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Archive → October, 2012

If injuries weren’t a factor, which individual matchups would you most look forward to between the Pistons and Timberwolves?

Zach Harper from the great T-Wolves blog A Wolf Among Wolves asked Jared Dubin, editor of the also great Hardwood Paroxysm, and I to participate in a 3-on-3 roundtable prior to tonight’s Pistons-Timberwolves game.

One of the questions — In a regular season game with both teams healthy, what would be your most important matchup between these two teams? — will be a really interesting one as both of these teams have some intriguing young talent. There were many different ways to go with this — Monroe-Love, Drummond-Pekovic, Stuckey-Roy or even Prince-Kirilenko if you like skinny, long-armed guys.

I chose the point guard matchup with my response:

Hayes: The easy answer is Greg Monroe-Kevin Love, but those guys are both consistently good and I assume they’d play well against each other most nights. For me, it’s Brandon Knight-Ricky Rubio. Knight is the wildcard of Detroit’s young players. Monroe is already a known commodity and very close to being an All-Star level player. For Drummond, his elite talent is unquestioned, he’s been dogged by whether or not he can maximize his obvious physical gifts. Knight, however, is much more polarizing. His work ethic and maturity make him easy to root for, but his production, both as a college and professional player, suggest he might not be the above average starting point guard the Pistons hope he is. Knight has reportedly spent his offseason working on his passing, decision-making and ability to run an offense as more of a traditional point guard. I’m interested to see how he plays against players like Rubio, a natural pass-first player, this season. If Knight can do some of the things Rubio does for his team when healthy, the Pistons have a chance to be significantly better. If he can’t, they’re clearly headed back to the lottery.

Dubin: I can’t choose between Rubio-Knight, Love-Monroe and Pekovic-Drummond, so I’m going to say it’s the wing matchup between Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexei Shved and Chase Budinger and Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette and Austin Daye. That’s a bit of a cop-out, I know, but there are a bunch of intriguing cross-matches there. Stuckey and Roy are the combo guards that take you off the bounce. Kirilenko and Prince can match each other limb for limb. Daye and Budinger present an interesting contrast in styles and athleticism, as do Shved and Maggette. None of these guys is the number one option for either team, but if any stepped up and took control, it could decide the outcome.

Harper: I think I’d definitely have to go with Knight vs Rubio as my matchup. There were some fun moments from the Wolves’ home game against the Pistons last year, but with the experience both players gained from their first season, I’d love to see a second season showdown between both point guards. I really like what I’ve seen from Knight in a scoring sense and he’s learning how to run the offense when he’s called to do so. For Rubio, I like watching his defense against scoring guards like Knight. They both have a lot of ability and I think it could steal the show. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be crying in the corner.

We also discussed Andre Drummond and whether or not the Pistons need to add more veteran players in the other topics.

Andre Drummond will start 32 games this season (according to a simple formula)

The higher a player is drafted, the more games he tends to start as rookie. That’s pretty obvious.

Players drafted higher tend to be worse than players drafted lower, and teams picking higher tend to be worse – meaning a lower-quality lineup to break into – than teams picking lower.

So how many games should we expect a No. 9 pick, like Andre Drummond, to start this season? A simple analysis says 32.

I took each first-round pick since 1989, when the NBA expanded to 27 teams, and counted how many games each player started as rookie (normalized to an 82-game schedule due to two lockouts in the span). Add a line of best fit, and you have a decent benchmark for first-round picks starting.

For what it’s worth, Greg Monroe (48 rookie starts as the No. 7 pick) and Brandon Knight (60 rookie starts as the No. 8 pick), exceeded their projections.

This analysis doesn’t account for how Drummond fits Detroit’s needs, Drummond being just 19 years old or any other factor besides where he was drafted. But based on the history of first-round picks, Drummond starting 32 games this year is a reasonable expectation.

NBA All-Star voting format change might hurt Greg Monroe’s odds of making team

Greg Monroe gives the Pistons a chance for their first deserved All-Star since 2008, when Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace made it. (No, Allen Iverson starting in 2009 does not count.)

Monroe, in my opinion, wasn’t quite All-Star worthy last season, but he wasn’t far behind Roy Hibbert, who made the Eastern Conference team. I don’t know whether Monroe can pass Hibbert – and fend off Andrew Bynum (who was traded into the conference during the offseason) and Al Horford (who was injured last season – but the Pistons big man certainly has a chance.

Any calculations to how much of a chance need tweaking, though. David Aldridge of NBA.com:

The league will announce Wednesday a change to its All-Star ballot that will, for the first time, allow fans to vote for three undefined “frontcourt” players instead of having to vote for two forwards and a center. With more and more teams playing smaller than in the past, the definition of “center” was becoming increasingly difficult — not to mention finding enough quality big men for whom to vote.

It’s unclear whether the format will also change for picking reserves, but that will be crucial for Monroe, who, for a variety of reasons, almost certainly won’t be voted in by the fans. Previously, selecting the reserves worked similar to the starters:

The 14 players selected — seven each from the Eastern and Western Conferences — were chosen by the 30 NBA head coaches, who were asked to vote for seven players in their respective conferences — two guards, two forwards, one center and two players regardless of position. They were not permitted to vote for players from their own team.

Either way, I think this hurts Monroe, but it would be even more detrimental if the format for backups changes, too. I believe Monroe has a better chance of becoming one of the Eastern Conference’s top two centers this season than one of the top six frontcourt players.

The old system was changed because it reserved too many spots for centers. Now, although a couple more spots are open for him, Monroe must compete with all the big-name forwards instead of just a limited number of quality centers.

He can still make the All-Star team, but he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Sports Illustrated: Pistons should be focused on developing young players rather than wins and losses

In the above video, Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix gives his take on the Detroit Pistons, including his belief that the Pistons will be best-served by giving their young players the bulk of the minutes, even if it means the team falls short of the playoffs.

New this preseason: Greg Monroe leading the break

I’ve written a few times in recaps this preseason, and I’m sure many others who’ve been watching the Pistons, have noticed Greg Monroe‘s new aggressiveness leading the break. Beckley Mason of TrueHoop has a really cool roundup of the new skills many different players are displaying this preseason and he was kind enough to let me include Monroe:

Greg Monroe’s new handle

Greg Monroe has apparently worked on his ball-handling and frequently (and confidently) looks to lead the break on defensive rebounds or steals now, something he rarely did his previous two seasons. He’s been a bit out-of-control at times, but this new skill he’s displayed has been a big part in the Pistons looking to run more this preseason than they have in recent years. – Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered

Check out Beckley’s entire post though. It’s a nice mix of people getting their hopes up for perennial disappointments like Andray Blatche and Tyrus Thomas and some young guys who are actually improving, like Monroe, Ty Lawson, Enes Kanter and DeAndre Jordan.

Poll: Which player should the Pistons have released?

NBA.com: Playing Andre Drummond now in Pistons best interest

Count Steve Aschburner of NBA.com among those on the Andre Drummond bandwagon. In Aschburner’s latest column, he makes a case that Drummond should play a big role right away:

Drummond’s gotta play for three reasons. First and foremost, he has talent to size and size to flaunt, with the ability to rebound and protect the rim that comes with standing 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds. In practices and scrimmages so far, Drummond has impressed Detroit coaches and players with his aggressiveness and eagerness to learn.

Another reason Drummond needs to play is, whatever concerns scouts had about his weight coming into the league, sitting on the side isn’t going to help. After a summer of hard work, the rookie needs to maintain his body and that means game shape, not pedaling a stationary bike after a bunch of CD-DNPs.

Third, the more Drummond plays — along with import Slava Kravtsov — the sooner Frank and the Pistons can get on with Greg Monroe’s full-time shift to power forward. The 6-11 Georgetown product has a knack for smart passing that could make him the focal point of Frank’s offense, especially if he’s able to operate more from the high post.

Just a note, you might want to skip over the intro of that column where the inevitable Drummond-Darko comparison comes into play. But other than that, it’s another great indicator of how much excitement nationally Drummond has created for this team. The Pistons have not received this much preseason attention in a long time, and they should be thankful every day that Drummond both fell to them and came in as committed as he appears to be off the bat.

Hat tip to commenter MNM

Pistons release Jonny Flynn, Terrence Williams; pick up options on Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight

The Pistons had a handful of transactions today, all of which were expected. In the biggest no-brainers, the team picked up Greg Monroe‘s fourth-year option at $4 million and Brandon Knight‘s third year option at $2.8 million, per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

The team also waived training camp invites Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn. Though both players, Williams in particular, still have some untapped upside, are young and were lottery picks not that long ago, neither did much in their limited preseason action, let alone enough to make the Pistons consider eating a guaranteed contract to keep one or the other.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Williams and think he has a future in the league, particularly as a lockdown perimeter defender.

The Pistons are now at the roster limit of 15, so barring a trade, this will be the team they start the season with.

Even NBA GMs don’t know how good Greg Monroe is

We’ve known for a while that fans and some media outside of Detroit tend to overlook Greg Monroe in discussions on who some of the best young players in the league are. When NBA.com released its annual GM survey today, asking the league’s general managers 57 questions about their predictions for the upcoming season, I was sure Monroe’s name would be mentioned in at least a couple categories.

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2012-13? No Monroe:

1. Klay Thompson, Golden State — 13.3%
2. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, and Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio — 10.0%
4. Paul George, Indiana, and James Harden, Oklahoma City — 6.7%

Also receiving votes: Nicolas Batum, Portland; Alec Burks, Utah; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kenneth Faried, Denver; Taj Gibson, Chicago; Eric Gordon, New Orleans; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Gordon Hayward, Utah; Andre Iguodala, Denver; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers; Ty Lawson, Denver; JaVale McGee, Denver; Josh Selby, Memphis; Evan Turner, Philadelphia; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

The strangest thing about that list is that a lot of those players have already had breakout seasons. Westbrook, Griffin and Iguodala have already been All-Stars and Olympians. How have those guys not ‘broken out’ already?

At any rate, Monroe was sure to get a mention in the best offensive rebounders category, right? Nope:

1. Kevin Love, Minnesota — 53.3%
2. Kenneth Faried, Denver — 16.7%
3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento — 6.7%, dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers — 6.7%

Also receiving votes: Tyson Chandler, New York; Reggie Evans, Brooklyn; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Kris Humphries, Brooklyn; Zach Randolph, Memphis

Monroe was ninth in the league in offensive rebounds overall and sixth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. Cousins was the only player that GMs mentioned who had a better offensive rebounding percentage.

I’m sure that GMs in the league don’t take this super seriously, and they shouldn’t … they have far more pressing things to attend to. But I think it’s a good example of something that should be pointed out. The media (deservedly in a lot of cases) often gets a bad rap for not paying close enough attention when ranking players or voting on awards or things like that. But in some cases, the people on the inside overlook really good players too.

As for the rest of the list, Andre Drummond was mentioned in a couple categories. Rookie most likely to be a sleeper success:

1. Jared Sullinger, Boston — 17.2%
2. Maurice Harkless, Orlando, Andrew Nicholson, Orlando — 13.8%
4. Jae Crowder, Dallas, Damian Lillard, Portland — 10.3%
6. Terrence Jones, Houston — 6.9%

Also receiving votes: Jared Cunningham, Dallas; Andre Drummond, Detroit; Evan Fournier, Denver; John Jenkins, Atlanta; Perry Jones, Oklahoma City; Doron Lamb, Milwaukee; Donatas Motiejunas, Houston; Terrence Ross, Toronto

I would personally add Draymond Green to that list too, but I totally agree with Jae Crowder as well. I think Crowder will be a really solid player for the Mavs this season.

Drummond was also mentioned, obviously, among the most athletic rookies:

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans — 40.0%
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte — 16.7%
3. Andre Drummond, Detroit — 13.3%
4. Terrence Ross, Toronto — 10.0%
5. Perry Jones, Oklahoma City — 6.7%

Also receiving votes: Quincy Acy, Toronto; Terrence Jones, Houston; Thomas Robinson, Sacramento; Dion Waiters, Cleveland

No slight to MKG, but I’d probably put Drummond as a close second to Davis. Drummond’s athleticism might be more impressive because he’s heavier than Davis, but Davis also has perimeter skills and quickness that Drummond lacks, so that probably puts him just a bit ahead.

Also, just for fun, check out the former Pistons coach who received a mention on the ‘best assistant coaches’ list:

1. Brian Shaw, Indiana — 23.3%
2. Mike Budenholzer, San Antonio — 20.0%
3. Steve Clifford, L.A. Lakers, Mike Malone, Golden State — 10.0%
5. Maurice Cheeks, Oklahoma City, Jay Triano, Portland — 6.7%

Also receiving votes: Ron Adams, Chicago; Kenny Atkinson, Atlanta; Brett Brown, San Antonio; Michael Curry, Philadelphia; Darren Erman, Golden State; Armond Hill, Boston; Elston Turner, Phoenix

Can’t wait to see Curry back on the sidelines as a head coach in one of his fancy suits.

Video: A source on YouTube for Andre Drummond highlights

I mentioned the other day that I couldn’t find video of Andre Drummond‘s second of two impressive dunks against the Charlotte Bobcats. Thanks to commenter Lake Side Live, I found that and then some. A YouTube user going by the screen name Grant Hill — interesting, since Drummond might be the most entertaining rookie the Pistons have had since Hill — has a nice collection of Drummond highlights from the preseason. Check out his page for more, and hopefully more videos keep coming all season. I’d post a video of Drummond dunking every day if I could.

Update: A couple of commenters below rightfully pointed out that Need4Detroit is also a fantastic source for Pistons-related highlight videos on YouTube.