The Detroit Pistons have been a team in flux for years now. After their championship run ended, they have seemingly been struggling to form an identity ever since.
Now, after a few years of successful lottery picks, the Pistons finally have some talent.
However, that talent refuses to string together consistent stretches of play.
Maddeningly inconsistent play
Take a look at the play of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and even Greg Monroe this season.
Each of them has had moments of utter brilliance. However, each of them has also appeared at times to be somewhat lost.
Stuckey started out the season playing like garbage but seemed to find his niche coming off the bench—he is now back to playing like garbage.
In the month of November, Stuckey averaged just over nine points per game on 35.8 percent shooting. In December, he was averaging 15 points on 42 percent shooting. And now in January he is hovering around nine points on 38.8 percent shooting.
Singler started out the year on fire, knocking down 42 percent of his threes in November and averaging nearly 10 points per game.
However, in December those numbers dropped to 26.8 and just over seven.
Lately his shot looks better, but his scoring still isn't there.
Monroe overall has been much more consistent than the rest of these guys, but his play hasn't taken off this year like most had hoped. Sure, he will string together a couple of double-doubles in a row, but never any sustained stretches of greatness.
His shooting is down from last year a whole 40 points, which is disturbing for a big man that spends most of his time in the post.
Monroe's development has stagnated in a lot of ways, if not regressed. And he has got to learn another way to score besides that spin move.
Knight, however, is the biggest culprit on the inconsistency front.
Outside of a stretch in December when he scored 20 or more points in five straight games, he hasn't put together three consistent games, much less five.
Take a look at his game logs. He has 12 games in which he scored in single digits. Of those 12, four were two points or less.
Just let that last stat wash over you. He has four games where he has mustered only one field goal or less! The Detroit Pistons' starting point guard! The franchise who employed Dave Bing, Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups has a point guard that can't hit double-digits more than 75 percent of the time!
Youth is a part of it
Obviously this is a young team, and that is part of the problem of consistency.
The Pistons have been very successful at turning their roster over from an aging group into a very young one. The old guys that were past their prime are gone. The only remaining players over 30 years of age are Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette and Will Bynum—the last two have expiring deals.
There is a strong likelihood that Prince will be the only player over 30 on next year's roster.
A lot of these rotation players are 24 and younger with only a year or two of professional experience under their belts.
Knight only recently turned 21, and Monroe is only a year older.
Often times, players develop consistency in their games after they have been in the league for awhile. It stands to reason that the longer a player develops, the better they are at understanding their strengths and limitations.
But for a guy like Stuckey, that can't be the whole story. At this point in his career, he should be scratching the vast potential that we saw from him as a rookie five years ago. Instead, he is more problem now than solution.
The system is still sorting itself out
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank is a lot of things, but stupid about offensive basketball is not one of them.
He has a long history of running successful offenses with the New Jersey Nets.
Sure, that was an older, more experienced group of players led by a Hall of Famer, but they still had to have good coaching.
The Pistons are still trying to figure out what type of offensive team they are. Last year they experimented with an up-tempo group, turning steals and missed baskets into fast break opportunities.
This year, they have basically scrapped that plan as it led to a lot of turnovers and three of the starters, Prince, Monroe and Jason Maxiell had a knack for holding things up.
They would like to run a twin towers offense with Monroe operating out of the high post and Andre Drummond working down low, but Monroe still needs to develop his 16- to 20-foot jumper.
The only time the offense looks good is when they are running with stretch fours paired with one of their big men. However, this often takes the ball out of Knight's hands, limiting his effectiveness or relegating him to a catch-and-shoot option.
Personnel may be an issue
Let's face it, there really are other issues with this team. They really only have one point guard on the roster, and that isn't Knight.
The second unit routinely outplays the first, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Bynum.
But he isn't the long-term option at the point.
The wings are another issue. The Pistons lack athleticism at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Prince and Singler are not viable starters in this league.
Prince too often stunts the offense as he just doesn't really fit with this team anymore. Singler has good basketball intelligence, but he isn't a dynamic scorer.
The most athletic wing on the team is Stuckey, and he might possess the worst shooting instincts in the league.
Until this team figures out which personnel they are going to run with, they will continue to be inconsistent.
There are sure to be some good games ahead for this team. There is some talent, especially up front. But there are a lot of question marks as well.
To me, coach Frank seems to be a guy looking for the right pieces and the right scheme. He is trying to fit his guys together with the right offensive system, but he hasn't found the answer yet.
Perhaps the answer will come once this team passes the trade deadline and either makes some deals or just starts benching useless pieces.
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