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Archive → October, 2012

Internal Improvement: Charlie Villanueva

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Charlie Villanueva.

Defense or rebounding or anything but scoring

Villanueva has been such a colossal disappointment in  Detroit that I’d be pleased if he improves in any way this season other than scoring. He has proven himself a talented scorer who can make shots inside and out, even if he’s ridiculously streaky.

But there can be value in that. When the Pistons trail by double digits, Villanueva could enter the game in the hope he provides a spark. He might fail miserably. He might score 15 points on eight shots in 10 minutes. Regardless, when down big, increasing variance is a good plan.

Except Villanueva been so bad at everything else he’s become virtually unplayable. If he could improve just a bit as a rebounder or defender, Villanueva could have value as an occasional change of pace off the bench in dire situations. — D.F.

Nothing

I don’t dislike Villanueva. He seems like a decently nice human being. But I’m beyond over watching him play basketball for my favorite team. As Dan mentioned above, if Villanueva could improve just about any aspect of his game, he’d easily become a legitimate rotation player again. There’s certainly a case that Villanueva could build some semblance of value or entice a team to gamble on him in a trade if he plays reasonably better than he has in previous seasons in Detroit.

I’d prefer that doesn’t happen, though. The most efficient way to get rid of Villanueva is to use the amnesty on him in the offseason. That way, his salary doesn’t count against the Pistons cap. Even if they swung a trade for him, chances are a team is not giving up an expiring deal to take on the remaining money owed to Villanueva (unless the Pistons give up another first rounder to do that, which I don’t even want to think about that scenario). I’d rather just see him glued to the bench all season, amnestied in the offseason and then the Pistons have more money to spend in free agency and Villanueva can choose a better situation for himself to try to revive his NBA career. — P.H.

Previously

Detroit Pistons power rankings

pp power rankings 10-31-12

18

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Forward Greg Monroe and rookie center Andre Drummond give the Pistons a talented, young tandem inside – and maybe make them a surprise playoff contender in the East.

19

Mark Heisler of Sheridan Hoops:

Rallied from last season’s 4-20 start to finish 21-21 with Greg Monroe, their new hope, and Rodney Stuckey moving to shooting guard alongside Brandon Knight. The key to moving up further is Andre Drummond, the 6-10 rookie who fell to them at No. 9 and is promising but raw.

20

John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

Whether or not teams are already regretting passing on him in the draft, Andre Drummond looks like he could be pretty good some day. He’s already fun towatch. And how did those boxing workouts work out for Charlie Villanueva? Well, he shot 9-for-41 (1-for-17 from 3-point range) in the preseason.

22

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com:

"Oppa, Drummond Style!" Strong candidate for a sleeper team, even this low on the list.

23

Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk:

Andre Drummond has been fantastic in the preseason paired with Greg Monroe. Add Detroit to the “teams that could be better than we thought” list.

24

Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated:

The Pistons are going big, literally, by building around Greg Monroe (6-foot-11) and rookie Andre Drummond (6-foot-10). Brandon Knight showed promise at point guard last season, but this season will likely be determined by the play of Rodney Stuckey. Some expected Stuckey to make the jump last season but the guard plateaued, averaging 17.8 points per 36 minutes for a second straight season. Detroit needs the 26-year-old Stuckey to break out if it wants 2012-13 to count for anything more than a rebuilding year.

24

Seth Rosenthal of SBNation:

Here’s a team still too busy digging itself out from under some contracts to be fully invested in winning immediately. On the other hand, they’ve got a surplus of splendid young big men, a weird and wonderful backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, and Lawrence Frank in charge. Remains to be seen how minutes get distributed with such an odd blend of veterans/expiring contracts and genuine young talent.

25

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Bold prediction: Detroit will not start 4-20 again. Whether the Greg Monroe-led Pistons can win more than 30 games for the first time since 2008-09 remains to be seen, but there’s some cautious optimism bubbling in Motown after Andre Drummond’s promising preseason.

27

Sam Amico of Fox Sports:

Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond provide a potential future Big Three. Key word there, of course, is “future.”

Internal Improvement: Tayshaun Prince

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Tayshaun Prince.

Offensive efficiency

Prince is one of the NBA’s smartest players, so If I were Lawrence Frank, I wouldn’t dare tell him to shoot less. That would be too insulting to a player of his caliber.

Instead, the message to Prince should be: Shoot more efficiently. Let him figure out how to do it.

There are typically two ways to raise efficiency – convert more of the shots you take or be more selective about the shots you take. If Prince can do the former, more power to him. But if he can’t, he should take fewer shots, limiting himself to the ones he’s more confident he’ll make.

With Greg Monroe emerging as an elite offensive player, Rodney Stuckey becoming more steady on that end and maybe even Brandon Knight learning how to play efficiently, there’s no need for the offense to run through Prince so often.

Prince shot 42 percent last season, not making many free throws or 3-pointers, while leading the team in shots. That shouldn’t be acceptable this year. — D.F.

Start better

If the Pistons are going to be competitive this season, they’ll have to avoid another disastrous start. That will be no easy task, considering their early schedule isn’t exactly friendly.

One way they can be better than they were after starting 4-20 last season is to get more from Prince early in the season. Prince shot 42 percent for the season, aided by a nice run in March where he shot 46 percent for the month. His first three months, though? He shot 40, 41 and 39 percent respectively. As Dan mentions above, his percentages will be better if he’s more selective in his shots. He’ll also shoot better if he’s asked to create shots for himself less. Regardless of how it happened last season, Prince shot way too poorly for a player with such a large role in the offense. If Prince struggles through another season like last season, the Pistons will not even be in the conversation for the eight seed. — P.H.

Previously

Internal Improvement: Khris Middleton

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Khris Middleton.

3-point shooting

Middleton has an excellent outside shooting stroke, according to the Pistons organization. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to great 3-point percentages in college. He shot 32 percent and 36 percent his first two seasons at Texas A&M – fine but not special – before regressing to 26 percent last season.

As Patrick has noted many times, the Pistons lack reliable 3-point shooters. If Middleton actually starts making 3s – and he did in the preseason, shooting 6-of-11, though it’s a small sample – that could be his ticket to a playing role this season. — D.F.

Ditto

Dan really said it all on this one. If Middleton is going to be more than a specialist down the road, he’ll obviously have to work on being a good all-around player. He was a solid passer in college, but his ball-handling and defense need some work to be NBA caliber.

If he can shoot the three at a decent clip as a rookie and do nothing else well, though? He’s going to get minutes right away. — P.H.

Previously

Internal Improvement: Lawrence Frank

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Lawrence Frank.

Defensive concepts

Lawrence Frank was one of my top-two choices to become the Pistons’ coach, 1B to Dwane Casey’s 1A. I liked both for their intelligence, ability to communicate and defensive focus.

Unfortunately, Casey proved himself leaps and bounds ahead of Frank when it came to implementing a quality defense in year one. The Pistons finished 22nd in defensive rating, and Casey’s Raptors ranked 14th.

However, maybe Frank just wasn’t good at coaching during a lockout-shortened season, which could be the case, considering he never bothered to install a zone defense. I hope that was the problem, because that would be an isolated issue and one that’s behind him now.

It was encouraging that the Pistons’ defense improved throughout the season, but until Detroit has a full, good defensive year under Frank, I’ll be a bit worried I overrated his defensive prowess. — D.F.

Play the kids

When Joe Dumars hired Frank as coach, Dumars frequently said he wanted a coach who, despite Dumars’ reputation for burning through coaches every couple years, would be here for the long haul. Since Dumars has also recently discussed he wouldn’t put a goal of making the playoffs on such a young team, that would also suggest Frank has some security. As such, I’d like to see him less reliant on veteran players this season, particularly Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell. I wouldn’t want those players removed from the rotation entirely or anything drastic like that, but Andre Drummond and the team’s collection of young wings should all get opportunities at extended minutes.

Of course, all of the job security talk could be rhetoric. USA Today listed Frank as a coach on the hot seat. So if that’s truly the case, if Frank feels pressure to win now, I think we can expect to see more of the same when it comes to playing veterans at the expense of developing young players. — P.H.

Previously

Internal Improvement: Viacheslav Kravtsov

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Viacheslav Kravtsov.

Making fewer mistakes

Kravtsov has admitted the NBA is a bit fast for him, so for now, I’m looking for him to do less, not more. Grab some rebounds, defend the paint and maybe make a few open dunks. I’d rather he stick to that than try to overdo it.

In 53 preseason minutes, Kravtsov had nine turnovers and nine fouls. If he plays within himself, those rates should come down.

I can’t see Kravtsov being any more than a low-usage contributor at this point, and if he accepts that role, he could be a real help sooner than later. — D.F.

Sharpening those elbows

Based on his OK but underwhelming preseason showing, I don’t expect Kravtsov to make much of a contribution this season. One way he can help, though, is being prepared to give good, hard fouls when the Pistons play against teams with talented bigs. Andre Drummond is a rookie and, as all rookie bigs do, will sometimes struggle in one-on-one defensive situations. Greg Monroe will never be confused with a good defensive player. Having Kravtsov available to be physical and make opposing bigs uncomfortable for a few minutes per game will make him an asset. — P.H.

Previously

Internal Improvement: Corey Maggette

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Corey Maggette.

Defense

I’ve already expressed my concern about Maggette’s offensive game, given his age and need to get to the free-throw line to be effective. But Maggette has never been the most interested defender, and, on this team, that might be the difference between playing and not. Or given Lawrence Frank’s tendency to rely on known quantities, maybe the experienced Maggette has a safe rotation spot, regardless.

Either way, the Pistons don’t necessary need Maggette to be a lockdown defender – which is good, because he probably can’t be one – but it would at least set a good example for the younger players if the veteran worked harder on defense. If Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler (and Kim English) are working their butts off on defense – which is far from a guarantee for either – and they still are stuck behind Maggette at small forward (shooting guard), that would be pretty disappointing. — D.F.

Health

Since Maggette is already injured, it might to too late to wish for a healthy season from him. But as I noted with Rodney Stuckey, nagging injuries significantly change the type of players guys like Maggette and Stuckey are. When those guys are healthy, they attack the basket relentlessly and use their strength to absorb contact. When they are dealing with injuries, they are less aggressive, they settle for jumpers more and they look for contact less. Stuckey is younger and thus better able to play through those injuries. Maggette not only has a history of injuries because of his physical style, he’s old too. Having a reasonably healthy season is the only way Maggette will contribute anything other than his expiring contract to the Pistons this season. — P.H.

Previously

Internal Improvement: Kyle Singler

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Kyle Singler.

3-point shooting

Patrick has mentioned this many times, but the Pistons could use another outside shooter in their rotation. Here are Singler’s 3-point percentages:

  • 34.0 (Duke freshman)
  • 38.3 (Duke sophomore)
  • 39.9 (Duke junior)
  • 32.1 (Duke senior)
  • 42.1 (Spain)
  • 42.9 (Pistons preseason)

Those last two numbers are pretty encouraging, but I’m not sure they’re a large enough sample to be convinced Singler is a good 3-point shooter. After a solid first few years at Duke, his senior year was subpar. So, Singler has a bit more work ahead to prove he’s a good outside shooter.

Luckily for him, he’ll get a chance to do just that. Singler is line to begin the season as Detroit’s backup small forward while Corey Maggette is battling injury. If he keeps shooting well from beyond the arc, Singler will probably deserve to stay in the rotation. — D.F.

Perimeter defense

Dan noted the biggy with Singler. The Pistons just simply need guys who make shots from the perimeter, so if Singler can do that more consistently than he did in college (and indications so far are good that he can), he’ll get minutes.

Long-term though? Lawrence Frank has made it know that offensive potential or contributions alone are not enough to earn minutes. Exhibit A is Austin Daye. Daye has certainly struggled shooting the ball too, but reasons he’s been yanked from the lineup also have something to do with his shakey defense. I don’t now if Singler is strong enough to play significant minutes at power forward, so if he’s going to primarily be a small forward in the NBA, he’s going to have to prove he can stay in front of wing players at this level. His shooting right now is too much of a necessity to not play him. But hopefully, the Pistons add more shooting to their roster over the next year or so. Defense will keep earning him minutes whether the Pistons are dependent on his shot or not. — P.H.

Previously

The Basketball Jones: Andre Drummond ‘could eventually be the greatest running big man in the game’

Dennis Velasco of The Basketball Jones chose an X-Factor for every NBA team, and he picked Andre Drummond for the Pistons:

Drummond was actually considered the top prospect for the 2012 NBA Draft before the 2011 college basketball season started and the aforementioned Davis went bananas. Even leading up to the draft, Drummond was a possibility for being a top three pick, but the Pistons were relatively lucky to get him at No. 9. He has a ton of potential and could eventually be the greatest running big man in the game, but it will be all about desire for him. Much like fellow UConn alumnus, Rudy Gay, was questioned during the early part of his NBA career, there’s no denying the talent, but the passion is another issue. Can Lawrence Frank keep Drummond engaged?

First of all, I definitely agree Drummond is the Pistons’ X-Factor. Based on the preseason, Drummond is closer to helping the Pistons this season than I expected. Still, no Detroit player has a wide range of possible production this season than Drummond.

As far as Drummond potentially “becoming the greatest running big man in the game,” that’s just awesome to even consider.

Greg Monroe mentioned as breakout player, Pistons as surprise team by Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated compiled a list of preseason predictions from its NBA experts, and the Pistons got a couple of mentions. Lee Jenkins selected Greg Monroe as his breakout player:

The list of skilled centers in the NBA doesn’t include more than five names, and Greg Monroe should be one of them. Monroe is not enormous by league standards — 6-foot-11, 250 pounds — but he is shockingly nimble. In only his second season, Monroe led the Pistons in points, rebounds and even steals, but received little recognition because his team was such an afterthought. The Pistons won’t be much better, but they drafted 270-pound power forward Andre Drummond, who should command some attention and free up Monroe to produce even more.

Chris Mannix picked the Pistons as his surprise team:

Much of the Pistons’ success hinges on the backcourt of Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, as well as Corey Maggette’s not souring the mix. But if things fall right, Detroit could sneak up on some people. The Pistons have a rising star in Greg Monroe, and rookie Andre Drummond’s strong preseason suggests that he is ready to pair with Monroe in an intimidating frontcourt.