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Pistons find 3-point range in convincing win over short-handed Orlando Magic

The Pistons played their most impressive game of the preseason in Tuesday’s 112-86 win over the Orlando Magic, but let’s get this out of the way in the first sentence so I don’t have to keep using the qualifier throughout — the Magic are both pretty bad in the first place and they played without starting guards Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo, possible starters or rotation players Al Harrington, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu and rookie first round pick Moe Harkless. To their credit, the Pistons pounded a lineup featuring several players who probably won’t figure significantly into Orlando’s plans for this season, but much like I didn’t get too upset about their blowout loss against Milwaukee, I’m going to try to stay even keeled about this blowout win.

The obvious takeaway from this game was Detroit’s long range shooting. After shooting just 22 percent from three in their first three preseason games, the Pistons made 10-for-21 tonight. Average or slightly below 3-point shooters Will Bynum, Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler probably aren’t going to go 3-for-3 every game, but the most encouraging sign for me was Brandon Knight hitting 3-for-4. Fans, media and, I’m sure, coaches have harped on Knight throughout his rookie season and offseason about doing more point guard-like things — taking care of the ball and distributing the ball — at a higher level this year. Knight has obviously taken that to hear. Throughout the Summer League and preseason, he’s been a willing passer and a better passer. The turnovers are still a bit high, but I think even Knight’s biggest critics would say that he has certainly looked to make plays more for others so far in this small sample size than what we saw from him last season.

The downside for the Pistons, though, has been that Knight has been a bit hesitant with his outside shot this preseason. With Ben Gordon gone, Knight came into this season with the reality that he could be the only legit 3-point threat who cracks the regular rotation. So although the Pistons need him to distribute and need him to take care of the ball, they also need his shot. I suspect him working to find that shooting/distributing balance will be a work in progress throughout the season. Tonight, though, he was taking and making the shots that we saw from him last season.

His increased aggressiveness on drives to the basket is nice. His determination to become a better passer and point guard is certainly something that will endear him to fans. His shooting stroke returning tonight is a relief, though. It’s hard to imagine Detroit’s offense thriving if he’s not as good or better from three as he was last year.

Drummond and the second unit shine

There has been and there will continue to be plenty of debate as to when Andre Drummond should enter Detroit’s starting lineup. He didn’t do anything to dissuade the most vocal supporters of him immediately starting with his effort tonight. He had nine points, three rebounds a steal and four blocks tonight in 17 minutes. In every recap so far, I’ve tried to temper my enthusiasm for Drummond a little simply because I don’t want expectations for the guy to get out of control as he still learns the finer points of big man play at the NBA level. Still, even if it was another opponent that won’t be in the playoffs, it’s becoming harder to make a case that Drummond shouldn’t start.

The Pistons just simply look like a different team when he’s on the court. They have a dimension they haven’t had since Ben Wallace‘s prime with Drummond’s shot-blocking, and that more than makes up for any rookie mistakes he might make. The Pistons got off to many bad starts last season, so it makes perfect sense to put your best lineup on the floor immediately to set that defensive tone Lawrence Frank wants.

These are the only a couple reasons I can think of to not start him. Maybe Lawrence Frank wants to wait and see how he handles better competition. That’s a legitimate reason to wait to make any lineup changes or pronouncements. Also, Drummond is party of a second unit that is really fun to watch and plays with a lot of energy. He runs fast enough to keep pace with Bynum, and Bynum — despite his usual shoot-first inclination — has been really good about involving Drummond and rewarding him with good passes for easy shots. Throw Jerebko, another energetic, athletic, fast player who loves to run the floor and a veteran slasher/foul-drawer in Corey Maggette. Throw in one of the two rookie wings who have shot the three well — Kim English or Khris Middleton — and the Pistons could potentially put a lineup into games that brings defense, speed, energy and shooting. If that unit continues to have good chemistry, I could see why a coach would be hesitant to break it up.

But whether Drummond starts immediately or not, his time will come very soon. It’s going to be impossible not to play him as many minutes as he can handle if the shot-blocking keeps up.

Monroe’s best game

I haven’t written much about Greg Monroe this preseason mainly because he’s at a point where we all know the high level he’s going to play at every game. Tonight was his best effort this preseason, though. He’d been a little sloppy in previous games. Tonight, he shot well, he showed off his passing and he came up with two steals (he might never block shots, but I still think he has potential to become a Karl Malone-like master of stripping the ball on its way up with his insanely quick hands).

His 15-footer is bordering on automatic at this point and I love how often he takes off with a rebound and leads the break (although he did get a little out of control on one of those plays when he should’ve gave it up). It’s almost cruel that Frank is making fans wait so long to see Monroe and Drummond get big minutes together.

Singler, English and Middleton all could play if there’s room for them

The Pistons have a nice problem developing. Well, it’s not nice for a couple of underperforming veterans on the roster. But English, Middleton and Kyle Singler are playing so well it will be hard to keep any on the bench this season even though there aren’t enough spots in the rotation to go around. I’m convinced English and Middleton will play if they continue to make threes (they were 2-for-5 combined against the Magic) simply because the Pistons don’t really have any other reliable shooters on their bench. And tonight, Kyle Singler inserted himself into that alleged stretch four conversation.

I should start by saying I don’t think having a stretch four is vital. In general, I’d rather not have one-dimensional specialists. But the Pistons happen to have Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye on the roster, and the only way either will play is if they are making threes. Villanueva was 1-for-5 tonight, Daye didn’t play and both have been terrible in the preseason. If Frank does plan to use a stretch four in his offense, neither guy has shot well enough to show they are capable of playing that role.

Singler may have made a case that he could handle that role tonight, though. His shot looked good and he has the added benefit of doing other things of value when he’s on the court — he takes charges, he passes, he makes a passable effort on defense and he plays hard. If his shot is falling and he’s doing those other things, he could easily win that competition with Daye and Villanueva, if that competition actually exists at this point.

Kravstov the odd man out for now?

Slava Kravstov hasn’t done anything really poorly this preseason, but he also hasn’t had much of a shot at extended minutes either. He’s done some decent things but hasn’t really stood out either way. Against Orlando, he grabbed five rebounds (four offensive) in eight minutes. So far though, Drummond looks more comfortable offensively, the team has more invested in him and, although Kravstov is no slouch athletically, he’s not the dynamic, once-in-a-lifetime athlete that Drummond is. I’d love to see more of Kravstov as the preseason continues, but so far it’s also looking like he could be the big man who is initially out of that regular season rotation.

Frank certainly has a lot of options. I’d say only two players (other than the camp invites), Daye and Villanueva, have harmed themselves this preseason. Everyone else seems to be making it extremely hard on Frank to allocate minutes.

25 Comments

  • Oct 16, 201210:52 pm
    by corey williams

    Reply

    The 3 rookies should all see playing time, they look good out there together. middleton actually is starting to play well with and without the ball he looks like a true nba player now

    • Oct 17, 20129:25 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      The problem for Middleton in particular will be who does he play over? He basically has Prince, Maggette and Jerebko all in front of him. English stands a better chance of getting some minutes at SG with the lack of depth there (unless they make Maggette the primary backup SG).  I love that those guys are both pushing veterans hard though.

      • Oct 17, 201210:12 am
        by freywagg

        Reply

        I think it’s possible they both get some minutes at SG. Team officials seem to have indicated a belief that Khris can be a SG or SF, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something of a coin toss to see who gets on the floor in a given game. Of course, it’ll likely be more so based on Frank’s player “ranking” than a coin.

  • Oct 16, 201211:17 pm
    by Jack

    Reply

    Thanks for part of the way seeing the light on the Drummond starting issue.  At any rate even if he does not start right away, there is an even stronger case to be made for him being the first guy off the bench, playing next to G Monroe.  When they were together on the floor tonight, granted it was only Orlando, the team went on a 10-2 run, and dominated on the boards.  I am still a strong advocate of Andre starting at the 5 though and moving Moose over to the 4.  The real test, if you can call it that since it is preseason, will be against Miami on Thursday.  Hopefully Drummond shines.

  • Oct 17, 20121:05 am
    by Chabvis

    Reply

    “I should start by saying I don’t think having a stretch four is vital”.

    Completely agree with this.  The only possible reason that Daye or Charlie V see minutes is if Frank insists on utilizing a stretch 4. Singler and Jerebko are both as undersized at the 4, but bring infinitely more energy, hustle, pass, and just generally play hard and do all the little things. I would much rather see either of them on them getting minutes than Daye or Charlie. Theoretically their 3 point shooting would be very useful, but the shots haven’t been falling and the rest of their games doesn’t consist of much.

    As you say in the article, I am not convinced that Drummond HAS to start. As long as he is getting enough minutes and gets crunch time minutes when it is appropriate, it is not THAT important whether he starts or comes off the bench. Of course I would like to see Monroe and Drummond play together, but if Frank wants to utilize his length, energy, and athleticism off the bench while Drummond settles into the league I am fine with that. The minutes are more important than starting.

    Overall, my expectations for the season have steadily increased throughout preseason. Drummond has looked miles better than I expected him to be (I expected to see pure athleticism and rawness offensively). I hope that this team continues with the energetic displays that they have been putting in. If they do we could finally start seeing the improvement that we have all been looking for.

  • Oct 17, 20121:26 am
    by Scott Free

    Reply

    I don’t really see Singler as a legitimate four.  If anything Jerebko has sealed the “stretch four” competition… sure he’s not the best 3 point shooter (he does so many other things I cant list them all) but its not hard to outshoot Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva these days.  

    I’m really disappointed with the limited usage of Slava.  I think if the Pistons utilized a larger rotation with Jerebko at 3, and perhaps Magette or English at 2… they could bring the big Ukrainian in along with Drummond.  Sure it may not be well balanced, but every fast break would have several willing finishers.  I just don’t want to think of either Villanueva or Daye taking from this kids progress in the league. 

    • Oct 17, 20129:20 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Well, I don’t think Singler is strong enough to be a full-time four, but he’s certainly stronger and more physical than Daye and maybe even Villanueva. If Frank is committed to using a stretch four in some capacity in his offense, I think Singler could win that competition.

      As for Jerebko, I think he’ll start off as mostly a PF by default, but he looks more and more like a legitimate small forward every time I watch him now.  

  • Oct 17, 20123:35 am
    by Vince

    Reply

    Drummond
    Monroe
    Jerebko
    Stuckey
    Knight

    Thats all I ask for, the mix hustle, D, slashing, post game, rebounding, defense and energy just seems to good to be true, its unlikely for Jerebko to start over Prince, but damn, that would be great. Not to mention a second unit of Slava, Maxiell, Prince/Singler/Middleton, English/Maggette and Bynum isn’t half bad. 

    • Oct 17, 20129:21 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yeah, it will never happen, but I’d love to watch that lineup you have above play big minutes together.

  • Oct 17, 20125:08 am
    by V.

    Reply

    Thanks for the great writeup. I wish you would start linking these to your Twitter account (@pistonpowered), and not wait until the reg season starts to do it. 

    I wonder what they’re going to do with CV and AD. Their contracts become assets at this point, but they take up roster space. I think at some point, they will make a roster spot for Ben Wallace, but you never know. I do foresee another mysterious 6 month long ankle injury in CV’s future. 

     

    • Oct 17, 20129:17 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Follow @patrick_hayes … my write-ups are all linked there. Dan uses the @PistonPowered account.

  • Oct 17, 20128:02 am
    by Pratik

    Reply

    To get the best players to play on this team at all times, Drummond may just have to start. I really want to see Slava in the rotation..he’s only really been used once. But if Drummond starts then you can really see Slava come in with the second unit. But I still feel…Joe D is going to have to make a call on Tayshaun Prince real soon. Jonas and Corey Maggette look much better at the 3. And also when there out there together for the time being in the second unit. But imagine a lineup consisting: 

    1. Brandon Knight
    2. Rodney Stuckey
    3. Jonas Jerebko
    4. Greg Monroe
    5. Andre Drummond
    Second Unit:
    1. Will Bynum
    2. Corey Maggette/Kim English
    3. Kyle Singler/ Krish Middleton
    4. Jason Maxiell
    5. Slava Kravstov
    With Prince gone, the rookies get more playing time and opportunity. Even if Corey Maggette starts the starting 5 gets much better. So far the starting five has looked average, it’s going to be interesting tomorrow night to see how they perform against the defending champs (finally a great team to compete against). But I just feel with at least Andre in the starting line up we have a clear advantage in the front court, and our defense is much better. Jason Maxiell is a good defender, but he’s not going to change the game for you. I know that worked last year when we were 4-20, and went .500 after but this is a different year. We have different players who are simply much better then some of the vets. Also, Daye and CV are unfortunately done on this roster. Don’t see much playing time for them.

    • Oct 17, 20129:40 am
      by vic

      Reply

      Those two lineups are a source of legitimate basketball excitement.

      Prince is not a negative as long as he doesn’t shoot a lot. He is smart and a good defender.

      But those lineups are more like the future, and its bright.

      Plus we still have room to add a quality free agent after this year. 

  • Oct 17, 20128:14 am
    by Vic

    Reply

    Last night confirmed my stretch 4 theory: if your not Dwight Howard, you don’t need a stretch 4. 
    Itlooks like 3 point land opened up with the wings on the wings and the bigs on the offensive boards.

    Coach Frank has a wonderful problem.  All his rookies are ready to play. There’s still a regular season learning curve but it’s going to be a quick one.

     

  • Oct 17, 20129:01 am
    by Al

    Reply

    Good game to watch great effort on both ends tonight. I must admit, when Maxiell plays well the starters look good but its amazing when you insert Drummond how effective they seem capable of immediately on every possesion! The rookies continue to impress. Slava just needs adequite minutes which im sure he’ll get at some point via foul trouble. And yes, a real test is thursday to a point. But its probably a great test for our bigs to be more specific and BK.

    • Oct 17, 20129:18 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yep. Maxiell is completely adequate. But when you insert Drummond, they could be much, much more than adequate if he keeps this type of play up.

    • Oct 17, 20129:44 am
      by vic

      Reply

      I agree, right now it seems as if they have an option of adequate veteran vs potentially above adequate rookie/young player.
      Maxiell vs Drummond
      Maxiell vs Slava

      Prince vs Jerebko
      Prince vs Singler/Middleton

      I have a sneaking suspicion that the vets might do better for a little while once the games start to count. But the young guys are coming hard for their minutes.

      CV and Daye have already lost theirs. 

  • Oct 17, 201210:13 am
    by Keith

    Reply

    I know our team is filled with tweener forwards, but it seems the obvious best chance to succeed and develop is to turn the center position over entirely to Drummond-Slava. Split the minutes down the middle, or maybe a few more to Drummond, and call it a day. Monroe is going to do his thing at either big man spot, and would be less of a negative defensively when not tasked with being the last line of defense (generally the center). Drummond and Slava, meanwhile, are considerably more suited for that role than any other player on the team.
     
    Maxiell is gone after this year. Even if we can’t trade him, he is an inferior player to Jerebko and there won’t be a lot of minutes going forward with Monroe-Drummond monopolizing the rotation minutes. He may well be a solid backup, but that’s where he should play. Monroe 35 mpg at PF, Maxiell 13. Jerebko can start taking over SF from Prince, who shouldn’t be playing 30+ at this point anyway.

  • Oct 17, 201210:20 am
    by Matt

    Reply

    I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem to get Drummond as many minutes as he can handle because, like pretty much every rookie big man since…ever, he’ll spend more time on the bench due to foul trouble than due to the coach deciding that he isn’t ready.

    That might change towards the end of the season, but I see a lot of games in Drummond’s future where he only plays 20 minutes but gets 8 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and five fouls.

    His per-36 minute numbers could be pretty impressive, but he probably won’t even average 20  minutes per game.

  • Oct 17, 201210:49 am
    by freywagg

    Reply

    On Slava:
    There seems to be a lot of surprise regarding the little time Slava’s seen on the court so far, and I initially was surprised myself. Last night gave me a pretty good idea of why he’s seeing the floor in limited amounts; the NBA game seems too different from what he knows right now. On 3 or 4 different occasions last night he got the ball down low and took too long to go up to the basket. The Magic bigs didn’t bite on his pump fakes and he ended up turning the ball over. It just seemed like he needs time to
     
    He’s certainly showed some good things too though. On one possession at the end of the fourth, Flynn lobbed a ball as Slava was chugging down the middle of the key. The ball was waaay too far from the hoop for a successful alley-oop but Slava went up from not far past the free throw line, caught the ball, and flew to the basket but came up just short of throwing it home. He’s probably got a little bit less explosive athleticism than Drummond, but he’s no slouch and gets up and down the court well.
     
    At this point I believe that Frank will bring Slava along slower than Drummond because of the big style differences in NBA v. Euroball and because of Slava’s difficulty with the language. I expect to mostly see Slava during games with big man foul trouble. As he adjusts, he’ll get more minutes and next season I have little doubt that Drummond starts and Slava gets solid minutes as the back up C (barring any substantial additions at the position).

  • Oct 17, 201211:27 am
    by Corey

    Reply

    The way I see it, the Pistons are now a 13-player deep team, or close to it.  Everyone but Dayanueva.  They have no one in the “star player” category, although Moose may get there this year, and some of the others have the potential to get there at some point (Drummond, MAYBE stuck or knight). But with the rooks showing so much, there are a lot of rotation-capable players. 

    So my hope is that Frank can get this team to play a little bit like the Denver Nuggets:  Put a lot of guys out there for meaningful minutes, and expect them to play HARD.  Run the floor on every play, and play defense with great effort.  The only guy on the team who is so clearly superior to the other options that he needs to be playing 30+ minutes a game is Monroe. Anyone else who isn’t working his butt off every minute needs to come out. I’d be quite content with seeing Stuckey and Knight near 30 minutes a game, Monroe at about 33, and everyone else who plays getting no more than 25 minutes. Even Prince, who I am no fan of any more, might be a useful player if he bought into playing with maximum effort and intensity for 24 minutes a game and then sitting down. 
     
    As an added bonus, this would allow most or all the young players some time on the court to develop, while still using the older vets (Maggette, Prince, Maxiel, Bynum) for trade value purposes.  The Pistons may be reaching the point where they have the assets to do a 4-for-one package deal for a star player, especially considering all the expiring contracts they have available. 

    • Oct 17, 20121:24 pm
      by Keith

      Reply

      The Pistons may be able to swing a 4 for 1 player swap, but not for a star. Outside of Monroe-Drummond-Knight, we simply don’t have a lot of value. Denver still received Gallinari in the Melo swap – who would probably be the second best player on our team. Orlando didn’t get much for Howard, but it seemed they actively planned to be terrible.
       
      The only way expiring contracts gain value is if the other team really needs to shed a contract (more often when that contract is significantly bloated). Most any star caliber player on the market would fetch better than we can offer unless their contract is completely unpalatable (in which case we don’t want them either).

      • Oct 17, 20126:21 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        But stars are rarely if ever traded for fair value.   The real trouble is that stars generally pick their destination these days and the Pistons have never had a true star choose them.  The Pistons must draft or develop its own stars following acquisition.   I’m hoping Moose and Drummond are superstars.

        • Oct 18, 201211:26 am
          by tarsier

          Reply

          It’s true. If any team would be thrilled to hand a guy a max contract, he controls his own destiny. There are only a few such players. Odds are that the Pistons don’t have one in the near future. But if they can put together several B-list stars, like what it looks Monroe will become, they have a real shot. And those sorts of guys tend to become available in FA but you have to overpay for them a bit. Josh Smith is a great example next summer Some would say Harden, but he is a RFA so he’s not going anywhere. Even when someone hands him a max deal, if OKC decides they can’t afford it, they are still best served to match and then trade him later.

  • Oct 18, 201210:35 am
    by Jack Webber

    Reply

    Man, the Monroe/Drummond pairing was so tantalizing in this game. Can’t wait to see them starting together.

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