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Archive → March, 2012

Cody Zeller to Pistons in ESPN’s latest mock draft

Chad Ford of ESPN has the Pistons passing on Harrison Barnes to take Cody Zeller at No. 6:

The Pistons are in desperate need of size and athleticism in the frontcourt. While I think the Pistons would prefer Drummond, Zeller would still be a great get. He’s quick, tough and very polished for a freshman. Pairing him with Greg Monroe would immediately make the Pistons better — if Zeller actually decides to declare.

Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye show up Roy Rogers

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Assistant coach Roy Rogers took some barbs from the players because of his inability to throw a 3-pound basketball and hit the Quicken Loans Jumbotron hanging over mid-court.

He had several attempts come up short.Jonas Jerebko walked to center court and pulled off the feat. Daye was able to thump it off the Jumbotron and walked triumphantly off the floor. Rogers had to make the short walk back to the team hotel for his failure.

Glad to hear this team can still have fun.

Pistons haven’t used zone defense, sounds like they won’t this season

David Mayo of MLive:

The Detroit Pistons never have used a zone defense this season and haven’t even implemented one, head coach Lawrence Frank said Wednesday.

“I think we showed it to our guys once but it was more to work against it,” Frank said.

Frank said he would have implemented a zone if he had a normal-length preseason training camp and an 82-game season to do so.

If the Pistons’ defense doesn’t leap forward next year, I’ll be disappointed.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Darius Miller

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, senior G/F from Kentucky
  • Key Stats: 10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 47 percent shooting, 38 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Second round to undrafted
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

I’ve always kind of liked the ‘elder-statesman’ type players on Kentucky the last few years. A couple years ago, it was junior Patrick Patterson. Last year, it was senior DeAndre Liggins. This year, senior Darius Miller fits that bill.

All three of those guys are examples of players with the physical skills that suggest they would be excellent first or second options on a lot of college teams, but because of the many dynamic underclassmen they’ve played with, all three of those guys settled into more complimentary roles. This year, Miller does a bit of everything. He’s a good spot-up shooter, he runs the floor, he plays hard and he’s a solid passer for a wing player. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that he can do things like this.

Pros for the Pistons

Miller has two assets that make him potentially attractive to the Pistons as a second round pick: he makes them bigger and more athletic on the wing, something they desperately need, and he gives them another spot-up 3-point shooter, something that has been a weakness for the team this year.

The Pistons are committed to Tayshaun Prince as the starter for the foreseeable future, but beyond him, things are up in the air. Austin Daye is under contract for just one more season, and he doesn’t really defend well enough for Lawrence Frank‘s liking so far, plus his main skill — shooting — has failed him this season. Kyle Singler might stay overseas, and even if he did join the team, there are still questions as to whether he’s athletic enough to guard NBA wings. Jonas Jerebko might be better suited for small forward, but unless the Pistons add depth to their frontcourt, he could get stuck playing most of his minutes at power forward for another season.

Miller has the prototypical build that Daye lacks for the NBA small forward position, he has the shooting ability that the team is weak in currently and he’s already used to being a complimentary player. All of those things should be selling points for him with one of the Pistons’ second rounders.

Cons for the Pistons

Unlike Liggins last year, Miller isn’t a lockdown perimeter defender. Liggins’ lacked a NBA-ready offensive skillset while Miller, though not a terrible defender, doesn’t always have the later movement to defend really fast wings. As a bench player in the NBA, that will not be a huge issue, but teams considering him will certainly want to see him improve that in predraft workouts.

Though his shot is good and he has range out to the NBA 3-point line, he also is the beneficiary of playing on a Kentucky team with three likely lottery picks. Kentucky has playmakers all over the court who command the attention of the defense. Right now, the Pistons only have one player, Greg Monroe, who draws extra attention from defenses. Miller would have to adjust to perhaps getting less clean looks at threes than he’s become accustomed to. Good shooters can definitely do that, but there’s a big difference between being a role player on a good team, which he is now, to a role player on a bad tea, which he’d be joining if the Pistons picked him.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

Positives:

  • Very good spot up shooter
  • NBA 3 point range on his jumper
  • Solid penetrator
  • Good size/athleticism for position

Negatives:

  • Has been a reserve is whole career
  • Can struggle to control penetration as a defender

DraftExpress:

On the defensive end, Miller has shown some development, but still gives up too much dribble penetration. Miller has done a nice job contesting jump shots, and has had some very nice possessions, but is still plagued by the lapses in concentration and effort we described in our last report. Considering his physical gifts and potential on this end of the floor, Miller’s ability to better use his size and strength more consistently on this end is worth keeping an eye on.

NBADraft.net:

Miller has played a key role for Kentucky, injecting his unselfish mentality in order to maintain a balanced and poised attack. Though his skills are rarely showcased due to his talented surrounding counterparts, Miller has shown a soft touch in the midrange and as a spot-up threat on the perimeter. He’s hit at least three three-pointers in three of his last five games, while proving capable of shooting off a pump-fake and dribble.

He’ll be asked to play the same role at the next level that he plays in college, so the transition process won’t be overly daunting. While his ceiling is low, a playoff team looking to fill their rotation will likely use their second round pick on this serviceable reserve. He went from #60 to #47 in our 2012 mock draft.

Sports Illustrated:

Throughout his career in Lexington, Miller has been overshadowed by flashier, younger teammates. But there was one prominent witness who offered righteous testimony to what the kid had just done. “Miller is the fiber that holds that team together,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “He has got one thing nobody else on the team has. He has got experience. … All those other guys deserve what they get, but Miller is their most valuable player.”

Yahoo!:

Miller has spent his entire career as the guy who operates effectively in the background while his more celebrated teammates take center stage. He never has been even a second-team All-SEC selection. It’s perhaps only fitting that the individual honor he finally earned this season was the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award, after he moved from the starting lineup into a reserve role.

This is a guy so unselfish that he actually got benched during a regular-season victory over Mississippi State because he passed up an open shot. Yet he also knows when to take over. In that same game, Miller scored 12 points in the final eight minutes to help Kentucky come from behind.

What is the best thing Darius Miller does for his team?

Glenn Logan (follow him on Twitter) writes for A Sea of Blue, SB Nation’s Kentucky site:

Darius Miller has a rare combination of size and feel.  He can pass, shoot with range, attack the rim, handle the ball in almost all situations and defend 3 or 4 spots.  In college, he was a nightmare matchup at 6’8″ when playing the 2-guard. The best thing Darius Miller does for Kentucky is glue the team together, kind of like Draymond Green for Michigan St., only within a supporting role. He leads by example, and he does what he has to do to get Kentucky to a victory.

Previously

With Rodney Stuckey injured, Brandon Knight fills bigger role, but can’t match Kyrie Irving; Pistons top Cavs, anyway

Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving probably have similar ceilings. But Irving is much, much, much, much more polished, and that’s why he went No. 1 in the draft – seven spots ahead of Knight.

The difference between the two was abundantly clear in the Pistons’ 87-75 win over the Cavaliers tonight.

Either by pick-and-rolls or straight drives, Irving (22 points, nine rebounds and six assists) got wherever he wanted while Knight guarded him. Knight never bumped Irving on the perimeter, allowing Irving to get a full head of steam, and that point, Knight didn’t have the lateral quickness to keep Irving out of the lane. Once in the paint, Irving typically made the right decision, shooting or passing.

By comparison, Will Bynum, not exactly the best defender, did a much better job of keeping Irving on the perimeter or forcing him into off-balance drives. Of course, the talented Irving still converted some of those looks.

On the other end, it almost like Knight wanted to prove he could match Irving, which I didn’t necessarily mind for a couple reasons. 1. Rodney Stuckey left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury, leaving a huge playmaking burden on Knight. 2. Knight attempted to duplicate Irving with such vigor, I had to appreciate his effort.

But Knight’s most consistent halfcourt offensive skill is shooting spot-up jumpers, and when he tried to drive, the results were mixed. His drives seemed more strained than Irving’s, and rather than ending with an easy layup or pass, Knight – if he didn’t already have the ball knocked away – had to force something. Knight looked like he took a beating, consistently throwing himself into defenders. That showed great determination, but not necessarily great results.

On one occasion, Irving baited Knight into throwing a pass, swooped into the passing lane and took off for a layup that the Pistons stopped only by fouling.

I like the signs from Knight (16 points, five assists and four rebounds), and I love the grit. But Irving is on a whole other level, and that just shows how far Knight has to go.

Greg Monroe gets force fed with negative result

In his previous four games Greg Monroe has scored just 10, 12, 5 and 13 points. The big reason he was scoring  below his scoring average was because two other stats were below his average:

Field-goal attempts: 4, 10, 5 and 9.

Free-throw attempts: 4, 2, 1 and 2

Monroe often deserves many shots because he establishes good position, uses his hands to securely receive passes and works his feet adeptly to create a good look. A lot typically goes right before he releases the ball.

That wasn’t the case tonight.

The Pistons force fed him the ball, and he seemed intent on shooting more often than not, regardless of how the defense played him. Maybe this was the plan to get him out of his slump. If that was the case, I didn’t like it, and it didn’t work.

Aside from putbacks, Monroe (eight points, 10 rebounds and three turnovers) shot 3-of-12. I don’t see how forcing bad looks – whether his impromptu decisions within the offense or by design – helps get him back on track.

Tayshaun Prince steps up

I’ve spent most of the recap discussing what went wrong, but obviously something went right, because the Pistons won. A lot of what went right was Tayshaun Prince.

Rodney Stuckey left the game in the first quarter, and Ben Gordon was already out, leaving the Pistons desperate for a scorer.

Enter Prince.

He scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting  with no turnovers. In that time, his teammates shot 37 percent with eight turnovers.

Prince showed all his scoring skills – making 4-of-4 3-pointers, putting the ball on the floor to get to the rim, finishing in transition and posting up. He delivered exactly what the Pistons needed.

Greg Monroe and Austin Daye defend well

I already praised Will Bynum’s defense, so this post might be unprecedented, because I’m about to praise Greg Monroe’s and Austin Daye’s defense, too.

I don’t know if Monroe (two steals and two blocks) and Daye (two steals and two blocks) made every rotation correctly, but when they were near the player with the ball, they did an excellent job contesting shots. Both weren’t afraid to be a little physical, and both used their length inside.

If they defend like that the rest of the season, I’ll be thrilled.

Ben Gordon out against Cavaliers

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Date: March 28, 2012
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 17-32
  • Cavaliers: 17-30

Probable starters

Pistons:

Cavaliers:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Anthony Parker
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Antawn Jamison
  • Tristan Thompson

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons –1.5

Over/under: 191

Score: Pistons win, 96.25-94.75

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs the Blog

Ben Gordon out

Ben Gordon will miss the game with a groin injury, according to Ryan Field.

Trayvon Martin and the Pistons

WASHINGTON – On a superficial level, no Piston resembles Trayvon Martin more than Brandon Knight – Detroit’s youngest player and only native Floridian.

“Stuff happens like this all the time,” Knight said. “It’s just one of those situations where it’s being brought to light. It’s something that the media did catch wind of, but stuff like this happens a lot.

“Like I can tell you, just being from Florida, stuff like that, it happens all the time. But it’s just one of the cases where we finally do realize what’s going on. It’s just blowing up now, but it happened a long time ago.

I told Knight how shocked I was to find out, after first reading about Martin, how long ago his death occurred (follow the link for background on the case, if you’re unfamiliar).

“That just shows you, it just really depends on who catches wind of it and who starts to talk about it,” Knight said. “… It happens a lot more, but it doesn’t always get out to the media.

“It’s just the world we live in today. … I’m not sure if we can just stop it. That’s just how the world is.”

Knight noted that key to trying to prevent incidents like this was raising awareness, but he wasn’t sure what steps he would take right now. The Miami Heat took the lead – before and during their game at Detroit – in using their NBA platform to bring attention to Martin’s death.

“That boy was unarmed and had stuff going for him in life, so it’s sad,” Walker Russell said. “Something has to happen to this guy who did it, I think personally. It’s good to see that more and more people are getting involved with it – especially a team like the Miami Heat, who have so many All-Stars. “

Since then, a couple Pistons have followed suit.

Damien Wilkins set his Twitter picture to an image of Martin, and Charlie Villanueva posted a photo of himself in a hoodie with the caption “Supporting Trayvon Martin.” To Wilkins, supporting Martin was both obvious and important for many NBA players.

“I want justice for him, so keeping the awareness alive,” Wilkins said. “… You’ve got a young black kid that seemed to die an innocent death, murdered in cold blood. The killer can just walk into Chick-fil-A right now.”

Ben Wallace, the future lawyer, took a more measured tone.

“Sometimes, when people try to help and get too involved or get too caught up, they end up hurting the situation,” Wallace said. “So, you’ve got one guy that was trying to help, trying too protect, look out for the community and whatever and might have just made a bad judgment decision. Not only does it affect him and the kid’s family, it affects all of us.”

Wallace said, beyond the social impact, he’s paid particular interest to legal issues of the incident.

“It’s going to be tough to call,” Wallace said. “But eventually, it will have a way of working itself out. Something will show up here. Something will show up here.”

Vernon Macklin’s impending free agency won’t boost minutes, but maybe it should

WASHINGTON – Vernon Macklin has passed every public test put in front him.

In the NBA, he’s averaging 11.8 points on 55 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes.

In the D-League, he’s averaging 16.6 points on 53 percent shooting and 17.2 rebounds per game.

Of course, it’s difficult to know what those numbers mean. Mackling has played just 79 NBA minutes, and his D-League performances have come against, well, D-League competition.

But when the rookie returns to the Pistons, he should receive a rotation spot for one major reason: His contract expires after the season, and Detroit should getter a better idea of what it has in Macklin before he hits free agency.

Unsurprisingly, Lawrence Frank disagrees.

“No, I never – contract’s set aside,” Frank said. “Pay no mind to that.

“He just has to continue to work. We have good guys in front of him, and sometimes it’s just a matter of the other guys maybe playing a little bit ahead of him. At some point, he’ll get an opportunity. He just has to be ready when his number’s called.”

There’s no right answer here, just my opinion. I understand why Frank hasn’t played Macklin more. Macklin hasn’t shown he’s better than Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko or Ben Wallace. Frank has seen Macklin in practice, so unlike I do, he has much more information to evaluate.

But in this season that surely won’t end in the playoffs, the Pistons owe it to themselves to determine whether they should re-sign Macklin. If that means not basing the rotation completely on merit – less than ideal solution, so be it.

This is based one major caveat: Macklin has consistently shown a good attitude. As far as I can see – which again, isn’t nearly nearly as wide a view as Frank’s view – Macklin has. Walker Russell, a D-Leaguer before the Pistons called him up this season, has played with others sent down from NBA teams. In general, those players with NBA rights usually don’t bring the same attitude as those who don’t.

“When you don’t have it, I think you may be a little more hungry,” Russell said. “But he showed that a guy with it, with his contract, a guaranteed contract, that you can still go down there and be hungry and have a purpose. Like I said, he went down there and showed how to be a professional.”

Russell and Macklin spoke Sunday.

“He was happy,” Russell said. “He said, ‘I’m glad I went down here and experienced it.’ It was an eye-opener for him, so I think it humbled him now a little bit, too.”

“So far, he’s handling it like the best pro that I know, especially that got sent down.”

Many have paid attention to Macklin developing his specific facets of his game in Fort Wayne, but getting sent down might have a broader impact on his ability to play in the NBA.

“I told him it’s a good thing to go down there, get some run, get some bump, get into some basketball shape,” Russell said, “because practice isn’t playing in a game.”

“The more he got into shape, the more you see the numbers producing.”

Maybe improving his conditioning will be enough to push Macklin into the Pistons’ rotation. If he’s close, any edge could make a difference.

“Sometimes it’s not about, can you play or not?” Russell said. “It’s a numbers game. He just got caught up in a numbers game. But I think, definitely, Vernon can be a presence in the NBA, obviously in the D-League.”

Unfortunately, that D-League definitiveness doesn’t mean much. Only the NBA uncertainty does.

Ideally, Macklin returns from Fort Wayne playing so well, Frank can’t keep him off the floor. But if that doesn’t happen, Detroit is in a bind.

There’s no easy way for Frank to tell Monroe, Maxiell, Jerebko and/or Wallace their minutes have been cut to get Macklin playing time and maintain credibility that he’ll base playing time on merit. But there’s also no easy way to evaluate Macklin if he doesn’t see more NBA minutes.

Unless the Pistons are already certain they plan to re-sign Macklin and confident they can keep him at the price they’re willing to pay, I’d rather err on the sign of giving the apparently hard-working rookie with a positive attitude regular minutes.

Dennis Rodman reportedly broke and in poor health

From the Los Angeles Times:

Dennis Rodman’s attorney, Linnea Willis, said in court documents that the former Laker is barely capable of paying for his living expenses, let alone the $5,000 he owes for one child from another marriage.

He is “extremely sick” and his marketability is diminishing with age and illness, according to court documents.

“In all honesty, Dennis, although a very sweet person, is an alcoholic,” said Peggy Williams, his financial advisor. ”His sickness impacts his ability to get work. This case, especially his wife filing for divorce, has put him on a binge that I have never seen before. He is extremely hurt and extremely sick. He is often unable to obtain work because of this sickness. And his sickness is getting increasingly worse.”

Rodman hinted at his personal demons during his Hall of Fame induction last year and earlier this year, a Slate profile of Rodman’s father shed more light on just how crazy Rodman’s upbringing must have been. Rodman’s money-making opportunities of late have pretty much been limited to barn-storming tours of foreign countries or weird strip club promotions. It was good to see Rodman get recognized for his immense and unique basketball talents, but his addictions are clearly to the point where he’s running out of opportunities to find any kind of peace in his life.

Austin Daye’s weight loss in Russia might be a big reason for brutal season

WASHINGTON – Austin Daye said, if he could do it again, he probably wouldn’t have played in Russia during the NBA lockout.

At the time, it made plenty of sense. There was no guarantee the NBA would have a season, and the money was good.

But Daye ran into a difficulty he never anticipated.

“Things just tasted kind of weird,” Daye said. “… Even fast food tasted different.”

His teammates helped when they could, and Daye found some Chinese-like dishes with chicken and rice that he could handle. But the process wasn’t easy.

“I was on my own,” Daye said. “I was definitely on my own.”

Then, when he caught a “flu bug” that caused an upset stomach for two to three weeks shortly after returning.

In all, he lost about 10 pounds and dropped to 200 pounds. It wasn’t until between 1.5 and 2 months ago that Daye returned to where he started.

“I don’t think it’s an excuse,” Daye said. “It’s not hindering my whole game. It’s just hindering parts of it.”

Daye specifically cited finishing inside and post defense as the area that gave him the most trouble while his weight was down.

“I’m always able to hold my own in the post,” Daye said. “Not too many guys post me up, because I’m pretty crafty down there.”

The numbers back him up. Daye allowed .76 points per post up last season, according to MySynergySports, easily his best defensive play. That’s up to .78 this year, but with just nine plays, that’s hardly a reliable sample.

Daye’s field-goal percentage at the rim (58) ranks between his first two seasons, but he’s taking just 16 percent of his shots at the rim – well below his rookie (26) and sophomore (21) years.

And that gets to the big letdown: Daye’s mental game. For most of the season, he didn’t feel strong, and it showed.

I don’t know whether Daye has a future as an NBA rotation player. Although e showed positive signs during his first two seasons, he never proved himself as capable, and he’s completely regressed this year.

But here’s the good news: Daye will never play in Russia before an NBA season again. This situation was unique, and although it basically sabotaged his season, it won’t be repeated.

It’s disappointing Daye wasted so much time just getting back to square one physically when he could have been progressing, but what can you do?

I’m willing to call Daye’s season a wash and see what he can do next year.