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3-on-3: Player development

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, Patrick and I will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic.

For each 3-on-3, we’ll be joined by a guest contributor. Today, that’s David Thorpe of ESPN.com.

1. Is sitting and watching ever better for a young player’s development than playing?

Dan Feldman: Sometimes, yes. When a player needs to develop mental toughness, the roadblock of overtaking a veteran can stimulate a psychological growth. If a player never becomes mentally strong enough to overtake a lower-end and less-talented veteran, that indicates a problem. Better to find out a player shies from competition when he’s young than deep in the playoffs, when the pressure and stakes are higher.

Patrick Hayes: Depends on what you mean by sitting and watching. I don’t think gluing a young guy to a bench is ever a great strategy. But, aside from the most elite, NBA-ready prospects, I don’t have a problem when young guys have to earn minutes by out-working, out-practicing and, eventually in game situations, out-playing veteran players in front of them. As a recent example, I think Denver developed Ty Lawson extremely well, finding him consistent minutes as a backup to Chauncey Billups until Billups was traded. The best strategy is simply to play players based on merit. Young guys shouldn’t sit just because they’re young, and old guys shouldn’t play just because they’re old.

David Thorpe: Only when poor play in games risks losing confidence. Guys must play to gain reference points for practice the next day and for games.

2. Which current Pistons should be playing more?

Dan Feldman: Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Jonas Jerebko are already getting big minutes. I’m not there yet, but late in the season, I’d like to see more Vernon Macklin – if he continues to perform well in his limited minutes and if he performs well in practice. His contract expiries at the end of the season, making it more urgent to assess his play in games – as long as he proves in practice he deserves the chance.

Patrick Hayes: Austin Daye is the easy choice, but I honestly think he’s been given sufficient opportunities to earn more minutes this season. He hasn’t taken advantage, and he’s played pretty poorly a majority of the season. I’ll go with Vernon Macklin. The Pistons’ big man rotation currently includes the ancient Ben Wallace, who is retiring after the season, the limited Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko, who isn’t even a true big man. It should be pretty easy to find Macklin 10-15 minutes a game rather than completely waste him on the bench in what is already a lost season.

David Thorpe: I always thought Jason Maxiell was going to be a solid and consistent rebounder and add toughness on defense. Maybe he would be that guy if given more opportunities.

3. How responsible is Joe Dumars for the Pistons typically giving more minutes to veterans than young players during his tenure?

Dan Feldman: Very responsible. He’s brought in veteran after veteran who was marginally better than the young player stuck behind him and given coaches a win-now directive. Maybe when the Pistons were contending for a title, that philosophy made sense. Maybe it even made sense when the Pistons could still enter the season with playoff hopes, and Dumars was trying to preserve a winning atmosphere (and playoff revenue). But now that the team has no shot at the postseason, it’s time to clear more minute for young players.

Patrick Hayes: Not directly responsible, but responsible by proxy. Because he’s hired the coaches who have done a poor job of developing young players over the years, Dumars deserves some of the blame. Obviously, if there was an impetus on playing and developing the young guys, and Dumars has always said there was, Flip Saunders, Michael Curry and John Kuester didn’t seem to get the message. I respect that Dumars tries not to meddle in how his coaches manage their rotation. But failing to develop players who have done well elsewhere has been a problem for long enough, that Dumars probably should’ve been more proactive in making sure his coaches accomplish this.

David Thorpe: We really have no way of knowing.  Ownership sets the standard and then the GM has to execute the plan with the coach. I’m sure Lawrence Frank wants to win more than anything else. So, really there are three potentially competing agendas.  They all need to be on the same page.

What do you think? Share your answers to each question in the comments.

7 Comments

  • Feb 8, 20125:00 pm
    by Steve K

    Reply

    Has David Thorpe seen any Piston games this year?

    “David Thorpe: I always thought Jason Maxiell was going to be a solid and consistent rebounder and add toughness on defense. Maybe he would be that guy if given more opportunities.”

    More opportunities? He’s a starter.

  • Feb 8, 20125:46 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    thanks for getting thorpe on-board.  along with abbot and  hollinger, he’s the smartest guy over there writing about BB.
    i always make a point of reading his stuff.
    agree 100% with feldman on dumars’ responsibility.  basically, that’s been my view all along. 
    and in some organizations, the gm may share responsibility on those kinds of issues, as thorpe notes.  but on the pistons, because joe d has dominated the franchise for so long, he’s the guy who calls those shots.  imho.
    either by edict or memo directly to the coach. (as in…memo to coach frank: play this guy more…or less…) or by his action, as in signing certain players that will be better than young players if only by virtue of their experience.
    it’s joe d’s show.  for better or worse.
    larry brown was probably the only coach who had almost total control.
    and maybe carlisle had more control than even flip, if only because joe d was still establishing himself and had not yet become genius in residence.

  • Feb 8, 20127:49 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Blake Griffin is on record that missing his first year helped his development by allowing him to watch and that he couldn’t have known the things he knew if he had played the season before, but maybe he’s just showing the psychology of a positive athlete by saying so.

    • Feb 9, 201211:28 am
      by ryan

      Reply

      Blake’s circumstances were a little different because an injury kept him out of the game not a coach. If he’d sat him I think it would’ve been totally different. I think you raise an interesting point about him being a confident positive athlete though because that makes a big difference. Some guys will turn any situation to a positive like Arron Afflalo for example he didn’t get too many more opportunities than Austin Daye but he developed himself while Austin Daye really hasn’t and the difference to me is mostly on the mental side (obviously they have different skill sets too).

      Also I’m definitely on board with Vernon Macklin playing more. He really can’t hurt us this year and he could potentially help a lot by developing into a rotation player.

  • Feb 8, 201210:49 pm
    by Patrick Ryan

    Reply

    I really liked Frankie’s point about how the GM’s actions can dictate whether or not younger players play or develop.  I think that was definitely the case with Amir, Delfino, and to a lesser extent, Summers and Macklin as of late.  At least Monroe, Knight, and Jerebko have gotten significant burn in their first two years, although that’s probably more out of necessity than design.

  • Feb 9, 20128:19 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    One thing though; let’s says, and I know the circumstances were a little different, Dumars gives a coach three small forwards including a rookie Tayshaun Prince, a veteran Michael Curry and a veteran Corliss Williamson and assumes the coach will make Curry the odd man out but instead, Curry starts?

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