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Archive → July, 2013

Pistons signing Will Bynum rated as one of NBA’s worst offseason moves

Kevin Pelton of ESPN rated the offseason’s worst moves, and the Pistons signing Will Bynum made the list:

Will Bynum to Detroit Pistons (2 years, $5.8 million)

It’s hard to complain about a contract this small. The issue isn’t so much the money or Bynum, a useful reserve the past few seasons in Detroit, as it is the roster crunch it created. When the Pistons subsequently signed Chauncey Billups, it created a logjam in the backcourt and put Detroit’s roster at 16 players, including second-round pick Tony Mitchell.

The Pistons waived 2012 second-round pick Kim English Thursday before his contract became guaranteed. Detroit also will have to hope this year’s other second-round pick, Louisville guard Peyton Siva, agrees to play overseas in order to maintain his rights.

I believe Pelton has a point, but I also believe Bynum’s inclusion speaks to how well teams have collectively done this offseason. There just haven’t been as many overly burdensome contracts as usual.

Want to piddle about Bynum pushing out Peyton Siva? OK. There are points on both sides – Siva has more upside, and Bynum’s desire is hopefully infectious – but this speaks to the Pistons’ win-now approach.

Tom Gores wants a team that wins now, and he’s directed Dumars to build one. That’s no easy task, but Bynum probably advances the cause, and in that regard, it’s hard to call this a bad signing.

Nelson Mandela in an old-school Pistons jacket and hat?

Nelson Mandela in an old-school Pistons jacket and hat.

Embedded image permalink

Happy 95th birthday, Mr. Mandela. (hat tip: Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys)

Jason Maxiell signs with Magic

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

It’s official. Jason Maxiell to Orlando.

2nd year for Maxiell is a team option, sources say. Both years at $2.5 million

The Pistons had already more than filled their roster without Jason Maxiell, who’s no longer worth that much money, anyway. The Pistons are trying to get younger and better, and Maxiell will help with neither.

He had a nice run in Detroit – especially before signing his four-year, $20 million extension and letting his conditioning slip – but his biggest impact was probably keeping Andre Drummond on the bench for far too long. That was Lawrence Frank’s fault, not Maxiell’s, but, unfairly, Maxiell took some of the scorn, too.

Maxiell showed up for the boycotted 2011 shootaround in Philadelphia, refusing to join the other veterans in their misguided protest of John Kuester, and I’ll always respect Maxiell for that. Now, Rodney Stuckey replaces Maxiell as the Pistons’ longest-tenured player – not exactly the type of leader you dream of.

Oh, well. Soon enough, Stuckey will be gone too, and a new generation of Pistons will take over. That will be for the better.

You can read more of my, mostly Magic-oriented thoughts, on Maxiell at ProBasketballTalk.

Dissecting the limitations and possibilities of a Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond front line

Josh Smith is a fascinating player, bringing both excitement and disappointment within the same game. Heck, within the same play.

On one possession, he is attacking the defense and finishing directly at the rim. And then, perhaps on the next trip down the floor he will take a slightly sophisticated offensive play and turn it into this:

The above video says something about both Smith and the defense he faced. That footage is from the 2013 playoffs against arguably the best defense in the league: the Indiana Pacers.

The Atlanta Hawks ran some screen action coupled with some cuts to create some type of confusion on the Pacers’ front with the hope that Paul George might go over the screen. That would have given Smith a driving lane to the hoop.

However, George was smart enough to go underneath the screen and concede the open long 2-point jumper. Per Hoopdata, Smith hits that shot at a 33 percent clip. Just so we’re clear, that’s not good.

The next bit of info might scare Pistons’ fans: Smith attempted 334 field goals from mid-range (anything outside of the paint and inside the 3-point line) during the 2012-13 season and converted 30.5 percent of them.

For perspective, the notoriously trigger-happy Monta Ellis made a much higher percentage of his mid-range shots (36.2 percent). Because the Pistons are not exactly great at spacing the floor with perimeter shooters, fans might worry that Smith will continue to float on the perimeter and take jumpers.

But a small reality check is in order. Smith, despite taking the 19th-most shots in the NBA last season, didn’t even crack the top-40 for mid-range attempts. He actually managed 447 shots in the restricted area, per NBA.com/stats.

That last figure is important. Smith was in the top-20 in shots in the restricted area in 2012-13, and Greg Monroe led the league. They will now be playing together in tandem, which comes with some very intriguing possibilities.

Maurice Cheeks will have to devise some creative ways to get Monroe, Smith and Andre Drummond each looks directly at the basket. Because the Pistons aren’t a great shooting team, there are concerns about the feasibility of it all.

But there is hope.

Smith is an incredibly talented forward who possesses a wide array of skills. He is a decent ball handler and good passer from multiple spots on the court. As a result, he will be able to create shots for himself and teammates simply by his presence on the floor.

Both he and Monroe should act as hubs in the offense.

Smith can handle the ball in the pick-and-roll. Though Detroit should not get too enamored with that possibility – according to Synergy Sports, Smith turned the ball over on roughly a third of his pick-and-rolls as the ball handler and he converted 36.8 percent of his shots in this setting – it’s a good option  just to give defenses a different look and also set them up for a little misdirection. Because Smith understands defensive concepts and player tendencies, he can make plays with his passing in the high-post.

Watch this video:

Al Horford fakes as if he is going to run a pick-and-roll at the elbow with Smith, but instead, Horford slips the screen and dives straight to the hoop for a catch and finish.

Good-passing big men open up the floor for teammates, and  either Monroe or Drummond can substitute for Horford in the above set. The beauty of Smith and Monroe though is their ability to reverse roles given their respective skill sets.

Monroe is also quite an adept passer and consequently there is enormous value in playing both big men near the elbows as opposed to the traditional high-low look. Look at the sweet play the Hawks run for Smith with Horford acting as the release point that makes it all happen:

The Piston offense has the potential to be above average – maybe even good – after ranking in the league’s bottom third last season.

Smith gives the Pistons a new dimension they didn’t have previously. Although there are concerns about his fit alongside Drummond, that may end up being overblown.

Drummond is fairly raw offensively and was quite content last season with doing basic things such as attacking the offensive glass, setting screens and cutting. By keeping things simple, Drummond averaged 13.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Synergy Sports tells us the majority of his scoring came from offensive rebounds and cuts. The reason for that is simple: The 19-year-old always got himself near the basket no matter what.

Drummond never stood still. Instead, he opted to consistently get himself near the basket, where he is a lethal finisher. When the Pistons’ offense broke down with him on the floor, he had a knack for ending up with the ball near the hoop simply because he never stopped moving.

Look at the possession below:

The play results in Drummond catching the ball heading towards the basket and finishing despite the fact the play was not supposed to initially go to him. Detroit will occasionally struggle with their spacing, but provided they maintain some offensive discipline and remain in constant movement, the potential is there for a good offense with Smith on board.

Joe Dumars calls Andre Drummond Pistons’ only untouchable player, but Greg Monroe not made available either

Joe Dumars, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

“There are guys who, a pecking order of things we would or wouldn’t do, Drummond is certainly one of those guys we wouldn’t move,” said Dumars, who wouldn’t claim anyone else as “untouchable”.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

some teams inquired about Monroe before the draft and were met with a flat "no" as to his availability.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Joe Dumars apologized to Chauncey Billups before signing

Chauncey Billups on Joe Dumars, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

“I just needed to hear him apologize for how it went down, to kind of stand on it, and he did that,” Billups said. “As a man, I can’t do anything but respect that.

“Because I had to know it was nothing personal, it was what he thought was a good business move. But we had a personal relationship. I forgave Joe for all of that and we moved forward. I’m great.”

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Zach Lowe analyzes Greg Monroe’s defense, Brandon Knight’s offense

You should read Zach Lowe’s article about the Pistons. More simply, you should read Zach Lowe. The Grantland writer, whom I consider the best NBA reporter around, is a must-read for any serious basketball fan, but it’s an extra treat when he discusses the Pistons.

You might realize Greg Monroe has issues on defense and Brandon Knight struggles as a playmaker, but the level of detail Lowe provides is incredible. I’ll give a couple excerpts, but read the whole article.

Greg Monroe’s defense

Lowe on Monroe:

Monroe is a very good offensive player, but he’s a glaring liability on defense in a league getting smaller and quicker. He’s a turnstile trying to contain the pick-and-roll out on the floor — a mess of bad footwork, poor timing, lazy reaches, and bad choices. When Detroit has him hang back at the foul line, ball handlers can zip around him with an easy crossover or launch wide-open jumpers as Monroe, petrified at giving up a rim run, retreats a step farther than most bigs would dare — often with his arms down. Pistons fans complained, with some justification, about Lawrence Frank’s reluctance to play Monroe and Drummond together for much of last season, but Monroe’s total inability to guard stretchier power forwards factored into that choice — just as it should factor into Detroit’s evaluation of things now.

When the Pistons asked Monroe to attack the ball higher on the floor, the mess was almost worse. Point guards can juke Monroe with laughable ease by faking toward a screener, watching Monroe lurch in that direction, and then crossing over the other way and into an unpatrolled lane. Monroe is often late in jumping out above a screen, meaning his momentum is going too hard the wrong way (toward half court) as the opposing point guard revs up to turn the corner. And when Detroit has asked him to hedge sideways, as in the still below, Monroe often arrives too late to cut off the ball handler

As someone who did more than his fair share of complaining about Lawrence Frank refusing to play Monroe and Andre Drummond together enough, I didn’t believe Monroe and Drummond would immediately thrive together. I wanted to see more of the pairing because those two might not perfectly complement each other immediately.

Drummond and Monroe are – by far – the Pistons’ two most valuable assets. In a lost season, there was no reason not to give them time to adapt to each other. That would have been valuable for the Pistons’ future in two respects. 1. Drummond and Monroe would have gotten better at playing together. 2. The team would have learned more about whether those two can coexist.

I suspect playing Monroe and Drummond, the team’s top two players, together more would have made the Pistons’ better despite the duo’s deficiencies. But my primary reason for wanting more of the pairing had to do with the future and ironing out those problems.

Brandon Knight’s offense

Lowe on Knight:

He also has a troubling habit of short-circuiting pick-and-rolls before they have a chance to develop, mostly by pursuing his own shot. One maddening tic: Knight loves to go around a pick in normal fashion, only to immediately cross back over toward the middle of the foul line and attack from there. Getting into the middle of the floor is generally a good thing. But doing so 18 feet from the hoop at the start of a pick-and-roll creates some problems. It puts Knight right in front of his rolling big man, mucking up the floor and taking away the most important passing lane in the pick-and-roll. And by getting middle so early, Knight allows opponents to defend the play without tilting all five guys too far toward one side — the dramatic kind of contortions that stretch a defense to its breaking point. The floor has appeared so tight in Detroit over the last two seasons in part because Knight hasn’t been able to exploit the cracks that do appear.

It will be imperative Knight improves those skills, especially if he starts next season. A Monroe-Drummond-Josh Smith frontline will cause matchup problems with its size, but it will also cause spacing issues in the halfcourt offense. The Pistons need guards who alleviate those concerns, not exasperate them.

Summer of 2009

Lowe also gave a theory why the Pistons signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, one I’d never heard before:

a sellout streak that gathered an outsize importance and helped drive the franchise, addicted to trumpeting the streak, into its 2009 free-agency freakout

The Pistons sold out 259 straight games between January 2004 and February 2009. The Pistons claimed to sell out 259 straight games between January 2004 and February 2009. By midway through the 2008-09 season – the year of Allen Iverson, Michael Curry and the Pistons’ first losing record in eight seasons – fans had noticeably stopped filling The Palace, especially for midweek games. The Pistons gave away tickets to prop up the streak, but eventually, it had to end.

This would explain why Karen Davidson, reported to be very tight with her checkbook, allowed Joe Dumars to spend $95 million on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Those would have been worthwhile investments if she believed they would bring fans back.

Obviously, the exact opposite happened.

Single and Italian, Gigi Datome will keep his beard and ponytail

John Niyo of The Detroit News:

He’d prefer it if you called him “Gigi.” He’s single, in case anybody’s interested.

And, yes, the newest member of the Detroit Pistons, Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome, said Monday he plans on keeping both the full beard and the ponytail.

“Yes, why not?” he laughed, shortly after signing his first NBA contract. “So people will recognize me easier.”

Look out, Jonas Jerebko. You might have competition.

Family helped Will Bynum choose Pistons

Via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

“It was different, like college recruiting all over again,” Bynum said. “I just tuned everybody out, kept working on my game. Tried to stay away from constantly thinking about it. It couldn’t be a selfish decision, because it’s not just me but my family as well.”

His 4-year-old daughter and wife like the quietness of Metro Detroit, especially compared to the place Bynum calls home, Chicago.

I wonder whether Will Bynum could have gotten more money elsewhere, and that obviously matters, too. But I’m glad Bynum – a tireless player who has come a long way to even reach the NBA – signed a contract that pleases him.

For reasons both reasonable and unreasonable, the value of contracts is mostly discussed through a team lens rather than a player lens. A “good” contract is when a team is underpaying a player, and a “bad” contract is when a team is overpaying a player. That’s obviously a one-sided analysis, and though it has its place, I wish it weren’t the only way we viewed contracts between millionaires and billionaires.

For Bynum, this is a good contract.

Rockets hiring Hakeem Olajuwon might prevent workouts with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Hakeem Olajuwon, a key part of the Rockets’ recruiting efforts to land Howard and a large part of the festivities Saturday after Howard signed, will rejoin the Rockets in an official capacity for the first time since he spent the final season of his career with the Toronto Raptors in 2002.

Olajuwon’s duties and title are being discussed, and he will spend much of the year at his home in Jordan. But he will work with Rockets interior players, as he does with big men around the NBA each offseason, as a team employee.

“We are going to bring him in as full-time as is possible,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Sunday. “It’s not done, but we have mutual interest to get it done, and we’ve had some early discussions.

This could block Olajuwon’s plans to work with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

Obviously, everything is still up in the air, and Olajuwon and the Rockets are free to settle on any terms they wish. Houston might permit Olajuwon’s offseason training sessions, or the sides might not reach an agreement until after this summer’s workouts.

But, at minimum, this news makes it less likely Olajuwon will train Drummond or Monroe.