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Archive → November, 2010

Detroit Pistons take one-on-one basketball to a whole new level in loss to Grizzlies

It has been no secret that the Pistons are an isolation heavy team on offense. Mostly out of necessity this season, the team has had to put the ball in someone’s hands, clear out and hope that guy can create a shot for himself. It’s not that the scorers on the team are particularly good in isos — they aren’t really. It’s just that the Pistons have no one who creates shots for others on a consistent basis, so minus that element, they try to turn guys who aren’t playmakers into playmakers. Sometimes it works OK, a lot of times it ends up being really ugly basketball.

Well, in Wednesday’s 105-84 loss to Memphis, calling how Detroit’s offense played ‘ugly’ is an insult to the term ‘ugly.’

Rodney Stuckey scored 13 points in the first quarter, then didn’t score again until the fourth quarter, with his shot selection getting progressively more atrocious as the game went on.

Charlie Villanueva scored 11 points in the second quarter and basically could’ve called it a night, since he didn’t score the rest of the way, including a 3-point attempt from one wing that sailed about two feet past the rim.

Rip Hamilton scored 12 points in the third quarter and then really did call it a night, getting ejected for the second time this season.

By the fourth quarter, the score was so lopsided that Austin Daye actually got to play, seeing the court for the first time in a game he didn’t start.

If the Pistons’ loss last night to Dallas was demoralizing, this loss to Memphis is infuriating. Dallas struggled most of the game last night, turned it on late, and edged the Pistons, who gamely tried to stay in it but came up short.

Detroit led at the half tonight thanks to Rudy Gay being comfortable launching jumpers and Memphis inexplicably refusing to dump the ball into Marc Gasol more than a handful of times. The game was close basically because Mike Conley continuously got inside and Zach Randolph punished Detroit in the paint. Then in the second half, there was nothing ‘game’ about the Pistons effort. Gay and O.J. Mayo started attacking the basket a little, Randolph continued being Randolph and the extremely efficient Gasol got some touches.

Memphis pushed the lead to double digits in the third, then aided by the Pistons game of “Who can take the most terrible shot?” in the fourth quarter, several possessions had two or fewer passes, lots of dribbling and lots of terrible contested shots going up.

Austin Daye not getting in was ridiculous

By the time Daye got on the court, Detroit was completely out of this game. I don’t know if Daye playing earlier would’ve changed anything, but it might’ve helped.

First of all, the Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off of a tough game last night in Dallas. Daye didn’t play in that game, so he was fresh. The Pistons starting frontcourt wasn’t good. Jason Maxiell shot 1-for-6 and Tayshaun Prince was 2-for-7. In the second half, driving lanes that were open for Stuckey closed off because Memphis just packed everyone in the lane. Daye’s greatest strength right now is that he stretches the floor. Perhaps putting him in the game in the third quarter would’ve either resulted in some open threes for Daye or some more room for Stuckey, since one of the Memphis bigs would’ve had to come out and guard him.

Hamilton deserved to be ejected

Hamilton knows the technical foul rule. Hell, everyone in the league has pretty much adjusted to quick technicals by now. And Hamilton can’t make the case that he wasn’t given leeway tonight. Minutes before picking up his second, Hamilton thought he was fouled when he absorbed a bump at the other end. Memphis went down and scored, then Hamilton spent the entire trip back up the court demonstratively complaining to an official, who let it go. Then, on the next Memphis possession during a deadball, Hamilton was replaced in the lineup and walked to the bench, still chirping, which is when he finally got tossed.

The league is not softening its stance on this rule for Dwight Howard, so they certainly won’t for Hamilton. He’s going to keep getting tossed and keep hurting the team if he doesn’t get it under control.

Monroe gets aggressive on offense

Greg Monroe’s final stat-line — 6 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, a block and a steal — are pretty solid considering how badly he’s struggled. He still only shot 2-for-6, and a couple of those attempts were feeble ones around the rim that have got him in trouble this season, but he didn’t have a shot blocked in the game, which is progress. He also had a couple nice plays on offense that were unexpected. The first one came when he stole the ball in the Memphis end, then looked really comfortable dribbling three quarters of the court and finishing inside.

His other basket was a nice face-up jumper from about 10-feet. Gasol gave him space and Monroe confidently knocked it down. Monroe also was 2-for-2 at the free throw line, a good sign considering how badly he’s shot free throws this season.

Other notes

  • Tracy McGrady passed the ball really well, finishing with four assists and no turnovers. He continues to be the only Piston who consistently looks to move the ball.
  • Will Bynum showed signs of breaking out of his slump. He had too many turnovers (three), but he shot the ball well and, in the second quarter, he did what Bynum does best: he sped the game up a bit for a few possessions and he brought some energy into a stagnant game.
  • Have a nice Thanksgiving everyone. We’ll get back at it on Friday.

Pistons, Grizzlies both hope to get on track tonight

Essentials

Date: Nov. 24, 2010

Time: 8 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 5-9

Grizzlies: 5-9

Probable starters

Detroit:

Grizzlies:

  • Mike Conley
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Rudy Gay
  • Zach Randolph
  • Marc Gasol

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +6.5

Over/under: 196

Score: Grizzlies win, 104.5-91.5

Three things to watch

1. Memphis is a little dysfunctional right now too.

After a promising, out of nowhere season a year ago, the Grizzlies have backslid a little. Zach Randolph isn’t thrilled about not getting an extension. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo are both shooting below 42 percent (Conley is at 41, Mayo at 38). And despite being arguably their most efficient offensive player, Marc Gasol is only getting 7.5 shots a game, fifth on the team behind the other four starters and Darrell Arthur. Memphis has more talent than Detroit, but the Pistons are certainly in position to beat the Grizz if they shoot the ball well.

2. Was Ben Wallace being saved for tonight?

Dan Feldman raised the issue again last night: Wallace was on the bench in the fourth quarter of a close game once again. One possible explanation (and I’m not saying it’s a good one)? Memphis has a massive frontline and the Pistons will undoubtedly need a heavy does of Wallace tonight to take turns guarding Gasol and Randolph. Perhaps John Kuester was getting him some time off last night with that in mind?

3. Will Conley continue to get the best of Stuckey?

Mike Conley and Rodney Stuckey are frequently compared to each other for obvious reasons — same draft class, same position, same inconsistency and relatively similar career numbers. Head-to-head, though, Conley has got the better of Stuckey. Here’s how they measure up:

  • Conley: 11.8 points, 4.3 assists, 52 percent shooting
  • Stuckey: 9.4 points, 5.2 assists, 42 percent shooting

Honestly, this is a matchup that Stuckey should dominate. Conley is smaller than him, not a particularly good defender and not a dominant offensive player. Stuckey has been a bit more assertive this season. This is a matchup against a smaller guard that, if he’s ever going to be a really good NBA player, he has to dominate.

Pregame Reading

Relive Pistons’ late-game rebounding failures against Dallas Mavericks

If you want to know more about the Pistons’ horrendous rebounding at the end of their loss to the Dallas Mavericks last night, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook has the post for you.

Pruiti’s conclusions: Rodney Stuckey didn’t box out properly on Dallas’ first rebound, and Tayshaun Prince was at fault for the second. Check out Pruiti’s post for all the gruesome details.

Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon early contenders for Sixth Man award

Other than being a part of what is sure to be a full season of ‘not it!’ among bad Eastern Conference teams that aren’t quite bad enough to fall out of playoff contention, it’s safe to say the Pistons are unlikely to have many team successes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t root for individual accolades, right? We have to do something to occupy the time.

And with almost 20 percent of the season down, a couple of Pistons have legit shots at a postseason award. Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon are among the league’s best sixth men so far.

Is it a bit premature to speculate on postseason awards? Sure. But start the campaign early, that’s what I always say.

The main obstacle for Gordon and Villanueva is each other. If both remain bench players all season, it’s likely they’d split votes among those who pick the award. But just based on numbers alone, either would be a solid pick, and they are kind of made for this category: Sixth Man winners are picked based solely on offense typically. Here’s how they stack up.

The Favorites

Ben Gordon, Detroit

  • Per game: 14.4 points, 2.7 assists, 51 percent shooting, 50 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.7 points, 3.5 assists
  • Advanced stats: .631 true shooting percentage; 17.5 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Gordon? He’s shooting the ball better than he ever has in his career and he’s the Pistons’ most explosive scorer.
  • Why not Gordon? He’s prone to streakiness, and his shooting percentages are quite a bit higher than his career averages suggest they’ll stay.

Charlie Villanueva, Detroit

  • Per game: 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 43 percent shooting, 43 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.7 points, 6.8 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .556 true shooting percentage; 17.7 PER; 113 offensive rating
  • Why Villanueva? He’s playing hard defensively for the first time in his career and his advanced stats are all far superior to any other season in his career.
  • Why not Villanueva? If Gordon is streaky, I don’t know if there’s a descriptor to Villanueva. He’s been consistent so far this year, but he’s had major prolonged shooting slumps in past seasons that could derail him.

Shannon Brown, LA Lakers

  • Per game: 11.1 points, 52 percent shooting, 50 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 21.6 points, 4.0 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .665 true shooting percentage; 19.9 PER; 125 offensive rating
  • Why Brown? He’s getting the hype right now for his great start and he’ll be on national TV all the time. Sports writers are a lazy lot. They tend to vote for who they’ve seen.
  • Why not Brown? He’s on one of the deepest teams in the NBA and he backs up arguably the biggest star in the league, so he could see more limited opportunities than the other contenders.

Jason Terry, Dallas

  • Per game: 18.1 points, 5.1 assists, 50 percent shooting, 42 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.9 points, 5.3 assists
  • Advanced stats: .601 true shooting percentage; 20.0 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Terry? He’s already won the award before and he has the highest scoring average among bench players in the league.
  • Why not Terry? It’s unclear what role he’ll play. He’s already started some for Dallas and been effective, so it’s conceivable he could become a permanent starter at some point.

The Sleepers

Nate Robinson, Boston

  • Per game: 7.9 points, 2.2 assists, 46 percent shooting, 39 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.2 points, 5.1 assists
  • Advanced stats: .571 true shooting percentage; 15.5 PER; 111 offensive rating
  • Why Robinson? He’s the best bench scorer on a great team and he’s really played under control for Boston, which was an issue for him earlier in his career.
  • Why not Robinson? His shooting percentages are good, but he might not get enough minutes playing behind Rajon Rondo to get the scoring average gaudy enough to contend.

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia

  • Per game: 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 56 percent shooting, 29 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals
  • Advanced stats: .596 true shooting percentage; 18.2 PER; 115 offensive rating
  • Why Young? A bit of a forgotten man in Philly with young players like Evan Turner, Mareese Speights and Andre Iguodala occupying much of the forward playing time, Young, a hybrid forward, is a great energy player off the bench.
  • Why not Young? It’s hard to build a case for Sixth Man who isn’t an explosive scorer. Young scores through activity, which is an important role to fill, but not conducive to getting enough opportunities to put up points every game.

Kyle Korver, Chicago

  • Per game: 9.0 points, 1.5 assists, 50 percent shooting, 56 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 15.3 points, 2.6 assists
  • Advanced stats: .654 true shooting percentage; 15.5 PER; 124 offensive rating
  • Why Korver? One of the best shooters in the league, Korver is Chicago’s only real long distance threat and should get open looks all season thanks to the attention Derrick Rose commands from defenses.
  • Why not Korver? He’s just a spot-up shooter. He’s a very good one, but I’m not sure that’s enough to win the award.

Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte

  • Per game: 12.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals, 52 percent shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 20.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 1.8 steals
  • Advanced stats: .601 true shooting percentage; 22.5 PER; 108 offensive rating
  • Why Thomas? Because his per-36 numbers are a thing of beauty.
  • Why not Thomas? Because he doesn’t play big minutes. Seriously, why doesn’t this kid play big minutes?

Hakim Warrick, Phoenix

  • Per game: 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 56 percent shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .649 true shooting percentage; 17.8 PER; 119 offensive rating
  • Why Warrick? Call it the Steve Nash bump if you want, but Warrick has always had the skills as an athletic and fast forward who loves to run the floor to excel in a frenetic style like the Suns run. He will get easy opportunities all season.
  • Why not Warrick? Because we’ve seen guys in Phoenix put up big numbers before, and I think voters for awards might finally be catching on.

Boobie Gibson, Cleveland

  • Per game: 14.1 points, 4.1 assists, 44 percent shooting, 42 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.7 points, 5.1 assists
  • Advanced stats: .566 true shooting percentage; 17.9 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Boobie? Because he’s second on a not very good but competitive Cavs team in scoring and seriously, who would’ve predicted that?
  • Why not Boobie? It’s hard to imagine him maintaining that pace. His minutes will go down since Mo Williams is healthy.

Al Harrington, Denver

  • Per game: 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds 42 percent shooting, 40 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .532 true shooting percentage; 14.9 PER; 107 offensive rating
  • Why Harrington? He’s going to get opportunities all season in Denver to score as a stretch four. He’s shooting it well and has guys in Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Ty Lawson who will help him get good looks.
  • Why not Harrington? His teammate, J.R. Smith, might steal votes for him if Smith gets it going this season.

Struggling but don’t forget about them

Leandro Barbosa, Toronto

  • Per game: 10.6 points, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 40 percent shooting, 27 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 19.1 points, 2.9 assists, 2.3 steals
  • Advanced stats: .493 true shooting percentage; 15.3 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Barbosa? Playing on a bad team in Toronto in an offense that allows him to freelance, he’ll get plenty of shots and minutes.
  • Why not Barbosa? He might not have the same ‘Brazilian Blur’ quickness he did a few years ago in Phoenix when he won the award.

Antawn Jamison, Cleveland

  • Per game: 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 44 percent shooting, 41 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .523 true shooting percentage; 15.7 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Jamison? Another guy who has won the award before, Jamison is Cleveland’s best offensive player and will get all the shots he wants.
  • Why not Jamison? He might move into the starting lineup at some point.

Corey Maggette, Bucks

  • Per game: 12.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 41 percent shooting, 18 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .549 true shooting percentage; 15.1 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Maggette? He’s as explosive a scorer as anyone on this list, and he’s as good at getting the free throw line as anyone in the league.
  • Why not Maggette? With John Salmons and Carlos Delfino (when healthy) also in the mix, as well as Michael Redd (remember him?) making some rumblings about returning in February, the Bucks have a lot of options on the wings, which means everyone’s potential for individual stats suffers.

Jamal Crawford, Atlanta

  • Per game: 13.1 points, 3.5 assists, 41 percent shooting, 30 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 15.9 points, 4.2 assists
  • Advanced stats: .555 true shooting percentage; 14.0 PER; 106 offensive rating
  • Why Crawford? Last year’s winner had his best season in a style and role that really fit him well with the Hawks, and he’s in the exact same role this year.
  • Why not Crawford? He’s very distracted by his contract situation, hinting that it’s hurting his production.

Feel free to add your picks or players to watch out for in the comments.

Dallas Mavericks don’t need much to beat Detroit Pistons

In case you missed the game, here’s a quick recap:

  • The Mavericks took an early 11-0 lead while showing significantly more effort and focus than the Pistons
  • The Mavericks played lousy, and Detroit climbed back in the game.
  • The Mavericks continued to play lousy, and Detroit took a 12-point lead.
  • The Mavericks played, at best, averagely for them and took control of the game.
  • The Mavericks won, 88-84.

Really, this game wasn’t really about the Pistons. They’re not good enough to influence Dallas. The only suspense came from how the Mavericks would decide to play.

Tayshaun Prince powers, but falls short

Tayshaun Prince showed an assertiveness that has been lacking for much of this season.

He scored a season-high 19 points and made shots on three straight possessions late in the fourth quarter, including a nifty pump fake and drive past Tyson Chandler where he hit a layup while being fouled.

But as great as Prince played offensively down the stretch, his defense was lacking. He was a big reason Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry lit up the Pistons late.

One play stood out, when Prince left Terry to help inside. That wasn’t a bad decision, but standing near the block and merely watching Terry shoot an open jumper rather than scrambling to challenge it was.

Prince can’t keep settling. His late buckets helped Detroit, but that wasn’t enough. He needs to bring it on both ends of the court, or his job might be in jeopardy…

…Because Tracy McGrady showed more signs of being back

I haven’t seen Tracy McGrady look this explosive this season. Earlier, he showed lift when the defense gave him room, and that was encouraging. Tonight, he forced the action a bit.

I wrote above that the Pistons got back into the game because Dallas played poorly, and I stand by that.* But if there was a reason on Detroit’s side, it was McGrady.

*Why wouldn’t I? It was only a few paragraphs ago.

McGrady made a couple non-open jumpers by lifting above the Dallas defender and drove baseline for a dunk in traffic. Sprinkle in his four assists, four rebounds, a block and a steal in 20 minutes, and it’s clear he’s taken another step.

On the down side, he went 0-2 on free throws and 0-2 on 3-pointers and had three turnovers and three fouls. There’s obviously still room for him to grow, but he has one thing working for him.

It’s no secret John Kuester and Tayshaun Prince aren’t huge fans of each other. McGrady might give Kuester a chance to do something about it by benching Prince.

For the record, I don’t expect that to happen. But slightly more likely: motivated in part by Prince’s feud with Kuester and McGrady’s resurgence, Joe Dumars feels more inclined to trade Prince.

Dirk Nowitzki dominates

The Pistons had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 42 points.

Early, he shot jumpers over the shorter Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace. Then, Charlie Villanueva didn’t have the proper awareness to stick with him. Late, Tayshaun Prince wasn’t physical enough with him.

Nowitzki is a matchup for any team, especially one with the league’s 25th-best defense. But I just didn’t like the strategy of sticking Maxiell and Wallace on him for much of the game. They didn’t do anything wrong. They just were too short to disrupt Nowitzki’s high release.

Even if Villanueva would have been frequently lost, at least he had a shot to defend Nowitzki if things went right.

Maxiell motors

Jason Maxiell didn’t let his struggles defending Dirk Nowitzki impact the other areas of his game.

Most of the time Maxiell scores, it’s because he’s done a ton of work before the shot – either putting himself in position to receive a pass from his teammates or grab a rebound. That effort was on full display tonight.

Maxiell made 5-of-7 shots for 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Monroe blocked again

Greg Monroe had two shots blocked tonight. As ESPN’s David Thorpe explained, that should be no surprise:

He’s getting blocked by bigs in front of him because he’s not challenging them with any fakes or anything that will throw off their timing — and when he does fake, it’s in slow motion.

Since reading that, I’ve been watching his shots a little more closely. I disagree with the first part of Thorpe’s evaluation, but I think he’s right on with the second part.

Ironically, Monroe gets his shot blocked too much because he’s too worried about his shot being blocked. He has a tendency to bring the ball down and pump fake multiple times without evaluating, allowing his defender to size him up and gaining no advantage.

It’s a concern, but not a long-term worry. In time, Monroe will see defenses develop and not rush things.

On the bright side of Monroe playing recklessly, he grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes. Hopefully, that doesn’t go away when he begins to process things better on offense.

Quick notes

Dallas Mavericks offer difficult matchup, talent gap against Detroit Pistons

Essentials

Date: Nov. 23, 2010

Time: 8:30 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 5-8

Mavericks: 8-4

Probable starters

Detroit:

Mavericks:

  • Jason Kidd
  • DeShawn Stevenson
  • Caron Butler
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Tyson Chandler

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +9

Over/under: 191

Score: Mavericks win, 100-91

Three things to watch

1. Rodney Stuckey’s decision making

Jason Kidd will likely make Rodney Stuckey’s life pretty difficult tonight. Kidd is still physical enough to keep Stuckey from driving to the rim like he has been this year. What Kidd lacks in speed (and it’s not as much as you might think), he makes up for in the knowledge of where to be, giving him a head start.

The biggest question is how Stuckey reacts. If he’s 3-of-6 with nine assists, that’s a success. If he’s 5-of-18 with four assists, that’s a problem.

2. Will Austin Daye play?

Jason Maxiell will start tonight*, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. You know the story: in the two games Maxiell has started, Austin Daye hasn’t played at all. It’s a curious decision at best. Tonight, we’ll get another opportunity to see how committed John Kuester is to the strategy.

*I think this is a terrible idea. Dirk Nowitzki is going to hit jumpers over the shorter Maxiell with ease. Nowitzki is too talented for the Pistons to contain, regardless, but Maxiell is the worst option. In order. Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe would do a better job.

3. Brian Cardinal still plays?!

He’s still in the league? Really? Cardinal has played 77 minutes in eight games for the Mavericks. I hope he makes an appearance tonight, just to confirm his playing time isn’t a typo on every website with Mavericks statistics.

Pregame Reading

Win Detroit Pistons cuff links!

Congratulations to Charles Stepp for winning the Pistons-Magic tickets provided by StubHub.

Thanks to cufflinks.com, we’re also giving away Detroit Pistons cufflinks. Just e-mail your name, address and correct answers to the follow questions to PistonPoweredContests@gmail.com, and you’re eligible to win.

1. The Fort Wayne Pistons initial logo was a tin-man-like character dribbling a basketball. Which letter appeared on his chest?

2. What is the URL for NBA shoe expert (among his many talents) Eric Woodyard’s website (answer can be found on this site)?

3. John Salley famously nicknamed Chuck Daly “Daddy Rich” for his lavish suits, but what was Daly’s nickname growing up in Punxsutawney, Pa.?

Fun with mascots and statistics

Hickory High, a great newer NBA site if you’re into stats, has a more light-hearted post today, looking at how closely a NBA team’s name correlates to the team’s mascot. Here was the tongue-in-cheek portion on the Pistons:

8. Detroit Pistons – Hooper the Horse – Correlation: -0.95

My understanding is that the Pistons take their name from the engine part as an homage to the relationship between the city of Detroit and General Motors. Choosing a horse as a mascot would appear to be the polar opposite, in a transportation sense, to any vehicle powered by pistons. This is a slap in the face to the American automotive industry.

Charlie Villanueva could be playing his way into a starting job

Nothing is imminent, of course, but Vince Ellis of the Free Press raises the possibility that Charlie Villanueva could start a power forward for the Pistons if he continues to play at such a high level:

Although he won’t admit it publicly, he would prefer to start. If Kuester were to make that move, it would stop the Jason Maxiell-Austin Daye juggling act at power forward. Then Maxiell and Daye could be regular parts of the second unit, where Daye could get settled at his more natural small forward spot.

But if Villanueva keeps performing, Kuester might feel it best to leave it alone.

So Villanueva could start for the Pistons. Unless he doesn’t. Admittedly, that doesn’t bring much clarity to the issue, but it’s pretty clear Villanueva has been the Pistons best option at power forward all season so far. He’s out-played every other candidate at that position, and he did say before the season started that he’d like to be a starter. Ideally, I’d like to see Villanueva get rewarded for his obvious commitment to improving and good attitude with the starting job if that’s what he desires.

But the positive thing is that he’s been closing games, whether he starts them or not. He’s been one of the Pistons’ best (if not the best) crunch time players this season.

Tracy McGrady’s reverse dunk just a sign of things to come?

Last night against the Wizards, Tracy McGrady cut to the basket, caught a lob and finished with a reverse dunk.

Initially I didn’t bat an eye, because that was a typical McGrady play. But then I remembered the T-Mac who had no lift in his final days as a Rocket, struggled last year with the Knicks and played cautiously in his brief Pistons career so far.

And apparently, McGrady believes we’ll see more plays like that from him in the future. From Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

“I envision being that guy again,” said McGrady, now 31. “Whether that happens I don’t know. I would like to be that guy. I’ve worked so hard to get back to being that guy. If it doesn’t happen I can look in the mirror and say I’ve done everything possible because I’ve come a long way to come to where I am today.”

If I’d read that comment from McGrady a few weeks ago, I admit I would’ve been skeptical. But every time I see him play, I grow less so. It would be unheard for a player, at his age with his significant injury history, to return to the form that helped him win a scoring title and dominate games with his athleticism. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of McGrady as a starting-caliber player in this league.

The Pistons probably don’t have enough minutes to give him so we can fully find out, but the basic reason McGrady came here was for an opportunity to show the league he can still play, and he’s done nothing to disappoint so far.

UPDATE: Mike Payne’s comment from below was worth highlighting. McGrady’s defense has been top-notch so far:

Warning– stat nerdery.  If you have access to Synergy, take a look at McGrady’s defensive stats.  On 49 defensive possessions so far this season, Tracy is holding his man to 29.7% shooting.  That makes him the 13th best defender in the league so far this season– regardless of position.