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For Greg Monroe, Pistons to progress, defense must get way better

I’d like to write about Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, the Pistons main building blocks.

I’d like to explain how the Pistons have excellent prospects (and solid players) at the two most important positions in basketball, center and point guard.

I’d like to imagine when Monroe (22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds, six offensive, and four assists against the Celtics tonight) and Knight (23 points on 10-of-13 shooting, six assists and two steals against the Cavaliers on Wednesday) are clicking on the same night.

But the Pistons’ immediate problems, including the ones involving Monroe and Knight, are too startling. With an 0-10 start on the horizon, it doesn’t seem right to focus on the positive.

The Pistons are NBA medicine.

Start the season 0-3, including a blowout at the hands of the Eric Gordon-less Hornets, like the Celtics did? No problem, the Pistons will cure you with a 96-85 win and let you build a lead as high as 25.

Greg Monroe is an extra-strength dose.

Offensively, Monroe showed what made him so effective last year. He crashed the offensive glass and put himself in position to receive dumpoff passes, converting layups when his teammates found him. He also showed why he has so much potential. He often set up in the high post, hitting cutters with pinpoint passes or knocking down his improved mid-range jumper. If he continues to mesh both styles, he’ll be an elite offensive player.

But as the anchor of the Pistons’ defense, Monroe is wholly overmatched.

Maybe that’s an unfair burden for Monroe, and the Pistons could help him by adding a legitimate defensive big man to play next to him. Hopefully, they find that player in the next draft. They’ll certainly have options, because the lottery will be full of bigs the Pistons will have a high pick.

For now, they don’t have that player, and the responsibility falls to Monroe. Even when the Pistons eventually get him help, that won’t be enough on its own. He doesn’t defend well enough to serve as the second-best defensive big man on a contender. He reads the passing lanes well and has quick hands, his saving graces, and made two steals tonight.

But his man-to-man and help defense are poor. Jermaine O’Neal (19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds) and Brandon Bass (17 points on 7-of-11 shooting) took turns abusing Monroe.

Eventually, it got so bad, Ben Wallace entered the game for the first time late in the third quarter. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Wallace was schedule to have the night off, with the Pistons hosting the Pacers tomorrow. At 37, he might not be capable of playing back-to-backs, and it makes little difference whether he sits out the first or second game. But Monroe’s defense was so bad tonight, Wallace became necessary.

Despite all of Lawrence Frank’s talk about defense, the Pistons are bad defensive team. That’s not necessarily Frank’s fault – Detroit has bad defensive players – but it’s disheartening, nonetheless. Multiple times, the Pistons allowed a Celtic to leak out for an uncontested layup.

Those aren’t all Monroe’s fault, and the Pistons have several sieves. But tonight, he was the worst culprit. Plus, he’s one of two players who are, bar none, the center of Detroit’s future. Fairly, expectations for him are a bit higher.

Multiple times tonight, Monroe pointed to himself after a Celtics basket, indicating that one was on him. To me, that action was unnecessary. I’m already looking at him, and I don’t like what I see.

As good as his offense is, Monroe won’t be a true franchise cornerstone until his defense improves. And as long as the Pistons depend on him, they won’t be a true playoff threat until his defense improves.

Point guard problems

If you believe Brandon Knight should start, you’re totally right. Rodney Stuckey (1-of-11 for three points) was terrible.

If you believe Brandon Knight should come off the bench, you’re totally right. Knight (3-of-11 for 10 points with two turnovers and no assists) was terrible.

Really, both played poorly, and I doubt anyone change their mind on The Great Knight Debate of 2011.* Everyone will just see their opinion as validated by tonight’s game.

*Which will surely become The Great Knight Debate of 2012 in two days.

As someone who believes Knight should still come off the bench for now, I know this game didn’t change my opinion. Despite all of Stuckey’s misses, he had seven assists, and the offense seemed to flow a bit better when he was in the game.

I’m not totally convinced Stuckey is better than Knight, but I’m not ready to shake everything up and increase the pressure on Knight.

By the way, if you’re wondering about Will Bynum, he played just two minutes, not enough time to show anything of consequence.

Ben Gordon’s passing

Ben Gordon has passed very well the last couple days. With five assists tonight and four against the Cavaliers, he has nine assists in his last two games. It’s been more than a full year since Gordon had such a high-assist two-game stretch.

At least once, Gordon grabbed a defensive rebound, brought the ball up himself and initiated the offense. Are the Pistons giving him more point guard-like responsibilities?

Austin Daye’s slump buster?

Austin Daye missed four of his first five shots, but he made four of his last six shots to finish with 11 points. Hopefully, that sets him on the right track after he went 0-for-8 with no points in the Pistons’ first two games.

But sometimes, we see patterns where none exist, and Daye’s 5-of-11 night doesn’t exactly inspire on the whole. It will take a good game, not just a few good quarters, from Daye until I’m convinced he’s back on track.


  • Dec 30, 201110:15 pm
    by Micah Wels


    Monroe pretty much just can get garbage junk points.  And we need guys like that but he is no one you build the team around.  The stats looked good tonight but that wont ever happen on a consistent basis.  Good passer but defense of liability.

    • Dec 31, 201110:36 am
      by BIG MARV


      Yeah you right me and my bro was discussing that last night it dont matter how bad your team stinks somebody always gonna be the high scorer

  • Dec 30, 201110:40 pm
    by Josh


    Is it safe to assume that the big man were looking for is Anthony Unibrow Davis?

    • Dec 31, 20111:59 am
      by flip


      I hope you’re right, just so the Pistons can start passing out faux-brows at games like they used to with the Big Ben’s faux-fro’s. LOL

      Thats one mean unibrow hes got going, lol.

  • Dec 30, 201110:44 pm
    by Jodi Jezz


    We need to trade for a proven big man so we can move Monroe to PF…Taking a gamble on another draft pick that could turn out to be a bust, would be horrible for the Pistons organization!..Dumars has a lot of work to do…smh…

  • Dec 30, 201110:57 pm
    by Josh


    Well for me at least, it’s worth the risk. He’s averaging a double-double to go with 4 blocks a game. If he turns out to be a bust, a wouldn’t blame the Pistons for picking him up. We’re that desperate. Still have to wait 63 games to find out if we can nab him though.

  • Dec 30, 201111:07 pm
    by Steve K


    I didn’t expect a W… certainly not with this roster. But I was hoping they’d compete. That final score is misleading, as Boston scored just 10 pts in the 4th quarter garbage time.

    In three games, against pretty mediocre competition (perhaps Boston is still legit), the Pistons failed to even threaten. That’s not a good sign. I have a hard time predicting over 10 wins. I’ve not seen an NBA team this inept, and I’ve watched a lot of basketball over the years.

    Seriously… who was ever this bad? I imagine some expansion teams… maybe Big Country’s Grizzlies?

  • Dec 30, 201111:13 pm
    by brgulker


    The Pistons havent given up absurd amounts of points 

    They have had a heck of a time putting the ball in the basket.

    To me, a competent offense is a much bigger hurdle to jump with this group.

  • Dec 30, 201111:23 pm
    by swish22


    I’m still wondering how we could’ve given Stuckey so much dough for his leadershipless talent!  Stuckey shoots 4 three’s tonight.  Now we have 3 of the most overpaid guys in the league!
    Stuckey, Prince, Charlie V all should’ve been elsewhere this year!!  Another off season of horrible moves by Joe D.   Absolutely the most F#$@%$ up roster in the league!   Can’t see Joe D making it through the season.   Time to go Joe!    

    • Dec 31, 201110:06 am
      by tarsier


      So many people talk about leadership in players. Can someone tell me what leadership is? In this context of course. I know what normal leadership is. Cuz it seems to me that in basketball, being a leader means being really good and people liking you or being old and people liking you. What does Rose or Fisher do that Lebron doesn’t? Why does Stuckey talk about being a leader and others talk about him not being a leader? Is it just cuz he isn’t good enough? Or are there other things he is expected to do that would qualify as leadership? And if so, how many could the fans actually even know about? I would assume that most of these things would take place in the locker room or practice or whatever, not on the court. But again, I don’t know, because I don’t know what these mysterious basketball leadership things are.

  • Dec 30, 201111:23 pm
    by Pratik


    The Detroit Pistons are a team with players who don’t play their natural position. Adding a new coach, a new system – is all great…but not having the staff to figure out what player and lineup gives them the best chance to compete is really disappointing. Frank is basically playing the same lineup Kuester played, there are no changes, besides Gordon becoming a permanent starter. And has it easier because we don’t have Rip or Tmac to claim minutes.
    Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups are starting together for the clippers. Why can’t we start B. Knight at point guard and have Stuckey play next to him. Our defense automatically gets better, with both of them in the back court. Gordon can be effective, but won’t be able to do it night in and night out. He has to come off the bench along with Will Bynum at point, and give the Pistons a threat on the bench + more speed and energy. Kind of like what Mike James and Lindsey Hunter use to do for us. With the current lineup we have…we are wasting Will Bynum’s talent as well. With Knight off the bench who takes all of his minutes.
    Jonas and Austin both need to play the 3 position (SF)…problem is that won’t happen because Tayshaun Prince is still a Piston. Greg Monroe is a PF – I agree he has to improve his defense..but put him next Vernon Macklin if that’s the case. Not saying V. Macklin can play defense and will make a difference, but he’s a big body..and we have to use what we have, if we are not willing to trade prince and j.max to get a decent partner for Greg Monroe. I believe that the lineup should be:
    1. Knight, 2. Stuckey, 3. Jonas/or Austin Daye, 4. Greg Monroe 5. V.Macklin (or trade for a big CENTER)
    bench rotation: will bynum, ben gordon, Charlie V, Ben Wallace
    Prince has to go! Worst decision keeping him and waiting for the season to end..and increase his trade value. At worse we could have sent Prince to the clippers for Chris Kaman earlier this season. Prince shows no leadership like Billups or even Hamilton/Wallace can. In fact he’s the most negative out of our championship starting five from 03-04, and has lost his defensive effectiveness. Why is he wasting his time in Detroit..when he could easily be helping contenders like the Lakers out. GOSH!!!

  • Dec 31, 201112:25 am
    by Max


    I agree with some of what has been said about Monroe’s deficiencies, but I feel like he improved throughout all of last year in most every respect, including defense, and that he is not yet playing at the level he played at following the all star break last year.

    One area where I think Monroe has tremendous potential as a help defender, and I thought he got very proficient at it last year, was in showing high to pressure the ball handler without fouling.  Most big men simply cannot do it effectively without fouling.  While Monroe has had foul trouble in a lot of ways, this was one area where he seemed to have a real knack and elite potential–he actually reminded me a lot of Horus Grant making that kind of defensive play if not anywhere else.
    BTW:  While everyone says we need a center and that Monroe is not a center, I think he can served very well by a power forward of great girth,  Mass in total is probably more important than mass by position because players can balance each other out.   Point being, if you were trying to decide to draft a 6-9 260 shot blocker or a 7-2 245 finesse player to play with Monroe, all things being equal, take the 6-9 guy.

  • Dec 31, 201112:35 am
    by bg8


    pistons lost the game at the start of the second quarter when frank decided to come out with a lineup of knight, daye, wilkens, jonas, maxiel and played them like half of the quarter. you can’t expect the rookie knight to be carrying that group, and thats why i think he had a bad game. you really got 3 non-scorer and a scorer that has lost his confidence in his shot.

    gordon should’ve been out there with that group and wilkens should not have been in. gordon did have 2 fouls at that point, but you have to trust your player to be able to play without fouling. and he has a lower chance of picking up another foul since hes guarding dooling or pavlovic. he should’ve been able to play a while without fouling and if he does, then they could have brought back in stuckey who would have been rested by then.

    they may have still lost the game, but i don’t think they would’ve fallen down by double digit in that quarter

  • Dec 31, 20112:06 am
    by flip


    Still baffled how Maxiell is getting this much PT. It took until the middle of the 4th qtr of game 3 for him to score his first points. He doesnt defend or rebound either, yet his a main rotation piece for some reason.

    I’m hopeful that reason is just the absence of Charlie V, and Maxiell will be out of the rotation upon his return. But even that idea isnt much of an upgrade to that role off the bench.

    Monroe gets an A from me on offense tonight, but an F on defense.

    I fear he just might not be athletic enough to guard effectively, if so they’ll need a weak-side shotblocker supreme paired next to him. Either Davis/Drummond should fit the bill.

  • Dec 31, 20114:16 am
    by Laser


    This really could be the worst team I’ve ever seen. I pity the team that loses to us. Once in a blue moon we’re going to shoot the lights out because that’s how the game goes, but that’s the only way I can see us beating anybody.
    How in the name of God can this go unanswered for?

  • Dec 31, 20118:30 am
    by leonelreo


    … so PISTONS are the weak opponent. last year’s team minus the best player. worse.
    I hope we get the first place in next draft.

    • Dec 31, 201110:11 am
      by tarsier


      Wait, are you referring to Rip as last year’s best player? Or T-Mac? Or Summers or White? I’m confused.

  • Dec 31, 20118:39 am
    by Duke


    The next few games will decide the future of the team. If we are going to play for the draft, we might as well start now. BG and Prince need to be traded for a quality big, we have the other parts we just need to play them the right way. Will Bynum is not a starter but he for sure is not a 12th man, Frank needs to figure this out now and not an entire season (like last year).

  • Dec 31, 20119:25 am
    by Eric


    I have watched the first three games, with not much to be excited about.  Knight has shown some flashes, but he definitely is not ready yet.  Monroe is the most consistent, but should be playing PF with a Center we do not have on this roster. 

    This may be one of the worst Pistons teams in history.

    • Dec 31, 20119:57 am
      by Steve K


      Agreed. I never watched the pre-Isiah Pistons, but this group is certainly the worst in MY lifetime. They’re just dreadful. All the hope that this team could be the 2nd coming of the Carlisle-led Pistons is just craziness. They are SO bad. I know it’s only 3 games, but all the signs of permanent ineptitude are present. 

      I can’t see how Gores allows Dumars to keep his job. He may give Dumars through the trading deadline… but that should be it. This team needs a fresh start, and that starts with the Prez.

      Of course, Dumars limited his ability to create a fresh start by throwing millions of dollars at Prince and Stuckey. Thank goodness Stuckey’s only got 3 years. Prince may be here for the long haul.

      Next off-season:
      - Trade Stuckey
      - Amnesty Gordon
      - Attempt to trade Prince
      - Waive Maxiell

      Then you’re at worst only stuck with the Prince and Charlie V contracts.

  • Dec 31, 201110:47 am
    by BIG MARV


    Soooo Frank trust stuckey to be the better starting PG over Knight? lets see a guy tha avg 7 ppg and cant pass, dribble, or finish to the basket. Over a guy that gives you 22 off the bench 10 last night and growing to be a double double guard hmmmmm yeah I really trust that guy. Looks like my speed core was working (look at yesterdays article “pistions need to add more speed”) but as usual coach put the guys in too late for a decent comeback hopefully frank gets the picture real soon before he loses the loyal fans that the pistons do have left.

  • Dec 31, 201112:46 pm
    by Youssif


    Give BG starting time, as much PT as possible hoping his numbers start to look good. Then trade him for a competent big guy to a team dumb enough to have him. Amnesty Maxiell (used to say CV or BG, but Maxiell barely deserves a minimum salary at this point). Tank the season, draft big, erase this season from memory. 

    I’m just thankful we only have 63 games left…

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