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Archive → March, 2012

New York Times notices that the Brandon Knight-Rodney Stuckey backcourt just might work long-term

Rob Mahoney of The New York Times:

Joe Dumars’ decision to sign Rodney Stuckey to a three-year, $25.5 million contract shortly after drafting Brandon Knight registered as a bit curious, if not altogether regrettable; with no need to compete immediately, the idea that Knight’s playing time might be curtailed seemed like an undesirable possibility.

That has been anything but the case, as Stuckey and Knight have improbably become a rather effective back-court pair. Neither is much of a ball-dominant playmaker at this point (though Knight has the aptitude), which means both have ample opportunity to create for themselves and others in their collective effort to keep the Pistons’ offense afloat.

This new chemistry provides a referendum on Stuckey. Detroit’s point guard of the past is currently on a 10-game tear, during which he has posted per-game averages of 22.5 points (on 50 percent shooting from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range) and 5.1 assists –- all while sharing a backcourt with Knight as a functional combo guard. Knight may be deemed the point guard, but Stuckey has provided him and the Pistons’ offense with fail-safe utility.

I had high hopes that Knight and Stuckey could co-exist in the same backcourt, but I’ll admit, I didn’t think Stuckey’s best role long-term would be starting. I thought the Pistons would eventually find a more traditional shooting guard, then let Stuckey be their sixth man, getting 30ish minutes a game filling in at either guard spot. I’ve changed that view some though. Between the two of them, Stuckey and Knight add up to about one full PG and one full SG, with both guys sharing the roles of each position depending on situations and matchups. As long as Knight continues to improve and Stuckey’s second half of the season is finally a sign that he’s arrived, I have no issue with this as Detroit’s starting backcourt for a long time.

John Loyer’s bio inspired new Trail Blazers coach Kaleb Canales

David Aldridge of NBA.com wrote an excellent section of his notebook on Portland’s new coach, Kaleb Canales, including this Pistons-related tidbit:

Canales said he just felt "weird" if he wasn’t in the office, working.

"Every coach has a different story," he said Sunday, before his career record was evened at 1-1 in a loss to the Thunder. "I just tried to do research, in terms of the last 10, 15 years, that’s been the trend. When I got to Portland, John Loyer — he’s an assistant with coach Frank in Detroit — I read his bio. He had some experience in the video department. Obviously studying Erik, he started in the video room. For me, it gave me a great foundation for NBA basketball.

Remembering Dick Harter

I had never heard of Dick Harter before he died last week, but Keith Langlois of Pistons.com wrote a great remembrance of the former Pistons assistant coach:

But all the defensive scheming Harter did – and he was at the forefront of the techniques today taken for granted in complex hybrid defenses and multiple ways of defending the pick and roll – was secondary to his ability to draw out toughness in his teams.

“Dick believed in physical basketball,” Blaha said. “One of his great statements was, ‘If a guy is hot, show him the lights’ – meaning put him on his back and he’s looking straight up, then you can get him thinking about something other than his jump shot. The Bad Boys were born out of all three of those gentlemen – Jack and Chuck and Dick – but of the three, nobody believed in physical basketball as much as Dick did.”

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: William Buford

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, senior guard from Ohio State
  • Key Stats: 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game, 43 percent shooting, 35 percent 3-point shooting
  • Projected: Second round
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

I’ve always been a William Buford fan. He’s never been Ohio State’s ‘star’ player, but over his four year career, there have been plenty of moments when Buford has shown a flair for the big moment and had huge plays at crucial times for OSU. I got to see one of those moments in person this year, when Buford hit an incredibly difficult contested jumper in the final seconds at Michigan State to give Ohio State a win a share of the Big Ten regular season title.

Pros for the Pistons

As I’ve mentioned in other profiles, the Pistons need depth at essentially every position, including in the backcourt. The main positive that Buford would bring to the backcourt that players like Scott Machado or Tyshawn Taylor would not is just his physical size. A strong and athletic 6-foot-6, Buford has the prototypical build for a NBA wing. Of its guards under contract for next season, Will Bynum, Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon are all on the smallish side. Adding a player like Buford, who defends well and has size, would take some pressure off of Rodney Stuckey to primarily be responsible for guarding the opponent’s biggest backcourt player.

Another weakness for the Pistons has been 3-point shooting, something Buford should be able to help with. His percentage was down to 35 percent as a senior as his role in the OSU offense increased and he took more contested shots, but he shot 38 percent from three as a sophomore and 44 percent as a junior. Currently, Gordon is the only Piston player who is what anyone would call a natural 3-point specialist. Stuckey has finally started making enough threes (37 percent) to make defenses honest against him, Tayshaun Prince can hit threes and Knight is streaky but effective from three as a rookie, but 3-point shooting is also probably not the strength of any of those players’ games. Buford, on the other hand, has played with a dominant big man in Jared Sullinger as well as a star, versatile wing in Evan Turner, so spotting up from three and making defenses pay for giving those guys too much attention is a role he’s used to and one that could help Greg Monroe avoid double-teams in the post or make teams pay too much for sagging in the lane to stop drives by Stuckey and Knight.

Because of his size, Buford would be a candidate to take some over Austin Daye‘s role as well. The Pistons reportedly still like Daye, but also can’t afford to have no insurance in case his shooting issues this season continue.

It’s also no secret that the Pistons would like to rid themselves of Gordon’s contract. Being able to replace one of Gordon’s most valuable skills — stretching the floor — for a fraction of what Gordon costs would undoubtedly benefit Detroit as it tries to add pieces.

Cons for the Pistons

Unlike Machado and Taylor, Buford doesn’t offer the versatility off the bench of being able to play the point guard spot. The Pistons could also use help behind Knight, as Walker Russell is a free agent and Bynum is a candidate to get traded. Because the Pistons have so little depth at most positions, players who are versatile enough to play more than one position are really valuable, and Buford is pretty much solely a wing, whereas several other second round prospects should be able to handle minutes at either guard spot. Buford played some PG at OSU due to injuries, but his ball-handling makes it questionable whether or not he could give competent PG minutes in the NBA.

Buford also could project as more of a specialist than a regular rotation player. He certainly has the size and athleticism to do more than just shoot, but his all-around game at OSU didn’t develop to the extent many thought it would when he was a heralded freshman (he was Mr. Basketball out of high school in Ohio and a McDonald’s All-American). Although Buford has the ability to finish and has gotten stronger during his college career, there are still wing players in the NBA who will be much quicker and stronger than him. His long arms and height should make him a capable defender, but he could also get pushed around a bit by the league’s bigger twos and threes.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

  • Excellent shooter with deep range
  • Always looking to attack
  • Strong, physical guard
  • Very competitive
  • Unusually unselfish for a scorer

DraftExpress:

Buford continues to project favorably as a NBA role player, something he’s already proven to be capable of at the college level on a number of very successful teams. He’s averaging a career high 4.2 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted this season, which is near the top amongst true shooting guard prospects in our database.

NBADraft.net:

Extremely agile and explosive. Athletically he appears to be a cut above and just beginning to tap into his upside … Buford has a pretty jumpshot with excellent form and developing range. Gets good lift and has a high release point, that along with a quick release and long arms make him an efficient shooter … He has gained a lot of confidence in his shot … He is most effective when he can create a rhythm by shooting off of one dribble but is also adept catching and shooting … He gathers and sets quickly and can shoot without much space, effectively … Shows a preference to go left and shoot but is effective pulling up going in either direction … Understands the offensive side of the game well, coming off screens and shooting off curls.

Columbus Dispatch:

“In the long run, he’ll be a prime example of a player that benefited from four years,” Jim Jackson said. “Hopefully, he can come back after a 10-, 12-, 13-, 14-year NBA career and say the best thing that happened to him was that he stayed four years.”

The Lantern:

But while Buford’s inconsistent play has been a source of frustration for the Buckeyes, it is only because followers of OSU basketball realize how good the senior player can be. Buford has scored 20 or more points in ten games this season, including 21 points versus Florida, 20 points versus Duke, 21 points in a tough loss to Kansas, and 29 points to lead OSU to victory in a close three-point win against Purdue.

What is the best thing William Buford does for his team?

Kirk Lammers (follow him on Twitter) is a writer for the great Cleveland sports site Waiting For Next Year:

William Buford provides a perimeter threat with a variety of options in which to score. Buford’s mid-range game with the ability to curl around screens for jumpers is second to none in college basketball. That skill alone should allow him to stick around for 10 years in the NBA. He’s an excellent foul shooter, and he goes through stretches of being an excellent three-point shooter.  There have been times this season where the 6’5″ guard has taken the Buckeyes on his back and single-handedly carried them across the finish line with hot shooting. Buford’s battle at the next level, just as at this one, will be to remain consistent, avoiding the 2-for-13 shooting nights that have plagued him at times. However, if you’re talking about an early second round selection, there are few that have as much scoring ability from the wing as Buford does.

Previously

Ben Wallace and the art of the well-timed flop

Beckley Mason of TrueHoop looks at some of the NBA’s most distinguished floppers today. Here’s what I contributed about Ben Wallace and his beautiful sell-jobs to draw loose ball fouls:

Ben Wallace, C: Writes Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered: “Wallace is adept at going for rebounds in heavy traffic, but he also uses that traffic to his advantage. If a shot is missed and he doesn’t have a great angle to get to it, he’s patented a move where he jumps forward and lurches his body while simultaneously letting out a loud “OOOPH,” which over the years has pretty regularly convinced officials he was pushed in the back. Often, video evidence suggests otherwise. Wallace’s artful flopping on rebound attempts has been just another valuable skill he’s brought to the Pistons that doesn’t show up in his stats. Oh, and don’t ever mention to him that he flops … he doesn’t like that.”

Make no mistake … I consider this 100 percent complimentary. I have a few friends who annoyingly don’t like the NBA as much as they like college basketball. When I press them on that, they invariably mention something about ‘flops’ being a part of the game they don’t like. I am a huge fan of a good flop though (this Manu Ginobili-Raja Bell simul-flop is one of the best sports highlights ever). If you are smart enough and savvy enough to be able to create cheap contact and sell officials on the fact that you’ve just been mugged, more power to you. That’s what I’ve always admired about Wallace when he does it — he’s a graceful, mountain of a man, but the hint of contact with an official in sight sends him tumbling. Love that.

Detroit Pistons understand the value of beer

The Pistons lead the league in something:

According to SaveOnBrew founder Mark Davidson, the cheapest beer has been spotted at The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons. At first glance, $7 a beer may seem like a crime, but upon closer inspection, fans are actually getting 24 ounces of beer (rather than the standard 16) so this NBA beer is just 29 cents per ounce. Other lucky beer drinkers include fans of the Colorado Nuggets ($4.45) and the Oklahoma City Thunder ($5) that get their 16 ounce beers for less.

LOL at ‘Colorado’ Nuggets. (Hat tip, Brendan Savage)

A behind the scenes look at Vernon Macklin with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Garrett Martz, an account executive with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, recently posted the above video blog on Vernon Macklin, which includes highlights and interviews. Here is Martz’s description:

The Mad Ants own NBA assigned player Vernon Macklin played very well on Thursday and Sunday on loan from the Detroit Pistons. After two games he is averaging 15.5 pts, 17 rbs, and 3.5 assists and giving the low post presence we have been lacking all season. For Vernon’s first game with the Mad Ants I decided to do something a little different and create a video synopsis following him during the game. I also interjected a few quick interviews with Mad Ants Coaches, Vernon, and the Piston’s Basketball Operations staff member Dell Potter.

The video is worth your time and should help further the #FreeMacklin movement.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Fab Melo

Discuss Draft Dreams on Twitter using the #DraftDreams hashtag

Info

  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 255 pounds, sophomore center from Syracuse
  • Key Stats: 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks per game, 57 percent shooting
  • Projected: Late first round to second round
  • Hickory High Similarity Score

Why I like this guy

Disappointingly, eligibility issues prevented Fab Melo from playing in the NCAA tournament. Much has been made about the Syracuse zone defense (Reggie Miller learned his lesson for questioning it), but it was undeniably something to behold this season with Melo anchored right in the center of it. Syracuse funneled everything to the big man, and he was 11th in the country in blocked shot percentage at 12.93 percent.

Melo is still raw and developing, but a young big man with defensive instincts as natural as his doesn’t come along every day. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn says it much better than I could:

Melo is simultaneously the Orange’s most obvious defensive force (by blocking 2.93 shots per game) and its secret weapon (by taking charges and creating turnovers).

Pros for the Pistons

Well, that’s obvious. The Pistons desperately need a defensive-minded big man to anchor their defense. He’s young, he blocks shots and, although like all young bigs he needs to get stronger, he comes with a big frame that should fill out as he matures physically. He protects the rim, but he’s also mobile enough to hedge out on screens, disrupt passing lanes and rotate to play help defense. I don’t have to tell anyone this I’m sure, but the Pistons haven’t had a big man who does all of those things for big minutes since Ben Wallace was in his prime.

But Melo also comes with a skill that is talked about less: he knows how to pass.  No one will confuse his passing with Greg Monroe, but because Melo lacks much of a post game on offense, he’s instead used to move without the ball, set screens and keep the ball moving. The Pistons aren’t necessarily looking for a dominant low post threat on offense, since Monroe more than capably fills that role. Melo could pair nicely with him on offense by feeding Monroe from the high post and making hard cuts to the basket, similar to how the Pistons used Chris Wilcox on offense during Monroe’s rookie year.

Cons for the Pistons

I’m not especially concerned about Melo’s inability to stay eligible at Syracuse, but if that does cause him to enter the draft early as some have reported, that could mean he may not be ready to contribute right away, which is really something the Pistons need with Wallace retiring and Charlie Villanueva‘s future in Detroit uncertain. Melo has the physical tools and upside that many teams will be interested, but he really could benefit from another year of college. His conditioning hasn’t been all that great, he could stand to add some muscle and his offensive game still lags far behind his defensive game. Those are all things that, if he returned, he could work on another year and possibly see himself jump into the lottery of next year’s draft.

Still though, if he’s around in the early second round, the Pistons shouldn’t hesitate to grab him.

What others are saying

Chad Ford:

The Good: Melo has size, mobility and the ability to change things on the defensive end for Syracuse. He’s an excellent shot-blocker and a decent rebounder. He has a better perimeter game than you’d think. He’s made huge strides from his freshman year.

The Bad: He’s still very raw. He can disappear for long stretches. He’s struggled to stay in shape in the past.

The Upside: When Melo plays well, NBA scouts drool. He’s never going to be an NBA superstar, but teams are in desperate need of big men who can run the floor, block shots and play defense.

DraftExpress:

Not only has Melo been a better shot blocker, but he’s been a better defensive player across the board as a second-year player. Still losing contact with offensive players on the weakside leading to an occasional easy putback for the opposition, Melo is much more well-schooled at positioning himself on the defensive end than he was last year, doing a good job splitting the difference between offensive players when the ball gets driven into the paint, stepping in front of players attacking the rim to draw charges, and going straight up to challenge shots around the rim. Committing 2.6 fewer fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Melo has shown dramatic improvement in the way he contests shots and protects the rim.

NBADraft.net:

Fab has the size and length you look for in a prospect at the center position, however he’s raw and will need to work on every offensive aspect of his game … He has some basic post moves, but the fluidity/explosiveness in his execution is too slow at the moment …Will need to work on developing more in depth post moves to become more of an offensive threat … He’s not the greatest athlete, and can get lost in an offensive set as he adjusts to playing in a faster and more up-tempo game.

Sports Illustrated:

Melo does not have the Orange’s lowest DRating (that belongs to Waiters), but it’s clear that Melo has the biggest impact. His engagement rate, or DPoss%, of 26.1 is the highest on the team, and the fact that he’s able to maintain a strong DRating (86.5) while impacting so many plays is impressive. Syracuse’s entire 2-3 seems to take its cues from Melo. “The most important position in the zone is the center,” assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “Fab protects the paint … he lets us be more aggressive on the perimeter, and he’s the eyes for the whole defense, talking and directing everyone else.

New York Times:

Although he is not a guaranteed first-round pick, some N.B.A. team will probably be interested in his 7-foot, 275-pound frame. If he does not make the N.B.A., Melo could return to his native Brazil to play professionally.

What is the best thing Fab Melo does for his team?

Sean Keeley (follow him on Twitter) is the founder of SB Nation Syracuse blog (and one of the best team blogs anywhere) Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and the author of How to Grow an Orange:

Fab Melo is only just beginning to scratch the surface on his potential. As over-hyped as a player could ever be, Melo spent his freshman season adjusting to the college game and his sophomore season perfecting it. It remains be seen if he can bang bodies with the Dwight Howards of the NBA, but while be bulks up, he brings a tenacious defensive attitude with him. His outside shot is nonexistent but you’re not interested in him for that. You want him for his shot-blocking ability and above-average ability to move the ball from the center spoke of the wheel. He’ll need time to develop further but just like at Syracuse, Fab is an investment worth the risk.

Previously

Greg Monroe carries Pistons in overtime loss to Clippers

Greg Monroe took Blake Griffin out of the game.

After letting Griffin move him out of the way for his game-tying tip-in late in regulation, Monroe scored on all three of his overtime possessions – including a tip of his own miss by darting past Griffin.

Monroe (23 points and 15 rebounds) belongs in games like today’s 87-83 overtime loss to a team that’s on its way to holding homecourt advantage in a playoff series, and he’s on his way to getting the Pistons to that stage. But he’s not ready to do it by himself – and unfortunately, besides Jonas Jerebko, Monroe didn’t have much help today.

When Monroe carved up Griffin, the Clippers brought in Kenyon Martin, who forced Monroe into a crucial miss. On the other hand, Monroe didn’t take his first shot of overtime until the Pistons trailed by four, thanks to his guards turning the ball over twice and missing a jumper.

On the bright side, the loss gets the Pistons one step closer to adding help around Monroe.

Dreadful guards

Rodney Stuckey (1-of-8 with two turnovers), Brandon Knight (3-of-14 with four turnovers) and Ben Gordon (3-of-11 with five turnovers) combined to shoot 7-of-33 with 11 turnovers.

At least Stuckey had an excuse. David Mayo of MLive:

Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey even found walking and pulling on a pair of jeans almost too painful to bear Sunday afternoon.

The Pistons lost 87-83 in overtime to the Los Angeles Clippers, a game they led by nine points in the fourth quarter, though the lingering issue is Stuckey’s left big toe, which rendered him a completely different player.

“It’s my foot, man,” Stuckey said. “That’s it. I’ve just got to get it right. It’s just been killing me the last couple of days. I just have to rest it and try to get it right. I thought it would be fine but it’s just like the more pressure on it, the more it hurts.”

Stuckey injured the toe late in Wednesday’s win at Sacramento. He played through it in a loss Friday at Utah, but exacerbated it in the first quarter Sunday.

The Clippers have an excellent set of defensive guards in Chris Paul, Randy Foye and – when he’s motivated like he was today – Nick Young. I would’ve liked to see Stuckey face that test, as I’m still not certain how much Stuckey has improved. He’s definitely better than he was last year, but how much?

For Knight and Gordon, the performance wasn’t that out of line.

Knight missed all seven of his 3-pointers, and most of his best offensive games this season have been based on standstill outside shooting. Until he develops a more well-rounded offensive game, he’ll be subject to cold games, as all 3-point shooters are.

Gordon is streaky and turnover prone. If you didn’t know that, you don’t know Gordon.

Hustle and grit and everything nice

Ben Wallace (+8) and Jonas Jerebko (+7) led the Pistons in plus-minus tonight for good reason. Wallace (seven rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes) played staunch defense, and Jerebko (14 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block in 29 minutes) was his usual, energetic self. Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm put it well:

Jerebko’s one of those guys who if he played for Chicago, would be a cult figure. Such a good player.

In defense of Isolayshaun

Tayshaun Prince’s shot selection, especially late, came under fire for all his isolation looks. It’s unclear whether Prince or Lawrence Frank is most behind the sets, but the reviews are nearly all unfavorable.

As Patrick has bemoaned many times, Prince once again led Detroit in shots (17 tonight). I entirely agree with Patrick that Isolayshaun isn’t particularly fun to watch. But quite often, including tonight, it’s effective.

Prince scored 20 points on 20 plays. His teammates scored 63 points on 88 plays.

Maybe Prince’s teammates would score more efficiently if he did a better job getting them involved. That’s certainly possible. But, for now, Isolayshaun is an effective band aid when the Pistons’ offense is struggling.

Keith Langlois: Pistons didn’t offer Patty Mills two-year deal

Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet NW:

Source tells http://CSNNW.com #Blazers renounced Patty Mills this morning & the Detroit Pistons went in hard offering a 2-year deal.

A source close to Patty Mills says Patty Mills to the San Antonio Spurs is done.

Patty Mills to Spurs is finalized according to his agent.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Report #Pistons offered deal to Patty Mills is not accurate

I don’t know Haynes’ source for that initial tweet, but if it were Mills’ agent, it’s easy to see why the source would have incentive to say the Pistons offered a two-year deal – whether or not it was actually true.