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Archive → September, 2012

New York Times: Detroit Pistons could surprise next season

‘The national media is unfair to the Pistons’ is a common complaint from a few commenters in these parts. So hopefully they will take heed of this bit of positive national press from Jim Cavan writing for the New York Times:

But just as their now bygone golden era never packed the punch or pizazz enjoyed by big-market rivals, a new guard is setting itself up to once again make the Motor City a force to be reckoned with, and sooner rather than later.

After staking much of his early front office success on savvy veteran additions (or, on the opposite end, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon), Joe Dumars has in the past three off-seasons relied instead on the draft for most of his roster reinforcement. In 2010 it was Greg Monroe, the versatile and cerebral Georgetown pivot now poised for a breakout year – and possible All-Star selection – as the team’s undisputed cornerstone. One year later, the Pistons added Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, a one-and-done point guard project as renowned for his intellect for his ability to break down defenses.

Then, in June, Dumars made one of his biggest gambles since 2003 – the year he drafted 18-year-old Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – by taking the 18-year-old Connecticut big man Andre Drummond with the ninth pick over all. Like Darko before him, Drummond’s upside is seen as rafter high.

Pistons sign Terrence Williams to training camp contract

Back in July, there were rumors the Pistons were interested in former first round pick Terrence Williams. At the time, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News shot down those rumors. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reported Thursday the Pistons have indeed signed Williams to a training camp contract, however:

Williams and Lawrence Frank are familiar with each other briefly from their New Jersey days — Frank was the Nets’ coach for the first 16 games of Williams’ rookie season.

Williams is still a long shot to make the roster. He plays Detroit’s deepest position, so if the roster stays as is, he’ll have to convince them to cut or trade someone else to make room for him.

Darko Milicic somehow sticking in NBA, signs with Celtics

Chad Ford and Marc Stein of ESPN:

Free-agent center Darko Milicic has decided to stay in the NBA and continue his career with the Boston Celtics, Milicic’s agent, Marc Cornstein, confirmed to ESPN.com.

Milicic, after weighing strong interest from teams abroad trying to lure him back to Europe — such as perennial Spanish power Real Madrid — has committed to join the Celtics and is scheduled to be in Boston by week’s end to make the deal official.

Rasheed Wallace, Chris Wilcox and, now Darko – apparently, Boston is becoming home for former Pistons big men on the downside of their careers.

Greg Monroe comes in at No. 49 in ESPN #NBARank

Pistons fans should take it as a great sign of things to come for the season that Greg Monroe jumped nearly 100 spots in ESPN’s NBA rankings from his first to his second season and he still seems ranked too low.

Monroe came in at No. 49 on ESPN’s list, a great accomplishment considering that puts him among the top third of starters in the league. But we all saw Monroe last year. He was legitimately an All-Star contender. CBS Sports ranked him at No. 40. A sound case could be made to put him up 10 or so spots in these rankings.

At the same time, I’m glad he’s just a tad lower than expected. After his rookie season, Monroe was slighted in the postseason All-Rookie voting as bad as any recent rookie I can remember. He responded by coming back and improving just about every facet of his game as a second-year player.

I’m glad that, even if a No. 49 ranking might be a tad off for him, it’s not so egregiously off that you wonder if anyone outside of Detroit watches him play. But I’m also glad that it still gives him something to have a chip on his shoulder about and take his game to another level (working on that defense the way he did on the offense, perhaps). I think Monroe will legitimately improve his ranking by 20 or more spots next season.

Anyway, here are how all of the Pistons ended up:

49: Greg Monroe

103: Rodney Stuckey

144: Tayshaun Prince

177. Brandon Knight

206. Jonas Jerebko

221. Corey Maggette

241. Jason Maxiell

244. Will Bynum

245. Austin Daye

262. Charlie Villanueva

277. Andre Drummond

303. Ben Wallace

407. Kyle Singler

441. Kim English

485. Khris Middleton

Unranked: Vyacheslav Kravtsov

Pistons making great efforts to help fans form connections with the current team

Last year, I freely admit, I made my share of snarky comments about some of the Detroit Pistons marketing efforts. My main gripe — that the team constantly put out press releases about lame 90s music acts performing at halftime but neglected to do things like start campaigns promoting their players for awards. I thought the lack of promotion from the team hurt Greg Monroe, particularly his rookie year when he rightfully should’ve made the All-Rookie First Team, and I think he deserved some promotion last season as a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate.

But anyway, no point in rehashing old complaints. And now, I have to give credit where it is due — these videos, via Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys, are a fantastic way to market this team. First and foremost, fan support is not going to return in droves until the team is winning again. That’s just the nature of sports — only the die-hards watch when things go bad. But beyond that, the Pistons identity as we knew it is all but gone. Tayshaun Prince is likely going to be the only link to the bygone era once the season opens, and with all of the youth on the roster at the small forward position, along with the fact that Prince could likely help some contending teams, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that link will even remain. So efforts like these marketing videos, to show off who these new young players are, is a step in the right direction. Fans have to get to know that Greg Monroe is a soon-to-be All-Star, that Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond are teeming with potential, that Jonas Jerebko is a really unique and hard-working player. Even if the team doesn’t start winning immediately, these videos should at the very least get fans excited about the season and what the future may hold.

Jonas Jerebko, Hall of Famer?

We’ve debated a lot in the comments the last week or so what the Hall of Fame chances are for several current and former Pistons players entering the twilight of their careers. Ryan Hegedus of Life On Dumars throws another name into the mix of a player yet to come up in conversations in the comments here:

Jerebko is a unique example of a possible Hall of Famer on Detroit’s current roster. He is a former second-round pick who has been in the league for just three seasons, sporting career averages of 9.0 points on 47.5% shooting and 5.5 rebounds. His ticket to Springfield might not be his statistical achievements, but moreso his cultural influence.

When the Pistons selected him in 2009, the 6’10” forward became just the second Swedish-born basketball player ever drafted; Miles Simon is the first, but he played in just five total games with the Orlando Magic in 1998. He should be an integral part of the Pistons future, giving him plenty of opportunities to accumulate stats. He has also become a focal point for the Swedish national team, with which he has already earned 10 caps (appearances) despite playing professionally for just seven years.

If basketball continues to spread around the world, especially into Sweden, Jerebko could very well be the reason why. Much like Drazen Petrovic in the early 1990s, younger players could see Jerebko in the NBA and strive to follow in his footsteps, turning him into an ambassador of basketball in Sweden.

Something that is occasionally overlooked in Hall of Fame discussions is the fact that the Naismith Hall of Fame is a basketball hall of fame, not just a NBA hall of fame. That’s why players like Grant Hill, whose peak didn’t last long because of major injuries, or even Christian Laettner might get some consideration when they otherwise wouldn’t have — they were elite college basketball players, and that counts. The Hall also has an international committee, and although Jerebko has several more years as a professional player before such conversations are warranted, his rock star status in Sweden makes him a name who will certainly merit some consideration when his playing days are over.

Greg Monroe comes in at No. 40 in CBS Sports top 100 rankings

ESPN is not the only outlet unveiling a ranking of NBA players right now. Although Greg Monroe‘s ranking isn’t yet known in ESPN’s rankings, he came in at No. 40 in the CBS Sports top 100. Matt Moore on Monroe:

No. 40: Greg Monroe, C, Age 22, Detroit Pistons

2012 Stats: 15.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, .521 eFG%, 22.0 PER

Ranking: 42, 36, 51

Monroe has a better-than-decent chance of making the All-Star Game this season. He’s shown considerable development in his early seasons, and with a better Pistons club could be primed for a breakout, especially if rookieAndre Drummond can give Detroit a big man to pair with him. Monroe has a nifty lefty hook, a good combination of moves and terrific footwork. Defense is the real question mark with him, but even that showed signs last season.

The biggest plus is his consistency. He manages to make an impact in nearly every game, and even when he doesn’t contribute to the scoreboard, it’s usually the defense’s focus on him that’s opening things for the other players. The Pistons are Monroe’s team for the foreseeable future.

Monroe came in just one spot behind Bulls center Joakim Noah and he ranked ahead of players like Nene, David West and Al Jefferson. I think it’s safe to say the national media, after not paying much attention to his rookie season, is starting to realize how good Monroe is and what he’s capable of becoming.

 

Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey announced in ESPN’s #NBARank

Greg Monroe will be the highest ranked Piston in ESPN’s annual #NBARank feature, as it should be.

It hasn’t been unveiled yet exactly where Monroe will rank, but the only other two Pistons who had yet to make the rankings (besides Slava Kravstov, who won’t appear in the rankings) appeared in the last few days.

Tayshaun Prince came in at No. 144 after being ranked No. 105 last season. Rodney Stuckey just missed the top 100, coming in at No. 103. That’s a modest improvement from last season when he was ranked No. 108. But it does put both among ‘solid starter’ range if you consider five starters per team times 30 teams is 150 players.

Now, because of where those two players are at in their careers, it’s likely Prince’s ranking will go down by next year, but I think Stuckey, if he stays healthy, has a good chance to make a significant leap forward. Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond have higher ceilings at this point and could all make big leaps next year, but it’s not inconceivable to think Stuckey could sneak up into the top 50ish range or so.

Here’s how the Pistons’ 15 players – plus Ben Wallace – rank:

Above 101: Greg Monroe

103: Rodney Stuckey

144: Tayshaun Prince

177. Brandon Knight

206. Jonas Jerebko

221. Corey Maggette

241. Jason Maxiell

244. Will Bynum

245. Austin Daye

262. Charlie Villanueva

277. Andre Drummond

303. Ben Wallace

407. Kyle Singler

441. Kim English

485. Khris Middleton

Unranked: Vyacheslav Kravtsov

Report: Ben Wallace ‘changed his mind’ about retirement and ‘is looking for a deal’

As things relate to Ben Wallace in these parts, the general thinking has seemed to be either he’ll play for the Pistons next season if they find a roster spot for him or he’ll retire. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe raises another possibility:

Veteran center Ben Wallace has indicated that he would like to return to the NBA but it likely won’t be with the Pistons, who have begun a youth movement and plan to go with Andre Drummond, Austin Daye, and Jonas Jerebko as their primary big men. Wallace said he was retiring after last season but changed his mind in July and is looking for a deal.

Practically speaking, it makes sense. Wallace is still good enough to contribute in a limited capacity and seems to still have an interest in playing, so he should play. There are numerous contending teams he’d be a fit on, too — the Miami Heat immediately come to mind. As a fan, though, I’ll be really disappointed if he wants to play and the Pistons don’t figure out a way to bring him back. There is still a role Wallace could fill on this team and there are still ways Detroit could find a spot for him to play one more season.

Could Pistons and former Pistons in the late stages of their career make the Hall of Fame?

In the spirit of this weekend’s Naismith Hall of Fame festivities, Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated recently took a look at some NBA veterans in the late stages of their careers who might have a chance at enshrinement someday. Quite a few Pistons and former Pistons are included. Here’s a rundown:

Ben Wallace:

Wallace is No. 8 all-time in the NBA in rebounding rate, won a ring as part of a Detroit team that played in six straight conference finals, made five straight first-team All-Defensive teams and guarded Shaquille O’Neal decently during the 2004 Finals. But his career got off to a slow start, with three fairly low-minutes seasons in Washington, and it has ended with unspectacular (but solid) play in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit again. Wallace was a horrid free throw shooter and less of an offensive threat than Camby, but he made up for it to some degree with nasty screen-setting and decent passing.

I’m going to take his case up more vigorously once he officially retires. Although I am admittedly biased, Wallace getting in the Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.

Chauncey Billups:

Voters love Finals MVPs, and though Billups never quite lived up to the “Mr. Big Shot” moniker — his clutch numbers are pretty average overall — he did make some huge shots for the Pistons, upgraded Denver as soon as he got there and has won universal respect as a locker-room leader. He could finish with close to 17,000 points and a PER around 19.0 — a top-100 mark — if he stays healthy and productive for two more seasons. He has proven himself very smart at remaining very efficient as his athleticism declines by focusing almost entirely on threes and free throws. A five-time All-Star and a solid, smart defender during his prime, Billups has had trouble cracking the All-NBA teams with so many elite point guards, old and young, scattered around the league. Gun to my head, I bet Billups gets in.

I’m in the same boat as Wallace when it comes to Billups — no question he should get in.

Grant Hill:

Hill is going to get in, even though a series of devastating ankle injuries limited him to six truly dominant seasons at the start of his career — a streak that ended right after he signed a massive free-agent contract with the Magic during the same summer spending bonanza that netted the next guy on this list. But Hill was one of the league’s top half-dozen or so players during that six-season stretch, and he has since reinvented himself as an effective two-way third/fourth option on the wing.

Lowe also notes that because the Naismith Hall of Fame factors in more than just professional career, Hills outstanding four-year run at Duke will put him over the top.

Tracy McGrady:

McGrady’s apex was incredible, peaking with a 2002-03 season that ranks among the very best in the sport’s history. At top form, McGrady shot 45 percent, hit an above-average percentage from deep, sported perhaps the best wing passing skills in the pre-LeBron era and even bought in on defense — most famously in the 2005 playoffs, when McGrady guarded Dirk Nowitzki effectively as a depleted Rockets team pushed the Mavs to seven games in a losing effort.

As I’ve written before, McGrady is one of my favorites. He made some truly bad Orlando teams formidable. I hope he gets in.

Lowe lists former Pistons Richard Hamilton and Jerry Stackhouse among the players who had great careers but probably aren’t quite Hall of Fame level.