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Archive → May, 2010

Joe Dumars’ season-wrap-up press conference leaves too many questions unanswered – and unasked

I was listening to the audio of Tuesday’s Joe Dumars press conference (hat tip: Packey of Detroit Bad Boys), and I was fairly impressed with Joe Dumars’ candor.

Of course, he dodged some questions. Anyone in his position would. When someone directly called Charlie Villanueva soft, Dumars said it’s not just about Villanueva. When asked about trading for the 76ers’ No. 2 pick and Elton Brand, Dumars didn’t tamper. And the whole press conference was filled with clichés about toughness and grit.

But he provided a lot more depth in his answers than most general managers do.

Still, I was very disappointed in what was revealed at the press conference – and given Dumars’ relative openness, it’s because the question-askers failed to get better information. So many times, they didn’t ask follow-up questions that needed to be asked.

Maybe Dumars wouldn’t have answered, but you (usually) don’t know until you ask the question. Here’s what I wish the assembled media had asked (and I’m just limiting these to relevant follow-up questions, not topics they missed addressing completely).

Who are Dumars’ bosses now?

At one point, Dumars addressed the ownership situation. And although, “You make it work,” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, there was no way Dumars was going to throw Karen Davidson or any of her underlings under the bus here.

But somebody asked whether Dumars needed permission to sign players or make other moves now. Dumars said he always had to go through somebody, noting it was Bill Davidson before. It’s just a different group now.

How did nobody ask whom he answers to now?

With limited flexibility under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, how do the Pistons move forward?

Dumars spent a lot of time talking about “the profile” of the type of player he wants. He threw out key words like “grit” and “toughness.” When pressed about who on the team now fits that profile and who doesn’t, Dumars said he would spending the offseason evaluating not only which players fit it, but which could fit it.

But given the Pistons owe a some players a lot of money, it’s not that simple.

What does Dumars do if he identifies a player on the team who doesn’t fit that profile, but that player makes so much money, he can’t easily be traded?

Did this season alter the Pistons’ plan?

All the talk about grit and toughness doesn’t sound anything like the talk last year’s buzz about stretching the floor and scoring from all five positions.

Obviously, you’d love to have both. But you know what you call a player has toughness and grit and can score like crazy? A superstar. None of those are walking through the door.

So, had this season made Dumars rethink (or, I’d argue revert back to his previous) priorities, or are these just different circumstance for a different team with different needs than last summer?

Does Dumars have the right goal?

Dumars talked about always trying to win right now. In fact, he almost sounded like he was bragging that he has never discussed a five-year plan.

But can that lead to decisions that, although designed help the team in the short run, hinder it in the long run? (Any guesses what I’m alluding to?)

What position will Rodney Stuckey play going forward?

When asked to evaluate Stuckey, Dumars made a point to emphasize Stuckey’s success at shooting guard this season. Was Dumars saying he sees Stuckey as more of an off guard than a point guard?

Dumars later says he doesn’t look at backcourts in terms of having a point guard and a shooting guard. He looks for two players who can play well together. So, if he used that line to dodge the question, ask, “For a player who you think would be ideal next to Stuckey, would other teams consider him a point guard or a shooting guard?”

Does Dumars know how to build a team in the new NBA?

Dumars talked about how the game isn’t as physical as it used to be, so he wants players who can get to the free-throw line.

Why bring it up in an offense-first way? If the game isn’t as physical, isn’t it easier to get to the line? What about getting players who can defend without fouling? Isn’t that a more valuable skill in the new NBA?

Conclusion

I finished the audio shaking my head and without nearly enough answers.

It’s not like I think Dumars is doing a terrible job. I’ve defended Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, and I’ve been in favor of a one-year plan.

But Dumars needs to answer for his decisions. He put himself in front of a room of reports to do that.

It’s a shame he wasn’t asked to.

Does Charlie Villanueva completely lack self-awareness? Has he changed? Or is he trying to play us?

Charlie Villanueva had two tweets last night that left me shaking my head:

@DETPistons I heard the Press Conference with Joe Dumars earlier today went well, interesting. We need to REdevelop that Detroit toughness.

I embrace being a Detroit Pistons. And though we’ve had a share of bad luck, I’m determine things will change for better in 2010-11. RISE.

What does he think fans will think of those tweets? Does he not see the irony everyone else will?

The Pistons need to redevelop that Detroit toughness because of you.

Maybe that’s unfair. You were hurt most of the season and played through it. That’s tough. But you didn’t play tough. You were soft on defense, soft on the glass and soft on shot selection.

Maybe being hurt is a legitimate excuse, but most fans won’t see it that way. And isn’t a major point of your tweeting to stay connected with the fans? Well, those two tweets show a major disconnect.

It’s not luck

More than anything else, I have a big problem with Villanueva pinning Detroit’s problems on luck.

Of course, the Pistons suffered from more than their fair share of injuries. Of course, that hurt the team. Of course, that was unlucky.

But there was plenty more wrong than that and pinning the Pistons’ problems on luck isn’t going to fix their other other shortcomings. Bad luck is a scapegoat. It will sort it self out. The other problems are real, and those are where Villanueva’s focus should lie.

He’s made the right overtures before. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press in February:

It might have been a first for Charlie Villanueva.

After Friday morning’s shoot-around to prepare for the Nuggets, Villanueva said he is concentrating on defense and rebounding first, and isn’t worrying about whatever offense comes his way.

Villanueva has shown he knows how to say the right things (usually). But he hasn’t shown will act on them. The above proclamation ultimately rang hollow.

  • In 54 games before the statement: 16.1 shots and 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.
  • In 24 games after the statement: 16.1 shots and 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.

He didn’t change one bit. He was the same player before and after.

Villanueva can be a good rebounder and an adequate defender. The first step would be to stop shooting – not completely, but stop looking for shots and having plays called him. Villanueva expends way too much energy on offense.

But more than just a change in on-court philosophy is necessary.

Attitude adjustment

I think Villanueva carries himself like a star player. That’s not to say he’s not a hard worker or a good teammate, but he likes to do things his way. He shoots a lot and likes to be in front of the cameras. I think he wants to be the face of a franchise.

But he’s not a star player.

He’s on-again, off-again starter on a bad team. He’s never made the playoffs. His 13.1 career scoring average ranks 103rd among active players – behind such stalwarts as Kirk Hinrich, Al Thornton and Wilson Chandler.

I think Villanueva sees the nonchalance of the game’s premier players and emulates it. LeBron can dominate while clowning with his teammates. Dwight Howard can shut down opposing offenses while laughing all game. Dirk Nowitzki can drain jumpers while making it seem like he barely looks at the rim.

I think he’s picked up a little bit of the prima donna attitude, too, but I can live with that. Most professional athletes expect preferential treatment. But there’s a line, and it varies by player.

I found myself questioning Villanueva several times last year. Is he worth the headache? Does he provide on the court to justify his issues off it. Because that’s what it ultimately comes down to. That’s why so many teams will appease each of LeBron’s demands this summer and not think once about signing Stephon Marbury.

How to fix this

Villanueva has to realize he’s not a star. There’s a chance he could become one. It’s a small chance given his age and what he’s accomplished so far. But he won’t reach that level if he keeps his current mindset.

I don’t expect anything to change, though. Villanueva isn’t a bad guy – far from it, it seems. And if he reads this or any other article critical of him, he can point to a lot of reasons he should be proud of what he’s done.

He does great work in the community. He puts himself out there to fans, interacting with them in ways few professional athletes do. He won a national title at Connecticut. He’s a role model for young Hispanic basketball players. (By the way, a writing trick is to do lists like that in threes. But it was so easy to come up with four that I included them all, and I think that says something about Villanueva).

It’s completely fair for him to look at those and other accomplishments and say, “I’m on the right track.” If he continues on this course, that’s no real tragedy. He’s in the NBA and seems to enjoy it. Who am I to call him a failure? I don’t think it’s fair to expect greatness from every player. Do you do the best you can at your job, or do you peak near the level your boss expects of you to get by?

But if he really is serious about redeveloping that Detroit toughness, he can’t be satisfied. He needs to work harder. He needs dive for loose balls and risk looking foolish, even if the stars of the league would never do that.

And he needs to make tweets like last night’s more than lip service – because right now, that’s all they seem like to me.

Introducing Synergy (and why opponents should screen Will Bynum more)

I’ve holding off an writing about this for a while – because it’s so awesome. The TrueHoop Network has been given access to Synergy, a video scouting service. Every time I’ve opened it, I’ve been drawn in and spent a significant amount of time watching plays. With work, I had to put it away for a while.

Here’s an example of what I’ve learned:

Will Bynum doesn’t fight through screens

Will Bynum allowed 1.24 points per play when his man took him off a screen last year. There were only 25 such plays all season, so Bynum didn’t have enough data to rank on Synergy’s database. But for perspective, the Pistons allowed .88 points per play of that type, 16th in the league

With Synergy, I could easily call up video to watch every time Bynum was in that situation – and it wasn’t pretty.

Bynum shows absolutely no ability to fight through screens, and opponents almost always ended up making an open jumper. Even when they missed, they had good looks.

And double screens? Forget about it. Bynum ran in a giant loop to avoid contact, completely taking him out of the play.

His defense in this situation is so bad that I question how how much value he really has this summer.

The caveat

I think the previous example shows what’s great about Synergy. Bynum wasn’t taken off enough screens to really make me notice this deficiency during the season. But because of the way Synergy sorts its data, I could watch every play like that in a row and learn something.

But only plays that end with a shot, turnover or free throws are included. Maybe Bynum is great at covering his man off screens, closing on him and taking his shot away. When this happens it’s not included. And of course, when he makes the play well, his man is far less likely to shoot.

So, this data may be skewed against Bynum. But he looked so terrible in the videos, I doubt it. You’d think sometimes he’d cover the play well, and his man would shoot anyway. But that maybe happened once.

So, I think I learned something, but I don’t think I can say Synergy is a be-all, end-all for this type of analysis.

What this means to you

I will use Synergy in the analysis you read on this site , but if you want to see it for yourself, you can. You can go to Synergy and sample what it offers for two players: LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire.

If you want to go further, it costs $29.95 to sign up. If you’re a die-hard or are writing about basketball, it may be worth it. Honestly, if you’re only a casual fan, it’s probably not (although as Synergy continues to enhance its system, that may change).

Of course, if you have any tips about what I should investigate with Synergy, please drop a note in the comments or e-mail me (danfeld11[at]gmail[dot]com).

Did Greg Monroe’s and Ed Davis’ draft stock with the Pistons just sink?

Updated with all combine participants

As touched on before, a common link between many Pistons in the Joe Dumars era has been an above-average wingspan.

So, I made a chart with the 1,026 players whose wingspans were listed in Draft Express’s database. I’ve highlighted the players who are commonly mentioned for the Pistons’ seventh pick (along with Luke Babbitt, who, the way he’s shooting up boards, might replace John Wall as the No.1 pick).

image

(Note: Feet are marked as decimals, not with inches. For example, 6.5 means 6-foot-6, not 6-foot-5.)

Although they’re far from eliminated, that doesn’t bode well for Greg Monroe, Ed Davis and Babbitt. And when you consider the Pistons will have their pick of most of these players at No. 7, Patrick Patterson’s barely above-expected wingspan doesn’t exactly bode well for him.

Updated with all 2010 prospects

If you’re interested to see how any other players stack up, here’s a chart with all the 2010 prospects whose wingspans are listed. The columns have height, wingspan, expected wingspan based on height and the difference between actual and expected wingspan. (Don’t forget, heights are decimals in feet, not inches).

Don’t take this too seriously… but Pistons almost received No. 1 pick

From ESPN’s Chad Ford:

How close were the Detroit Pistons to winning the No. 1 pick? The Wizards’ winning pingpong ball combination was 8-7-11-4. The Pistons owned 8-7-11-6. They were essentially one pingpong ball from moving up from No. 7 to No. 1.

But who owned 8-7-11-1/2/3/5/7/8/9?

Who will be available with the seventh pick in the 2010 NBA Draft?

Now that the lottery has decided the Pistons will pick seventh, we can start to look at who they will take. The first step is figuring out who will be off the board.

I found 18 mock drafts updated since the lottery, and they collectively projected 10 players to be picked before the Pistons’ No. 7 pick.

Five players – John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Wesley Johnson – went before Detroit’s pick in all 18 mocks. Of course, a lot can change before the draft. But at this point, you better have a compelling reason one of them will fall before you suggest Detroit drafts him. (Although, if you think there’s a reason one of them will fall, would you want him anyway?)

Here’s a chart detailing how likely it is each player is off the board before the Pistons pick:

image

If you’re curious, the mocks had the Pistons taking: Cole Aldrich (eight), Ed Davis (five), Greg Monroe (two), Al-Farouq Aminu (two) and Patrick Patterson (one).

Mock drafts used

Detroit Pistons land No. 7 pick in 2010 NBA Draft

(Sports Illustrated)

Your 2010 NBA draft lottery primer

I still remember the nervous feeling.

It was May 22, 2003, and the NBA lottery was being held. The Pistons, thanks to a great trade that sent Otis Thorpe to the Vancouver Grizzlies, would receive the Grizzlies’ pick – as long as it wasn’t No. 1.

So, no LeBron James. But the Pistons could still get the player I had been fawning over for a year, Darko Milicic. He was big, athletic and could shoot. He had all the intangibles. He would be great. I’m sure in part because I knew all along James wasn’t a possibility, I actually wanted Darko more.

Everything seemed to line up just right that day. The Pistons had an Eastern Conference Finals game at the Nets, and the lottery was held pregame in New Jersey. Darko worked out for NBA teams in New York that day, and the buzz said he looked amazing.

I was thrilled when the Grizzlies didn’t get their slotted pick, meaning they would be top three. ABC cut to a commercial before David Stern revealed the first three picks, and I paced around my house.

Finally, the commercials ended and the Nuggets got the third pick. It was all or nothing. I literally jumped up and down in my living room when the Grizzlies landed the second pick.

In hindsight it was nothing or nothing. Darko might be the biggest draft bust ever. Plus, the Pistons lost to the Nets that night, eventually being swept. I was reading some articles about that night, and I enjoyed this story from Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:

Pistons President Joe Dumars found a penny on the floor outside his hotel room Thursday morning.

Since he didn’t bring any kind of lucky charm with him, he picked it up.

"I looked at it and it was a 1989," Dumars said. "I said, ‘Yep, I’m keeping this one.’"

Wonder if Dumars will have that penny with him tonight…

Info

For the first time since 2003, the Pistons have a stake in the lottery, which will be held at 8 p.m. The results will be announced on ESPN, and you can watch online on ESPN3.

Odds

image

When to cheer

The picks will be announced in reverse order.

The Rockets, Raptors, Grizzlies and Hornets will most likely receive the 14th through 11th picks. If they do, it’s good for Detroit because all three top picks will still be available.

After those picks are announced, the Pistons’ pick possibilities begin. If the order isn’t Pacers-Jazz-Clippers, one of those teams has moved to the top three, taking a spot away from the Pistons.

If the seventh pick comes and the Pistons still haven’t been announced, congratulations, Detroit will get a top-three pick. Let’s hope it goes better than last time.

PistonPowered 1.5

In an ongoing effort to make the blog better and more user friendly, we’ve decided to make a few changes to the design here at PistonPowered.

For starters, we’ve scrapped the left sidebar completely and added a new menu bar at the top of the site. The right sidebar has gotten a little bigger, and there’s more room for the main content which should allow us to put up better charts, pictures, etc.

Things have been moved around a bit, so here’s a complete rundown of what’s different:

Menu Bar

Many of the items that used to be found in the left sidebar have moved to the top of the page, and we’ve added a few new pages as well.

  • Login/Logout: This contains all account links, including registration, login, logout, and your profile page.
  • Schedule/Results: A work in progress, this currently takes you to a list of all Game Previews and Reviews. We’re still figuring out the best way to display this information, so stay tuned for the final version.
  • Roster: This is a new page consisting of all current and former Detroit Pistons that we’ve covered on the blog, including coaches. Each link will take you to that player’s Player Profile if they have one, and gives a list of recent posts tagged with that player’s name. The dropdown menu for Roster will list all current players and the head coach for easy access to their info. We almost forgot to include Kwame Brown in the list though. Close call.
  • Salary Chart: Here you’ll be able to find a rundown of the Pistons’ salary obligations for the next few years, including player and team options. I have a feeling this might come in handy when the league is working on a new CBA in the near future.
  • Archives: This is where you can find every post we’ve ever written. Scary, right? They’re broken up by both date and category, and you can always search to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
  • More PistonPowered: Can’t get enough? Here you’ll find links to our Facebook page, Twitter accounts, and RSS Feeds.
  • About: This has some general information on PistonPowered, and a page for each of the blog’s authors where you can see recent posts, and all kinds of juicy personal details. Enter at your own risk.

Sidebar

  • Other info from the now-defunct left sidebar has made the jump across the page to the other side. The site search, links to other sources for Pistons coverage, Feldman’s recent articles (even more recent than before!), and The Glove Compartment have all survived in tact.
  • We’ve gotten some questions lately about where we get our data, so we’ve also added a few of our favorite NBA resources, including Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, and BasketballValue. Hopefully some of you will find them at least a little bit useful.

Feedback

Feel free to poke around the site to get acquainted with the new layout. We’d love to hear any of your questions, concerns, or feedback, so go ahead and shoot us an email (pistonpowered[at]gmail[dot]com). All suggestions are welcome.

Rodney Stuckey rarely dunks when he goes inside and other thoughts on the point guard’s future with the Detroit Pistons

A lot of interesting points were brought up in the comments for last week’s post on Rodney Stuckey’s free-throw attempts, and I want to flesh out some of them. Consider this a continuation to that post.

Stuckey is the best chance

Do I think Stuckey can be the player on a championship contender? Yes. Do I think he will be? No.

But if the Pistons are going to become a championship contender at some point, somebody will have to be the best player on that team. And I think Stuckey is the best chance in sight.

I don’t anyone on the team now is more likely to fill that role.

I don’t think any realistic free agents are more likely to fill that role.

And unless Detroit moves up in the lottery, I don’t think anyone available with the seventh pick will be more likely to fill that role. (I believe John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe will be off the board.)

Stuckey doesn’t dunk much

Rodney Stuckey dunked just five times last year, according to CBSSports.com. That ranks him 242nd of 442 players.

DaJuan Summers dunked more. Thirty-seven-year-old Juwan Howard dunked more. Chris Richard, who made as many shots this season as Stuckey’s single-game career high, dunked more.

What’s most perplexing (troubling?) is Stuckey went inside so often. He led the Pistons in shots at the rim (408) and ranked 25th in the league and fifth among point guards.

Stuckey dunked on 1.2 percent of his shots at the rim. The average player makes a dunk on 13.5 percent of his shots at the rim.

Who deserves blame?

Maybe Stuckey’s lack of dunks and low field-goal percentage at the rim (.493) can be attributed to the Pistons’ poor 3-point shooting. Detroit’s lack of perimeter threats allows opposing defenses to pack the lane and defend Stuckey.

Or does Stuckey’s inability to drive to the rim effectively allow teams to defend the perimeter better?

I think it’s a combination of both, with more blame lying with Detroit’s poor outside shooting.

I looked at each team’s leader in shots at the rim among guards and small forwards. I charted their field-goal percentage at the rim against their teammates’ 3-point percentage (which is slightly flawed because it accounts for all 3-pointers, not just when the shots-at-rim leader is on the court – but I think it still serves the point).image

Stuckey’s teammates shot worse from beyond the arc than any other player plotted. But he still didn’t shoot as well at the rim as would be expected.

Hopefully, Ben Gordon and the rest of the Pistons shoot better on 3-pointers next season. That would help us learn a lot about Stuckey. Plus, it would make Detroit better.