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Austin Daye makes his case for a spot in the Detroit Pistons’ rotation

Seeing one of the team’s top young players go down with a serious injury minutes into the first preseason game had many people (especially me) in a foul mood the other day. Seeing another of the team’s young players have the best game of his career, preseason or otherwise, tempers the disappointment a little.

Austin Daye unveiled his whole repertoire with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in the team’s overtime win over Milwaukee Friday. With everything that looked so poor from the first game, the Pistons looked like a completely different team. And they kind of were with Jonas Jerebko and Terrico White out with injuries, Tracy McGrady out because the Pistons plan to use him sparingly in the preseason as he works back into basketball shape and Rip Hamilton missed the game for the birth of his second child. But more on the team below. Daye was the story.

At various times last season, Daye showed the ability to shoot, the ability to put it on the floor, the ability to get off a variety of mid-range shots, an ability to rebound pretty well for someone with such a slight frame and an ability to block shots. Rarely did he ever exhibit those skills all at the same time. The tantalizing potential for him to put everything together at once is the reason he was drafted in the middle of the first round, and if he uses this game as a building block, people will forget some of the names (Ty Lawson, Darren Collison) who went after him in that draft. He’s highly skilled fundamentally, he’s athletic and his height allows him to get his shot off against anyone.

When Jerebko went down with his injury, and when McGrady looked pretty forgettable in the first game, it caused a thought to creep up in a lot of readers’ minds: perhaps this will convince the Pistons to play Daye more. And although I certainly like Daye’s skillset and want him to play more, I’m a bit conflicted about simply handing young players minutes. Yes, everyone needs minutes to grow as a player, but it’s also important that those young guys earn their way into the lineup. I didn’t want Daye to just be thrown in because they had an injury or they had a veteran who wasn’t going to be in the longterm plans. I want him to earn his way into the lineup by playing aggressive and not disappearing from games, whether he’s playing 30 minutes or three minutes. Friday’s game showed that Daye is willing to fight his way into the lineup, and that’s the most exciting aspect of his performance no matter what his statline is.

Bynum gets the start: With Hamilton out, I assumed Ben Gordon would start. Not so fast though. John Kuester slid Rodney Stuckey over to the shooting guard spot and started Will Bynum at point guard.

I don’t know if I’d call the combo a success, but it certainly helped the team start the game with great energy. They opened the game on a 19-8 run and Stuckey and Bynum both attacked the basket.

Stuckey, in particular, was a totally different player than the first preseason game. He was aggressive, he wasn’t tentative and he looked for his shot. It’s a common knock on Stuckey — when he’s in the lineup with a veteran guard (think Hamilton or Allen Iverson), he defers so much that you barely notice he’s on the court. When he’s not paired with a scorer in the backcourt, he’s much more aggressive.

That wasn’t always to his advantage against Milwaukee — he did turn it over five times. But the Pistons turned it over 22 times as a team, and Stuckey is not really known for having a huge number of turnovers, so that could just be some preseason sloppiness creeping in.

If the Pistons share the ball and keep it moving on offense, having that elusive “true” point guard is less important. Bynum, Stuckey, Gordon and Tayshaun Prince combined for 22 assists and the team had 28 assists. Bynum’s presence and ability to be the primary ball-handler and get the team into its offense undoubtedly took pressure off of Stuckey, but the Pistons as a team were just much more unselfish than they were in the opening game. They have guys who can all run the offense when needed, it’s just a matter of those players understanding that there are generally at least four guys on the court for the Pistons who can score. There’s no reason to run so many isos with players standing around.

Villanueva is the starting power forward: It was a pretty easy assumption that Charlie Villanueva would get the start at power forward with Jerebko hurt. But he also played fewer minutes than any Piston who saw the court. I think it’s safe to say his hold on that starting spot is tenuous, but the Pistons don’t really have a superior option right now based on this game at least.

Daye and DaJuan Summers both saw time at power forward (I actually really like Summers at that spot against smaller teams) and both played well. Summers shot 6-of-8 and scored 15 points, although he was the only Piston with a negative plus/minus and was on the court during a late fourth quarter run when the Bucks made a run and forced overtime. I like the idea of playing both guys there for stretches, but starting there? The Pistons would give up a huge amount of size if they did that. Daye and Summers at power forward make more sense against the second units of opposing teams so they aren’t facing top big men.

Jason Maxiell had six points, three rebounds and two blocks, but also turned it over three times. Greg Monroe just looks a step slow right now and might be better suited to the bench for the same reason as Daye and Summers — going against second unit bigs would put less pressure on him and allow him to let the game catch up with him.

But, for what it’s worth, Maxiell and Monroe were on the floor when the Pistons erased a deficit and took the lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. They played with Gordon, Daye and Bynum and that lineup was a lot of fun to watch.

Will the pace last?: The Pistons scored 100 points in a game only 20 times last season. They scored 115 or more only once. The immediate reaction to the final score is that they must not have defended well, but that’s pretty misleading. The Bucks only shot 43 percent, and other than Brandon Jennings and Chris Douglas-Roberts, who both had good games, the Bucks didn’t have anyone who did much damage (other than Ersan Ilyasova at the free throw line).

I was the guy making fun of commenters who went too overboard on the negative side with the ugly opening loss, so I won’t go too overboard on this win. After all, Milwaukee played without Andrew Bogut, Corey Maggette and John Salmons. But I will say this: don’t give up hope on this season. The Pistons have players who are exciting to watch, they have veterans like Prince and Ben Wallace (and possibly Hamilton, depending on his ability to stay healthy) who are competitive and will push the young guys and what they did show against he Bucks, even with key guys out, is they have the ability to put creative lineups on the floor that can at the very least cause matchup problems for opponents.

23 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PistonPowered Feed, Patrick Hayes. Patrick Hayes said: Austin Daye makes his case for a spot in the Detroit Pistons’ rotation: Seeing one of the team’s top young players… http://bit.ly/cdQqY0 [...]

  • Oct 9, 20101:11 am
    by xyu022

    Reply

    They did look a lot better and played more “team” basketball than that last game.  I liked Kuester’s rotations and that is definitely the first time I’ve felt that.

  • Oct 9, 20102:29 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    Daye just needs to stop off at Crispy Creams before and after games this season and then we have our power forward of the future (jokes). Seriously though, its amazing what confidence and an aggressive streak can do for you.

  • Oct 9, 20103:32 am
    by Vince

    Reply

    They played really well, I was surprised at the starting lineup and I think it worked really well, even though Charlie V was the starting PF. Everyone played great, especially Daye, Summers, Bynum and Gordon, I was a bit dissapointed by Monroe’s performance, with 6 fouls in 25 minutes, but I really hope that was just him getting used to the game (Hopefully), I have high hopes for Greg and Terrico, and hopefully they’ll live up to expectations. On a side note, I think today’s game kinda showed that we don’t need as many Guards, and I think that the Pistons should either wave T-Mac or bundle him up with others in a trade.

  • Oct 9, 20107:38 am
    by koz

    Reply

    I say put the best talent even if young and untested on the floor and stick to your guns, even if they lose at first, you will see the greatest return by this aproach. And working and playing hard is a talent, Have faith in the draft decisions made and quit second guessing everything. It’s a long 82 game season and it might be a bit hard to watch this team at times, but the talent is there, it’s time to let go of self doubt and give this team a chance to grow and evolve. The talent is there and only by failing and making mistakes and losing will this team from Dumars on down discover how to win again.

  • Oct 9, 20108:32 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @xyu022:
    Agreed on Kuester. Having fewer players at his disposal helped him a lot I think.

  • Oct 9, 20108:33 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @gmehl:
    Some weight would probably help him, but I hope he doesn’t add too much. I like the idea of a 6-11 shooting guard or small forward. Who would match up with him at that position?

  • Oct 9, 20108:36 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Vince:
    I think it could take Monroe until about midseason before he fully “gets it”. Young big men always foul a lot, and Monroe is also a below-the-rim player. Young bigs like Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin this year came into the league with off-the-charts athleticism, and that helped/helps them play through mistakes easier. Monroe’s game is going to be about positioning and smarts, so it’s going to take him a little more time to figure things out at this level.

  • Oct 9, 20108:39 am
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @koz:
    I hope the young guys go out and win spots in the rotation, which would mean Daye goes out and significantly out-performs McGrady, which he is doing so far. I have less hope that Monroe will be able to legitimately win the starting PF job at least initially. Maybe by midseason.
    But Monroe also has the same thing working against him that Villanueva does: in college, he wasn’t known as the most interested defensive player at times. I think whoever spends the rest of the preseason focused on improving defensively and showing real progress on that front in the games will get the bulk of the PF minutes. I think it’s really a toss-up between V, Monroe and Maxiell. Wouldn’t be shocked to see any of those three start at that spot.

  • Oct 9, 20108:52 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    It looks like Daye is ready for a large role and should be given the same type of consistent minutes that young players like Kevin Durrant or Derrick Rose were given by their respective teams when they were rookies. Daye also fills one of the Pistons greatest needs: he may be the best natural defensive rebounder on the team other than Ben Wallace.

    Does anyone else besides me think that CV is going to be a huge bust? I had high hopes for him coming inot this season but these first two performances have brough me back to reality.

    Monroe is not ready. It makes you think Q should be fired for winning that last game at Minnesota. If we lose that game, we get the #4 pick and that would have been Cousins who got 16 boards in his first preseason game along with 16 points (while his coach criticized him for being out of shape). I have no doubt Greg will be a fine complementary player in this league for many years but he is never going to average over 10 boards or be a dominant force.

    Stuckey had some turnovers but he looked great at the two which we all can agree is his natural position. I thought the lineup of Will & Stuck was a good choice with Rip out. As i have said before, the reality is that we have 5 two guards on the roster who deserve playing time based on talent, rep, or contract: Rip, Ben Gordon, Stuckey, Austin Daye, and T-Mac.

  • Oct 9, 201011:43 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    The Bucks were without their 4 best players. Salmons, Maggette, Bogut, and Delfino. So not much to take away from the outcome.
     
    Daye performing well is a double-edged sword. I’m ecstatic to see it. He has to be good or the Pistons are in serious trouble because Monroe doesn’t look like he’s capable of turning into the player that carries this team. The problem is no matter how good he is I don’t trust the Pistons to get him on the floor. They have to cut Mcgrady. They just have to. Mcgrady will throw a hissy if he doesn’t get playing time, which leaves Daye in no mans land. He’s clearly better than Mcgrady, heck Daye is one of the top 5 players on the team, and he might not even see the court. Someone will obviously say if he earns his time he’ll see it, but will he? I just don’t know how much I trust the Pistons to do the right thing in this situation. Daye is a better rebounder than CV as well. I honestly have no problem playing him at the 4. CV isn’t good either, and Daye is a more efficient scorer, a better rebounder, and he passes. He’s better than CV. If you aren’t going to get defense with either I’ll take the better player overall. Play zone with Daye in the game whatever you have to do to hide him on defense and get him out there on offense. Tell me a zone defense with Stuckey, Rip, Prince, Daye, and Wallace wouldn’t be tough to beat with all that height and arm length? Whatever not happening.

    Monroe. I just don’t know yet. He’s foul prone, but you could argue that he’s not adjusted to the game. That seems too nice. His anticipation on defense is scary bad. I know Monroe is a skilled guy and that he’s supposed to be more adept at offense than defense, but I want to see rebounds. Let’s just say I’m not counting on him being a centerpiece, which isn’t as big a deal as it would have been if I didn’t see that possibility in Daye. The Pistons need at least one young guy to step up if they ever want to start building toward something.

    Stuckey. He is what he is. It’s year 4 it’s obvious. He’s not efficient. Whether at SG or PG he just can’t put the ball in the hoop with any kind of efficiency. That alone wouldn’t be the biggest deal, but when your least efficient scorer thinks it’s ok to take the most shots that hurts the team.

    Gordon found his stroke and Daye looks like an emerging player in this league. Those are the positives I’ve taken away from the first two preseason games.

  • Oct 9, 20101:16 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    @ Vince,
    I though you were out of your mind when you suggested Daye will get time at the 4-spot.  Then he got it.  A good call, Vince.

    Still, you gotta admitt, there’s something funny about a player being told to put on weight so the team can move him from the 2 to the 3, meanwhile, playing him at the 4.

  • [...] What the other side looks like: PistonPowered on Austin Daye. [...]

  • Oct 9, 20106:57 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @PCB:
    You know you’re my guy, but Durant and Rose? Dang … I just want a solid 20-25ish minutes a night from Daye for right now.
    And you’re right, Monroe won’t be Cousins. But he can still get better and he’ll contribute at some point this season. It will just take him a couple months to get adjusted.

  • Oct 9, 20107:00 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:
    I think McGrady isn’t expecting to get a huge amount of playing time early. The team is being very cautious with him, which might be a good thing for Daye. He’ll get minutes early in the season, hopefully play well, and by the time McGrady is healthy, the team can look to release or trade him.
    And I did mention in the post that the Bucks played without their best players. I’m not saying get overly excited, but basically, I’m just rooting for them to be interesting to watch this season, and you can’t deny they were entertaining in this game.

  • Oct 9, 20107:02 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Alan:
    I think it speaks to how scared the team is deep down of Charlie Villanueva manning that position. They’re willing to try a guy who weighs 140 pounds at the spot just hoping he can take some minutes from Villanueva.

  • Oct 9, 20108:41 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    @Patrick (from comment with koz)
    I agree that Daye should have to earn every minute he gets. I also think by Daye beating out the former scoring champion and at some point a top 10 player in the league for minutes just further instills all the confidence he needs to make the next step into the rotation. Making the rotation is one thing but earning your way into it is another thing all together. The last thing we want is guys just getting minutes due to injuries or because they think they should. I hate to point it out but Stuckey was performing well when he was fighting for minutes. A lot needs to be said for this as it is clear when you aren’t handed something on a silver platter you tend to fight for it more. Same goes for things when guys are in contract years. I also think it wouldn’t be a bad idea if David Stern brought in a rule that stated that the minimum length contract you can sign is for 4 years cause guys just seem to get content with how good they have got it.

  • Oct 9, 201010:25 pm
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    @patrick

    I think Daye is real. I think he will be a player that can average 20 points and 8 boards with a couple nice assists and blocks thrown in. Don’t expect it this year because of all the congestion ahead of him at the positions he plays but if he gets consistent minutes – watch out.

    And next year he needs to be the player the Pistons build around.

  • Oct 10, 20105:40 am
    by Vince

    Reply

    @ Alan Haha thanks! There is only one lineup that we have yet to see that I would love Q to try (though the chance of it happening are extremely slim):

    C- Monroe
    PF- Daye
    SF- Jerebko
    SG- White
    PG- Bynum

    I dunno, maybe a ‘last 3 minute if we’re winning by 30 points, and we don’t have any injuries’ lineup… nonetheless I’d like to see it happen…

  • Oct 10, 20105:41 am
    by Vince

    Reply

    Or since both JJ and Terrico are out, replace them by Prince and Gordon. Though I do think they played with that lineup for a while… hmmm

  • Oct 10, 20102:00 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    i’ll start by also echoing the reminder that milwaukee was short three starters and their sixth man. this shouldn’t be ignored. so they were playing pretty short.
     
    also, on the flip side, this wasn’t “the pistons” who won that preseason game. this was much closer to MY pistons than the real pistons. the real pistons have half a dozen shooting guards and bynum coming off the bench to play 15 minutes if he’s LUCKY. it’s a wonder how much better a team can look with a sensible number of shooting guards and a playmaker running the offense. these are not things we can expect in the regular season.
     
    removing any two shooting guards and making will bynum the starter are two of my top priorities for this team. stuckey’s obviously more comfortable off the ball, and it hardly affected his assists. bynum alleviates a need for a “pure” point guard because the dude can make plays. 9 ast in 43 minutes looks good to me, and i think numbers like that are sustainable if we want to win.
     
    i don’t put too much stock in +/- numbers, but there were two very interesting stats tonight. we were a +13 for bynum’s 43 minutes, which means we were a -8 for the nine minutes and change he didn’t play. hm. looks like a career bench player if you ask me, one who should be buried behind a guy whose staunchest supporters admit is not a playmaker. and if you check bynum’s history when he starts and plays big minutes, you’ll see a pattern emerge. since we’re talking about the pistons here, i don’t believe there is any sort of open competition, but if bynum isn’t the starter and daye isn’t the first SF off the bench, nobody will believe this open competition crap.
     
    also summers had an interesting line. his numbers were eye-popping, but he was a -7. by all accounts he had an incredible game, so here’s a good example of when that stat is misleading. he was on the floor during a prolonged defensive collapse, which is on the team, and it was his scoring alone that kept the stones in it.

  • Oct 10, 20108:03 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    @Patrick,
    I think you’re right.  Q does not trust Villanueva to do anything other than score.  The problem for Villanueva, is Q and the team needs defense, rebounding, and screen setting at the 4-spot.
     
    These two will never see eye to eye and one of them won’t be here by the end of next season.

  • Oct 10, 20109:29 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    @ Vince,
    That’s a lineup you’ll have to wait a longtime to see.  In general, it looks like we’ll see a lot of small ball this season.

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