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Archive → March, 2012

Heat will be closer to full strength in rematch with Pistons

Essentials

  • Teams: Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: March 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 16-30
  • Heat: 34-11

Probable starters

Pistons:

Heat:

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +8

Over/under: 194

Score: Heat win, 101-93

Read about the Heat

Heat Index (Game preview)

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Jae Crowder

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, senior forward from Marquette
  • Key Stats: 17.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, 50 percent shooting, 35 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Late first to second round
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

The thing I like best about Jae Crowder is pretty simple: when he runs into someone, it looks like it hurts a lot.

My favorite game of the NCAA tourney so far this year was the Marquette-Murray State matchup. It was one of the most physical basketball games I’ve seen in years. There was so much contact, officials had to just give up … they could’ve called multiple legit fouls on just about every play. Crowder was a big part of that effort, throwing himself all over the court and using his powerful upper body to slam his way to the basket.

Plus, as a NBA fan whose two favorite players all-time are Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace (both undersized rebounders), I love that Crowder, an undersized forward, is a good rebounder:

“I just think my father helped me gain that mentality to have a rebounding-type mentality. It’s all effort when it comes to rebounding, and if you have the effort, you’re going to grab a few rebounds. I just want to grab them in tough situations, and up to this point I’ve done that.”

Can never have enough rebounders, ya know? (Also, bonus, he’s another JUCO guy and, as I’ve mentioned, love JUCO guys)

Pros for the Pistons

Yes, Tayshaun Prince is signed for three more seasons after this one, and yes, Joe Dumars just might over-value Prince’s contributions a tad. Prince is undoubtedly a polarizing Piston. He drives some fans crazy with his ball-dominating ways and some fans will defend him like the GOLD MEDAL WINNING OLYMPIC HERO that he is. Anyway, whether you fit in the pro-Prince or anti-Prince camp, I think everyone would agree that the long-term answer as the team’s starting small forward isn’t on the roster yet.

Austin Daye is still young and the organization (or at least Dumars) still seems to believe in his upside. But he’s been a poor fit not just because of his inconsistency and shooting slump this season. He’s a finesse player who doesn’t defend all that well, which seems to be contrary to how the team is being rebuilt with Lawrence Frank as coach. So what’s the answer? Add a young small forward to the mix who is the opposite of a finesse player. Crowder, if he’s still on the board when the Pistons pick in the second round, fits that bill.

Offensively, Crowder can handle the ball, he’s strong around the basket and he has range out past the three-point line. Defensively, he’s a beast. He moves his feet well enough to defend perimeter players and he’s strong enough to bang with guys under the basket despite being at a height disadvantage.

He’s not as athletic as last year’s under the radar, superb rebounding undersized forward Kenneth Faried, but he’s active on the glass and would bring some needed bulk to the Pistons’ perimeter considering both Prince and Daye are about as scrawny as it gets among NBA small forwards.

Cons for the Pistons

The Pistons have a big financial commitment to Prince. It’s also likely that Daye will be back next year since his trade value doesn’t seem like a good bet to improve much over the rest of this season. Jonas Jerebko has the ability to play minutes at small forward and there’s still the matter of Kyle Singler, whose rights the Pistons hold.

None of those guys has done enough to prevent the Pistons from looking for upgrades at the position, but at the same time, they have three and maybe four guys if Singler decides to come back from Spain who would already be vying for minutes. Adding a fifth to the mix, even if Crowder might end up being better than at least a couple of those guys, might not be something the Pistons are interested in doing with other positions in greater need of depth.

Crowder is also another player (like Draymond Green) who doesn’t project nicely to a traditional position in the NBA, although Dumars hasn’t seemed to have a problem adding positionless players to his roster in recent years.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

  • Tough, physical player
  • Excellent motor
  • NBA body
  • Good rebounder
  • Solid perimeter game
  • Versatile defender

DraftExpress:

Crowder’s basketball IQ is further exemplified in his assist-to-turnover ratio, which is better than many of the point guards in our top-100 rankings. Smart, poised, mature and always under control, he’s the type of player who knows his role perfectly and understands how to maximize his time on the floor, which is likely a major factor in his team’s success this season.

College Hoops Journal:

Jae Crowder defies a lot of conventions. He’s listed as a 6-6 forward, but he’s taken the second most 3s on Marquette. In one possession on defense you’ll see him hedging up top on the perimeter and then grabbing the defensive board down low. He’s a junior college recruit, but he’s beloved by his coach and one of two emotional rocks on a team that just had a heck of a week  — winning in Madison, Wisconsin and defeating Washington on a last-second shot at Madison Square Garden.

“That’s my guy,” said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams after the game at MSG. “I’ll roll with that cat no matter where he goes.”

USA Today:

On defense, he can guard anyone from a point guard to a post player.

“I think that helps our guards out a lot knowing they can pass their man to a guy like me for the rest of that possession,” Crowder says.

ESPN:

Crowder didn’t even get serious about basketball until the end of his high school career in Villa Rica, Ga. He preferred football, in which he played quarterback. That is, until he broke his hand late in his senior season on a running play, and when he realized he wasn’t going to play Division I in that sport. Besides, he had hit a growth spurt that took him up to 6-foot-4, helping his body better carry his weight. And basketball was in his genes, as his father, Corey, had played in the NBA and professionally overseas.

So Crowder got focused and started his college career at South Georgia Tech. To his horror, he later found out the junior college wasn’t accredited, meaning none of his coursework would transfer to another school. He had no choice but to go to yet another two-year school, this time heading to Howard College in Texas. He spent the summer holed up in his dorm room, taking courses online to make up for lost time and not knowing a soul in town.

What is the best thing Jae Crowder does for his team?

Pardeep Toor (follow him on Twitter) is a former sports writer for MLive.com who once trolled Braylon Edwards:

How do you project the potential of a player who improves every single facet of his game from his junior to senior season? Crowder emerged as the most efficient player on a team with three trigger happy guards reluctant to give up the ball and possessing a green light to shoot at all times. Crowder’s value at the next level is rooted in matrix-esque 1.7 threes/2.5 steals/1.0 blocks and uncanny ability to switch onto any offensive player in the pick-and-roll (Dennis Rodman style? Crowder has the same JUCO pedigree). The fascination with “potential” and “super freshmen” will undermine Crowder’s draft status as draft heads and general managers tend to think playing more basketball at an extremely high level while showing progressive improvement is somehow a deterrent. I would much rather take a proven and passionate player in Crowder rather than wait for Jared Sullinger types to reach an undefined apex. Go with what you know.

Previously

Ben Gordon’s 45-point game was one of the, if not the, most shocking ever

Since the 1985-86 season,* 106 players have produced 457 45-point games. The most recent, of course, was Ben Gordon’s 45-point outburst against the Nuggets on Wednesday.

*As far back as Basketball-Reference’s single-game records go

Gordon’s night drew some national attention, but because Gordon was once a high scorer who already scored 48 points in a game and landed in the 40s or high 30s several other times, nobody went wild. To many, Gordon was just another volume scorer doing what volume scorers sometimes do.

But I don’t think most NBA observers have realized how wide the gulf is between how Gordon once scored and how he scores now. Gordon is no longer a serious scoring threat – and that just makes his 45-point game all the more astonishing.

The average 45-point game came from someone who averaged 27.08 points per game that season. Gordon averages less than half that (12.46 points per game). At the moment, that’s the second-lowest season average for someone who scored 45 points in a game in the sample:

For his 53-point outburst, Tony Delk became somewhat of a folk hero. Although I understand Gordon’s big games with Chicago and huge contract with Detroit will prevent him from getting similar recognition, at this point, his 45-point game might be even more unlikely than Delk reaching the level (though, Delk scoring an extra eight points certainly adds to the mystique of that game).

Because the Pistons’ season isn’t over, Gordon’s 45-point game carries more weight on his scoring average than the other players’ big games do on theirs, and in the shortened season, that will still be somewhat true at year’s end.

The Pistons have 20 games remaining. If Gordon plays in all those and scores 238 or fewer points – an average of 11.9 points per game – he’ll pass Delk. Before Wednesday, Gordon was averaging 11.5 points per game.

Maybe Wednesday was the turning point of Gordon’s Pistons tenure, though I doubt it. Maybe it was a complete aberration, which I expect. We’ll know soon enough.

Either way, Gordon’s 45-point game should receive greater recognition for the incredible spectacle it was.

Ben Gordon and the ‘hot hand’

Whether or not statistical data supports the ‘hot hand’ mythology has been an interesting and hotly debated topic this season. Steve McPherson of Hardwood Paroxysm looks at the ‘hot hand’ in the context of Ben Gordon‘s performance last night:

But wouldn’t the Pistons maybe have been better off if Gordon had revised some of those jumpers—even the successful ones—into assists? This is where he would really be murdering his darlings because it might be the case that sometimes he shouldn’t have even been taking the good shots in favor of promulgating a more balanced offense. Not that the Pistons are overflowing with offensive options, but maybe if the love is spread around a bit more, Gordon doesn’t force up that final jumper and miss the game-winning shot.

Interesting read, interesting topic.

Chauncey Billups … coach?

This isn’t really news, but it’s interesting to think about. From Bill Simmons’ twitter page:

What Clips SHOULD do: fire VDN, convince Chauncey to retire (for this year), then make Chauncey interim coach. No joke, thats the best play.

Now obviously (since Simmons uses Varsity Blues as the precedent for something like this actually happening in real life), no one should take that too seriously. But I think it’s a testament to Billups that you can read a tweet like that and have a first reaction along the lines of, ‘You know what … that COULD work.’ Not sure there is another player in the league with the combination of respect and intelligence to pull that off other than Billups. I hope Billups is able to come back and get a proper send off next year, but NBA coach or executive definitely seems like part of his future if he wants those things.

Brandon Knight falls to No. 12 in redone draft, Pistons pick MarShon Brooks

David Thorpe of ESPN redid the 2011 NBA Draft:

No. 8 pick: The Pistons select MarShon Brooks

No. 8 pick in actual 2011 NBA draft: Brandon Knight

With Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon on Detroit’s roster, any rookie guard would have to share time. I like Knight a lot, but Brooks fills a bigger need and has just as much upside (more downside, too, though).

Brooks has the look of someone who can be a top-two scorer for his team, and he’s also a willing rebounder and defender. He’d be a nice fit next to Stuckey.

With Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Enes Kanter, Derrick Williams, Jonas Valanciunas, Kawhi Leonard and Bismack Biyombo off the board, who would you take in a redone draft? I lean toward Brandon Knight, but Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys makes a compelling case for Kenneth Faried or Nikola Vucevic.

As far as Knight, he fell in the redone draft:

No. 12 pick: The Jazz select Brandon Knight

No. 12 pick in actual 2011 NBA draft: Alec Burks

The Jazz and their fans love a focused, mature, hardworking player perhaps more than any other NBA city. Knight oozes with potential, lives to get better on the court and is a great fit into how Utah likes to play

Thorpe has Knight No. 22 in his rookie rankings, so Thorpe obviously likes Knight’s upside.

Pistons take Andre Drummond with No. 6 pick in ESPN’s initial NBA mock draft

Chad Ford of ESPN:

The Pistons are in desperate need of size and athleticism in the front court. While Drummond is a bit of a gamble, it’s a risk worth taking at this point in the draft. He has all the physical tools to be a dominant big man in the pros. Although he was really inconsistent during his freshman season at UConn, with time and patience he could be the perfect complement to Greg Monroe on the front line.

Charlie Villanueva injures other ankle

David Mayo of MLive:

Villanueva suffered a left ankle sprain with no contact.  He said he was just running down the court when he turned the ankle, which is not the same one which cost him most of the season.

Of course he did.

Ben Gordon!!!!!!! (Pistons lose to Nuggets)

Ben Gordon, pressed into the starting lineup with Rodney Stuckey injured, scored six points points in the first quarter, 21 points in the second quarter and 15 points in the third quarter. With each shot, seemingly an impossible performance for him, Gordon did the impossible: erased the sad reality surrounding this awesome game.

For a time, Gordon’s hefty contract didn’t matter. The Pistons’ awful record didn’t matter. And Arron Afflalo, usually a capable defender, sure as heck didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered but Gordon scoring at an utterly fantastic rate.

He looked like the Gordon who played for the Bulls – the elite outside shooter and quality scorer. The performance was dazzling and electrifying, and I’m sure it boosted television ratings as many tweeted encouragement to watch Gordon’s night.

Gordon finished with 45 points – the most since Richard Hamilton scored 51 in 2006, his high with Detroit and three shy of his career high.

But late in the third quarter, Gordon, who had dashed around screens – the best set by Jason Maxiell – to score many of his points, was mostly standing still. Gordon’s increased minutes, exasperated by Denver’s thin air, were taking a toll.

The Magic was wearing off. Gordon’s time machine that had driven off a ravine, hit 88 miles per hour and returned him to reality.

And to his absolute credit, Gordon stopped forcing shots when it became clear he would no longer be efficient. Five of his eight assists came after he scored his 40th point.

In the end, Gordon’s spectacular night won’t change anything. It won’t ease the burden of Gordon’s $58 million contract. It doesn’t make the Pistons relevant. And it doesn’t mean Gordon has suddenly returned to form. Rodney Stuckey should start again when he gets healthy, and I’m nearly certain he will.

It became clear early in the season that Pistons games would be successful if their young players progressed and they lost – the ultimate combination for progressing to contention. But I think there’s a third prong: From time to time, it’s fun to see incredible performances from Detroit. Tonight, Gordon provided that – and the Pistons lost. What a great night.

JaVale McGee’s dunk a Greg Monroe gaffe

With the Pistons up three and five seconds left, Gordon fouled a driving Afflalo, who scored on continuation. Although Afflalo missed the free throw, JaVale McGee worked around Greg Monroe and dunked the putback to win his Nuggets debut.

Monroe finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but he made very little positive impact tonight. Those numbers are boosted by a high pace, some uncontested rebounds and Monroe choosing his spots. For the most part, the Pistons need Monroe to be more assertive and take the ball out of his less-efficient teammates’ hands.

I’m not sure he’s capable yet of shouldering that load on a nightly basis, but at least he appears to know he must box out better. After the game, Monroe tweeted:

This is unacceptable on my part. I have to be better!

I love the attitude.

Ben Gordon matches 3-pointer record

Ben Gordon made 9-of-9 3-pointers, tying a record he already held with Latrell Sprewell for most 3-pointers in a game without missing. In a wild game, which the Nuggets led 45-20, Gordon’s outside shooting will have the longest-lasting impact. The rest of the night will be forgotten soon enough, but when someone next challenges the record, Gordon’s 9-of-9 will come up.

If the Pistons had completed the comeback, that would have been their largest comeback of all time.

Jonas Jerebko defends well amidst chaos

The Pistons allowed Denver to make 18 of its first 22 shots, including 6-of-8 3-pointers. What was Detroit doing wrong defensively? Everything. The major issue I saw: the Pistons were slow rotating initially, and when the Nuggets repeatedly made the extra pass, the Pistons had no chance to close.

Only Jonas Jerebko defended well throughout the game. He forced Al Harrington into tough shots, though Harrington made most of them. Sometimes, there’s nothing a defender can do.

Rodney Stuckey out against Nuggets

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets
  • Date: March 21, 2012
  • Time: 9 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

  • Pistons: 16-29
  • Nuggets: 25-21

Probable starters

Pistons:

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Timofey Mozgov

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +8

Over/under: 200

Score: Nuggets win, 104-96

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company