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Archive → October, 2012

Pistons achieving best case for season, not surprisingly, has a lot to do with Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated recently highlighted the best and worst case scenarios for each Eastern Conference team. Here was his take on the Pistons:

Best case: Andre Drummond shows enough flashes that he looks like the early steal of the 2012 class, Greg Monroe has enough double/doubles to be on the fringes of the All-Star discussion and Brandon Knight progresses as you would expect a second-year point guard to progress. (Charlie Villanueva deciding to retire would be great, too.)
Worst caseDrummond looks more like a project than an impact player, Knight doesn’t become a more efficient scorer and the veterans (Villanueva, Corey Maggette, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey) take on too many responsibilities, stunting the younger group’s development in an ill-conceived playoff push.

Pistons fans might not want to hear this, but this team is better off being bad than good, as the young talent base (Monroe, Knight, Drummond) is solid but shy of excellent and the rest of the pieces are way too expensive and/or meaningless on a middle-of-the-road team. This is still talent-acquisition time. Detroit owes its 2013 first-round pick to the Bobcats if it’s not a lottery pick; keeping that pick, considering the roster landscape, would be far preferable to squeezing in as the eighth seed. The good news is that Drummond brings a watchability factor that has been absent over the last three seasons, all of which ended in the lottery. Good or bad, he will have you asking, “What will he do next?”

I actually agree with Golliver’s point in that final graph. Although as a fan I’m certainly rooting for the team to make the playoffs, it might be best for the team in the long-term if they stay in competition for that final playoff spot in the East all season but ultimately fall short so that their first round draft pick stays here.

Andre Drummond, darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate

After the Pistons drafted Andre Drummond, some thought it could take as long as five years for Drummond to develop into an impact player. Certainly no one thought he’d be a Rookie of the Year candidate. But, after one strong preseason, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated has him in the mix:

The Overlooked Long Shot

Andre Drummond — Detroit Pistons – Las Vegas Odds:30/1

6-foot-10, 270 pounds; age 19

Las Vegas Summer League Stats: 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.2 steals in 24.2 minutes per game in five games

Preseason Stats: 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks in 17.5 minutes per game in six games

Drummond produced plenty of reasons for doubt after his one season at UConn — his free-throw shooting, foul trouble and questions about his love of the game generally occupying the top spots on that list — but there’s no good reason for Las Vegas to have treated him so harshly in its early odds. Drummond is unrefined, to be sure, but blessed physically, too. So blessed that his resume already boasts a 19-point, 10-rebound effort against Milwaukee and excellent per-minute production for a big man, considering that he’s only been used off the bench and hasn’t yet played more than 25 minutes in a game. Foul trouble, playing time and the likelihood that Davis will put up better apples-to-apples numbers combine to put Drummond on the outside of this race looking in. But the early returns suggest that he’s the most undervalued player in this class.

The Pistons are still being cautious with Drummond, but it’s worth stating again — what he’s done this preseason has been remarkable. He’s already clearly the second best big man on his roster, and I don’t think even the biggest cheerleaders of the Pistons selecting him in the draft expected him to come along that quickly.

Andre Drummond and hope, in video form

Yet another highlight video of Andre Drummond has popped up this preseason, but this one has the added bonus of starting with some of the more depressing aspects of recent Pistons basketball (hint: Charlie Villanueva is involved) only to be heroically saved by a bevy of Drummond highlights. Zach Harper of CBS Sports provides a play-by-play of the video:

He gave them so much hope that one guy decided to capture his first magical six preseason games.

The beauty of this video is it starts out by reminding you that Charlie Villanueva is really bad at his job. Since signing a five-year, $35 million contract in 2009, Villanueva has been less than exciting for Pistons fans. He hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with a long-term contract like that and he’s left fans calling for his head on an amnesty-clause platter.

You get to see Vllanueva throwing up terrible shots in preseason action before showing Rodney Stuckey in pain and glory. There are even a couple of shots of Ben Gordon with the lyrics playing, “when you love someone and it goes to waste.” That’s followed by more bad Villanueva.

And then the turning point. The music starts becoming more hopeful as Drummond enters the game and Pistons fans’ lives.

“I will try to fix you …”

Just use this for your Sunday afternoon viewing pleasure, or feel free to discuss last night’s big James Harden trade to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks. I like the trade all-around — the Rockets get a guy with star potential, the Thunder get a replacement who will be a good fit with that team (albeit not as good in Harden), a player with upside in Lamb, who at one time was considered a lottery talent, and picks so that Sam Presti can pursue other deals down the road. The downside? Since Harden will likely get a max extension from Houston, he won’t be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning the Pistons, one of few teams potentially with cap space to make a max offer to free agents, won’t be in the running for his services.

Bill Laimbeer waited for NBA coaching opportunities before going back to the WNBA

The WNBA announced Thursday that Bill Laimbeer would take over as the new coach and general manager of the New York Liberty. Laimbeer hinted to Mechelle Voepel of espnW that he waited for a NBA opportunity that never materialized:

“I left the WNBA because I had a plan for the NBA, and for whatever reason — it’s still unclear to me — the plan didn’t work out,” Laimbeer, 55, said. “So I spent the last year here [in Florida] competing against fish and the golf course. I’m a competitive person and like the competition of basketball, so I wanted to get back into it.

“Part of what happened in the NBA will still always stick with me, just because I think I could be very successful in the NBA. But I’ve made a commitment here, and I think I can be very successful with the Liberty. … Being in basketball and keeping sharp as far as managing a game and winning games — that’s what I enjoy and what I want to do.”

Laimbeer interviewed for the Pistons head coaching job last summer before Lawrence Frank was hired and spent a couple seasons in Minnesota as an assistant to Kurt Rambis.

Laimbeer’s knowledge of the game is unparalleled. He’s one of the smartest players who ever played. Although I certainly expressed that I didn’t like the idea of him coaching the Pistons — I don’t like the idea of any downtrodden hometown team hiring a beloved former player as hiring any coach always leads to having to fire that coach — but he clearly deserves another opportunity in the NBA, at the very least as an assistant.

Politics could play a role in Laimbeer not getting that opportunity, but he’s hardly the only big name former player to have a rough go of it trying to break into NBA coaching. Patrick Ewing has been a longtime assistant and he’s yet to land the head coaching job he craves (interestingly, the Pistons also interviewed him for their head coaching vacancy last year). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Scottie Pippen have also tried to break into coaching in recent years only to find little interest in their services.

Andre Drummond makes his case for big role one more time in Pistons win over Hawks in preseason finale

88  Recap | Box Score  104
Jason Maxiell, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +11
Solid game. For a reserve. Who is a starter.
Tayshaun Prince, SF 28 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +5
Prince’s best preseason game was a great sign after he struggled this entire preseason.
Greg Monroe, C 31 MIN | 6-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 11 REB | 5 AST | 16 PTS | +2
Monroe also had his best preseason game, but I was most encouraged by the five assists. His passing has been under-utilized by the Pistons.
Brandon Knight, PG 31 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +12
Knight closed the preseason strong. He showed improved passing this preseason. His turnovers are still a work in progress, but his shot is falling, his decision-making is better and he’s more aggressive.
Rodney Stuckey, PG 29 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +8
The most troubling stat for me this preseason is Stuckey’s 3-point shooting. He led the team in attempts with 30 and only made eight. Hopefully, he’s not falling in love with that shot.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 15 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +15
Jerebko was solid once again and I think he’s Detroit’s best option as the backup small forward, even though he’ll get minutes at both spots. At the very least, he’s giving the team the ability to rest Prince more, something that’s important as Prince ages.
Andre Drummond, PF 19 MIN | 5-7 FG | 3-5 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +9
What more can be said? Every time Drummond played big minutes this preseason, he showed he was the team’s second best big man. He has to play a large role on this team right off the bat.
Charlie Villanueva, PF 10 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -4
Villanueva’s effort was a little more game tonight, but at the end of the day, he’s a shooter who still shot just 1-for-17 this preseason. Not good enough for a rotation spot by a longshot.
Kyle Singler, SF 20 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +11
Singler showed the hustle, energy and smarts that he’s known for, but his 6-for-14 preseason 3-point shooting is what should get him a rotation spot off the bat.
Khris Middleton, SF 4 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Middleton likely won’t play a lot during the season, but he’s made more than 50 percent of his 3-pointers this preseason, so I think that moves him ahead of Kim English.
Viacheslav Kravtsov, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
Kravtsov at the moment looks like six hard fouls at the end of the bench. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he also didn’t do much to show he could provide anything more at this point.
Will Bynum, PG 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 4 PTS | +4
Seven assists in 17 minutes caps a nice preseason by Bynum, where he showed that he could be a pass-first player at times and he could play at less than warp speed.
Kim English, SG 15 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +9
English’s 3-point shooting was below 30 percent this preseason, and I don’t think that’s good enough to get him into the rotation.

Takeaways

 

Drummond has to play a lot. The Pistons are a different team when he’s on the court. He’s everything they needed him to be off the bat, and they need to reward him for that, not necessarily with the starting spot, but with lots of minutes.

A stab at the rotation:

  • Starters: Knight, Stuckey, Prince, Maxiell, Monroe. No upsets here, but I truly think Maxiell’s tenure will be short-lived. Drummond many not be fully ready, but ready or not, he’s their second best big on the roster.
  • Bench: Jerebko, Singler, Bynum, Drummond, Middleton. The first four are givens and Middleton will probably hold down a spot until Corey Maggette is healthy.
  • Out of the rotation: English didn’t really shoot well enough to get a spot and Kravtsov showed he’s not as advanced as Drummond.
  • Inactive: Villanueva, Daye, Maggette. Maggette will be in the rotation when healthy, but Villanueva and Daye were easily the worst players to step on the court for the Pistons consistently this preseason. It would be a mistake to have either guy in the rotation.

There wasn’t much else to say about this game. Monroe looked like a true hub of the offense, Drummond looked like his perfect complement and Prince looked comfortable for the first time this preseason playing in this lineup. I’m anxious to see how things go int he season opener Wednesday.

Let the kids play in preseason finale

Essentials

  • Teams: Atlanta Hawks (3-3) at Detroit Pistons (3-4)
  • Date: October 26, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Radio: 97.1 FM

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons were smoked in their last preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a contest that was played at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada).

The Timberwolves pretty much destroyed the Pistons on the interior and also submitted a solid defensive performance to take them out of their offense, as Pistons players kept clanking shots from every spot on the floor.

The third quarter proved to be a completely different game it seemed, as head coach Lawrence Frank had the Pistons play with a bit more intensity; but he also made a tactical adjustment in unleashing a zone defense that caught Minnesota completely off guard.

The end result was that Detroit got stops and then the players were able to get out in transition for high percentage shots after struggling for most of the night in the half-court.

The Pistons came back and made a game of it, but ultimately were still blown out because Frank wanted to play his starters for the entire period before inserting his bench players quite late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the energy that it took the Pistons to claw back had completely dissipated late in the third quarter, which in turn allowed the Timberwolves to seize control of the contest.

This is relevant going into the game tonight against the Hawks because Frank might want to take one last hard look at what his rotation will look like in the regular season given that this is Detroit’s final preseason game.

Pistons fans have been dying to see their head coach unleash the quintet of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and tonight may very well be the night he decides to give it a look against an athletic Atlanta Hawks frontline that features Josh Smith and Al Horford.

The assumption is that the group should mesh well offensively given the ball handling available coupled with players willing to move without the ball as well as the crisp passing that should also come with such a unit.

If there is one area of concern for this group though, it’s how they would fare defensively given that the unit is relatively young and thus could be foul prone, especially up front. But if this unit is going to get any type of burn in the regular season, it would be important to examine it beforehand in normal game situations “that don’t matter” in order to be able to gauge its effectiveness as well as its challenges.

I wonder if Frank has been afraid to give this unit a try simply out of fear that their youthful exuberance could make them get either too high or too low; without much of a middle ground. Such a point would be fair, but it’s worth seeing what these five players can accomplish together.

Consider this: if the quintet is even remotely good defensively, they’d get a plethora of transition opportunities, which would in turn change the momentum of a regular season game perhaps once or twice every night.

Ball is in your court coach…

Read about the Hawks

Hoopinion

Expect more interactivity during Pistons games this season

Palace Sports and Entertainment CEO Dennis Manion recently talked with Doron Levin of Deadline Detroit about the upcoming seasons. Although Manion didn’t offer a prediction about when the Pistons will be a contending team again, I thought this was an interesting response:

Q. How is digital technology changing the way that fans experience the Pistons through the media?

A: As an organization we have been very aggressive in our use of digital technology and innovation through the development of our social media assets, fan affinity clubs for men, women and kids and the creation of our Pistons Programming Network for inside-access video content on Pistons.com. We value the close working relationship we have with our broadcast partners to stay on the cutting edge of television and radio production while examining new ways share inside-access content and programming with our fan base. Fans consume media and team information in a completely different way than in the past and you need to be able to reach them on multiple levels – through traditional media, digital media and social media.

A lot of sports productions are integrating social media more and more into their live game broadcasts (we’ve seen a lot of this during the World Series. For another * ahem * example for the people who shall remain nameless who still watch Monday Night Raw, those broadcasts are also littered with calls to action for fans to engage on the different social channels). I’m interested to see if we see more of this during Pistons broadcasts this season. Time to get George Blaha on Twitter, am I right?

Play-it-safe Lawrence Frank faces risky – and appealing – starting lineup options

 Me at the Detroit Free Press:

Last season, the Pistons ranked 22nd in the NBA in steal percentage — simply an estimate of the percentage of opponents’ possessions that end in steals. With a fairly similar roster, the Pistons ranked 11th and ninth the previous two years.

The difference: coach Lawrence Frank, whose teams have a history of not getting many steals.

When Frank took over the New Jersey Nets midway through the 2003-04 season, they had a steal percentage that would have ended the year second in the league. Instead, New Jersey finished fifth overall.

Though they featured the NBA’s active steals leader, Jason Kidd, the Nets’ steal-percentage ranking dropped each year until they finished last in 2006-07. Frank’s teams have finished in the bottom half of the league since.

That said, Frank deservedly has a reputation as a good defensive coach. It’s just that his game plan is based more on forcing misses, grabbing defensive rebounds and taking charges than stealing balls.

So why make a big deal out of Frank’s defensive preferences, especially when I have nothing more than anecdotal evidence that going for more steals would be better? Because I believe it’s only part of Frank’s tendency to play it safe.

Frank faces no decision more important to both the Pistons’ long-term and short-term prospects than choosing the team’s primary lineup, which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call the starters.

Forget Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva’s competition to be Pistons’ stretch four actually most important race of fall

Well, the Pistons’ stretch-four competition has come down to the wire. With only tonight’s preseason finale against the Hawks remaining, Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva are neck and neck.

Villanueva has taken a slight lead so far, shooting a red-hot 1-of-16 on 3-pointers this preseason. However, Daye, who’s literally shooting infinitely worse from the beyond the arc than Villanueva, could still pass Villanueva by channeling his inner Reggie Miller and shooting 1-for-7 game against the Hawks.

The ending of this competition should be dramatic, even if the prize – the title of the Pistons’ stretch four – probably won’t come with a rotation spot. Before we settle in to watch the final battle between these outside-shooting  heavyweights lightweights paper weights, let’s recap how we got here:

John Hollinger: Greg Monroe is one of the league’s most underrated players

John Hollinger of ESPN.com previewed the Detroit Pistons this week, and in this video segment, discusses why Greg Monroe is one of the league’s most underrated players.

Here’s Hollinger’s light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel overview of the Pistons:

Meanwhile, the roster still looks overloaded with combo forwards and shoot-first point guards who pound the shot clock into oblivion. It’s glaringly lacking in terms of shooting without Gordon, and now looks very iffy depth-wise in the backcourt.

The good news it that Detroit has a genuinely good building block in Monroe, and that the two huge seven-footers the Pistons added should allow him to play more at power forward and spare him some of the physical mismatches that gave him trouble as a center.

Hollinger also discusses the merits of the Pistons essentially replacing Vernon Macklin with Slava Kravtsov:

I didn’t agree with the decision to let Macklin walk, as he had a fairly positive rookie season for a late-second round pick. But the interest in Kravstov is understandable. He comes from a low-level European league but posted good numbers there and his size is an obvious asset. The Pistons didn’t have a true center a year ago, but between Kravstov and Drummond, they now have two seven-footers to help protect Monroe inside.