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Archive → April, 2011

The Big Answer?: DaJuan Summers

DF then: Can he do one thing very well?

DaJuan Summers is an alright shooter, alright slasher, alright passer, alright rebounder, alright defender… you get the idea. At Georgetown, that’s great. As the 13th man (at best) on a deep Pistons squad, it doesn’t cut it.

Barring injuries in front of him, Summers will need to develop a specialty if he wants to play much this year.

DF now: Maybe, but he hasn’t proven it

Summers played just 199 minutes this season, fewer than half of the paltry 405 he played last year. So, he didn’t get much of a chance to impress anyone.

But if there’s any single skill that emerged in his game, it’s outside shooting. Summers made 9-of-21 3-pointers this season (42.9 percent), which is a pretty good mark. His 15-of-42 3-point shooting last year (35.7) is strong enough that this year’s stellar shooting doesn’t seem like too much of a fluke.

I suspect Summers’ all-around talent will earn him an NBA-roster spot next season. Whether he receives regular minutes will, again, likely depend on whether a specific skill emerges.

PH then: Why isn’t he better?

Last year, I believed one thing would get DaJuan Summers on the court over fellow rookies Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko: defense. Summers has a legit NBA build. He’s athletic, he’s strong, he’s tall, plus he played in the Big East against tough competition in college. And yet, he couldn’t get a sniff of the regular rotation even with all of last season’s injuries.

A year later, Summers still has all of those physical tools, but with improved health and the addition of Tracy McGrady, his chance to figure into the team’s long-term plans might be over.

PH now: I have no idea

After Summers couldn’t earn playing time last year with all of the injuries, he had no shot this season with a healthy roster, more minutes for Austin Daye and the addition of Tracy McGrady.

Summers has shown he has range when he has played, and he’s strong enough to be a good defensive player. By keeping a good attitude and working hard in practice, he may earn himself a look somewhere next season, but it’s pretty clear it won’t be Detroit.

Of NBA champions, did the 2004 Detroit Pistons have the worst offense? Almost

Faraz’s comment on my post about the dreadful offense in the 2004 NBA playoffs got me thinking. Has an NBA champion ever had a worse offense than the 2004 Pistons?

Since 1974, when the NBA began tracking the stats needed to estimate possessions, no NBA champion has ranked lower in offensive rating than the Pistons, who finished 18th. But the league also had 29 teams then, which could distort the relevancy of the ranking. (I used rankings because league-wide styles have changed through the decades).

So, I looked at percentiles, and just four units for NBA champions since 1984 have ranked below the league median:

  • 2001 Los Angeles Lakers defense (21st of 29 teams)
  • 1979 Seattle SuperSonics offense (14th of 22 teams)
  • 2004 Detroit Pistons offense (18th of 29 teams)
  • 1994 Houston Rockets offense (15th of 27 teams)

So, the Pistons had the second-worst offense among NBA champions since 1974 – besting only the 1979 Sonics.

I created a chart to show how each of the 74 offenses and defenses of championship teams stack up.

Defense is blue, and offense is red. The Pistons’ titles are darker.


Tayshaun Prince did the wave while John Kuester ran a timeout in New Jersey

Devin Kharpertian of NetsAreScorching sent me this wonderful anecdote about Tayshaun Prince and John Kuester:

For my dad’s birthday, I took him to see Nets-Pistons on January 21st. (I actually won the tickets, but that’s irrelevant to this story.) During a third quarter timeout, John Kuester had his back to the court, talking to Tayshaun Prince about something, probably defense. the Nets MC (Marco G) was doing laps around the court, holding a giant sign with two hands on it, imploring the arena to do the wave. Like everything else in the Prudential Center, the fans did it pretty halfheartedly. However, when Marco ran past the Pistons bench – still behind Kuester, so he couldn’t see what was going on – Prince would put his hands in the air, pretending to be in a defensive stance but really just doing the wave. He did this three times, maybe four. Kuester had no clue.

Dunno if that adds anything to your 2010-11 Pistons experience, but it’s a nugget I’ve held onto since game night that really gave me and my dad quite a laugh.

I’m not mad at Prince. I’m sure this didn’t affect his play. If we didn’t know anything else about the Pistons’ season, this would seem harmless, just a veteran having some fun in the middle of an 82-game grind.

Considering what we know, though, maybe Prince was trying to show up Kuester. But I’m not going to dwell on that.

This is just funny.

When the Pistons won the 2004 NBA title, the NBA’s playoff offense was awful

I created a series of charts for Basketball Prospectus about how the playoffs look compared to the regular season in a dozen factors each year since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams. It’s a premium article, so you need a subscription to see all the charts.

But to give you a sample, here’s offensive rating. The 2004 season, when the Pistons won the title, stands out here especially, but it also is an outlier on several of the other charts, too.

The regular season is blue, and the post season is orange.

Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Kalin Lucas

Sorry loyal readers, I have to do it. I am rational enough to understand that Kalin Lucas is a longshot to get drafted. But with the obvious University of Michigan slant from certain PistonPowered writers, as a loyal MSU alum, I have to sneak Kalin into this series. It’s a holiday weekend. We’ll get back to more serious prospects on Monday, if you’ll be kind enough to indulge me today.

Info

Measurables: 6-foot-0, 190 pounds, senior PG from Michigan State

Key stats: 17.0 points, 3.4 assists per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from three

Projected: Late second round to undrafted

How would he help the Pistons?

Lucas has point guard-like skills. At Michigan State, it was a stretch to call him a pass-first point guard. Lucas’s greatest strength in college was undoubtedly his ability to create scoring opportunities for himself. Because he’s not big or an explosive athlete, that will have to chance in the NBA if he makes it, either as a second round pick or a rookie free agent.

The positive though? I think he can change. The one thing he didn’t get enough credit for at Michigan State was his ability to take care of the ball. He had a low assist total, so his assist-to-turnover ratio never looked great, but his actual turnover percentage — ranging from 16 percent to 19 percent during his four seasons at MSU — wasn’t bad. He has a quick enough first step to draw extra defenders. The key for him if he’s to have pro success is learning to give the ball up when he creates those advantages off the dribble rather than trying to get all the way to the basket, since he’ll probably struggle to finish in the NBA.

His 3-point shot will help as well. His jumper improved throughout his college career, and because teams will have to step out and guard him, that should give him the opportunity to create some off the dribble. Lucas was a very good player at Michigan State who maybe didn’t improve as much as many thought he would when he was named Big Ten Player of the Year as a sophomore. But he still does some things very well, he improved, he bounced back nicely from a serious injury and remember, last season no one thought Manny Harris could play in the NBA either and he had an OK rookie season for a guy who wasn’t drafted.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

The Pistons have a crowded backcourt already. They certainly don’t have an answer at the point guard position, but it’s unlikely they’ll find anyone in the second round or among rookie free agents who will be better than what they already have on the roster. Lucas has some things to learn about the position in order to carve out a NBA niche for himself. The Pistons are in need of impact players, not more role players, so even if Lucas had some believers among Pistons front office people, it’s unlikely that would be enough to earn a roster spot.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

As a creator off the dribble, Lucas may be somewhat limited at the NBA level due to his lack of elite explosiveness. While he does have a good top speed with the ball in his hands, he doesn’t possess a lightning-quick first step. He does however display a sense of craftiness and an understanding of how to use change of pace dribbles. He’s also comfortable as the ball-handler in pick-and roll situations, often making the correct reads, whether it’s a drive to the basket, a jumpshot for himself, or a pass to a teammate. When attacking the basket, Lucas does a good job of initiating contact and drawing fouls, but his lack of size and elevation often prevents him from finishing at the rim.

From ESPN:

Can a relatively slow and small point guard make it in the NBA? And if so, how? That’s the question I have about Lucas, and the answer is in his favor.

Small point guards who do not excel athletically (unlike Brandon Jennings and Jonny Flynn, who are jets) must be great shooters if they hope to get drafted into the NBA and then stick around awhile. And I love what I see in Lucas’ shooting form. He has a slight right leg forward drift that can be problematic, though it’s not hard to fix that. But it’s an excellent and repeatable compact stroke, and he looks about the same on catch-and-shoots or off-the-dribble jumpers. He already looks like an NBA-level shooter.

From NBADraft.net:

Extremely secure ball handler and decision maker … Displays good court vision and knowledge of teammates positioning on the floor … Averaged 4.6 assists against only 2.2 turnovers last season for a 2.1 ratio … Prefers to attack the paint, using his strength, change of pace dribble and change of direction to get by defenders … Does his best work in transition where he is an absolute jet … Charges into the paint like a running back, yet still with controlled aggression … Does not get knocked off balance on drives, nor lose control of the rock. Gets to the FT line frequently

Previously

Anonymous NBA player takes Charlie Villanueva’s side in ‘cancer’ flap with Kevin Garnett

Shortly after Charlie Villanueva lashed out at Kevin Garnett for calling him a cancer patient (which, for the record, Garnett denied), Patrick wrote about how Garnett’s toughness is overstated. It turns out, an an anonymous NBA player, as quoted by ESPN, agrees:

Trash-talk can go too far fast, though, so there is a code. Off-limit topics: moms, wives, girlfriends, kids. And health. Honestly, I never thought anyone would cross the line to crack on an opponent about a medical condition. But according to Charlie Villanueva, that’s what Kevin Garnett supposedly did earlier this season when he called the Pistons forward a "cancer patient." Garnett later claimed otherwise, saying he had called Villanueva — who’s hairless because of a skin condition — a "cancerous" player.

I don’t know who’s telling the truth, but I don’t care. Garnett is a punk and a coward. I know, I know. Easy for me to say behind this column. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you — and he’s always talking — he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the league: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight — like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.

The Big Answer: Terrico White

DF then: Is his jump shot for real?

Perhaps, the most peasant surprise of the summer league was Terrico White‘s smooth jumper. Prior to the draft, I’d seen it as labeled as streaky, so it’s certainly possible he was on just for a few games.

I thought White’s only chance of receiving significant plaything time this year was as a defensive specialist, but if he can shoot as well as he did in Las Vegas, that’s another avenue to the court.

DF now: No idea

Obviously, White lost his entire season to injury. Considering there won’t be a summer league this year to judge White, this will probably be my question for next year, too.

PH then: Is he Rodney Stuckey insurance?

Joe Dumars has an affection for strong combo guards, mainly because he himself was a strong combo guard.

Incumbent starter Rodney Stuckey hasn’t been offered a contract extension and after three years in the league (two as a full-time starter), it’s fair to say this is a make-good year for Stuckey.

And if he doesn’t “make good?” The Pistons have another athletic, strong hybrid guard in White, who many considered a first round talent, possibly being groomed for a larger role down the road.

PH now: Not anymore

It’s really sad that White lost his entire season to injury. His athletic tools are still intriguing, but as DaJuan Summers found out, it’s hard for second-round picks to get a look in their first season in the league, let alone a second season after barely playing in their first.

I expect White will be in camp next season, but he might have a tougher time making the team depending on who is added to the roster and who leaves.

Pistons used NBA’s slowest and tallest lineups this season

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN compiled the top players and lineups for various statistical measures, and the Pistons made a few of his lists.

They had the league’s slowest lineup (pace of 83.0, 95 minutes together, –7):

Detroit also tied with the Heat for the NBA’s tallest lineup (average height of 6-foot-9.2, 23 minutes together, –8):

And just five other players had a higher percentage of their shots blocked than Greg Monroe (12.4 percent) did – Reggie Evans (20.4), Chuck Hayes (15.6), Alonzo Gee (14.4), Kendrick Perkins (14.2) and Emeka Okafor (13.0).

Could the top coaching candidates be gone by the time the Pistons are in the market for one?

News is obviously quiet with the Pistons as the team awaits the draft lottery and the finalization of Tom Gores’ purchase of the team. But Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press speculates that the first order of business once Gores is in place could be determining the fate of head coach John Kuester, who has one year remaining on his contract.

Many expect Kuester to be let go, but Ellis raises an interesting point: will teams fill their vacancies with the top candidates before the Pistons are officially on the market for a coach?

At the moment, the Houston Rockets are the only team in the market for a coach after firing Rick Adelman, but they could turn to a possible Pistons candidate.

Former Hawks coach Mike Woodson told foxsports.com that he would like to be considered by the Rockets.

At the moment, there are more big name coaching candidates than jobs available with Adelman, Woodson, Jeff Van Gundy, Lawrence Frank and even guys like Jerry Sloan or Larry Brown on the market, so it’s unlikely all of them would be hired quickly. But Gores would reportedly not assume control of the team until the end of May, so the list of available coaches could certainly thin by then as a few more teams are sure to make changes at some point.

The Big Answer: Chris Wilcox

Patrick and I are going to revisit our The Big Question series, where we each identified what we saw as the key  question facing each Piston entering the season. We’re skipping Vernon Hamilton and Ike Diogu, neither of whom lasted with the team past the preseason. So, let’s start with Chris Wilcox.

DF then: Is he a PINO?

PINO is Piston In Name Only. He doesn’t play much. His teammates and coaches don’t talk about him. Does he practice with the team? Could 80 percent of his teammates pick him out of a crowd? Does he have any emotional attachment to the franchise, and vice-versa.

OK, I wrote the above paragraph before Vincent Goodwill’s glowing report. But with news that Wilcox’s hamstring will keep him out of tonight’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat, I still think there’s a solid chance this is the last meaningful news you hear about Wilcox as a Piston.

DF now: No – at least for now

Chris Wilcox had his best season since he played for the Sonics. He emerged as a good offensive rebounder, a capable finisher, a better-than-average-on-this-team defender and even a solid passer.

Wilcox led Detroit in starts at power forward and started more games at the position than the Pistons’ first two options this season – Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell – combined. On the court, he was definitely a key contributor.

But I’m not sure which clique he fit into. We learned a good deal about which players meshed with which other players during the Philadelphia boycott, but Wilcox supposedly overslept for the whole thing. Would he have sided with the protesting veterans or the six practicers? We’ll probably never know where his allegiance would have lied.

So, in some respects, I still view him as a lone wolf on the team – albeit a way more productive one than I imagined. If he signs elsewhere this offseason, I’ll claim partial credit for my question. Wilcox will never have made a real mark as Piston. But the way he played this year, if he re-signs, he could establish himself in Detroit.

PH then: Can he be traded?

If John Kuester is trying to foster a renewed focus on defense, Chris Wilcox can’t see court time. The Pistons were much worse defensively when he played last season, and with Greg Monroe added to the frontcourt mix, the team has even less incentive to play him. The question is whether Wilcox, who didn’t show much of anything last year, can show enough to entice a team to take him off the Pistons hands.

PH now: At least I didn’t botch this one as bad as Feldman.

Whether it was the realization that this is a contract year or finally realizing some of his potential, Chris Wilcox was pretty consistent offensively down the stretch for the Pistons.

He became an important player with the injuries to Jonas Jerebko and Ben Wallace and the ineffectiveness of Jason Maxiell. His size and athleticism are still intriguing, as is his good chemistry with Greg Monroe, who often found Wilcox for lobs around the basket.

In the preseason, I didn’t think Wilcox would play at all. Now, part of me hopes the Pistons can bring him back on a one-year deal next season.