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Pistons having a hard time converting shots at the rim

The Pistons running out of steam in the fourth quarter and Jodie Meeks getting hot late made Friday’s 96-73 loss to Philadelphia much less competitive than it was in reality. Greg Monroe had another performance that makes him look like a lock to be an All-Star in the near future, Brandon Knight showed a few exciting flashes in his first career start, the defense was good and competitive for much of the game and Charlie Villanueva didn’t play again, so the game was not devoid of positives.

But two recurring problems reared their ugly heads, making it impossible for the Pistons to score enough to stay in the game: the Pistons have a hard time converting close to the basket and a hard time converting far from the basket.

Entering the game, Detroit was among the worst teams in the league finishing at the rim. According to HoopData, Detroit was shooting just 55.8 percent at the rim prior to Friday’s game, 27th in the league. League average is 63.3 percent. The Pistons actually got off to a great start turning that stat around some, hitting 6-of-7 shots at the rim in the first quarter. But they got progressively worse from there — 3-for-5 in the second quarter, 3-for-7 in the third and 1-for-3 in the fourth.

Now, failing to convert that close against Philly was doubly frustrating because Knight and Will Bynum were actually having success getting into the lane whenever they wanted. Neither guy is the most gifted passer, but both were finding guys in position to score, and they just weren’t converting. The Sixers do have good shot blockers in Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes, but the Pistons have been poor at converting layups whether teams have a shot-blocking presence or not.

The other issue offensively for Detroit was the absurd number of open threes the team missed. They were 0-for-10 from 3-point range. Knight was 0-for-5. Austin Daye was 0-for-3. Knight was a streaky, erratic shooter from distance at Kentucky, so his struggles are somewhat more explainable. But Daye shot 40 percent from three last season and shot the ball well from their in the preseason. His biggest asset is his ability to hit threes. The Pistons are now shooting just 31 percent as a team from three on the season, and that includes the solid 40 percent that Ben Gordon is shooting.

Saying that the Pistons struggle to score isn’t going to surprise anyone. But the biggest reason they struggle is because their offense is so mid-range oriented. The Pistons have active players around the basket and guards capable of penetrating and getting all the way to the rim. They are going to get a lot of at-the-rim opportunities this season. Those guards penetrating and those offensive rebounders are also going to result in shooters having open looks from 3-point range. Offense and scoring is certainly a problem, but it’s not a problem because of a lack of opportunities. Taking and missing bad shots is unwatchable and unforgivable. The Pistons taking and missing good shots consistently has been really maddening so far this season.

Jonas Jerebko, power forward

There’s still an argument to be made that Jonas Jerebko, long-term, is better suited to play small forward. He’s not looking as overmatched at the power forward spot as his somewhat slight frame would suggest, though. Against Philly, he played strong defense against the much stronger Elton Brand, helping hold Brand to a 2-for-9 shooting night. Jerebko also grabbed nine more rebounds, pushing his season average to 7.4 per game. He’s also had solid defensive performances against David West, another physically stronger PF. Jerebko has successfully made Villanueva, who received a DNP-CD against Philly, an afterthought.

Maxiell is proving useful

Of all the Pistons’ high-priced veterans last season, Jason Maxiell looked to be the least useful of the bunch. He wasn’t in good shape and his production plummeted for two straight seasons. Plus, as an undersized player dependent mostly on freakish athleticism, Maxiell is the type of player who age can quickly creep up on. Players like Gordon, Rip Hamilton and Villanueva all had some built-in excuses — namely, they weren’t being used in optimal roles/schemes to highlight their strengths. Maxiell, on the other hand, has always just been a role player/energy guy off the bench. It’s pretty impossible to use someone who has never relied on plays being run for him incorrectly, so it was much easier to come to a conclusion that his days as a useful rotation player were over.

This season, though, he hasn’t been too bad. He had 10 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. He’s not perfect (and never was), but he infused some energy and looked like the old Maxiell, not just old Maxiell. Since a poor three-game stretch to open the season, Maxiell has actually looked like a serviceable player again over the last four games.

Good Knight

Above, I highlighted the main problem with Knight’s game tonight — he missed a lot of wide open jumpers. But that shouldn’t overshadow his positives. He’s going to make mistakes, but he’s also going to continue earning minutes because he plays as hard and as tough as any guard the Pistons have put on the floor over the last three years. He’s in Will Bynum territory when it comes to effort.

Against Philly, he helped out on the glass and collected eight rebounds. He showed his toughness after injuring his ankle in the first half. He tried to run down the court and looked to be in a lot of pain. He could barely put weight on the ankle, then he awkwardly limped into the locker room immediately. Ankle injuries, especially for guards who rely on quickness are no joke, so it wouldn’t have been a shock to see him not come back. But there he was, starting the third quarter. He didn’t become less aggressive, continuously (sometimes a bit out of control, but that’s OK for now) pushing the ball up-court and attacking the paint. The one shot he has shown an ability to knock down consistently is that little floater from 8-10 feet. He gets in trouble when he launches it from too far out, but it’s a reliable shot for him in the lane and one that is hard for defenses to stop. Knight is still a work in progress, but his effort and toughness continually make him fun to watch.

Tayshaun Prince might need to rest

I’ve held off on being too critical of Tayshaun Prince‘s performance, simply because he’s playing in obvious pain. He’s as tough as ever, as playing through pain has been a norm for him in his career, but after a 4-for-13 performance against Philly, it might be time to consider having him take a game or two off. He’s now shooting just 38 percent on the season.

I was going to do a separate header for Daye, but he fits the topic here, and I can sum his performance up pretty quickly: he played terrible. He was passive, lacked confidence and missed open shots. It was his first extended action of the season, and I’m sure he was pressing to make up for falling out of the rotation and trying to earn his spot back in one night. Lawrence Frank is a smart enough coach to know that. Hopefully, he’s also a perceptive enough coach to know that Prince could use some rest, considering Detroit’s brutal stretch of back-to-backs over the next week. Combining the two, he can give Daye another shot at a start where nerves are hopefully less of a factor and, when Gordon and Stuckey return, allow Prince to have a game or two to properly heal his knee.

Stuckey’s status

No word on how long Gordon’s personal matters will keep him out, but it appears Stuckey will miss tomorrow’s game as well. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Stuckey said he doubts he will play tomorrow. Said he wants to make sure it’s right.


  • Jan 6, 20129:51 pm
    by ryan


    “the Pistons have a hard time converting close to the basket and a hard time converting far from the basket.”
    That’s a great line man. Really nice subtle humor and so true. I loved the way Brandon Knight was rebounding and hustling, Greg Monroe looked good (as usual) and yes we’ve got a long way to go.

    • Jan 6, 201210:11 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Knight plays so hard. He and Bynum were a really mistake-prone combo, but it was fun to watch them try and run the ball down Philly’s throat any time either of them touched the ball.

  • Jan 6, 201210:05 pm
    by Max


    I thought they really missed their starters and the arguments for Daye and Knight starting should be over if Stuckey and Gordon are healthy for now.

    • Jan 6, 201210:10 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I haven’t heard any arguments that Daye should start, just that he should play.

  • Jan 6, 201210:27 pm
    by Kk


    I thought that the first quarter of this game was fun to watch. There was a lot of energy and hustle that was involved. Firstly, it’s mind boggling that Greg Monroe continues to play well and improve; his post game is so fun to see.

    Is there any reason why Austin Daye is performing so badly? I was cringing every time he shot the ball. And he kept shooting….and shooting. It was a great move by Frank starting him but I think his value is best now for a trade before he shoots him self out of any possible value.

    I think that the bigger issue w this team is the lack of confidence. Every team has a game where they go into a hole, the 2004-2006 pistons did it all the time and would tear it up in the 4th. I think Brandon Knight might have that swagger needed to lead a team. But we really need to dump Daye, Prince, Bynum and Maxiell. Those four in a package makes me think that someone would want to take that, or am I just crazy?

    • Jan 6, 201210:29 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      They can’t trade Prince until March 1 b/c of his new deal, but even so, I don’t think that package would yield much in return. Daye has struggled, Prince and Maxiell are expensive (not to mention Prince has a balky knee right now) and Bynum is a fine backup, but at 28 he’s hardly a young prospect with upside anymore.

    • Jan 6, 201211:04 pm
      by RandomGuy313


      By the way Kk, you are crazy.

      We could get more for Arnie Kander than the players you indicated.

  • Jan 6, 201210:35 pm
    by RandomGuy313


    With a rotation of B Knight, BG and Stuckey they should all have enough minutes to spread and flourish. I am ok with BK not starting at the present because L Frank is giving him plenty opportunity.

    I do believe JJ should be starting given the team’s current construction; however I think his energy, hustle and baseline jumper are better suited as the first 3 or 4 coming off the bench. A big would allow G Monroe to slide to the 4 which is better suited to him.

    I was really feeling G Monroes game tonight. Very assertive and quite effective on the face up. He is decent with the 15 footer and has stroke to make it even better.

    • Jan 6, 201210:45 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Yeah, his jumper is solid but not great right now, but I look at his improved FT stroke as a sign of hope. He wasn’t good at the line last year, shooting in the low 50s, and had ugly form. His shot looks a lot more clean from the line and he’s at like 86 percent. I think he’ll eventually make that 15-footer a reliable part of his arsenal too. I’m trying to temper my optimism, but it’s getting harder and harder not to imagine him as a 20-10 guy fairly soon.

    • Jan 6, 201211:18 pm
      by RandomGuy313


      Especially with that free throw percentage he is basically at that level. I was disappointed that they did not run more offense through him tonight, to Frank’s credit it seemed like they were trying to but the entry passes were terrible tonight.

      I thought Jrue Holiday turned to Freddie Adu with all those kick balls.

  • Jan 6, 201210:44 pm
    by Mark


    Good to hear Knight will be starting again tomorrow. Only positive from this mess was Monroe and Knight got the 2 highest minutes and FGA’s on the team. Hopefully a sign that this is becoming their team. Monroe was great as usual. Knight didn’t play that good, imo, but its good to see him contribute in other ways when his shots not falling and/or he’s turning it over. I’m talking to you BG and Daye. As Knight still ended up with a virtual dbl-dbl to go with four assists, despite looking like he had a bad game.

    At this point, 2-5, and looking like they’re overmatched talent-wise whoever they play – might as well just start Knight and give him and Greg the keys to the team. Let them use this year as building block, developing chemistry and their own games.

    I dont see any good, longterm, that can come from Stuckey/Gordon starting. We arent making the playoffs even with them, and the only thing it can do is ruin our draft slot. Start Knight, lose a bunch of games, get him experience, and come back next year with Monroe, Knight, and Drummond.

    • Jan 6, 201210:56 pm
      by Kk


      All I really hear on the comments section: tank the season, get a draft pick and fire Dumars. Its a very short minded, ignorant way of looking at things.
      1. Draft picks, overall don’t do that much. It still takes a few years to develop and get good pieces. See Washington, or Sacremento. Unless there is a player like Howard or James where they can impact right away, and even then it’s not worth the risk of not getting the number one pick.
      2. Fire Dumars and then what? Who is out there right now? We’re in Detroit. A lot of players wouldn’t even dream of coming here if it wasn’t for Dumars’ reputation as a player. Curry and Keuster weren’t really good choices, but there were hardly any choices for the money that he didn’t have to spend to begin with.

      • Jan 6, 201211:08 pm
        by Mark


        This is not a playoff team. So if you are going to get a lottery pick anyways, why would you rather play vets who have no longterm value, who will likely just win enough games to net you the 7th-10th pick?

        When instead, you could get Knight exp as a starter, likely lose more games just due to inexperience, and net a top 3 pick and franchise player?

        There’s just nothing to gain, short-term or long-term by starting vets over Knight.

        Minutes aren’t the only factor. Knight could get the same min off the bench, but there’s a big difference between min playing against starters, and min against 2nd-3rd string guys off the bench.

        Knight needs exp starting. If he’s going to start eventually, why waste this year bringing him off the bench, when he could gain valuable exp learning how to be a starter?

        • Jan 6, 201211:53 pm
          by Kk


          I think John Wall is doing that now. Looks like that’s really working well for them. Cleveland did that last year, got their franchise player (that makes twice now) doesnt look like their season is going to well for them either.

      • Jan 7, 201212:04 am
        by tarsier


        Yeah, it’s because we are happy to wait a few years if the team is moving in the right direction. Seasons spent playing close to .500 ball are completely wasted though. Not fun to watch, nothing much to root for, and not aiding in moving towards the right direction in a couple years. Cleveland, Washington, Minnesota, etc are goign thorough the still being bad but having a real hope for the future phase. I’d take that over having 5-10 more wins and no hope for the future anyday.

        Also, Howard was not particularly great right off the bat.

    • Jan 6, 201210:57 pm
      by RandomGuy313


      You are gonna see BK get 27 to 35 minutes and I think that is more than enough. It does not matter if he is starting right now. That is the realist side of me, however I do agree that he should be starting.

  • Jan 6, 201210:47 pm
    by Mark


    btw, anyone else know that Brandon Knight’s brother is Brevin Knight?

    They mentioned it during the PHI broadcast. I had no idea. They look nothing alike either. 

    Brevin was a pretty good PG, had a few 20 ast games in his career. Good genes for Brandon towards becoming a true PG.

    • Jan 6, 201210:48 pm
      by Mark


      haha, nevermind. I just looked it up, and Brevin Knights brother is Brandin Knight, who is somebody else. The PHI announcers dont know wtf they’re talking about, lol.

      • Jan 7, 201212:39 am
        by Dan Feldman


        When I read your first post, I was shocked that I didn’t know that, but your follow-up is correct.

        Brevin Knight, whom I really liked with the Cavs, and Brandin Knight, whom I really liked at Pitt, are brothers. Brandon Knight, whom I really like with the Pistons, is not a sibling to those two — despite Wikipedia’s claim (which is where the Philly broadcasters or their researchers probably saw it).

        • Jan 7, 20123:25 pm
          by frankie d


          when i heard the false news of his brevin knight connection, i was excited.  i figured that he’d be a bigger, more athletic brevin.  the only thing that stopped brevin from being a real star was about 5 inches in height and 20 pounds.
          oh well…

          • Jan 7, 20123:55 pm
            by Dan Feldman

            Me too. Loved Brevin’s passion, energy, attitude. I would’ve taken that as a good sign for Brandon.

  • Jan 6, 201211:03 pm
    by vic


    good news – Knight, JJ, and Monroe keep getting better.          gooder news- we’re still losing, so we could end up with andre drummond / anthony davis, or Jared Sullinger

  • Jan 6, 201211:09 pm
    by RandomGuy313


    I thought Philly had an excellent scheme against the Pistons; they showed hard on ball screens and BK and Bynum had trouble executing. Even when they did, whoever rolled or slipped didn’t help either because they did not make Philly pay.

  • Jan 7, 20128:12 am
    by Jakob Eich


    Is there any trade for Stuckey out there right now we could make? I can live with Bynum and BK running the point for the rest of the year, they are fun to watch and Stuckey is probably the only player who has real value on the market right.
    Last night, for the first time in what seems like an eternity, I actually saw a Pistons team playing dedicated defense through three quarters. Jodie Meeks simply turned into the sun during the fourth and got blazing hot!
    Last year I thought GMs ceiling would be around 15/10, but this year he seems to become more of a 20/10 guy. His 15-footer looks good to me and as Patrick pointed out his free throw percentage gives reason to hope for further improvement. Last season he couldn’t knock it down at all, this year it already looks rather consistent. Remember, he’s a sophomore, big men tend to take a long time to improve their jumpshot. What really makes me optmistic though is his post-game. He’s showing a lot of postmoves this year that he didn’t show last year. He has a lefty and a righty hook shoot, and a 15-foot jumpshot, which is pretty much all you need in order to be successful in the post nowadays.  If he can develop the up and under next offseason and make his jumper even more consistent he’ll be in 20/10 territory for sure. His improved FT% is also very very very valuable as bigs who can shoot the FT are just so important. Additionally, what makes me salivate is that he is showing signs of improved athleticism. A lot of times last year I thought you couldn’t fit a newspaper between the floor and his feet when he jumped. Last night he had a block after which I thought “WHOA! He really leaps now??”

    • Jan 7, 20128:39 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      “Is there any trade for Stuckey out there right now we could make?”

      No. Stuckey can’t be traded until March 1 since he signed a new contract in the offseason.

  • Jan 7, 20129:02 am
    by ryan


    If we were to trade Rodney Stuckey I think we really need to look into getting a big athletic guard who can play a Raja Bell/Tony Allen type role a guy like Wesley Mathews would be perfect. Obviously I don’t want any of those guys specifically but we need that type of player especially if we’re going to make a rotation that relies heavily on Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon work. It’d be nice to have two picks this summer in order to go after a top flight guard or swing man with the second pick.

    Could we move Rodney Stuckey for such a pick? If we could who would you all want?

  • Jan 7, 20123:22 pm
    by frankie d


    i’d have to disagree with your assessment of daye’s play as “terrible”
    i’d say that he shot terribly but  otherwise his overall play was ok.  but because shooting is what makes him a worthwhile player, when he shoots terribly, that overshadows everything.
    for instance, i thought he did a good job on jodie meeks defensively.  i think he let him get past him once on a drive, but otherwise was able to stay in front of him and keep him from getting into the lane.  and his length definitely bothered meeks on jumpers.   it looks like he is using tay’s method in that respect.  meeks only scored a couple of buckets on daye.
    daye also helped out defensively because they use him at the bottom of a weird zone that looks like a 1-3-1.  his length allows him to defend the rim and scoot from side to side more effectively than a smaller player.  he definitely helps out on the boards.
    i didn’t see the passivity you noted.  his 11 shots in 24 minutes seemed like a decent number of shots.  i only saw a couple of instances when he passed up open shots.  he took the shots that were there to be taken, in the flow of the offense.  he did hesitate a bit in putting the ball on the floor, but he is obviously concerned about getting stripped, so he hesitated to get among the defenders.
    the one thing i think would help is to post him up more and to post him up a bit deeper.  i only saw one attempt to use him in the post, which was a shame.  he had a 7 inch height advantage and they only tried to exploit that once.  also, the couple of other times i’ve seen them try to use him in the post, he seemed to intentionally set up at the mid-post area.  i guess there are reasons to have him receive a pass there, but with the kind of size advantage he typically has when he plays the guard spot, i think he’d be more effective in the low post.  if he starts out that deep, he has a number of easy shots at his disposal without having to put the ball on the floor.  if he is that low,  the defense would most likely help out, which frees someone else for an open shot.   and if they don’t commit another defender, he has an easy 6 foot shot, or he can lean in and get even closer.  if he goes aggressively to the basket, by simply leaning in for a shot, it is likely that he’ll get fouled.
    all in all, a below average game, but he should definitely continue to get steady PT.  he had a couple of rebounds, 3 assists, a block, a steal and only one turnover.  not great, but aside from the really bad shooting, a decent overall game.
    but he simply needs to continue to play.
    for instance, jodie meeks had been in a season long, horrible shooting slump before the 4th quarter of last night’s game.  suddenly, he hits a couple of shots and before you know it, he has 17 points in that quarter.   ( against someone, wilkins, who is supposed to be a defensive player.  what good is wilkins if he can’t stop shooters.  that is what he is supposed to do.)
    doug collins showed confidence and patience and he’s now got his shooting guard back on track.

  • Jan 7, 20123:31 pm
    by frankie d


    i makes no sense for tay to limp around the court.
    if the team was in the middle of a playoff run, it would make sense for him to grind forward and gut it out.
    but it makes no sense to do it at the beginning of the year.  especially when the team is not going to contend for a top spot on any seeding rung, and there are young players who could use the PT.
    my guess is that he is actively resisting any desire by management to sit him.  he saw what happened with JJ when he went out a couple of years ago.  he may be worried about daye taking advantage of a similar opening and making tay that much more expendable.  
    no athlete wants to become wally pipp.
    but this is the time when the gm and coach should step in and make the decision for the sake of both the player and the team.
    sit him for however long it takes to get him right physically.  let the young guys play.

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