Archive → November, 2012
Andre Drummond is the Pistons’ best defensive hope, but they barely use him while allowing Knicks to score 121 points
|Jason Maxiell, PF 24 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -7
He made both his shots, but didn’t really rebound well. He wasn’t awful, but he looked replaceable. Hint, hint.
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | -22
Carmelo Anthony had his way with Prince, which had more to do with Melo than anything. But Prince also shot poorly and was mediocre in other areas.
|Kyle Singler, SF 29 MIN | 5-7 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -6
Singler was the floor spacer the Pistons need him to be. A Knicks team that moves the ball well, though, exposed his foot-speed issues.
|Greg Monroe, C 30 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -15
Monroe nearly had as many assists as shot attempts, and it’s encouraging he kept making the right and unselfish reads. But four turnovers is too many, and he wasn’t much of a defensive presence.
|Brandon Knight, PG 34 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 21 PTS | -16
Knight had a really nice game. He picked his spots well, shot efficiently and set up teammates wile turning the ball over only twice. Still, Raymond Felton gave him some trouble on the other end. And in each of the last two games, Knight has too casual getting an inbound pass, resulting in turnovers.
|Charlie Villanueva, PF 19 MIN | 7-15 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | -11
Hey, 17 points in 19 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, but those numbers are at least somewhat empty. They were boosted by garbage time, and Villanueva’s defense and rebounding today didn’t counteract everything we already know about him.
|Austin Daye, PF 4 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | 0
Daye played the final four minutes in case you’re tracking what it would take for him to enter a game. Kim English also played the final four minutes, but we already know he’s not buried so far on the bench that he can’t enter blowouts. For Daye, it was slightly revealing.
|Corey Maggette, SF 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -2
Not bad or anything, but why is a so-so-at-best 33-year-old on an expiring contract playing so much for a rebuilding team?
|Andre Drummond, C 19 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -9
Drummond was a defensive force. Carmelo Anthony was 6-for-6 until Drummond blocked Melo’s layup – a play I doubt any other Piston could have made. Add a few rebounds that fit the same description, and Drummond could have made a serious impact on this game. Of course, he barely played – especially considering his playing time was boosted by the final four minutes of garbage time. Drummond was shaky offensively, but his defense warranted more playing time, and that would have given him an opportunity to develop his offense.
|Will Bynum, PG 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -5
Did a nice job of attacking the rim.
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -12
Stuckey played just 2:38 in the second half. His total contribution in that time: one turnover. Stuckey’s production has varied between non-existent and poor. Today, it was the former.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION
For the first time this season, Jerebko didn’t play. It looks like his poor play has finally cost him a rotation spot. Unfortunately, it went to Villanueva instead of giving more minutes to Drummond and/or Viacheslav Kravtsov, who probably deserves a look sooner than later.
| Lawrence Frank, HEAD COACH
Frank is beginning to realize veterans like Stuckey and Jerebko might not have all the answers. Unfortunately, giving their minutes to Maggette and Villanueva was not the solution I had in mind. Before the game became a slopfest, I liked the Pistons’ ball movement, for whatever that’s worth.
Most Valuable Player
Not only did Carmelo Anthony score 29 points in 32 minutes, he had three assists and generally kept the ball moving. Tayshaun Prince’s defense wasn’t necessarily poor, but when Melo is playing like this, it’s tough to stop his Knicks.
That was… comforting
Whether it was J.R. Smith (15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists), Steve Novak (5-of-7 on 3-pointers) or Rasheed Wallace (15 points), plenty of Knicks have reason to feel especially good after snapping a two-game losing streak.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (3-10) at New York Knicks (8-3)
- Date: November 25, 2012
- Time: 1:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
After winning two of their past three games, the Detroit Pistons will travel to New York today to take on a Knicks team that just lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
It’s worth noting: these aren’t last year’s Knicks though.
They are currently the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference and are playing brilliant basketball thanks in large part to the transformation of Carmelo Anthony. Indeed, with him playing at power forward, it’s opened up the court for his teammates, where they get to be part of the offense because not only is he willingly going to the block, but he is also sharing the ball in an attempt to get everyone involved.
Furthermore, because Mike Woodson has rightfully guessed that opponents would try to double team his star player in the low post, he has surrounded him with a multitude of shooters and essentially given them the green light to fire away as they please. Thus, the Knicks are attempting 28.7 field goals from 3-point range per game, which is tops in the league; and converting 40.8 percent of the tries (fourth in the NBA).
Mind you, because the Knicks predicate a lot of their offense based off of action revolving around Melo, it means that they are for all intents and purposes a jump shooting team for the most part. Indeed, they are just under the league average of shot attempts at the rim, and are fourth from the bottom in points in the paint.
This gets interesting against the Pistons, because Lawrence Frank has an important decision to make: does he assign Prince or Maxiell to defend Anthony?
Most teams have opted to have their power forward defend Ronnie Brewer, to protect them from foul trouble, but Maxiell is a physical player that could potentially give Carmelo some fits, especially on the block.
Granted, considering that Detroit has struggled to defend the interior, it is also possible that Frank might simply opt to play small today and roll the dice with it.
Read about the Knicks
|Jason Maxiell, PF 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +2
He was fine. A bit below his typical production for this season, but whatever. Andre Drummond didn’t cut into Maxiell’s minutes because Maxiell was bad. Drummond was just better. As far as tracking the individual matchup between the two, the only category I saw in Maxiell’s favor tonight was defensive awareness.
|Tayshaun Prince, SF 38 MIN | 8-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +3
He shot extremely efficiently. He defended well. He helped on the glass. Maybe it was taking advantage of a matchup with Dominic McGuire, but Prince was excellent tonight.
|Kyle Singler, SF 29 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | +7
Not a good game for Singler, but at least he didn’t really harm the Pistons – which speaks to why he’s starting ahead of Stuckey. When Singler has an off game, it doesn’t include a ton of missed shots and turnovers.
|Greg Monroe, C 38 MIN | 8-20 FG | 3-6 FT | 11 REB | 5 AST | 19 PTS | +10
Monroe (40 percent shooting and four turnovers) was not very efficient, but he produced in volume with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. I’ll take that. Monroe’s 20 shots were nine more than any teammate, and that’s good for the Pistons. There’s nobody I trust more on this team with the ball in his hands. When in doubt, feed Monroe. It might hurt his efficiency numbers, but it’s good for the team.
|Brandon Knight, PG 26 MIN | 6-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +3
Knight scored half his points in the final 3:30, including the game-winning drive for a layup with 7.8 seconds left. A 3:5 assist:turnover isn’t pretty pretty, but Knight shot well, especially when it counted. The final minutes of the game definitely raised his grade a great deal.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -10
Ugh. He’s been bad lately, tonight especially. He shot too often and took terrible shots – a disheartening combination. At least once defensively, he bumped into a teammate who had good positioning.
|Corey Maggette, SF 8 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | -3
He was basically a non-factor, but at least he played only eight minutes. Maggette is probably the Piston most likely to be gone next season. Every minute he plays is a minute that doesn’t go to a potential future contributor.
|Andre Drummond, C 24 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-6 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -2
No play better reflects Drummond’s night than one midway through the fourth quarter. He grabbed an offensive rebound by sneakily setting up well behind a Jonas Valanciunas box out and speeding by the Raptor. Drummond jumped quickly for a putback and was fouled. In celebration, he slammed the ball to the court, and it bounced off the basket overhang and nearly hit a ducking Drummond on the way down.
Drummond might look awkward in the process, but he makes an insane number of positive plays per minute. Sometimes, it’s the result of unexpected savvy, but his athleticism and size almost always contribute.
Drummond was active on the defensive and offensive glass, and he got a lot of his shots on putbacks. I don’t know how the Pistons wanted to defend every pick-and-roll, but Drummond looked out of position at times. On one play, though, Drummond got caught in no-man’s land, but he skied to intercept an entry pass.
Drummond produced well tonight. If he figures out how to play at this level, he’ll be scary good. How can he get there? Keep playing him.
|Will Bynum, PG 22 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -2
Let’s ignore his lack of offensive contributions for a moment. Bynum couldn’t stay with Jose Calderon, and that’s why Bynum fouled him twice and gave him space for a 3-pointer. Bynum also fouled Kyle Lowry on a 3-pointer.
|Rodney Stuckey, PG 21 MIN | 2-9 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -3
Until Stuckey finishes better at the rim, he’s never going to take the next step as a player. He’s still taking too many 3-pointers, and he’s not doing much besides trying to score – and he’s not doing that well.
Lawrence Frank, HEAD COACH
True to his word, he found more minutes for Drummond. The offense ran through Monroe, which is almost always a good plan, but as far as Frank is concerned, I really just care about how he develops Drummond this season. Tonight, he let Drummond play through mistakes, and it was a key reason the Pistons won. Even when making mistakes, Drummond outweighs them with positive plays nobody else is capable of making. The Pistons outrebounded Toronto 46-37 and held the Raptors well below their season average for attempts in the pain. Drummond played a big hand in both categories, categories that had often been the Pistons’ biggest weaknesses.
- Teams: Toronto Raptors (3-9) at Detroit Pistons (2-10)
- Date: November 23, 2012
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
Lost in all of the many, many complaints about the present way the Pistons are handling Andre Drummond‘s playing time is an eye toward the future. Certainly, Drummond is only an eyelash into his NBA career, so numerous things could trip him up on his way to stardom, but if he continues to improve at the rate he’s improved since the Pistons drafted him as a project who they were unsure would be ready for a major role this season, it’s clear he’s an elite talent. Eventually, a coaching staff (not sure if it will be this one) will figure out that it’s smart to play your best players more minutes and eventually, Drummond will be a really good NBA player if everything goes as planned.
But tonight’s game against the Raptors also gives a glimpse at the significance of this rookie class. Drummond, Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas and Hornets rookie Anthony Davis have a shot at being a really special class of big men. All three have unique skillsets and I can’t wait to see Drummond match up with both guys, starting with Valanciunas tonight.
Valanciunas is coming off his best game as a pro. He had 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block in a loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. Most importantly, he played 34 minutes. In fact, check out the trajectory of Jonas V’s minutes this season in the game logs. As he’s gained more experience and played better, his minutes have — get this — gone up. What a concept. He has two straight double-doubles. He’s played 20 or more minutes in eight of 12 games this season and two of those sub-20 minute games can be explained away because he was in foul trouble. He’s also starting for the Raptors despite the fact that they have veteran options up front who are limited, but certainly not worthless, NBA players in Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray and Ed Davis.
To put it simply, the Raptors are getting it right with Valanciunas. He still has weaknesses — particularly fouling too much — and he still makes rookie mistakes. But he has also been better than every big on their roster, even with those rookie flaws and mistakes, and he’s being rewarded for that production with a large role and minutes. The Raptors aren’t winning much this season as a result of him starting, and I would never make the case that the Pistons playing Drummond more would miraculously lead to more wins. It would, however, be in the team’s best interests long-term to allow Drummond to grow based on him proving he’s ready for more. The Raptors clearly understand this concept with their talented young big man.
Read about the Raptors
"We’re trying to find more time for Andre
I guess this is encouraging. Andre Drummond, for many reasons, should play more.
Perhaps, there are rotation concerns and questions about which players fit best together, but this seems unnecessarily complicated. It’s not like finding your keys when you misplace them. If Frank wants to play Drummond more, he can just play him more.
Really, I don’t care much whether Frank says Drummond deserves more minutes. I want to see it actually happen.
Tayshaun Prince, to the shock of no one, became the first Pistons player this season to criticize Lawrence Frank. Well, Will Bynum is apparently joining the party. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
After saying he wished Singler were still on the second unit because he enjoyed playing with him, Bynum told the Free Press: "I’m having to adjust to everybody. I’m playing with so many different people. First I go from not playing with (Rodney) Stuckey to playing with Stuckey every day. I go from playing with Kyle all the time to never playing with Kyle. I’m playing with Tayshaun (Prince). Early on I was playing with Brandon (Knight) and I never played with him in two years since I’ve been here. It’s all over the place right now."
Combine that comment with Prince questioning the substitution pattern and time-out usage of coach Lawrence Frank during the pathetic third quarter of Wednesday night’s 94-80 debacle against the Magic, and we have reached familiar territory when it comes to the Pistons.
Things haven’t reached the point of no return, but it’s obvious as the losses mount that players are beginning to publicly question Frank’s decision-making process.
Tone is everything here. Bynum might have just been explaining the downside of lineup decisions he supports in sum. But I’ll trust Ellis, who clearly wrote that Bynum was questioning Frank.
Frank has already lost the fans. He’s beginning to lose the traditional media. I don’t know whether he’s lost the players, but he appears headed in that direction.
Kravtsov is basically caught in a numbers game when it comes to Detroit’s big men.
He’s behind center Greg Monroe, rookie Andre Drummond and veterans Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye on the Pistons depth chart.
See the problem?
Um … I think I do. Two of those players shouldn’t be in any discussion about playing time. I certainly wouldn’t make a case for Kravtsov playing if it meant he’d cut into Drummond’s minutes. But there’s a fairly simple solution here. The only three Pistons big men who should be assured significant minutes each game are Monroe, Drummond and Jason Maxiell. Daye and Villanueva, based on their bodies of work in Detroit, should be the 14th and 15th men on the roster. That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Kravtsov in that fourth big man spot, and I think it would be pretty easy to get minutes for one or the other, depending on matchups. Jerebko doesn’t play particularly well against big, physical frontcourt players, so against teams like that, find a few minutes for Kravtsov. Against teams with more athletic, fast frontcourts, Jerebko would obviously get the fourth big man minutes.
Finding playing time for Kravtsov is far from the most pressing concern with the Pistons right now, but 12 games into a season when a majority of the team has played awful, the fact that he hasn’t even played a single minute seems a little questionable.
Well, we all had to know this would be coming sooner or later. Via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Tayshaun Prince had some constructive criticism for the coaching staff after the Pistons’ debacle against Orlando Wednesday:
But Tayshaun Prince openly wondered afterward why Frank didn’t respond quicker with substitutions when it was obvious Prince and the rest of the starting five didn’t have it.
“If I was coach, I would have made the decision sooner than what he did,” Prince said in the Amway Center visitors’ locker room. “Know what I mean?
“6-0 run, call time-out. Bam, bam and we come back out and nothing happens the second time. Bam,” Prince said while snapping his fingers for emphasis.
I definitely do know what you mean, Mr. Prince. That’s certainly not shades of ‘buffoonery’ just yet, but Prince is not a patient guy. If the team keeps playing poorly, I think we can expect more commentary from him as the season progresses. The team is almost replaying the John Kuester era, except from the opposite extreme. Kuester famously (and annoyingly) mixed and matched his rotation so often that his combinations rarely ever got a chance to start working or failing before he was already changing them up again. He was a chronic tinkerer. Frank’s rotations are so set in stone that the only significant change he’s made in two years came about when Rodney Stuckey essentially had to beg his way out of the starting lineup.
There is a middle ground there somewhere, I think.
There won’t be grades tonight. It’s (almost) a holiday and, if you’re really into the grading thing, Greg Monroe is really good. Andre Drummond looks like he could be if he could ever play more than 18 minutes, even in a loss to a terrible team when most of the rotation players look lethargic and Charlie Villanueva, of all people, gets nearly 10 minutes of action. I think you can figure out the rest of the grades based on those sentences.
The Detroit Pistons organization has gone to great lengths to court fans. They’ve improved the facilities. They’ve improved the in-game entertainment. They have people working for the organization who have a long-term vision for running a successful, entertaining, fan-friendly business.
The basketball is the serious problem. And it’s not even about fans expecting this team to win a lot. Aside from a few of the deluded, no one approached this season expecting that the Pistons would return to playoff contention. Would it have been a nice surprise if the young talent on the roster collectively took a huge leap forward and made this team a playoff contender? Absolutely. But I think most fans would be extremely satisfied by pretty basic standards.
Are the young players developing? Is the team realizing that limited veterans, likable and useful though they may be, are much more useful if they’re turned into assets that help the team’s future?* Will the front office and ownership acknowledge, not even with words so much as with actions, that selling this team as a potential playoff contender so soon did everyone, from the coaches to the players to the fans, an incredible disservice?
* And, for that matter, is the team realizing that those veteran players are far more useful to teams who actually are contending than to teams that desperately need to develop young talent?
That’s not a long list. And if this team had been presented to fans with more reasonable expectations or fewer mixed messages, I don’t think the poor start would be nearly the issue it has become. If you have an owner who, even if he wasn’t doing it in a threatening way, says he thinks and wants the team in the playoffs, you will have an organization that reacts accordingly. I have no inside information about what conversations Tom Gores has had with Joe Dumars or Lawrence Frank. I don’t know if he really meant it when he said in the offseason that this team could make the playoffs this season. But, trying to put myself in the shoes of an employee who hears those words, I think I might take them to heart. If I were a coach, I might tend to play less mistake-prone veterans rather than gambling that a promising rookie could handle big minutes off the bat. If I were a GM, I think I’d be more hesitant to admit that there are players on the roster with guaranteed contracts that no other team wants who should not be on the roster (although I would find it hilarious to watch Dumars play the Larry David role in a conversation with Gores about the Villanueva/Gordon/Hamilton signings). If I were a player thinking about playoffs on a team that had no business thinking that way, I’d probably get more frustrated with losses than I would in an organization that was more realistic about its immediate fortunes while also looking to be competitive long-term. If I were a fan — and I am a fan — I would be upset that I’d been sold something the team isn’t delivering on.
This is going to come off like a straight rant, and I’m OK with that. There is actually practical evidence of bad teams doing the right things to get better. The Charlotte Bobcats are owned by Michael Jordan, who might be the most competitive person (and most fashionable person) in the history of humanity. Via ESPN Chicago, check out these comments from Jordan about the Bobcats:
He knows it won’t be a quick, easy process.
“Are we a playoff team? C’mon, we can’t expect that,” Jordan said Thursday. “But we need to get the ball rolling in the right direction. I’m not real happy about the record book scenario last year. It’s very, very frustrating.”
See how he did that? Most people hate losing, so I understand where Gores was coming from in his ‘playoffs’ comments. But, as Jordan demonstrates, you can hate losing and still be realistic. Charlotte came into the season with low expectations. They added more young players through the draft and a couple of stopgap veterans on the cheap, not with burdensome long-term contracts. When they made one trade for a burdensome long-term contract, they picked up an asset (a future first round pick … the team who helped them do that shall remain nameless). They knew they’d be young, they knew they wanted to play and develop their young players, so they made an outside-the-box hire and brought in a relatively unknown coach (by NBA standards at least) in Mike Dunlap whose specialty is — get this — young player development. The bar was set low for them, and guess what? They’ve rolled with their young players, errors and all, and started the season 6-4. I certainly don’t think that will hold up, but imagine being a fan of that team. If you’d spent an offseason hearing angry but realistic comments from front office personnel and ownership who hate losing every bit as much as fans do then your team had a strong start while playing intriguing young guys in big roles, you’d be extremely happy, right? The Bobcats set themselves up to exceed expectations.
And yes, it’s incredibly depressing that I resorted to using the Charlotte Bobcats for a comparison to what I consider one of the league’s elite franchises, the Pistons. But that’s where we’re at. No one paying attention faults the Pistons for rebuilding. All teams have to get there at some point. But the fact that they’ve never fully committed to a youth movement, to a tearing down of the team in order to build it up again, suggests they aren’t doing this the right way. This isn’t the Spurs, who had to just draft Tim Duncan and wait for David Robinson to return from injury to get good again. This isn’t the Celtics, who had to just wait for a former player to hand them Kevin Garnett for pennies on the dollar. The Pistons are in a traditional rebuilding situation, they’ve continued to rely on (and pay) limited veterans who ultimately have looked worse with less talent around them than they did on better teams, driving down their trade value, and they continue to give dual public messages, both stressing a practical long-term approach while also tossing out that ‘playoff’ word fairly frequently in the build-up to the season, which puts unreasonable expectations on coaches and players.
I’m not mad that the Pistons are bad. In fact, I thought the absolute best case scenario for them this season would be about a 35-37 win mark and it was far more likely they’d be in the 25-30 range. They’re a bad team, but not a remarkably bad one, and they at least have a few young players who are intriguing enough to continue paying attention. But as a fan, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch a player be as productive as Drummond has been in limited minutes and not be rewarded with more minutes. It undermines everything the coaching staff says publicly about earning minutes. Drummond, point blank, has out-played every big on the roster except Monroe in the scant minutes he’s been given. On top of that, the Pistons have been awful, including two ugly losses to a bad Orlando team. Their biggest weakness — defense — is an area where Drummond seems like he’d be the most help, and yet he’s still languishing in the same role he started the season in. In short, there is absolutely no possible excuse to not play him more.
I jumped the gun the other night when the Pistons beat the Celtics and I decided I’d move on from the Drummond issue as long as the Pistons were playing better. Dan Feldman is right. They are a team that has no shot at the postseason, and never really did, despite the preseason rhetoric. The largely non-competitive performances of the team to open this season — against both good teams and bad teams — has proven as much. Drummond’s development is vital to the long-term stability of this franchise. They were incredibly lucky a talent like him, even with some red flags, fell to them at the spot he did. If they get it wrong with him — and to this point, they’ve had little success in Dumars’ tenure developing players considered ‘projects’ who weren’t NBA-ready immediately — it will have dire long-term circumstances. Drummond is still raw. There are certainly rosters with better big man options in front of him where keeping him on the bench would’ve been more justifiable. The Pistons, clearly, are not one of those teams. Drummond is their second best big man, maybe their second best player already (at least on a per-minute basis in the limited role he’s played) and it’s clear to every objective eye that the Pistons are not playing him enough thus far.
I never intended to rant like this, especially on the eve of a holiday, and wish there was a more positive note to end on, but this game offered zero positives. On Sunday, I complimented Frank for having the team ready to put a beating on a very good Boston team after a disappointing loss. Following that up with an awful performance against a bad team is incredibly disheartening.
Patrick’s cable went out some time in the second half (if only we all could have been so lucky). For those of you who were able to watch the whole thing, feel free to commiserate in the comments below.