This has not been a fun season for the Detroit Pistons.
At 15-44, they have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, and are 1½ games ahead of the NBA’s worst team, the Houston Rockets. Or perhaps that’s 1½ games behind the Rockets in the race for the top spot in the draft lottery and a 14% chance for mega-prospect Victor Wembanyamadepending on how Pistons fans look at it.
On offense, the Pistons average 112.3 points a game, better than only five of 30 teams. On defense, they’re allowing 119.9 a game, better than only one team. That team? The San Antonio Spurs, who are between the Pistons and the Rockets in the standings, thanks to their active 14-game losing streak. And although the Pistons haven’t had a losing streak that painful, they also have just one winning streak — on back-to-back nights on the road against the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz — and that came before Thanksgiving.
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But, hey, this is the All-Star break, a time of joy, merriment and celebration of all things basketball, right? And so, in that spirit, we tried to look at the bright side of the Pistons’ season, and we found some numbers that might be a little fun — and maybe even a little encouraging — as we get ready for the final 23-game push to the end of the season in April.
An elite start for Jaden Ivey
The Pistons’ season was massively derailed by Cade Cunningham’s season-ending shin surgery. But his absence has arguably been a bonus for one teammate, at least: Jaden Ivey has received plenty of minutes, and he’s making the most of them as he bids to join an exclusive club — rookies average 15 points, four rebounds and four assists a game while shooting 42% or better. Ivey has the points (15.2) and assists (4.6) while shooting exactly 42%, but he’s just short on the rebounds, at 3.9 per game.
If he can creep up to four a game — at 217 over 55 games, he’ll need 95 more, or 4.1 per game, over the Pistons’ final 23 outings — he’ll become just the 32nd rookie in NBA/ABA history in the 15/4/4/42 club, and the third Piston. (The others? Dave Bing in 1966-67, who had 20/4.5/4.1/43.6, and Grant Hill in 1994-95, with 19.9/6.4/5/47.7.) It’s a group that includes 13 Hall of Famers, plus a few locks for future induction (Dwyane Wade, a finalist this year, plus Chris Paul and Stephen Curry).
And even if Ivey doesn’t reach four rebounds a game, he’ll be in good company at 3.9 to go with 15/4/42: Ja Morant averaged 3.9 rebounds with 17.8 points, 7.3 assists and a 47.7% shooting percentage in 2019 -20 for Memphis, and Derrick Rose came in at 3.9 boards with 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 47.5% in 2008-09 for Chicago.
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Duren a teen dream already
Ivey was taken eight spots ahead of Jalen Duren last summer in what’s shaping up as an excellent draft class for the Pistons. Not only is Duren the youngest player in the NBA — he hit the All-Star break 90 days removed from his 19th birthday — he’s the youngest by a lot: The next youngest regular, Atlanta’s AJ Griffin, is 85 days older. Despite Duren’s young age, he’s already hitting benchmarks reserved for a select few.
Duren finished the first half averaging 8.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. If he can keep that up, he’ll become the fourth teen to top eight points and eight boards per game in ABA and NBA history. The others? Moses Malone averaged 18.8 points and 14.6 rebounds for the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974-75; Dwight Howard averaged 12 and 10 for the Orlando Magic in 2004-05; and Anthony Davis averaged 13.5 and 8.2 in 2012-13 with the Hornets (then in New Orleans).
Yes, Duren’s averages don’t quite match up with those perennial All-Stars (and potential Hall of Famers), but his performance as judged by advanced metrics isn’t far off: Duren has produced .130 Win Shares per 48 minutes. That’s virtually identical to Howard’s .131 and not far from Malone’s .153 and Davis’ .159. (A league-average player produces .1 Win Shares per 48 minutes, for reference.) A big part is Duren’s efficient shooting: 65.3% on 2-pointers. That easily tops the percentages of Davis (51.6%), Howard (52%) and Malone (57.1%), and bodes well for his future as the Pistons’ guards grow used to the 6-foot-10 Duren’s work inside.
Diallo dominating inside the arc
Of course, basketball’s not all about the tall guys in the paint, even in a league full of, well, really tall people. Of the 506 players who’ve played in an NBA game this season, 317 — 62.6% are 6-6 or taller, while 189 (37.4%) are 6-5 or shorter. That latter group includes 6-5 Hamidou Diallo, who’s a couple dozen games away from making history.
Diallo has basically abandoned the 3-pointer this season — as Pistons coach Dwane Casey told the Freep this week, “His gift is slashing. He’s one of the elite cutters in our league. Let’s make sure we take advantage of that.” — in favor of shots inside the arc, and for good reason: he’s shooting 60.8% on 2-pointers. That’s No. 1 among players 6-5 or shorter this season, ahead of Chicago’s Ayo Dosunmu (59.2%), Curry (58.8%) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (58.4%).
Diallo’s work inside the arc — usually the domain of players much taller than him — is the best shooting percentage for a player 6-5 or shorter (among players qualifying for the leader boards) in the entire NBA history of the 3-point shot, dating to the 1979-80 season. Diallo can become the first 6-5 player to top 60% inside the arc; the previous high was set by Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown (himself a former Piston, as the franchise’s second-round pick in 2018) at 59.9% in 2020-21.
Perhaps we’re cherry-picking our stats here — Diallo checks in right at 6-5, after all — but if we split the league almost equally into “6-6 or shorter” (49.8%) and “6-7 or taller” (50.2%), Diallo is No. 3 this season, behind Houston’s Kenyon Martin Jr. (67.4%) and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson (61.8%).
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Bogdanovic on a heater from outside
Just like a good offense, let’s kick it from the paint to beyond the 3-point line, where Bojan Bogdanovic is a threat to rewrite the franchise record book. In his first season with the team, Bogdanovic made 136 3-pointers; 23rd all-time in a season by a Piston.
Bogdanovic has been hitting 3s at the rate of 2.43 a game; with 23 games left, he’s on pace to hit 192 3s, which would just pass Allan Houston’s 1995-96 season (191) for No. 2 among all Pistons. The No. 1 spot, held by Saddiq Bey, is probably out of reach, though. Bey hit 211 3s last season; Bogdanovic would need to average 3.3 made 3s a game the rest of the way to pass Bey.
(That would probably mean attempting a lot sea 3s, too; Bogdanovic’s 334 attempts, or 5.96 per game, are 30th in team history. At that pace, he’ll finish with 451 attempts — ahead of Houston’s 447 in ’95-96, eighth in franchise history, but short of Brandon Jennings’ 457 in 2013-14, and well short of Bey’s 610 last season. Bogdanovic would need to attempt 12 3s a game to reach Bey.)
Burks brings it from the bench
Let’s turn to the bench and its super-scorer, Alec Burks. In his 12th season in the league, and first with the Pistons, Burks is proving a worthy successor to Vinnie Johnson, who has his number hanging at Little Caesars Arena despite starting 164 of his 798 Pistons appearances. Just as “The Microwave” provided an instant scoring punch off the bench for the Bad Boys, Burks is bringing it to this year’s squad. In 50 appearances off the bench, he’s averaging 12.9 points a game. That’s actually a little worse than his average as a starter this season — 12.8 points — albeit in only six appearances.
Before Wednesday’s seven-point performance against the Celtics, Burks was averaging 13.1 points. If he can get his average back above 13, he’ll produce the ninth season by a Piston with at least 13 points per reserve appearance (minimum 41 games as a reserve). At the top of the list is, of course, Johnson, who averaged 15.6 points in 70 games as a backup in 1986-87; he also averaged 13.8 points in 67 games as a reserve in 1985-86 and 13 points in 82 games in 1983-84. The rest of the super-subs: Jerry Stackhouse (15 points a game in 42 reserve appearances, 1997-98), Mark Aguirre (13.9, 65, 1990-91), Corliss Williamson (13.6, 71, 2001-02), Rodney Stuckey (13.4, 68, 2013-14) and Terry Tyler (13.3, 46, 1978-79).
Burks probably won’t get his number retired like Johnson did, but maybe he can get a nickname, at least: The “Air Fryer,” anyone?
Catch our podcast “The Pistons Pulse” every Tuesday morning at 5 and on demand on freep.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. Our latest episode, embedded above, is a deep dive into James Wiseman and how the mental side of the game is just as big a part of his development going forward with the Pistons. See all of our podcasts and daily voice briefings at freep.com/podcasts.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons at NBA All-Star break: 5 encouraging stats