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Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe reach new levels of Sustained Success

For the first time this season, I’m ready to use these two words together when describing the Pistons:

Sustained Success.

Detroit has reached its pinnacle of Sustained Success, winning three straight games for the first time this season. And the third victory in that streak – a 103-80 win over the Dallas Mavericks today – displayed the Pistons’ highest in-game level Sustained Success in more than a full season.

The Pistons outscored Dallas in each quarter – the first time they’ve beaten an opponent in each period since last season’s opener against the Memphis Grizzlies. Since then, the Pistons’ opponent has outscored them in all four quarters 11 times .

The Pistons beat the Grizzlies in 2009 because Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon each scored 20 points.* The formula has certainly change now. Hamilton is gone from the rotation, and maybe the team soon, too. Gordon has become a backup, not only in name, but in role.

*Hamilton and Gordon each scored 20 points for the Pistons one other time, a win over the Spurs on Feb. 21, 2010.

Since Pistons coach John Kuester has limited those two highly paid shooting guards – who have been one-dimensional way too often and no-dimensional even more than that – Detroit’s offensive execution and defensive effort have reached their peaks of Sustained Success this season.

No player embodies the Pistons’ Sustained Success on both ends of the court better than Greg Monroe, who has emerged as one of the team’s top players. We don’t need a double-double streak to know it anymore, either. Monroe has played better in the last two games than he did during parts of his four-game streak.

With 16 points and nine rebounds today, Monroe barely missed another double-double, but he didn’t miss a chance to impress.

His four steals stand out – and they should. Monroe’s quick hands are a real asset that will frustrate opponents for years to come. But Monroe also deserves credit for his tight man-to-man defense.

Dirk Nowitzki scored nine points on 3-for-5 shooting with Chris Wilcox guarding him in the first 7:32 of the first quarter. But with Monroe covering Nowitzki while Wilcox rested early in the second quarter, the Mavericks forward missed his only shot. Those few minutes were enough to take Nowitzki out of his rhythm, and he went from the focal point of Dallas’ offense to taking only one shot the rest of the second quarter.

That allowed the Pistons to give themselves some breathing room, which they never relinquished.

Let’s hope they don’t relinquish this run of Sustained Success anytime soon, either.

Rodney Stuckey takes point-guard skills to shooting guard

Rodney Stuckey’s transition to shooting guard continues to yield positive results.

With a team-best 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting today, Stuckey is averaging 18.3 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting since he began starting at shooting guard next to Tracy McGrady in the backcourt four games ago.

In his 33 games at point guard this year, Stuckey was averaging 15.3 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting.

Patrick covered most of the explanation in his review of the Kings game:

Allowing him to set up on the wings makes him un-guardable when he attacks the basket. When he runs off a screen and catches, he’s been so efficient with his dribble, getting to the basket in one or two quick, powerful moves. At the top of the key when he tries to attack, he often over-dribbles.

Setting up on the wings also makes it easier for him to draw contact. Trying to get to the basket from the top of the key, you’re facing a defense that has more guys who can help, more guys who see the play as it develops. From the wings, Stuckey is moving downhill and defenders often don’t have enough time to catch up to him. Against Sacramento, Kings defenders were invariably late in getting to him.

Stuckey took that to a new level today. His first step was so explosive, Dallas defenders often fouled him far the basket, before he entered the interior of the Mavericks’ zone defense. Stuckey made 8-of-9 free throws, and that played a large part in his and the Pistons’ prosperity today.

Stuckey also led the Pistons with six assists. At this point, his future will more likely than not come at shooting guard. But that future will be brighter because he spent time at point guard.

Stuckey’s potential is still highest at point guard. That position just impacts the game more than shooting guard. For that reason alone, the Pistons initially making Stuckey a point guard was a wise choice.

But games like this show another benefit of trying Stuckey at point guard. If he had stayed at shooting guard out of Eastern Washington, he’d be just another dime-a-dozen scoring wing. With his point guard experience, he has potential to become one of the league’s best-passing scoring wings.

That’s valuable.

Tracy McGrady gets by with favorable matchup

Tracy McGrady played fine offensively today, scoring eight points (4-of-6 shooting) and dishing three assists in 26 minutes. But he’s clearly not totally ready for his increased minutes.

Active offensive players have given trouble to McGrady, who’s injury-plagued legs can’t stay in front of many dribble drivers. Thankfully, he didn’t have to guard one today. All seven of Jason Kidd’s shots were missed 3-pointers.

If the Mavericks had a decent penetrating point guard, McGrady’s offense probably wouldn’t have outweighed how slow he looked defensively.

New expectations for Chris Wilcox

Chris Wilcox scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds and played decent defense when asked to do something other than cover Dirk Nowitzki (i.e., guard someone else, play help defense, grab defensive rebounds). Wilcox’s defensive awareness isn’t terrible, but when guarding Nowitzki, losing him for a second, especially with Jason Kidd on the court, means allowing points.

Since entering the rotation seven games ago, Wilcox has averaged 8.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and his defense has been at about the same level he showed today. So, I initially didn’t think much of his game.

But then I realized, before these last eight games, Wilcox hadn’t scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in a game since a Jan. 23, 2010 loss to the Trail Blazers. Between then and this stretch, he scored eight points or grabbed six rebounds only once.

Wilcox deserves credit for raising his own bar to the point his performance today doesn’t satisfy.

Tayshaun Prince picks good time to play well

The Mavericks reportedly have interest in Tayshaun Prince, and as I wrote before the game, his performance today might prove more influential than it should. If that’s the case, Prince’s value should be high with Dallas.

He looked like a perfect complimentary player, scoring 19 points (9-of-12 shooting) and adding five rebounds and five assists. He also played solid defense on Shawn Marion, who shot just 2-of-8.

Charlie Villanueva scores, but he could do more

For anyone who believes Charlie Villanueva’s future is a scoring spark off the bench, he did that today. He scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers, in 20 minutes.

Villanueva has scored 47 points in the last three games – his best three-game scoring stretch off the bench since he launched himself into the starting lineup after scoring 18 points against the Clippers, 23 points against the Hawks and 17 points against the Raptors.

But don’t expect Villanueva to earn a starting position this time. Firstly, Chris Wilcox is playing well. Secondly, Villanueva isn’t rebounding well. Including three today, he has five rebounds in his last two games. In his two games before earning a starting position, he had 20 rebounds.

If Villanueva is satisfied with his current role, he’s filling it well. But I don’t think he is. To put himself in position to start if – more likely, when – Wilcox falls off, Villanueva must start rebounding better.

25 Comments

  • Jan 17, 20118:06 pm
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    1 word…wow!

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  • Jan 17, 20119:22 pm
    by Jacob

    Reply

    I like the point you make, Dan, about Stuckey’s experience at point guard benefiting him at shooting guard. It helps him in his new, albeit more natural, role and it helps the Pistons to have a guy off the ball that is multidimensional like that. This was just a beautiful game at both ends of the court. On the offensive end to shoot 57% and get 24 assists without one player getting more than 6 assists I think is a good sign. On the defensive end, much of Dallas’ scoring came off of Dirk’s almost indefensible shooting technique. Nothing came easy for the Mavs today. I was really impressed with Monroe’s D – he had good positioning, quick hands, and even moved well laterally. I know Dallas is reeling but they’re still a good team so this was a great win – 3 in a row, let’s keep it rolling.

  • Jan 17, 201110:07 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    1) if i’m rooting for the team, you know they’re doing something right. the ball’s been moving great, they’ve got a nice, manageable rotation. nothing but good news here. unload rip and max, maybe get some extra value shipping tayshaun, land a big man like zach randolph, and things look pretty damn good.
     
    2) i can’t get behind the notion that playing stuckey at the point has been anything but a disaster. heck, this is something i noticed back when chucky atkins was starting for a stretch, but i think stuckey does EVERYTHING better when he’s playing off the ball. he makes better decisions when he’s the second or third player to touch the ball in a given possession. he just plain seems to play better and smarter in the flow of the game, rather than trying (in vain) to set his teammates up. when his mentality is to be in a super-aggressive attack mode, passing opportunities just seem to present themselves.

  • Jan 18, 201112:24 am
    by Rodman4Life

    Reply

    @Laser
    Well said about Stuckey.  Let the ball come to him and he becomes a better player, almost as if he has the time, without the ball, to think about what he wants to do with it once he receives it.

  • Jan 18, 201112:25 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    “he has potential to become one of the league’s best-passing scoring wings”
    Whoa Whoa let’s slow the roll. He’s played well, and I’m excited, but what’s going on? Is Rip going to get traded? Probably not. Is Gordon? Probably not. Are we going to resign Stuckey to play SG and let $12.5 mil rot on the bench? What about PG when Mcgrady leaves? Who knows. Fun while it lasts I guess.

    Pretty excited about Monroe and the front court combo with Wilcox as well. I don’t think it’s fair to assume he’ll drop off, he is playing for another contract after all. When Big Ben comes back I’d rather CV got pushed further back than Wilcox. Wilcox has been active and rebounded well, and he has good size. I’ve been rooting for him to get some PT and he’s done well with it. We’re hanging with teams on the glass, defending the paint, scoring more efficiently. I’m not sure if this is a 3 game fluke or a sign of things to come though.

  • Jan 18, 20111:54 am
    by Fennis

    Reply

    If Stuckey cements his role as a two, it changes the rebuilding process significantly and for the better. First, Ben Gordon would remain a backup, which is where he belongs. The Pistons will never be title contenders starting BG at the 2 as every team in the league would exploit his defensive weaknesses mercilessly from the opening tip. With Stuck at the 2, BG can do his thing against second-stringers, and Stuckey can shift to the one spot periodically.
    At this point, it’s a big assumption that Stuck will stay at the 2 with 20 million already invested in that position. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Rip gets traded and BG remains a backup. The Pistons now have more options in the draft and in free agency. I think the team would be in a much better position going into the 2011 draft looking for either a 1 or a 5, rather than having to reach for any competent 5 that falls to them. Our collective hope is that the Pistons contend again. To do this, they must have either a “Big Three” or a “Super Two.” Until the last three games I wasn’t sure anyone on the team could fit a Big Three slot. Obviously, the jury is still out, but I think there is at least a glimmer of hope that Stuckey could blossom into that role at the 2-spot.
    To me, Monroe is the only other player on the roster with that sort of potential, and if anyone had said this to me two weeks ago I would’ve called them crazy. But there is no question that Mornoe is highly skilled. I’m starting to buy into that Langlois propaganda (full disclosure: I like Keith’s work). Monroe can shoot (we’ll see more of this next year I’m sure), he’s agile, great hands on defense, great defensive instincts in the post, great passing, and possibly even nice touch around the rim. If the guy had average elevation he’d be the second coming, but clearly hops is his one major deficiency. In any event, Monroe has improved dramatically this season, just as he did over the course of summer league in Vegas. I’m not ready to anoint him as a future All-Star, but you have to be encouraged when you see that his skill is matched by patience, perseverance, and a dedication to hard work.
    This has been a miserable season in many ways, but I believe the future is bright. We have three young players with intriguing potential (Stuckey, Monroe, and Daye), a potentially formidable supporting cast (Jerebko, CV, BG, Bynum) and assets that will, collectively, have significant value approaching next month’s trade deadline (Prince, McGrady, Rip, Wilcox).
    We’ll continue to have up and downs this season as well as consistently sub-par coaching. But for the first time in a while I can imagine a promising future for this team.
     
     

  • Jan 18, 20112:37 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Laser, when Atkins started last year, that was Stuckey’s third season. You don’t think he learned skills while playing point guard those previous two-plus years that served him at shooting guard?

  • Jan 18, 20112:50 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Nuetes, I’m not sure why you’re telling me to slow down. Stuckey definitely has the ability to become one of the league’s best passing wings. LeBron James is the only non-point guard with a higher assist percentage than Stuckey. Richard Hamilton’s and Ben Gordon’s trade prospects have absolutely nothing to do with Stuckey’s potential. That might affect the odds of him reaching that potential, in Detroit or otherwise, but it doesn’t change his potential.

    Wilcox will fall off. He always does. His entire career, he’s played well for a stretch and convinced everyone he’s finally put it together, then fallen off. No reason to believe it won’t happen again.

  • Jan 18, 20112:53 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Fennis, I largely agree with you, but Hamilton won’t “have significant value approaching next month’s trade deadline .” And Gordon isn’t as poor defensively as he’s played this season. He could start on a contender, not the way he’s playing right now, but the way he’s played throughout his career. I have to believe he’ll approach that level again.

  • Jan 18, 20113:09 am
    by jack

    Reply

    You just cant resist a cheap shot at Tmac. You’ve had it in for the guy from the get go and just cant resist throwing little sublet jabs here and there.

  • Jan 18, 20113:29 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Jack, you’re totally right. I haven’t said McGrady was the best Piston on the floor in multiple game reviews. I didn’t make a point of noting his progress throughout the season. I haven’t written that pointing out his progress every game has become tiresome, because he keeps progressing so rapidly. I never defended him when other bloggers didn’t give him enough credit. I certainly didn’t advocate bringing him back next season.

    Be sure to read our midseason grades today. I really hammer McGrady there, too.

  • Jan 18, 20116:10 am
    by grizz

    Reply

    For that reason alone, the Pistons initially making Stuckey a point guard was a wise choice.  Dan, Great article .. EXCEPT FOR THAT SENTENCE .. BULL!  … How many SGs have become good PGs .. few … Face it .. Stuckey was playing great at SG with Billups as a competent PG .. Stop trying to cover for a bad decision .. There was never any good reason to go close to 2 seasons with 1 SG-converted-gonna-try-to-be-a-PG as your main PG …. It was a bad decision and always was .. I called it 2 seasons ago … and NOW the team finally comes to its senses and you can see how much better things are .. Play players at their natural positions .. PERIOD…I mean .. how well did playing Tay at PF work? Rip at SF? Gordon as PG?  Jmax at Center .. even JJ at PF was not nearly as good ther as at SF .. the whole concept is because of a careless GM who DIDNT plan ahead ..

  • Jan 18, 20116:17 am
    by grizz

    Reply

    No one should get too excited about Tmac as PG .. this is a short term plan B … we are desperate for a PG .. and a 31 year old former NBA leading scorer with bad knees is doing wonders .. but he is not a full time .. not long term player for the Detroit Pistons .. Right now he is saving us … could get us to the play offs … but the spectre of injury and re-injury and low energy and lack of speed are all there .. We need real and young, strong, fast, smart PGs and whether we trade for one or sign a FA PG, we need to draft 1 or 2 to DEVELOP .. from a college program where these players are experienced at and have natural skills for PG .. and NO MORE HALF AZZ SHORT CUTS .. same thing for the bigs!…No more players (or far fewer) who only play 1 side of the court .. if the GM doesnt get these principles .. he has to no place as Detroit Piston GM …. Give Stuck a bit more time to develp at SG and you will see him at a near all star level .. Stuckey has been blind sided and handcuffed by the really stupid move to have him unnaturally forced into the PG position .. He was doing great with Billups if you recall .. Joe miscalculated big time on these issues but glad common sense and not The <I can do anything cuz I am joe Dumars> has started to surface .

  • Jan 18, 20116:17 am
    by grizz

    Reply

    No one should get too excited about Tmac as PG .. this is a short term plan B … we are desperate for a PG .. and a 31 year old former NBA leading scorer with bad knees is doing wonders .. but he is not a full time .. not long term player for the Detroit Pistons .. Right now he is saving us … could get us to the play offs … but the spectre of injury and re-injury and low energy and lack of speed are all there .. We need real and young, strong, fast, smart PGs and whether we trade for one or sign a FA PG, we need to draft 1 or 2 to DEVELOP .. from a college program where these players are experienced at and have natural skills for PG .. and NO MORE HALF AZZ SHORT CUTS .. same thing for the bigs!…No more players (or far fewer) who only play 1 side of the court .. if the GM doesnt get these principles .. he has to no place as Detroit Piston GM …. Give Stuck a bit more time to develp at SG and you will see him at a near all star level .. Stuckey has been blind sided and handcuffed by the really stupid move to have him unnaturally forced into the PG position .. He was doing great with Billups if you recall .. Joe miscalculated big time on these issues but glad common sense and not The <I can do anything cuz I am joe Dumars> has started to surface .

  • Jan 18, 20116:29 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    Please can we all just throw the whole ‘Stuckey is a SG not a PG thing’ into the bottom of the ocean along with ‘we shouldn’t of drafted Darko thing’. We are all smart enough to know that we have 3 guys who play the same position (SG) so one of them had to play PG and Stuckey was dare i say it the best equipped to be converted to a PG. There is only one person to blame for this whole mess and his initials are JD. I have never had a problem with the experiment but more a problem with how long they stuck with it before they knew it wasn’t working. Fix the problem instead of covering it over and making it worse for crying out loud.

  • Jan 18, 20116:38 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    I love Joe and all but the rest of this season and next season (if he is still there…i really hope he is) will truly define his legacy as a great GM. The Joe Dumars i know would be loving the challenge of building this team up to where we all want it. He has made many mistakes the last 3 seasons and he knows he is on thin ice and his time is now. Let’s just hope the silent assassin can get his mojo back and start string those great moves together that every idiot says were flukes. I am sorry but there are no fluke GM moves that lead your team to 2 straight finals and decade of conference finals.

  • Jan 18, 20117:48 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    Lets give the coaching staff some credit: after a year and a half they have finally figured out players appropriate roles and a rotation. Stuckey, who in the post game interview wasn’t all that pleased when asked about the move to the shooting guard (he seemed to regard it as a demotion) is so much more efficient at the two guard when allowed to attack from the wing. CV is great off the bench as a primary scorer who will give you adaquate rebounding and his usual porous defense. Greg Monroe is going to be a fine player for many years in this league. He is a much better defender than people originally gave him credit for. There is nothing “soft” about him, except maybe the expression on his face. he has great hands. He is a very good rebounder with a nice nose for the ball, a good interior passer, and we haven’t even seen his outside shot yet but he has one that is good out to 15 feet. Now all we need is a young 7’0″ chris wilcox above the rim athletic type player to fit next to Monroe (preferably one with good defensive footwork in addition to athleticism) and a Zach Randolph and we will be set for the future. 

    T-Mac has a hard time guarding active offensive players and often loses his man. He is also bothered by active defensive players who pressure him up the floor and at the top of the key. Personally, i think he would be very valuable to resign as a backup for next year. But i also think that either by trade, or in the draft, the Pistons need to find a point guard to pair with Stuckey. We haven’t really seen anything of Terrico White – maybe he could be that player.

    Rip and Ben Gordon both should be traded. Tay too, unfortunately, because he is such a fine complementary player who is playing at a very high level but he is the Pistons best asset and they have two young players (Daye & JJ) who naturally play the three and will need significant minutes next season so it is just time to thank Tay and get as much value for him as we can.

  • Jan 18, 20118:26 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    @detroitpcb
    I usually agree with most of your comments but i don’t think Terrico is that guy (PG). From what we saw of him in summer league he is just another combo guard so we would be just doing the Stuckey thing all over again. Anyways IF the NJ-DEN-DET deal goes through then Terrico is a part of it so it wont matter anyway. I think all piston fans are scared of what Terrico might turn out to be. Hopefully not another Afflalo type give away.

  • Jan 18, 20119:39 am
    by Ex-Rocket-Fan

    Reply

    jack, those aren’t jabs at T-Mac, it’s the truth if you’re being honest.
     
    It’s kind of sad watching T-Mac right now, but I haven’t given up hope on continued improvement from him.
     
    Using 2007-2008 as a baseline for comparison, at the start of this season, he was about 10% of what he once was.  Now midway through, he’s about 50%.  That’s improvement, that’s progress (*glass half full*).  Maybe he has plateaued, but who is to say he won’t continue to improve?  That’s what keeps me watching anyway.
     

  • Jan 18, 201110:21 am
    by Jason

    Reply

    @ Fennis – Your exactly right about Gordon – he is just better suited as a backup. Stuckey is good enough defensively to guard SG’s of all sizes, and if clearly better suited for the position offensively as well.
     
    @ Feldman – First, great article! i completely agree about Monroe, he has looked so impressive since getting an increased role and starter minutes. He’s played consistent, smart basketball – and is such a promising young talent for Pistons fans to look forward to. Same with your take on Stuckey as well – with his experience as a PG, there is no doubt in my mind that he can use those skills to better him as a SG. I don’t believe he has more “Potential as a PG” as you stated – HE is a SG through and through – I can only hope Q continues this..
     
    Now, while I agree that Gordon might possibly be able to be a starting SG on a contender – one that has a hard nose PG, capable of defending the perimeter – he wouldn’t be as much of a liability. BUT, in one paragraph you look to a player’s past, (Wilcox) when predicting what his future will hold. You say he has always had a string of good games, and always eventually fell off.
     
    Well, Gordon has ALWAYS been a backup – has ALWAYS thrived as a backup throughout his career. Anytime he has been inserted into a starting lineup, he hasn’t been as productive. This stems back to failed experiments in Chicago – where he he was never allowed more then a trial as a starter. This is not to say that he couldn’t be productive, I do believe he could figure it out – I am just beginning to believe that he is simply much more comfortable being a backup. Fennis hit it on the head, it never made any sense to actually move Stuck to SG while having our two highest paid players at the position. But with Rip seemingly being days away from a being shipped away (Somewhere, hopefully) – it is now a logical move to make – and Stuck seems to be settling in perfectly.
     
    Whatever the case – this new look Pistons squad is encouraging, and so fun to watch again. It was just recently I found myself already ready to pack it in for the year, hoping for losses yielding a higher lottery pick. But, it is SO early in the season – there is more then enough time to turn around our fortunes, and gain some valuable experience for our younger, Pistons of the future..
     

  • Jan 19, 201112:36 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Grizz, Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday weren’t point guards in college and both have developed into quality NBA point guards.

    And making Jason Maxiell a center worked very well. The Pistons just haven’t used him that way this year.

  • Jan 19, 201112:40 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Grizz, name big men who excel on both ends of the court. Now, look at how much teams invested in them (in salary and/or draft pick). Those types of players aren’t growing on trees for any GM to grab whenever he feels like it.

  • Jan 19, 201112:44 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    PCB, I’m with Gmehl. From what I saw of Terrico White in the Summer League, he’s a long way from becoming that player.

  • Jan 19, 201112:48 am
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Jason, Gordon has always been a backup in name only. Maybe he benefits from coming off the bench and watching the rhythm of the game. That’s a fair point. But he’s played starters’ minutes and at the end of games his entire Bulls career. You can’t do that without playing a lot of minutes against other starters.

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