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Archive → February, 2009

Scouting Iverson

Henry Abbot of TrueHoop had an interesting post today that linked to a New York Times article written by “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis. The whole article is worth a read, but one line is relevant to the Pistons.

For instance, the numbers show him that Allen Iverson is one of the most efficient scorers in the N.B.A. when he goes to his right; when he goes to his left he kills his team.

This will certainly be something to keep an eye on the rest of the season.

Watching Iverson will be a little different for another reason, too. Check out this picture on Pistons Nation.

(Slightly After) Mid-season Grades

Rodney Stuckey: B-

Stuckey has raised his numbers across the board from last year, but his recent drop off is troublesome. He has definitely hit the wall, and it’s not clear if he will rebound.

Stuckey has the tools to be a top defender, but too often his effort on that side of the ball is dependent on whether his shot is falling.

Allen Iverson: C+

The Pistons still see glimpses of an MVP-caliber Allen Iverson. But for the most part, he’s just a shell of his former self. He was never an efficient scorer, but his scoring average with the Pistons is the lowest of his career.

Always excellent at reading passing lanes, his team defense has improved greatly.

Tayshaun Prince: B

Prince has stepped up to help a small team by averaging a career-best 6.5 rebounds per game. And with the departure of Chauncey Billups, he has helped the Pistons move the ball with 3.3 assists per game.

But where has his on-the-ball defense gone? Once a strange sight, it’s commonplace to see wings blow right by him to the hoop.

Amir Johnson: C

As much as Johnson was hyped, he hasn’t exactly shined in a starters’ role. He still has the athleticism to morph into a top player, but more and more, he just shows how average he is. Some nights, he’s a great spark. Others, he’s non-existent.

The first step in his improvement is lowering his 9.5 fouls per 48 minutes, most among the league’s starters.

Rasheed Wallace: C+

Just when it appears Wallace has nothing left in the tank, he goes on a four-game stretch averaging 20.3 points 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks.

Then he elects to sit out the fourth quarter of the game against the Hawks, fueling rumors of discontent.

As always, Sheed’s motivation remains a mystery.

Richard Hamilton: B

Although he didn’t handle going to the bench with complete humility, it’s hard to imagine many players of his stature handling the change better.

It’s clear he had some trouble getting used to playing without Billups, but he appears to be finding his groove sharing the backcourt with Iverson.

Antonio McDyess: B

McDyess is a steadying force in a locker room that has dealt with a lot of adversity. And his team-best 8.6 rebounds per game has been instrumental for the Pistons, who have quietly outrebounded four of their last five opponents.

McDyess isn’t flashy, but he quietly and consistently gives Detroit the production it needs.

Jason Maxiell: C+

Maxiell plays with reckless abandon whenever he enters the game, but he has played fewer minutes than Afflalo. I don’t buy that Michael Curry has some secret agenda against Maxiell. There’s likely something behind the scenes he can do better.

Arron Afflalo: C

Afflalo is a good defender, but there are few signs he has the offensive skills to be effective in the NBA.

Will Bynum: C

Bynum probably doesn’t have the talent to stick in the Association. He saw minutes as the backup point guard out of default.

Kwame Brown: D+

He provides the size the Pistons need against certain opponents, but little else. How was he ever the No. 1 pick?

Walter Herrmann: D

Herrmann hasn’t given any of the sparks the Pistons saw from him last year. He will likely continue to sit on the end of the bench until he walks in the off-season.

Alex Acker: F

Maybe Acker can up his value by teaching Johnson how to avoid fouls. He hasn’t committed any in 20 minutes. Only Atlanta’s Thomas Gardner (none in 22 minutes) has a lower rate.

Walter Sharpe: F

I hate how often players like Sharpe get “incompletes” on grades like these. If you don’t turn in the assignment, you fail.

Michael Curry: C-

Curry has not done a good job this year.

But coaching this year’s Pistons is one of the toughest assignments in the NBA. He’s young and could improve. Still, it’d be more encouraging if he showed more signs of being a quality head coach.

Team: C+

The Pistons have obviously fallen off from recent seasons, but it’s impossible to win 50 games ever year. The transition had to come at some point.

Out of curiosity, I calculated the team’s grade another way by averaging each player’s individual grade, weighted by minutes. Using this scale, the Pistons’ team GPA is a 2.5. That’s between a C+ and a B-.

Professional Game Coverage: Atlanta 99, Detroit 95

Internet trouble

Sorry to those of you who were following last night’s live blog. My Internet went out during the game, so I couldn’t continue. Hopefully, that won’t be a problem in the future.

Live Blog: Detroit vs. Atlanta

Game Preview: Detroit vs. Atlanta

Date: Feb. 11, 2009

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Detroit record: 27-23

Atlanta record: 30-21

Detroit probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Allen
Iverson
Tayshaun
Prince
Amir
Johnson
Rasheed
Wallace

Atlanta probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Mike
Bibby
Joe
Johnson
Marvin
Willaims
Josh
Smith
Al
Horford

Spread: Detroit -3.5

Outlook: The Pistons are 3-5 in the second game of back-to-backs, including a loss to the Suns at the Palace on Sunday that followed a win in Milwaukee.

Although today’s game also features a return to Auburn Hills the day after a road game, the contest against the Hawks has the potential to go better for Detroit for a few reasons.

1. The trip from Chicago is shorter than from Milwaukee.

2. The Bucks game went to overtime and lasted until almost 11:30.

3. The Pistons stopped playing against the Bulls after the third quarter, so they should be well-rested.

Chicago’s game-ending 17-2 run encapsulates the gutlessness that has consumed Detroit this season, which may include a pregame decision.

Pistons coach Michael Curry originally planned to start Richard Hamilton in place of a sick Allen Iverson, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of the Booth Newspapers. But Arron Afflalo started instead. No explanation was given, but my guess is Curry was afraid of restarting the shooting guard controversy if Hamilton played well.

Iverson is questionable again tonight, according to Blakely, so Afflalo will probably start again if Iverson is out. That could help defensively against Mike Bibby, who 27 points on 13 shots against the Pistons in December. Bibby was mostly guarded by Iverson in that game.

Detroit has struggled to defend point guards lately:

Derrick Rose: 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and no turnovers in 29 minutes.

Steve Nash: 15 points and 21 assists.

Ramon Sessions: 44 points on 13-of-18 shooting and 12 assists.

That trend will probably have to change tonight for the Pistons to win. 

Professional Game Coverage: Chicago 107, Detroit 102

Game Preview: Detroit at Chicago

Date: Feb. 10, 2009

Time: 8:30 p.m.

Detroit record: 27-22

Chicago record: 22-29

Detroit probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Allen
Iverson
Tayshaun
Prince
Amir
Johnson
Rasheed
Wallace

Chicago probable starters:

PG SG SF PF C

Derrick
Rose
Ben
Gordon
Luol
Deng
Tyrus
Thomas
Joakim
Noah

Spread: Detroit +2

Outlook: The Pistons will be looking for a repeat performance against the Bulls from Rodney Stuckey, who scored 40 points the last time the teams met.

Stuckey has fallen off lately. He has scored eight or fewer points in three of the last four games. The All-Star break may give Stuckey, who already has already played 371 more minutes than last year, some much-needed rest.

But the Pistons will likely need him strong tonight. Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton have taken control of Detroit’s offense in the last two games, and Iverson is questionable for tonight’s game with the flu.

 


Professional Game Coverage: Phoenix 107, Detroit 97

Game Reviews: Phoenix 107, Detroit 97; Detroit 126, Milwaukee 121

A combined game review:

This isn’t a shocking revelation, but the Pistons have some very good players.

The Pistons have a pair of star guards in Richard Hamilton and Allen Iverson, who combined to score 65 points against the Bucks on Saturday and 52 against the Suns on Sunday.

The Pistons have a talented big man in Rasheed Wallace, who made a career-high seven 3-pointers against Milwaukee and had 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and a block against Phoenix.

The Pistons have one of the best complementary players in the league in Tayshaun Prince, who had the most combined rebounds (13) and assists (nine) he has ever had in a game against the Bucks and chipped in 11 points and four assists against the Suns.

The Pistons have a savvy reserve in Antonio McDyess, who scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Milwaukee and pulled down 13 rebounds against Phoenix.

But individuals performance’s ranging from acceptable (Prince against the Suns) to incredible (Hamilton’s season-high 37 points against the Bucks, the most a Piston has ever scored off the bench) didn’t lead to much team success.

Detroit need overtime to beat the Bucks, who were missing their leading scorer (Michael Redd), leading rebounder and shot blocker (Andew Bogut) and and leaders in assists and steals (Luke Ridnour). And the Suns, almost literally, ran the Pistons off the court.

So why the disparity between individual performances and collective output? There are two basic reasons.

1. The Pistons no longer take pride in their team defense.

Defense is contagious. When Detroit had the league’s best defense for several years, it was because Ben Wallace cared so much about it and forced his teammates to care, too. The Pistons cared for a while after Wallace left for Chicago, but that sentiment has clearly warmed off.

Millwaukee point guard Ramon Sessions torched the Pistons for 44 points and 12 assists, mostly created on dribble drives. Hamilton, Iverson and Arron Afflalo had trouble keep Sessions in front of them, but sometimes that happens against quick guards.

But the repeated failure of Detroit’s big men to rotate and help was truly disappointing. That’s just a lack of effort.

It also shows how much the Pistons lack defensive intimidation. Against Phoenix, Steve Nash had free reign to any spot on the court to dish his 21 assists. Six Suns reached doubled figures.

In the two games, the Pistons allowed 110.7 points per 48 minutes.

2. Rodney Stuckey makes the Pistons go.

This is partially due to Stuckey’s strong play, but it has a lot more to do with Chauncey Billups.

The Pistons are accustomed to playing with a top point guard who the offense runs through. Although it appears Hamilton and Iverson are learning how to change that paradigm, it hasn’t disappeared.

Stuckey was 1-of-10 and scored just six points against the Bucks and had just eight points and one assist against Phoenix.

The Pistons are now 3-8 when he scores eight or fewer points. But they’re just 8-5 when he scores 17 or more.

At his best, he’s not good enough to help Detroit reach the top tier of the NBA. At his worst, the Pistons are crummy.

So, the Pistons are a poor defensive team led by a second-year point guard. Not exactly a recipe for success — even if the they still have talent elsewhere.