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Archive → October, 2012

Will Bynum, Corey Maggette part of a loaded ‘roster’ of current NBA players from Chicago

Comcast Sports Net Chicago put together a really interesting hypothetical: what would a roster of current NBA players from Chicago look like?

The results? Pretty, pretty, pretty good. The team would be anchored by a backcourt of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, have future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis up front and feature a collection of supporting talent that includes Evan Turner, Shawn Marion, Tony Allen and several other solid NBA contributors.

Among that group is a couple of Detroit Pistons, Will Bynum and Corey Maggette. Here is CSN on Bynum:

Will Bynum (Crane)

The 6-0 point guard out of Georgia Tech probably wouldn’t dress much on this team as he assumes the John Lucas III role without all the injuries. But Bynum provides speed and energy when he plays. Last season for the Pistons, he averaged 5.7 points and 1.8 assists in 14 minutes, 18 seconds per game.

And on Maggette:

Corey Maggette (Fenwick)

Maggette only spent one year at Duke before entering the NBA in 1999 with the Magic and is now playing for his sixth team. He never turned into the star some thought he might, but he’s had a solid 13-year run heading into this season. Maggette averages 16.2 points and 4.9 rebounds while attacking the basket and having a knack for getting to the free-throw line. In his career, he averages six free throws made per game and shoots them at an 82.3 percent clip.

Just for the fun of it, I put together a ‘team’ of all current NBA players with ties to Michigan over at BallinMichigan. Although the frontcourt rotation on that team — JaVale McGee (Chicago tried to claim him, but he’s a Flint native all the way), Al Horford and Chris Kaman — is pretty solid, but guard depth would probably make them a lottery team. I’m convinced they’d be better than the Bobcats and Magic though.

Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer named coach and general manager of the WNBA’s New York Liberty

Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer, who led the Detroit Shock to two championships as head coach, has been named the new coach and general manager of the New York Liberty, according to a WNBA news release:

“We’re excited to have Bill Laimbeer join the New York Liberty as our general manager and head coach. He has brought his winning pedigree and passion to the WNBA and I believe he will play a large role in bringing a championship to the Liberty,” said Allan Houston, the New York Knicks’ assistant GM, who also oversees Liberty basketball operations. “We appreciate Coach Whisenant’s dedication to our team and the organization, and wish him well in the future.”

“I am very excited to return to the WNBA, and for the opportunity to join the New York Liberty,” Laimbeer said. “I missed the competitive fire of players like Cappie Pondexter and Plenette Pierson, two hard-nosed competitors for the Liberty. The commitment of our fans and the City will be invaluable in our quest to bring a WNBA championship to New York. After all, that’s really all that counts.”

Laimbeer spent time with the Minnesota Timberwolves as an assistant coach on the staff of Kurt Rambis and he interviewed for the Pistons’ head coaching job before Lawrence Frank was hired.

In addition to Pierson, who Laimbeer mentioned in his quote above, the Liberty also feature Kara Braxton, who also played for Laimbeer with the Shock before the franchise moved to Tulsa. And let’s just not talk about what has happened to that team since they arrived in Tulsa.

I’m not going to pretend to be a WNBA analyst or anything, but I think a few things are pretty clear based on his Shock tenure: Laimbeer will find talent, he will likely win big in this league and he will do it the way Pistons fans who watched Laimbeer as a player would expect him to do it.

The ‘start Jonas Jerebko’ movement gains some national steam

I’ve always been a huge fan of former Sports Illustrated and current Grantland NBA writer Zach Lowe. After he wrote this in his season predictions column, he’s easily my favorite NBA writer ever now:

Jonas Jerebko Will Be Detroit’s Best Small Forward

Jerebko played mostly power forward this season, and he may well work best as a stretch 4 who hits enough 3s, cuts hard, and defends well enough. He’ll get time there, too, with Detroit working in two project centers beside budding All-Star Greg Monroe. But Jerebko may well be the best small forward on a roster of oddly fitting parts. Tayshaun Prince is in decline, and last season worked too often as if he were a legit no. 1 option. Maggette is Maggette — a free throw machine who does little else, on either end. Detroit fans openly hate Charlie Villanueva, and it’s unclear if he can even get on the floor in the NBA now. The Pistons have no clue what position Austin Daye plays anymore.

Free Jonas!

Jonas Jerebko starting at small forward barring an injury is probably, well, a non-starter, since Tayshaun Prince pretty clearly stated that he’d very much like to be the team’s starting small forward. Prince is still an adequate enough player and respected enough by the coaching staff that I think it’s a longshot his role changes much from last season. But I also think the lineup many Pistons fans, including myself, are dying to watch is one with the team’s five best young players — Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jerebko, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Jerebko is a great fit in that lineup for a variety of reasons. his movement without the ball and cutting ability is a great fit next to Monroe, who is really good at finding cutters. Jerebko runs the floor harder than any Pistons big man, a skill that fits with Stuckey and Knight, who both excel in transition. And with a lineup up front of Jerebko, Monroe and Drummond, the Pistons would possibly have the best offensive rebounding frontcourt in the league.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t think Jerebko is likely to see a lot of minutes, let alone start, at small forward this season barring an injury. But I hope I’m wrong. It’s really fun to think about watching that group play a lot of minutes together.

Basketball Jones writer picks Pistons as least watchable team, obviously hasn’t seen enough Andre Drummond yet

I freely admit that, to non-Pistons fans, the team has been no picnic to watch the last few seasons. They’ve been one of the slowest teams in the league, they haven’t featured any players who provide the type of individual highlights that typically attract fans from other NBA cities to watch or at least be intrigued by lottery teams and the team has been full of pricey veterans who have either been malcontents, under-performed their big contracts or both. So I’m guessing those are the memories Andrew Unterberger had in mind when he ranked the Pistons 30th on his list of most watchable teams on League Pass this season:

30. Detroit Pistons (Last Year: #27)

Yeah, I was talking about the Pistons up there. You could probably argue that all that stuff — mostly the lottery trio of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond –means they should be a couple slots higher, but eh. It’s still the Pistons, a team that hasn’t been relevant in five seasons and wasn’t all that much fun even when they were good. If they prove that last season’s second-half surge was legit, then they can easily climb higher, but this team has been too lousy for too long to just be “entertainingly young” anymore.

I have a feeling that if highlights like this, this and this continue into the season, the Pistons will be considered one of the more fun young teams to watch by the end of the season, even if they aren’t winning that much.

Viacheslav Kravtsov: No longer a team player

There’s no I in team, but there is one in Viacheslav Kravtsov.

Kravtsov’s name was spelled Vyacheslav when the Pistons showed interest in him, Vyacheslav when they negotiated with him and Vyacheslav when they signed him. Unfortunately for Detroit, sometime between now an then, per his official NBA profile, he began going by Viacheslav.

Everybody knows that only players without an ‘I’ in their name – guys like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Jordan Crawford – play unselfishly. I had looked forward to a no-nonsense Vyacheslav protecting the rim and grabbing rebounds without sucking up valuable possessions with low-efficiency shots. Instead, he’s going to chuck up shot after shot like ‘I’-first Chris Paul, Andre Miller and Greivis Vasquez.

That, or this speaks to how unknown Kravtsov was before the Pistons signed him – so unknown that the English spelling of his name hadn’t been established yet.

The Andre Drummond-JaVale McGee comparisons have begun

There’s no doubt that over the past few seasons, Flint, Mich., native JaVale McGee has been one of the most entertaining players in the league. Between his insane athleticism, his occasional spaciness on the court, the antics of his mother (a basketball legend in her own right, especially in Flint) and his amazing Twitter account, McGee is never boring.

But, according to many reports out of Denver, he’s also maturing. The writers at ESPN’s Grantland decided the NBA needs a new posterchild for silliness who brings some of the qualities McGee did over the years and, wouldn’t you know, the Pistons entertaining rookie Andre Drummond was among their possibilities, nominated by Juliet Litman:

Andre Drummond

There are three reasons why you should keep an eye on Andre Drummond.

1. He’s a font of advice.

Don’t wife her cause she’s a trophy, see thru the looks of it cause what’s a trophy with out a trophy case! #SmallThingsMatterTheMost— Andre Drummond (@DRE_DRUMMOND_) October 19, 2012

2. He believes in the power of social media to connect people.

What’s good bro @hoya2apacer— Andre Drummond (@DRE_DRUMMOND_) October 21, 2012

Note: Roy Hibbert took a minute to respond before returning to promotion of his“Gangnam Style” flash mob video.

3. He has just the right amount of self-awareness.

As I walk out of Walmart I pass this Asian family , an the youngest boy goes mom dad look its Godzilla— Andre Drummond (@DRE_DRUMMOND_) October 20, 2012

By the end of the season, I think we’ll see Andre Drummond following in his idol Roy Hibbert’s footsteps. He’ll have a music video of his own — maybe even a P. Diddy cover. And if not that, he’ll at least be hosting myriad club nights. Get the flyer ready now!
— Juliet Litman

Drummond certainly fills the dynamo athlete/light-hearted Twitter account requirements. I think he might be too personable, however, to fit the McGee description. I haven’t personally interviewed Drummond, but I’ve watched him in several interviews, and he’s always smiling, positive and gives thoughtful responses. I have interviewed McGee, who notoriously is not fond of being interviewed, and it’s tough to pull anything more than an athlete-speak, clichéd response out of him.

I certainly am not hoping Drummond is the type of space cadet McGee appeared to be at times throughout his Wizards career, but he’s also young, seems good-natured and I have no problem if he brings some levity and fun to the team this year. As we’ve certainly seen so far this preseason, his presence at the very least provides the type of highlights that get the Pistons national exposure they haven’t had in about four years now.

Detroit Pistons 18th in initial Yahoo! power rankings

I’ve commented a few times about the slightly more positive attention the Pistons have received from national media this offseason compared to years past. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, however, might have the most positive outlook yet, putting the Pistons at No. 18 in his initial power rankings:

18. Detroit Pistons (25-41 last season): 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.

Unfortunately, fans have yet to see much of that talented young tandem actually see the court together as a tandem. Hopefully that happens as soon as the regular season opens.

Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler stand out in otherwise underwhelming Pistons performance

76  Recap | Box Score  95
Jason Maxiell, PF 24 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +6

Maxiell had another OK game. For a reserve. But he’s still the starter.

Tayshaun Prince, SF 23 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +1

Prince continued to struggle this preseason. He is shooting just 17-for-50 this preseason.

Greg Monroe, C 28 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -6

Monroe shot poorly and was man-handled both offensively and defensively by Nikola Pekovic.

Brandon Knight, PG 33 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -5

Good – Knight had just one turnover in 33 minutes. Also good – he’s been an effective rebounder this preseason. He had six tonight and is averaging 4.3 per game for the preseason. Knight wasn’t great tonight, but he took care of the ball, and in a game where most of the team looked awful, that gets him a fairly high grade.

Rodney Stuckey, PG 25 MIN | 6-13 FG | 8-8 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -1

Stuckey was the best player on the court for Detroit. That wasn’t saying much tonight, but he would’ve been even if his teammates had played better. He looked like the Stuckey we were accustomed to when he was healthy last season, getting 21 points on just 13 shots. If he’s that efficient once the season starts, the Pistons have a great chance of getting off to a better start.

Austin Daye, PF 8 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | 0

Daye got some cursory minutes in this game, but if Lawrence Frank is indeed tightening his rotation these last two preseason games, Daye is not in it. He shot 1-for-3 tonight, and that actually raised his preseason percentage.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 14 MIN | 0-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | -22

Jerebko was active as always, but he didn’t play well. With Prince struggling, it would’ve been nice to see Jerebko excel in a game like this to put some actual pressure on the incumbent small forward. Didn’t happen though.

Andre Drummond, PF 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -9

It’s hard to grade Drummond tonight because he inexplicably only played nine minutes. He didn’t do any better against Minnesota’s front line in the first half than Detroit’s starters, but he certainly wasn’t doing any worse either.

Kyle Singler, SF 25 MIN | 3-4 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -20

Singler continues to show that he’s a smart, fundamentally sound player. More importantly, he’s now 4-for-9 from 3-point range this season. If he continues to shoot the three, he’ll make a strong case for a rotation spot.

Viacheslav Kravtsov, C 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 4-8 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -7

Kravtsov didn’t get minutes until the second half, giving the impression that he might not start the season in the regular rotation either, but he got a few garbage baskets and was active. He still is what he is … big, mobile and physical. He’s not skilled on offense, but he’ll finish if he gets the ball around the basket.

Will Bynum, PG 22 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -24

Bynum didn’t shoot well, turned it over twice and didn’t play as well tonight as he has in other preseason games this season.

Kim English, SG 15 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8

English had his worst game of the preseason, missing all four of his shots. I’d guess that he and Khris Middleton, who didn’t play, are probably competing for one rotation spot, so we’ll probably see Middleton get his chance to make a final impression on Friday.

Five Things We Saw

  • Lawrence Frank isn’t winning any friends with his lineup choices. I don’t know why he’s been so hesitant to go with a lineup of Knight-Stuckey-Jerebko-Monroe-Drummond, but fans desperately want to see it. It seems like we’ve seen every other combination this preseason except that one. I’m sure Frank has a reason for it, but it has been a long time since the Pistons had five promising young players at once. It would be great to see them all on the court at once.
  • Stuckey got it going tonight. He came into this game shooting 36 percent for the preseason, so a 6-for-13 performance is a welcome sight. The Pistons desperately need him to get off to a good start this season.
  • The Pistons are still weak inside. I shudder to think how lopsided this would’ve been had the Pistons had to guard both Pekovic and Kevin Love if he were healthy tonight. Pekovic did whatever he wanted offensively and his physical defense flustered Detroit’s bigs, particularly Monroe.
  • Knight’s lack of turnovers is a great sign. After having a few high turnover games through the first five preseason games, Knight now has just two turnovers in his last 36 minutes. He still needs it to carry over into the regular season, but I think it’s clear he’s worked hard at his two biggest weaknesses — passing and taking care of the ball.
  • Yes, we are testing out a fancy new recap format. Don’t worry, the long-winded recaps you’ve grown accustomed to on PistonPowered won’t go away completely. But we look at this format as a way to get some quick-hitting thoughts up after the game, then we can save our longer-form stuff for the morning when it’s warranted, after we’ve had a chance to process things more and hopefully be more organized and less rambly. This also will eliminate our ‘check back for updates’ tag we inserted in our recaps after games. You can check back once after the game and everything will be there. Let us know what you think, positive or negative.

Dare to be good or great even…

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (3-3) at Minnesota Timberwolves (3-2)
  • Date: October 24, 2012
  • Time: 8 p.m.
  • Radio: WWJ-950 AM

What to look for

The NBA may now be about LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade for most, but historically the league has always been about getting stud players at the point guard and center positions.

Consider the previous tandems of Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain (the Logo played point the year they won the title), Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal and Tony Parker and Tim Duncan; all of these pairings were built with the idea that they would contend for titles and save for the Penny and Shaq group, they all helped produced championships.

How does this relate to the 2012-13 Detroit Pistons?

Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are obviously nowhere near the previously mentioned players in terms of stature, accolades and accomplishments; but is it truly far fetched to expect them to be the next good if not great point guard and center tandem?

So far this preseason, that question has been one that kept popping in the back of my mind. It’s obviously a premature statement, but consider the leap that Knight has made so far, and well one could potentially see great things happening this season. Granted, we have yet to see him play a regular season game this year and thus we still need to see how he adjusts to playing with a bulls eye on his back; but the former Kentucky Wildcat has been impressive so far in the exhibition season.

Brandon Knight has shown flashes of brilliant ball-handling that may very well make him one of the toughest covers in the league in both the half-court and open court.

In addition, he has taken the ball to the basket with confidence and attacked big men almost with reckless abandon, which should prove to be a positive for the Pistons.

If there is one area where he could definitely use some improvement, it would be in the pick-and-roll game; where he needs to figure out how to toy with defenses with the threat of the jump shot, floater, drive or pass.

Obviously, Detroit’s ascension will be a two-part process.

Indeed, Greg Monroe will have to continue to improve as a big man for the Pistons to become a good team. Currently, he has shown the ability to play in both the high and low post thanks in large part to his multiple skills: he can shoot the ball, play back to the basket and deliver pinpoint passes to streaking teammates. Ideally, he could refine these skills and become an even deadlier offensive player.

But for the Pistons to truly take a big step, the former Hoya will have to become a better team defender.

So far this preseason, his defensive energy has been consistent but his focus on the other hand has not. There are times at which he has been a step slow rotating — which leads to him fouling — and other occasions where he failed to box out or even bother getting into rebounding position; and that is just unacceptable. Although many are seeing Andre Drummond’s potential to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor, it’s still important that the team’s best player and the one with the skills to be the defensive anchor act as such.

With that said, the Georgetown product is now entering his third year in the league and big men can take time to truly blossom defensively as evidenced by Tyson Chandler and Andrew Bynum’s recent seasons, but it’s still important that he figures things out defensively if the Monroe-Knight tandem is going to be anything beyond average, good or great.

Keep your eyes on the synergy between them, it might just be the most important one on the team.

Read about the Timberwolves

A Wolf Among Wolves

Two can’t-miss reads as the NBA season approaches from Basketball Prospectus and Hardwood Paroxysm

Just wanted to point out a couple of fantastic NBA resources now available for your preseason reading needs. The first, Basketball Prospectus’ (Basketball Prospectus’s? Prospecti?) Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012-13 has been a yearly must-read since its initial edition four years ago. I got to add a blurb to their Pistons section this year in response to a question about who the Pistons go-to player in crunch time should be:

Ideally, Greg Monroe would be getting the bulk  of Detroit’s crunch-time touches. He’s the best  player on the team, an efficient scorer and  added greatly to his offensive repertoire in his  second season. The problem, though, is that  Detroit’s guards have a tendency to forget Monroe exists sometimes. If not Monroe, then next  in line is Rodney Stuckey. He takes decent care  of the ball, can create his own shot and is Detroit’s best player at getting to the line. Brandon  Knight is Detroit’s best three-point shooter, so if  the team needs an outside shot, he’s the guy,  although he’s a bit turnover prone if he has to  do anything other than catch and shoot. Tayshaun Prince probably still fancies himself as a  go-to player too. Although miscast in that role,  he rarely turns it over and usually can get a shot  off in isolation. Detroit’s late-game offense, like  the team in general, has promise but is still a  work in progress.

There’s an incredible amount of information on every NBA team in the book.

The other publication to check out is Hardwood Paroxysm’s 2012-13 NBA preview. This one is available for free online and features content from the many fantastic HP contributors. Definitely check that one out too.