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Archive → October, 2010

Dan Feldman’s 2010-11 season preview

Five Pistons predictions

1. Rodney Stuckey will have the best season of his career.

This might not exactly be going out on a limb. Stuckey has had his best season ever year of his career. Yet, somehow, his improvement has been small enough that he hasn’t turned the corner toward stardom.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Stuckey makes another small, short-of-star step again this year. It would surprise me more if he doesn’t improve at all. Of course, he could also reach the next level.

Regardless of the magnitude, I think Stuckey gets better this year. And I think, even though it won’t have much to do with it, too much of the credit will go toward Stuckey playing in the system for consecutive years for the first time.

2. Jason Maxiell will play more than Greg Monroe.

Monroe desperately needs to add lower-body strength to be a capable defender, rebounder and screener. I’m optimistic about his future, because I think doing that won’t take away from the things he already does well.

But it will be a year until Monroe gets strong enough. Maxiell can do all those things right now.

Joe Dumars has said he wants this team to win now. Maxiell can help the Pistons do that better than Monroe, and I don’t expect that to change at any point this season.

3. Neither Tayshaun Prince nor Richard Hamilton will be traded.

I think this prediction benefits from the ownership situation. Until the team is sold, I really doubt either is traded. So that narrows the opening when a trade could occur.

Everyone criticizes Dumars for being loyal to Prince and Hamilton, and I think he is. But there’s a flip side. Other general managers are loyal to their players, too. For the most part, GMs have acquired the players on their teams. They’ve done that for a reason. That’s why there aren’t more trades in the NBA. Everybody likes their own players.

If you randomly gave every GM another team’s roster, there would be tons of trades. GMs like their guys. For Dumars, that’s Prince and Hamilton.

4. Charlie Villanueva will have a better season than Austin Daye.

I like Daye’s long-term prospects. But he’s not a power forward. He’s just too small to hold up there.

With his improved strength and conditioning, Villanueva can play power forward without problem.

If Daye was playing small forward, who will have a better season would be a close race. With both at power forward, it’s no contest.

5. The Pistons will finish 35-47 and ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Being healthy will be a plus, but not quite enough to make the playoffs. The Pistons need more size. They need more defense. And they need more inside scoring.

They’re a flawed team, but a flawed team or two will make the playoffs in the East. It won’t surprise me if that’s the Pistons, but in a crowded field of also-rans vying for the final two playoff spots, the odds are against them.

Awards watch

Most Valuable Player – LeBron James, Heat

Nobody wants to give him the award, but he’s too good to deny. LeBron knows his reputation has taken a hit, and winning the MVP will help fix that. His good friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also know LeBron needs to restore his reputation, and I think they’ll help LeBron post MVP-worthy numbers.

Rookie of the Year – John Wall, Wizards

Like everyone else, I also considered the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. But the last five Rookie of the Year winners have been guards, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Guards adapt to the NBA better than bigs.

Defensive Player of the Year – Dwight Howard, Magic

I think you’re going to see an offensive improvement from Howard this year, and that will only make his defense better. I’m not only saying his offensive numbers will improve. I’m saying he’ll actually play better.

Howard scoring more in the post means fewer 3-point attempts for his teammates, which means fewer long rebounds, which means fewer transition opportunity for opponents. Howard anchoring a set defense means trouble for opponents.

Coach of the Year – Jerry Sloan, Jazz

Finally.

Sloan is probably the best coach to never win Coach of the Year, but he has an ideal roster to win the award. He has players who aren’t universally heralded, but fit his system. That means the Jazz will be viewed as overachievers, and the coach gets the credit.

Most Improved Player – Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers

I can’t say for certain I was going to pick Batum before he had 19 points and 11 rebounds in last night’s season opener. But among the few candidates I was considering before I saw the results of that game, Batum was my front runner.

Batum is surrounded by good teammates who complement him, which is obviously great for him. He can defend and shoot. That’s a great combination in this league.

Projected standings

Eastern Conference

  1. Heat 64-18*
  2. Magic 59-23*
  3. Celtics 54-28*
  4. Bucks 50-32*
  5. Bulls 48-34*
  6. Hawks 48-34*
  7. Knicks 40-42*
  8. Bobcats 36-46*
  9. Pistons 35-47
  10. Wizards 34-48
  11. Pacers 30-52
  12. Nets 27-55
  13. 76ers 24-58
  14. Cavaliers 17-65
  15. Raptors 16-66

Western Conference

  1. Lakers 59-23*
  2. Spurs 55-27*
  3. Mavericks 53-29*
  4. Jazz 51-31*
  5. Thunder 50-32*
  6. Rockets 48-34*
  7. Trail Blazers 46-36*
  8. Nuggets 46-36*
  9. Hornets 43-39
  10. Suns 42-40
  11. Clippers 35-47
  12. Grizzlies 32-50
  13. Warriors 32-50
  14. Timberwolves 29-53
  15. Kings 27-55

*playoffs

Projected playoff results

First Round

Heat over Bobcats; Magic over Knicks; Celtics over Hawks; Bulls over Bucks

Lakers over Nuggets; Spurs over Trail Blazers; Mavericks over Rockets; Thunder over Jazz

Second Round

Heat over Bulls; Magic over Celtics

Lakers over Thunder; Spurs over Mavericks

Conference Finals

Heat over Magic

Lakers over Spurs

Finals
Heat over Lakers

Patrick Hayes’ 2010-11 season preview

Five Pistons predictions

1. Rip Hamilton will not lead the team in scoring.

I predicted Hamilton’s then-streak of seven straight seasons leading the Pistons in scoring would come to an end last year. It didn’t. But that won’t stop me from predicting it will end at eight. It’s not that I’m rooting against Rip — I’ve always loved the way he plays and his style. But he’s obviously declining, and it would be much better for the team if Ben Gordon or a darkhorse candidate like Austin Daye stepped up and took that mantle from Rip this season.

2. John Kuester will get another season as coach.

I don’t mean this to be a ringing endorsement for Kuester. There are plenty of things he’s done that I find questionable. But he’s also in a pretty good position as far as coaching jobs go. The team drastically underachieved last year, and whether it’s accurate or not, most in the media have chalked that up to injuries (i.e., not the coach’s fault). The team returns relatively healthy this season and boasts a much-improved player ready to contribute in Daye, so there’s a good bet there could be enough improvement record-wise to suggest progress. And lastly, Joe Dumars has shown that he doesn’t think much about the coach if he has a team that isn’t a contender. The Pistons aren’t in a position to make a move over the next offseason that’s going to vault them back among the elite, so if the record improves, I think Kuester stays for continuity’s sake.

3. Ben Wallace will have another close-to-vintage season.

Yes, I know he’s old. I know he’s taken a physical beating throughout his career. But of all the Pistons, I’m least worried about Wallace carrying a heavy workload. I don’t know if it will mean much as far as wins and losses, but Wallace will again be one of the top rebounding big men in the league, he’ll be a presence in the paint, and he’ll very likely be the Pistons’ best player.

4. Joe Dumars won’t make an in-season trade.

There will be significant interest in Tayshaun Prince. It’s easy to picture him helping virtually any contending team win a title as a versatile wing off the bench (think guys like Matt Barnes, Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier). But the problem is contending teams can’t offer much in the form of return value. They’re not going to give up one of their rotation players for Prince, Prince has little value to bad teams (unless they’re going to unload a star-caliber player for salary relief he’d offer, and that’s unlikely), and it’s clear that his basketball IQ is valuable to the Pistons. He could get traded, but I’d say it’s more likely he stays and is re-signed to a modest deal in the offseason.

Hamilton, on the other hand, is very hard to deal unless the Pistons give up a young asset (like Daye or Greg Monroe) or draft pick to the team that takes him. And if they have do do that just to move Hamilton, what’s the point?

5. The Pistons will finish 36-46 and 10th in the Eastern Conference.

A 10-win improvement will be enough for Kuester to keep his job and, if the the team is entertaining and competitive, should be enough to appease most fans into believing the team is on the right track. I think they’ll finish third in the Central Division and be slightly better than the Pacers and Cavs.

Awards watch

MVP – Dwight Howard, Magic

Sports writers are going to bend over backwards to give the award to Kevin Durant. The best player in the league is (again) going to be LeBron James, but there’s no way writers will vote for him. Howard, on the other hand, is easily the most dominant defensive player in the league. He averages 20 points per game with ease and has an improving offensive skill set. I don’t think a 28-points, 15-rebounds, four-blocks, three-steals per-game season is out of the question.

Rookie of the Year – Blake Griffin, Clippers

Since he missed the entire season a year ago, health is at least a reasonable question. But Griffin is a superstar-in-the-making. Hopefully, the Clippers don’t ruin him. John Wall might score more points, but Griffin is a potential All-Star right now. The West is crowded, so he might not make it with all of the big names up front, but he’ll be every bit as good as those established players.

Defensive Player of the Year – Rajon Rondo, Celtics

It’s preposterous not to give this award to Howard. But I have to get Rondo in here somewhere (I almost gave him my MVP award). He’s my favorite player to watch and has one of the most unique skill sets in the NBA. He’s a lockdown perimeter defender, he’s always in passing lanes, and he’s tough. Howard is undoubtedly more impactful defensively, but I like to see a perimeter player get the award every once in a while.

Coach of the Year – Erik Spoelstra, Heat

As I type this, the Heat are about to lose a close game to one of the four best teams in the NBA. And if you follow NBA people on Twitter, folks are losing their minds, acting like Spoelstra’s job is in trouble. He’s a good coach with an immense task: battle a ridiculous amount of media coverage that is going to hyperventilate every one of the 16 or so times this team loses a game this season. The Heat are going to win big this season (at least in the regular season), Spoelstra’s still going to be the coach at the end of the season, and I don’t think any coach will come close to dealing with the kind of pressure Spoelstra will be facing this season.

Sixth Man of the Year – Ben Gordon, Pistons

Why not? There’s been plenty of debate about Gordon on PistonPowered the last few days. Is he one-dimensional? Was he a bad signing? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest both of those assertions are correct. But it’s also correct that he can be an explosive scorer, and that’s what the Sixth Man Award is all about. Can he do what Jason Terry does in Dallas or Jamal Crawford does in Atlanta? That’s not a stretch whatsoever to think he’s capable.

Most Improved Player – Serge Ibaka, Thunder

There are a lot of guys who could make big leaps this year (Olympian Eric Gordon is another one of my favorites), but Ibaka should be able to unseat Nenad Krstic as the OKC starting center at some point this season, and if he gets 25-30 minutes, with his energy, athleticism and activity, he could make a big statistical jump this season.

Projected standings

Eastern Conference

  1. Heat 66-16*
  2. Magic 59-23*
  3. Bucks 52-30*
  4. Celtics 51-31*
  5. Bulls 47-35*
  6. Knicks 44-38*
  7. Bobcats 41-41*
  8. Hawks 40-42*
  9. Nets 37-45
  10. Pistons 36-46
  11. Cavaliers 31-51
  12. Pacers 27-55
  13. Wizards 21-61
  14. 76ers 20-62
  15. Raptors 19-63

Western Conference

  1. Lakers 62-20*
  2. Thunder 57-25*
  3. Spurs 53-29*
  4. Trail Blazers 52-30*
  5. Mavericks 52-30*
  6. Rockets 48-34*
  7. Jazz 46-36*
  8. Grizzlies 40-42*
  9. Suns 39-43
  10. Nuggets 39-43
  11. Hornets 36-46
  12. Warriors 33-49
  13. Clippers 29-53
  14. Kings 29-53
  15. Timberwolves 24-58

*playoffs

Projected playoff results

First Round

Heat over Hawks; Magic over Bobcats; Bucks over Knicks; Celtics over Bulls

Lakers over Grizzlies; Thunder over Jazz; Spurs over Rockets; Mavericks over Trail Blazers

Second Round

Celtics over Heat; Magic over Bucks

Lakers over Mavericks; Spurs over Thunder

Conference Finals

Celtics over Magic

Spurs over Lakers

Finals
Spurs over Celtics (and somewhere, David Stern weeps).

The Big Question: Rodney Stuckey

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How will losing 10 pounds in the offseason affect Stuckey’s game?

In three years, Rodney Stuckey has yet to turn the corner. Several reasons have been offered, but none of them have involved his weight (at least that I’ve heard).

Regardless, Stuckey lost 10 pounds this summer. I have absolutely no idea how this makes him better. (I’m not saying it won’t. I’m just saying I don’t see how it will.)

I keep hearing about playing for the same coach two years in a row making a big difference, but I don’t buy that. I just don’t think it’s that big a deal in the NBA, where players switch teams mid-season and contribute the next night.

So, if Stuckey takes the next step, I’m not sure what the reason will be. Maybe it will be the weight loss.

PH: Will he make people want to play with him?

I’m sure Rodney Stuckey’s teammates like him just fine. But the thing that struck me most about his “need to be a vocal leader” comments from media day was my belief that great point guards don’t need to let everyone know they are going to be the vocal leader.

People want to play with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups. Those guys do one thing despite their very different styles: they make their teammates better. Some of them, like Rose, Westbrook and Rondo, aren’t pure points. Some of them love to run (Nash, Paul) and some are masters of the halfcourt (Williams, Billups). But whether it’s through their ability to find open teammates, or their ability to draw the defense with their scoring ability, or their ability to lock up the other team’s best backcourt player, all of them do something unique that creates opportunities for teammates to excel.

To this point in his career, Stuckey doesn’t do that. If he finds what his “it” is, something that he always does that makes him a unique player, he won’t have to go around telling people about his intentions to be a leader anymore.

The Big Question: Detroit Pistons

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Can they find the right rotation before it’s too late?

I firmly believe the Pistons have a playoff team on their roster. The trick will be finding it.

On a team so deep, there are a lot of possibilities for playing time. Many of those combinations will result in a bad team. But I think there’s a quality rotation to be found.

If the Pistons can find it, that would solve a world of problems.

Players would be in the best position to succeed, and their trade values would be maximized. Plus, there would be a clear indicator the players not in the rotation (unless youth is the only reason) don’t fit with the team.

The team would also win, which is the end goal, right?

PH: Can they connect with a spurned fan base?

Pistons fans have grown accustomed to a “brand” of basketball. You play hard, you assert your will on the other team through toughness and you make up for talent deficiencies by out-working your opponent. It was the trademark of the Laimbeer/Thomas/Dumars/Rodman/Mahorn/Salley teams of the late 1980s, and it was a trademark of the beloved Wallace/Wallace/Hamilton/Prince/Billups crew in the 2000s.

The Pistons have a roster of guys who are currently viewed as overpaid, underachieving, finesse players or some combination of the three. I’m not saying all of those characterizations are fair, but unless the Pistons come out of the gate with consistent effort and passion, fans are going to ignore this team.

The Pistons are skilled and could be fun to watch, regardless of how many games they win. But last season, the team had no spirit and often no effort, and that has resulted in a very ornery fan base that is skeptical heading into the season.

Joe Dumars shows forgetful side in comments about contract extensions

In his one-on-one interview with Joe Dumars, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press asked about contract extensions:

Q: There are several players on this team that will either be restricted or unrestricted free agents next summer. Talk about your philosophy toward contract extensions.

A: I think in my 10 years we’ve only done extensions twice. We did Tayshaun (Prince) and (Jason Maxiell).

I could be missing another one or two, but Dumars has given at least three more extensions than the ones he gave Prince and Maxiell:

Did Dumars just forget about these? (With Hamilton, I think Dumars might wish he had.) Or are his comments more calculated than that?

Larry Coon explains which contracts can be extended, and by my interpretation, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince are eligible. I’d guess both players want extensions.

Of course, it makes sense for Dumars to not give either extensions. I doubt ownership would allow extensions at this point, and the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will likely be more owner-friendly than the current agreement, makes waiting even more prudent.

Is it possible Dumars is trying to downplay how often he gives extensions in order to placate Stuckey and Prince?

Or has Dumars really forgotten how he built the Pistons? Looking at the roster, you could certainly make the case for the latter.

The Big Question: Tayshaun Prince

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will Joe Dumars make the right call with Tayshaun Prince?

Let’s see, a championship-team starter on the wrong side of 30 whose best days appear to be behind him, but still capable of playing at a high level. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

That was Chauncey Billups’ situation when the Pistons traded him to the Nuggets. At the time, there were compelling reasons to keep him and compelling reasons to trade him. Joe Dumars chose the latter, and it ended up being the wrong choice.

Dumars faces a similar predicament with Tayshaun Prince, but Prince’s expiring contraction only complicates the decision.

Frankly, I don’t know whether the Pistons should trade Prince or keep him past the trade deadline, and if they keep him, I don’t know what they should do with him. Does Dumars?

PH: Will Prince’s value to the team trump his value as an expiring contract?

Few players in basketball are as smart on the court as Tayshaun Prince. He’s exactly the type of veteran a rebuilding team would want to teach its young impressionable future cornerstones. The problem is his large expiring contract makes him the team’s most valuable asset if it wants more young impressionable future cornerstones.

Most assume that the Pistons will try to trade Prince to improve. I still have my doubts.

The Big Question: Ben Wallace

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will he enjoy this season?

I really think Ben Wallace had fun last season. He was back in his professional home and playing with old friends like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Most importantly, he played well. Wallace is a prideful guy, and I think he would have regretted passing on retirement if he couldn’t make a significant impact on the court.

Wallace has meant so much to this franchise, I just want him to be glad he re-signed again.

PH: Are people doubting him again?

Last year, Wallace was signed and it was met with a collective of “he’s washed up!” giggles from most Pistons fans (Note: Not from this Pistons fan). All Wallace did last year was show that stories of his decline were very premature. He wasn’t the game-changing force he was in his prime, but he’s still one of the best defensive big men in the league.

This offseason, there has been talk about the need to limit his minutes. Why? He played only eight 28 (ED. Note: Don’t write when tired) minutes per game last year, and although he did have a minor injury, he showed no signs of wearing down as the season progressed. The only player whose production I have no doubts about this year is Ben Wallace.

Join PistonPowered on Facebook

We hear this Facebook thing is the wave of the future, so it’s about time PistonPowered pestered you folks to ‘like’ our badly neglected Facebook page. We promise to pay more attention to it.

You can find links to our posts there, but we’ll also get other discussions there and hopefully get more people in the comments section here. Laser, nuetes, DetroitPCB and Alan can’t be expected to shoulder the load in there every day, you know?

It’s totally worth your while. We already have celebrities such as Detroit Bad Boys bloggers Matt Watson and Brian Packey, ABC12 sports anchor Ryan Slocum and future GLIAC Freshman of the Year DeMarco Sanders from the Ferris State basketball team following us. Who wouldn’t want to join that group?

You can also follow our much more well taken care of Twitter page if you’re not already.

The Big Question: Richard Hamilton

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How much value is there in being the league’s best-conditioned 32-year-old?

Richard Hamilton prides himself on being the NBA’s best-conditioned player, and depending on how you judge that, he might be. Relative to the type of body he’d have if he took average care of himself, Hamilton might be in the best shape in the league.

But how does an extremely fit 32-year-old compare to a regularly fit (by NBA standards) 26-year-old?

Can he be worth $37.5 million over the next three years? Can he be worth an asset in a trade?

I think Hamilton has done all he can to make himself as valuable as possible. But is that enough?

PH: Why again does he need to be traded?

Covering media day reinforced something I’d lost sight of: I really like Rip Hamilton a lot. He’s funny (“Yessir!”), he’s upbeat and although there are certainly questions about his health, he’s still in great shape.

He has a skill set (i.e., not one dependent on elite athleticism) that will make him a solid player well into his late 30s. There are better players than Hamilton out there, and the Pistons have to clear some space on the perimeter, but if he’s healthy, Hamilton will again be a very decent player for the Pistons.

Did ‘open competition’ for starting positions on the Detroit Pistons materialize in the preseason?

When Pistons coach John Kuester declared early in training camp that starting positions were ‘up for grabs’, his statement elicited its share of “Psshh … we’ll believe it when we see it” responses.

With a veteran-dominated team virtually every year of the Joe Dumars era, and a starting lineup that has had a minimum of three (and as many as five) spots set in stone for the last nine years or so, it’s understandable why many wouldn’t possibly believe that players like Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince or Ben Wallace would be in any danger of not starting. And although he doesn’t qualify as a member of the championship core of veterans, the team’s commitment to Rodney Stuckey at the starting point guard spot has been unwavering for the last two seasons, making him seem like a virtual lock for the starting lineup as well.

With all four of those players presumably starting the season-opener, joined by first-time starter Austin Daye, it’s conceivable to believe that this ‘open competition’ was more coach-speak and didn’t actually materialize. In reality, four of the five starting spots had clear winners, and the fifth had both candidates perform poorly. Here’s a breakdown:

Point Guard

The Candidates: Stuckey, Will Bynum

The Preseason Stats:

  • Stuckey: 8 games/27.9 minutes/16.2 points/3.1 rebounds/4.8 assists/3.0 turnovers/1.0 steals/47 percent shooting/15 percent three-point shooting/90 percent free throw shooting/- 10
  • Bynum: 6 games/30.3 minutes/10.3 points/3.2 rebounds/5.0 assists/2.7 turnovers/1.0 steals/48 percent shooting/36 percent three-point shooting/78 percent free throw shooting/+ 1

The Per-36 Minute Stats:

  • Stuckey: 20.8 points/4.0 rebounds/6.1 assists/3.9 turnovers/1.3 steals/6.6 free throws attempted
  • Bynum: 12.3 points/5.9 rebounds/5.9 assists/3.2 turnovers/1.2 steals/4.5 free throws attempted

Key stats for Stuckey: His per-36 numbers in the preseason were very strong, although he was helped greatly by closing the preseason with two fantastic games offensively. But one stat that was consistent for him throughout the preseason: he’s getting to the line very frequently. If he can continue getting to the line six or more times per game, that will be a huge plus for him. And his overall 47 percent shooting in the preseason was a very good sign. For a guy who gets so many of his points inside of 15 feet, his career shooting percentage is way too low.

His 1.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this preseason was bad. Even with the positives Stuckey can bring if he’s shooting a better overall percentage and getting to the line, the Pistons desperately need him to get better at making plays for teammates. That doesn’t mean he has to be Steve Nash, but if he can get that ratio up to 2.5-to-1ish range, that will be a huge improvement for him.

Key stats for Bynum: Bynum rebounded the ball better than Stuckey this preseason, which is pretty strange considering Bynum is really small and Stuckey, for some reason, has been labeled as a good rebounding guard even though it’s not backed up statistically. Bynum was also pretty consistent — he didn’t have any really great games or really poor ones, whereas Stuckey started slow and finished really strong.

He also improved drastically from the perimeter. He’s not going to be a three-point threat, but he can now knock the shot down enough that he can’t be left wide open out there.

Like Stuckey, he didn’t have a great assist-to-turnover ratio, something the Pistons desperately need out of whoever is their primary point guard this season.

The verdict: Stuckey is going to start, and it’s hard to argue, based on preseason, that he’s not deserving. Bynum had a stronger start, Stuckey had a stronger finish, and with Bynum sitting out the last two games, it’s pretty easy to see that Stuckey won this job.

Shooting Guard

The Candidates: Hamilton, Ben Gordon

The Preseason Stats:

  • Hamilton: 6 games/22.0 minutes/8.0 points/1.8 rebounds/3.0 assists/2.0 turnovers/39 percent shooting/31 percent three-point shooting/91 percent free throw shooting/- 6
  • Gordon: 8 games/25.3 minutes/11.2 points/2.3 rebounds/2.3 assists/2.4 turnovers/51 percent shooting 43 percent/32 percent three-point shooting/96 percent free throw shooting/- 3

The Per-36 Minute Stats:

  • Hamilton: 13.1 points/3.0 rebounds/4.9 assists/3.3 turnovers/3.0 free throws attempted
  • Gordon: 16.8 points/3.0 rebounds/3.2 assists/3.4 turnovers/4.3 free throws attempted

Key Stats for Hamilton: The only number I’m concerned with after watching Hamilton in the preseason is the 39 percent shooting. Hamilton’s a slow starter in his career, so typically a mediocre preseason is nothing to worry about. But his shooting percentage has been plummeting the last two seasons, and the preseason didn’t do anything to show he has his stroke back. His per-36 assist numbers were very good, and the Pistons generally have better movement and fewer isos when he’s on the floor because of his activity, but if he’s not hitting a high percentage of his shots, his value will continue to plummet.

Key Stats for Gordon: Gordon’s shooting stroke, on the other hand, looked like it was back at times. He shot the ball very well, finishing the preseason at 51 percent. (ED: Scratch that. Gordon only shot 43 percent in the preseason).His three-point stroke didn’t seem to come back either. Gordon only shot 32 percent from three-point range, which isn’t a good sign coming off a career-low last year in three-point percentage. Gordon also had more turnovers than assists in the preseason.

The Verdict: Virtually every statistic favors Gordon here. But as I mentioned above, Hamilton’s motion is a good fit on the floor whether he’s shooting well or not, whereas Gordon can be more of a ball-stopper. The Pistons also desperately need a bounceback season for Hamilton if they intend to trade him at some point. Taking away his starting job before the season started wouldn’t be the best way to convince team’s he’s healthy and ready to be semi-productive again. This is the only case in the starting five where there is a really strong case that the person who is likely to start may not have actually won the job in camp.

One number inverted in a spreadsheet can certainly mess things up. Hamilton and Gordon both shot poorly in the preseason. Hamilton shot slightly worse, but had more assists, turned it over less and is a better defensive player who doesn’t have to have the ball all the time on offense, unlike Gordon who doesn’t move without the ball the way Hamilton does. Basically, the Pistons need one of these two to be much more productive than they were in the preseason.

Small Forward

The Candidates: Tayshaun Prince, DaJuan Summers

The Preseason Stats:

  • Prince: 7 games/26.7 minutes/9.1 points/3.6 rebounds/2.7 assists/1.0 turnovers/48 percent shooting/56 percent three-point shooting/73 percent free throw shooting/+21
  • Summers: 8 games/15.0 minutes/6.1 points/1.9 rebounds/0.4 assists/0.6 turnovers/40 percent shooting/36 percent three-point shooting/80 percent free throw shooting/-44

The Per-36 Minute Stats:

  • Prince: 12.3 points/4.8 rebounds/3.7 assists/1.3 turnovers/2.9 free throws attempted
  • Summers: 14.7 points/4.5 rebounds/0.9 assists/1.5 turnovers/4.5 free throws attempted

Key Stats for Prince: Prince was the steadying influence he always is this preseason. He shot it well and he showed he’s the most efficient player with the ball that the Pistons have, with a per-36 assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 4-to-1. The only real gripe (and it’s a minor one) is that with Daye playing at power forward, I would hope Prince’s rebounding numbers go up since Daye will need all the help he can get down low.

Key Stats for Summers: As his per-36 numbers suggest, Summers can provide a reasonable amount of scoring, and he does it in a variety of ways. He also shot a poor percentage from the floor, he was an astounding -44 for the preseason in just 120 minutes of action and he averaged less than one assist per-36 minutes.  Summers just doesn’t do much of anything except for score, and in the preseason, he didn’t do that efficiently.

The Verdict: With Tracy McGrady out and Daye getting pushed into the PF competition with the injury to Jonas Jerebko, it was hard to call this a competition. Summers never had a chance to unseat Prince, and even with Prince cruising through the preseason preserving his body for the regular season, he still easily out-performed Summers at the three spot.

Power Forward

The Candidates: Daye, Charlie Villanueva, Greg Monroe

The Preseason Stats:

  • Daye: 8 games/28.0 minutes/15.9 points/5.6 rebounds/1.5 assists/1.3 turnovers/47 percent shooting/50 percent three-point shooting/71 percent free throw shooting/+23
  • Villanueva: 7 games/22.9 minutes/12.3 points/3.9 rebounds/0.6 assists/1.3 turnovers/45 percent shooting/32 percent three-point shooting/79 percent free throw shooting/-25
  • Monroe: 8 games/25.3 minutes/7.8 points/4.9 rebounds/2.3 assists/2.0 turnovers/1.5 steals/41 percent shooting/71 percent free throw shooting/-20

The Per-36 Minute Stats:

  • Daye: 20.4 points/7.2 rebounds/1.9 assists/1.6 turnovers/0.8 steals/1.1 blocks/2.7 free throws attempted
  • Villanueva: 19.4 points/6.1 rebounds/0.9 assists/2.0 turnovers/1.1 steals/1.1 blocks/4.3 free throws attempted
  • Monroe: 11.0 points/7.0 rebounds/2.7 assists/2.9 turnovers/2.1 steals/0.5 blocks/5.5 free throws attempted

Key Stats for Daye: What else can be written about Daye? He was the most exciting player in the preseason, his confidence has grown tremendously since last year and as his per-36 stats show, he’s capable of doing a little bit of everything. His three-point shooting, over 50 percent in the preseason, will be a welcome addition to the lineup. Gordon and Villanueva never provided the shooting they were supposed to last season, and having a long range threat in the game is vital to unclogging some driving lanes for penetrating guards.

Key Stats for Villanueva: Villanueva started the preseason slow and finished strong. His scoring and shooting numbers were positive, and he the offseason talk about him being in great shape appears to be accurate as he looked healthy and mobile when he was on the court. His rebounding numbers were still poor.

Key Stats for Monroe: Monroe played a lot of minutes in the preseason, which is good. He also showed the passing skills that were hyped so much at Georgetown and, although it could be a preseason anomaly, he averaged nearly two steals per game. But there were also negatives — he shoot horribly for a big man (41 percent), he turned it over a lot (nearly three times per-36 minutes) and he often appeared timid as a rebounder.

The Verdict: Daye might be playing out of position as a future wing player in this league, but he’s too good to keep off the floor, and he clearly beat the other candidates at this position. Villanueva and Monroe are both used to playing down low, and Daye was a better rebounder than both of them. There’s a lot of debate as to whether playing out of position will be good or bad for Daye’s career or whether his slim body can hold up, but he’s young, smart and if his teammates provide good help for him defensively, Daye getting minutes that didn’t appear to be there for him when camp started will be a net win for the team.

Center

The Candidates: Wallace, Jason Maxiell

The Preseason Stats:

  • Wallace: 7 games/19.4 minutes/3.7 points/6.3 rebounds/1.3 assists/1.0 turnovers/1.1 steals/0.3 blocks/63 percent shooting/29 percent free throw shooting/+20
  • Maxiell: 5 games/21.0 minutes/5.4 points/4.2 rebounds/0.0 assists/1.6 turnovers/1.1 steals/1.4 blocks/45 percent shooting/58 percent free throw shooting/-19

The Per-36 Minute Stats:

  • Wallace: 6.9 points/11.6 rebounds/2.4 assists/1.9 turnovers/2.1 steals/0.5 blocks
  • Maxiell: 9.3 points/7.2 rebounds/0.0 assists/2.7 turnovers/1.7 steals/2.4 blocks

Key Stats for Wallace: Wallace’s per-36 rebounding and steals numbers are about what should be expected of him. Those numbers were very solid last season as well. It’s not a great idea to play him 36 minutes a night, but it’s clear he’s going to be their only rebounding presence and only good post defender this season.

The surprising number for Wallace is in blocks. Hopefully it’s just a preseason thing, because the Pistons could really use a shot-blocking presence with so many average or below average perimeter defenders, and Wallace has traditionally provided that.

Key Stats for Maxiell: Two categories jump out, one good and one bad. Maxiell blocked a lot of shots in the preseason, 2.4 per-36 minutes. Also, he played 105 preseason minutes and didn’t pick up a single assist.

Maxiell will provide good activity, some spectacular plays and some good games off the bench. He didn’t do anything in the preseason to really suggest he should get more or fewer minutes than he’s ever received in the Detroit rotation.

The Verdict: This was another positional “battle” that wasn’t very close. Wallace might be the Pistons best player overall, and he’s still easily their best big man. Chris Wilcox didn’t factor into the competition here, either, as his -19 in just nine preseason minutes will attest. You can pretty much mark down Wilcox for a -5 in the +/- category the second he steps on the court, before he even does a thing.

Conclusion

Injuries certainly made some of the positional battles a little anti-climactic, but I think it’s hard to argue that the players who performed the best in the preseason are starting for the Pistons. It’s impossible to tell if Kuester would’ve actually went through with the ‘open competition’ promise if Bynum had significantly out-played Stuckey in the preseason or if McGrady were healthy and out-played either Prince or Hamilton. Those were the two wildcard scenarios that could’ve led to a shakeup of the lineup, but neither played out and the Pistons starting lineup (except for Daye) will be a familiar one on opening night.