The Detroit Pistons can’t shoot. That seems like a simple enough problem to fix, but it isn’t. No matter how many isolation jump shots they settle for, Detroit is learning the hard way that an absence of elite shooters is a crippling void.
If the Pistons are hoping to make a run at the playoffs, that needs to change.
If only one area of weakness can be blamed for Detroit’s inconsistencies at 14-16, it’s the fact that they can’t shoot the basketball. Detroit is currently 29th in the NBA with an abysmal mark of .318 from 3-point range.
More concerning is the fact that the Pistons are 22nd at 37.3 from 15 to 19 feet and 29th at 33.5 percent from 20 to 24 feet. What this all spells is the statistical fact that, when the Pistons aren’t attacking the rim directly, they simply can’t make shots with any form of consistency.
That’s a dangerous truth for a team that’s built from the inside-out.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are rapidly developing into star-caliber players and Detroit will continue to build around their world-class upside. Even when one is off of the floor, Josh Smith can shift to power forward and maintain the brutal pounding of an opposition’s interior defense.
This has all resulted in the Pistons scoring a league-high 51.7 percent of their points in the paint, per NBA.com. By comparison, no other team has even hit the 50 percent mark, which displays Detroit’s reliance upon being able to slash and post-up.
Unfortunately, the Pistons’ attack of the paint won’t amount to much come the playoffs if they don’t develop consistency from 15 feet and beyond.
Brandon Jennings is shooting a respectable 36.0 percent from beyond the 3-point line, but that number becomes less impressive when you measure his 5.1 attempts per game. Even more concerning is Smith’s mark of 26.1 percent on 4.1 attempts and supposed sharpshooter Kyle Singler‘s tally of .338 on 2.3 attempts.
Throw in rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s number of 31.6 on 2.9 attempts and you come to an easy-to-see conclusion: Detroit doesn’t have the necessary personnel to win right now.
No one labeled the Pistons as a team that’s a legitimate threat to the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat right now, but in a weak Eastern Conference, Detroit should pounce at the opportunity to gain postseason experience. Singler and KCP are likely to improve as the season goes on, but the Pistons need to seriously consider a trade for a legitimate marksman to make that dream a reality.
Like it or not, 3-point shooting has become a critical factor in the pursuit of an NBA championship and teams that struggle to match that level of offensive proficiency often falter.
The good news for the Pistons is that a number of different shooters could become available around the trade deadline. Finding players who can hit jumpers is hardly a tough task in this day and age, as some of the most valuable players lack star power but possess the necessary skills to contribute.
The question is, who should Detroit pursue?
The most plausible targets include Courtney Lee of the Boston Celtics and under-valued marksman Wayne Ellington of the Dallas Mavericks. Lee is a career 38.7 percent shooter from distance and is currently sitting at a mark of 47.5 with the added benefit of defensive prowess.
The concern, of course, is that Lee is making more than $11 million over the course of the next two seasons.
Ellington, meanwhile, is a career 37.9 percent shooter who is only seeing 8.5 minutes per game with the Mavericks. In 2012-13, he shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc in 40 games with the Memphis Grizzlies and 37.1 percent with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The key is his time with Memphis, where the team’s offense was built around the prowess of power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol. In Detroit, he’d experience similar opportunities to step in as an off-ball player whose value is found in his spot-up shooting as a floor-spacer.
Best of all, he’s a low-risk player in the sense that he’s due just $2,771,340 in 2014-15.
Other options with less obvious trade potential include Jimmer Fredette of the Sacramento Kings, Cartier Martin of the Atlanta Hawks and the struggling Randy Foye of the Denver Nuggets. The latter would be difficult to get, but the other two could be acquired for the right combination of low-risk trade pieces.
Regardless of where Detroit looks, it needs to act relatively quickly to alleviate the unparalleled pressure on the slashers and interior scorers. One trade would help and you can’t fix it all without taking a first step, but without the emergence of Caldwell-Pope and Singler as shooters, Detroit will continue to struggle.
Until the Pistons make dramatic improvements to their 3-point shooting, Detroit’s postseason aspirations will remain limited, at best.
Maxwell Ogden is a regular contributor to HoopsHabit and Sheridan Hoops. Make sure you follow him on Twitter.