant and Frank Jackson have hit more than 35 percent of their buckets from beyond the arc. In the last four, Lyles has made more than 40 percent of his shots from distance. In addition to that, sophomore forward Saddiq Bey could break out of his slump as he continues to adjust to defenses.

He’s been far less open with defenders more likely to chase him off the line than last year. He’s also taking more attempts inside the arc than he did a season ago.

Bey has had some flashes but only time will tell if he and his teammates will snap out of their cold spell.

Detroit’s “Core Four”: The second-year players were the first draft class of Pistons’ general manager Troy Weaver’s tenure in Detroit. Both Bey and Isaiah Stewart had break-out seasons, earning NBA All-Rookie honors. So the expectations of the two taking the next steps were pretty high.

As mentioned, Bey has hit a bit of a shooting slump averaging 36.3 percent overall and 29.4 percent from three. The sophomore forward is taking far more shots inside the paint and from mid-range, than he did a season ago. Roughly 33 percent of his attempts have been within five feet of the basket, with 52 percent of his overall shots being two-pointers.

Last season, just 33 percent of his overall shots were inside the arc, while 67 percent of his baskets were from long range.

Part of that could be because he’s not nearly as open as he was a season ago. Just 24.3 percent of his baskets from three have been wide open, down from 34.6 percent a season ago. But he’s still taking his shots and they will eventually fall.

Stewart’s intensity last season earned him the starting center role this season and he has given the Pistons some power on the glass despite teams putting more defenders on him. He’s averaged 7.3 rebounds per game and ranks sixth in the league in contested two-point shots.

He’s making 51.8 percent of his overall shots on 6.2 attempts per game, but he hasn’t ventured outside of the paint much. Casey has mentioned that the team wanted Stewart to focus on screening, boxing out and getting rebounds when asked about the sophomore taking fewer shots from three. Casey added that Stewart should take them when he is open but the center has averaged fewer than one attempt per game.

Hayes has taken some noticeable steps in his sophomore season and has had some strong games this season. His decision-making has improved as he has turned over the ball (1.7) far less than he did a season ago. He’s averaging 3.8 assists per game, but that number could go up as the Pistons’ shooting settles down.

Ahead of the season, Haye’s teammates, as well as Casey, observed a more aggressive player. That has come out in spurts with 22 total attempts within five feet of the basket. But he’s shown that he has improved his shooting. He’s making 36.8 percent of his attempts from distance, which is up from 27.8 percent.

Lee has been relatively quiet due to the Pistons’ depth at guard, but he’s made the most of his opportunities when they come. His sample size remains small, but he has shown that he has a better read on the game averaging 1.4 assists to 0.6 turnovers in eight games.

He’s spent much of his time in the G League, with the Motor City Cruise, where he sits atop the leaderboard in points per game. In the last five games and since he’s been called up to the Pistons, he’s averaged five points as he looks to translate what he’s learned with the Cruise to his play in the NBA.

Source : https://www.mlive.com/pistons/2021/11/cade-cunningham-cold-shooting-what-weve-seen-from-the-pistons-first-20-games-of-the-season.html

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