How have the Detroit Pistons got off to their best start in a decade?
The Detroit Pistons are 10-3, good for second in the East and third in the league overall.
Yes, you read that right. The Detroit Pistons are finally relevant in the league standings once again, having ripped off the best start in franchise history since 2006. But don't be surprised if there wasn't any optimism prior to this season. The organization moved their new arena to downtown Detroit, in anticipation of attracting bigger crowds, but the 'Little Caesars Arena' had more than a few empty seats at the team's home opener against the Charlotte Hornets.
The Pistons were quite active in the offseason but had more or less kept their core intact. Their core being - Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Tobias Harris. Detroit's biggest change over the offseason came at the shooting guard position, where they elected to sign Avery Bradley as a free agent while letting their 2013 draftee (8th overall) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk.
So what's got them roaring so far in this young new season? Let's find out:
#1 The Resurgence of Andre Drummond
When you are doing well on one end, there's more motivation to do well on the other. A couple of years back, Stan Van Gundy, head coach and President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons cleared the paint and unleashed the rebounding monster in Andre Drummond.
He led the league in rebounding at 14.8, which was at the moment a career-high but for whatever reason last season, his performance all across the board (points, rebounds, +/-) dipped. To add to that his miserable free throw shooting kept him out of the final quarter of games.
A majority in the league had given up on Drummond but here he is setting the record straight. Through 13 games this season, he's averaging 13.7 points and 15.7 rebounds (career-high and leads the league) while playing 33.2 minutes (career-high). The biggest improvement, however, has been his free-throw shooting. The 6-11 center had never shot better than 41.8% in his five previous seasons but so far this year, he's knocking down 63.5% (which would have been 72% if it wasn't for an off night (0-of-7) against the Indiana Pacers.
It's not just the numbers, his impact on the floor and on the team's performance is more profound than ever. His offensive rating of 114 is his best since the 2013-14 season (121) and on the other hand, his defensive rating of 97 is a career-high and third best in the league. Drummond's gone from being a negative impact on his team (-6.3 on the court during the 2016-17) to having a career-best impact on the team (+5.0 on the court during the 2017-18 season).
So many career-best numbers. Can all of these be credited to him not facing the pressure at the free-throw line anymore?