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Archive → September, 2013

Befuddling Rodney Stuckey highest-ranked Pistons’ bench player in #NBArank

We’ve gotten to the point with Rodney Stuckey where reason goes out the window.

“He’s a talented player,” and “he can get to the basket and his jumper is improving,” or “he has potential to be a really good defender” — it’s a broken record that’s been playing for six seasons.  Stuckey debuted in ESPN’s #NBArank on Monday at No. 173, down from No. 103 last season.

Last season was probably one that Stuckey would like to forget. He was really never a factor for the Pistons at all. Not to mention he opened the season shooting a horrific 8-for-46 (17 percent) in the team’s first five games, and from there things improved slightly, I suppose.

Big thing was that he never had a role. Stuckey started at shooting guard, fading to the bench and returned to the rotation in a number of roles. For the majority of the season, he was a corner 3-point shooter who couldn’t shoot corner 3-pointers. It was bad.

But after an offseason where he was rumored to be on the trading block, but also strangely lauded by new head coach Maurice Cheeks, perhaps he rebounds.

It wouldn’t be hard considering how poorly he played last season. There’s incentive for Stuckey to play well himself; he’s in a contract season. There’s incentive from the Pistons as well. If he plays well and helps them, great. If he plays well and ends up fetching something decent in a trade, that’s great, too.

Look at the bright side, if Stuckey the player isn’t valuable this season, at least the “Expiring Contract of Rodney Stuckey” may have some value?

Playoff Push: Kyle Singler

Each year, we do a themed preview series to ready for the season. This year’s theme is "Playoff Push."

What is the No. 1 thing Kyle Singler can step up to do to help the Pistons make the playoffs?

Shoot 3-pointers better

It’s no secret the Pistons’ starting lineup lacks shooting, so reserves who stretch the floor will get priority. Singler shot just below the league average from beyond the arc last season, a mark that could very well keep him in the rotation this year. But if he raises that percentage just a bit, it would go a long way on team in need of shooters.

-Dan Feldman

Play fewer minutes.

Nothing against Singler – as a second-round rookie last season, he played well and earned a rotation spot. But the fact that he played 28 minutes per game with serviceable-but-pedestrian production just speaks to how little talent the Pistons had last season. On an upgraded roster, there is still a role for Singler and the many positives he brings as a reserve – shooting, finishing around the basket, craftiness, intelligence, etc. But if he’s once again in a prominent role on this team, something has gone very wrong. The No. 2 thing he can do is to keep having amazing hairstyles.

-Patrick Hayes

Help off the bench

Singler started a lot of games last year at small forward and underplayed expectations for a starting wing player. This season, the squad has two more small forwards, Luigi Datome and Josh Smith. Although he might play over Datome, Singler definitely won’t start over Smith, who will be a key piece to the team this year. Singler’s main job this season will be to contribute as a shooter off the bench, taking a much lighter load than he has in the past.

-Jameson Draper

Shoot from 3-point range, consistently.

Singler wasn’t a bad shooter during his rookie season, but consistent probably isn’t the right way to describe that shooting, either. Despite playing a solid 30 minutes a night, Singler went on month stretches of being capable from… and then not. In December, February, March and April he shot 39 percent from deep — excellent, right? Well, during April and January, that percentage dipped to 27 percent. If Singler keeps that percentage closer to 40 than 30, he’ll force his way into the rotation – and stay there.

-Brady Fredericksen

Pistons have NBA’s second-best frontcourt

Bradford Doolittle of ESPN rated every NBA frontcourt, and the Pistons ranked second behind only the Heat.

First, the methodology:

The list is based on 2013-14 projected WARP as forecast by ATH, my system for generating performance predictions based on trait matching, athletic indicators and aging curves. At the bottom line, WARP is a function of both the quality and quantity of a player’s production, so these rankings take into account not just how well ATH thinks a player will play, but how often.

The combined unit WARP for the frontcourts is based on the projections for each team’s probable starters at center, power forward and small forward, plus the projected top reserve for the unit.

And the Pistons’ summary:

2. Detroit Pistons | Combined WARP: 33.0

Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Josh Harrellson

The NBA is constantly in flux, which is something I think we can all agree on. Nevertheless, when we use analysis to point out a trend that is already well underway, there is an element of the sports community that just isn’t going to believe you until the movement is fully manifested. That being the case, many were taken aback by our (well, my) ranking of Houston’s backcourt the other day as the league’s best projected group. And I suspect that many will also doubt this ranking of the Pistons. But I’m telling you, folks, the Detroit front line is flat-out loaded when it comes to pure talent.

That said, there are legit basketball reasons to doubt this lofty forecast. Drummond, Monroe and Smith — individually — can all play, and I’ve gone on record about buying into Drummond as this season’s breakout star. But how does it all fit? There were plenty of questions about how Drummond and Monroe fit last season, but it was unclear how much of that was due to any lack of complementary skills, and how much was due to a lack of faith in the pairing by former coach Lawrence Frank.

Now that Smith is in the mix, the talent level is off the charts. But for this to work at an optimum level, someone is going to have to knock down some jump shots. Among the others, Harrellson isn’t much above replacement level, but simply pops up as the top projection among an uncertain mix of talent that includes Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko,Charlie Villanueva, Tony Mitchell and Gigi Datome.

I’m starting to sense WARP-based projections really like the Pistons.

WARP stands for Wins Above Replacement Player. A team full of replacement players will win 10 games, according to the formula, so the Pistons’ frontcourt having a WARP of 33.0 means the Pistons would win 43 games if the rest of the team plays at a replacement level.

Brandon Jennings alone had a WARP of 7.0 last season. We’ll see when Pelton’s full projections are released, but it seems the Pistons will be pegged for about 50 wins

As I relayed earlier today, two of the biggest blind spots for this system are coaching and player fit, two areas where the Pistons face real question marks. So, this projection might skew positive, but even if the Pistons fall a little short of their WARP baseline, that’s still better than most pundits believe they’ll do.

Also, it’s interesting Josh Harrellson rated as the fourth-best frontcourt player. I’m not sure the season will play out that way, but among the listed group, no single player stands out.

Pistons must give Greg Monroe max contract or trade him

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Monroe knows he’ll face queries about a potential extension for himself — except he doesn’t want to hear it.

“No, I’m not (going to hear questions),” Monroe said. “I want you (all) to circulate this right now. Pay attention. I have an agent like everybody else in the NBA. He’s gonna communicate with the front office. I’m here to play and that’s it. If you ask, I’m not gonna talk about it.”

That appears to mean the status quo – Greg Monroe not planning to sign an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline – is intact. Here’s my response at the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons must determine whether Monroe deserves a max contract. If they deem he doesn’t, they must trade him, because he all but certainly will get one next summer.

As a restricted free agent, Monroe could receive an offer sheet from any team. If the Pistons don’t give him a max contract, someone else will. At that point, Detroit would have the option to match the offer.

If the Pistons are willing to match any offer, there’s no problem here. If they’re not, they can’t let themselves get put into that position, because that would mean losing Monroe for nothing if the offer gets too high — and it surely will get as high as the collective bargaining agreement allows.

In the last 10 years, just three players have averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game in two of their first three seasons: Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins and Monroe.

Griffin got a max extension and, reportedly, so has Cousins. Productive young big men get paid, as they should.

The Pistons simply must operate under the assumption Monroe will get a max contract one way or another.

Last of the 2004 title teamers, ex-Piston Tayshaun Prince revealed in #NBArank

We’ve hit on a pair of former glory-day Pistons in Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, and now it’s Tayshaun Prince‘s turn to get his #NBArank dissection.

Prince arrives in the rankings at No. 192, and the current Memphis Grizzlies forward is finally in a winning environment again. The big thing about Prince was that he wasn’t helping the Pistons at all while he was here during the rebuild. He’s not a guy who makes a bad team better or worse, he’s just kind of there.

He’s no longer an all-NBA defender, nor is he the same type of sneaky-efficient offensive player he was during the Pistons’ run of success. Plus, he makes $7 million this and next season… so, you see where this is going.

Prince isn’t a bad player, but he’s no longer very good anymore, either. In Memphis, he has useful traits, but he’s also been something of an on-court detriment.

He’s not a great, nor willing, 3-point shooter (which is odd because it seemed as though he would have fit perfectly as a 3-and-D specialist who camped out in the corner), and on defense he’s not going to slow the likes of Kevin Durant or James Harden.

Maybe with a new coaching staff and an entire offseason and regular season with the team, Prince can find that role and find a comfort level in Memphis. There aren’t many ex-Pistons from these last four seasons that fans are rooting for, but Prince is probably the guy on top of that list now.

Pistons rank last in projected value of future draft picks

As I’ve frequently said, I think Joe Dumars and the Pistons have executed their chosen plan well. I just think that plan – the main pieces being trading Ben Gordon and a first-round pick to get cap space a year earlier and signing Josh Smith – limits the Pistons’ long-term potential. In the short term, Smith makes them better than stomaching another year with Gordon would have, but keeping a pick in the 2014 draft could have been big in a few years.

Draft prognostications by Kevin Pelton of ESPN supports that theory. Here’s his methodology:

I simulated each of the next two seasons 1,000 times and applied the lottery weightings to determine how often teams could expect to have various picks. I also applied the various protections on picks that have been traded to attempt to assign them as accurately as possible. The last step was multiplying everything by the average value of each draft pick in terms of WARP based on historical performance.

The final result were these rankings, which indicate how much value each team can expect to get from its 2014 and 2015 picks during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. That last part is key — 2014 picks are more important to these rankings than 2015 picks since they will play two years (and have the opportunity to improve) within the three-year scope of the Future Power Rankings. Also note that these ratings are not adjusted for the projected strength of the 2014 draft class, which could make next year’s top picks even more valuable than they appear.

And the result:

30. Detroit Pistons (0.3 WARP from draft picks)

Part of the incentive for Detroit loading up with Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith this summer is that the Pistons owe Charlotte a top-eight protected pick this year. Since Detroit was likely to lose the pick anyway, may as well make it as bad as possible. After the upgrades, SCHOENE doesn’t see any chance of the Pistons keeping their pick.

I like the Pistons’ roster, but this illustrates Detroit’s relatively limited means of improving. Every other team in the league is projected to have an opportunity to improve more in the first round of the next two drafts. That makes it hard for the Pistons to catch the teams ahead of them and hold off the teams behind them.

But here’s the twist: This is good news. Really good news.

Which teams get the worst draft picks? The best teams.

Yes, the Pistons are low in the rankings because they will lose their 2014 pick, but they’re not the only team without a first-round pick next year. The Nets, Warriors and Pacers (lottery protected, but it’s all but assured Indiana makes the playoffs) have also traded their 2014 first rounders.

That means Pelton’s system – one I trust as much as one can trust these things – projects the Pistons will be better than the Nets, Warriors and Pacers in 2014-15. Obviously, it’s early, but those are pretty good teams and it would bode very well to rank ahead of all three in two years.

Pelton cautioned that SCHOENE (his projection system) doesn’t account or doesn’t account well for the Pistons’ two biggest question marks: coaching and player fit. Although those are important factors, a baseline prognosis of being ahead of the Nets, Warriors and Pacers in 2014-15 sounds great to me.

Corey Maggette headed to Spurs camp

Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report (hat tip: Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk):

Corey Maggette will be joining the Spurs for training camp.

I’m on record believing Corey Maggette is done. His game relied on athleticism that he no longer seems to have, and at his age, it’s probably not returning.

But if there’s anywhere he can succeed, it’s San Antonio, where Gregg Popovich takes care to rest his veterans. I still don’t think that’s enough to rejuvenate Maggette, but I’ll be rooting for him.

He was a good leader and locker room presence last season, when the Pistons acquired him solely for his expiring contract. Though Maggette talked about returning to Detroit as a veteran presence, that never seemed to be a serious consideration for the Pistons. They’re moving on with better players, and that left no room on the roster.

If Maggette ever has a role again with the Pistons, it will be in the front office. In the meantime, I hope whatever is left of his playing career goes as well as possible.

Henry Bibby finalizes Pistons coaching staff

Team release:

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has named Henry Bibby and Maz Trakh as assistant coaches joining John Loyer, who’s been on Detroit’s coaching staff the last two seasons. Additionally, Rasheed Wallace and Bernard Smith have been named player development coaches, Kamran Sufi has been hired as advance scout and Raman Sposato as video coordinator.

We already knew about Trakh, Loyer, Wallace and Smith. Henry Bibby, Mike Bibby’s father, is the big addition (Though, if we were paying attention, we would have known nearly a month ago.)

Bibby worked for Cheeks in Philadelphia and was previously a head coach at Southern Cal. After USC, he had a failed stint in the WNBA and then became an NBA assistant, most recently with the Grizzlies. For what it’s worth, Memphis didn’t want to keep Bibby.

I’m not enthused by Bibby’s hiring, but he appears to be a run-of-the-mill NBA assistant. I have no major complaints, either.

Supposedly, the Pistons were waiting to hire a No. 1 assistant. A credible report said Maurice Cheeks wanted Rex Kalamian for that role, and another report said Lionel Hollins was the preference.

So Bibby is the top assistant? Not quite. Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Bibby, most recently on the Memphis Grizzlies staff for the last five years, won’t be the lead assistant, as Cheeks announced he won’t have a lead.

As for his staff as a whole, he won’t officially delegate responsibilities but will lean on some who are stronger in certain areas.

"I have some guys I’m very comfortable with on offense and guys I’m comfortable with on defense," Cheeks said. "I won’t split them up that way, but their suggestions are probably used a bit more because they feel like they’re pretty good in that area."

When Cheeks was asked who would take over as acting coach in the event he were ever ejected from a game, Cheeks cooly replied, "I’m not getting ejected," before smiling and walking away.

On one hand, I commend Cheeks for thinking outside the box. If his staff functions best with no set roles, that’s how he should run it.

However, in his previous head-coaching stops, Cheeks had a reputation for being unorganized. He must improve on that to make his unorthodox coaching structure work.

As for Sufi and Sposato, the other newly hired staff members, I’ll defer to the official release:

Sufi has spent the last three seasons working in the Chinese Basketball Association and served as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Arsenal of the NBA Development League from 2007-09. He played professional basketball in the ABA and overseas.

Sposato joins Detroit after spending the last eight seasons working for the L.A. Clippers organization where he started as a video coordinator in 2005. Prior to the Clippers, he spent 2003-05 as the video coordinator of the Portland Trail Blazers on Cheeks’ staff.

Will Bynum revealed in #NBArank, but what’s his role?

Like teammates Andre Drummond, Will Bynum is kind of an Instagram-aholic. Both post daily on their accounts, but while Drummond may post mostly about his crush and singing, Bynum’s a  little more basketball-centric.

Pretty much ever photo or video this offseason was about his workouts, and probably 70 percent of those basketball-related ones include the tag, #underrated.

I’m probably reading too far into a 30-year-old player’s social media habits, but it feels like Bynum is aware of the fact that he’s entering a murky situation when it comes to playing time this season,

He debuted on #NBArank today at No. 216, higher than fellow guards Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva. But here’s the question — what is Bynum’s role this season?

With Brandon Jennings in the loop, you’ve got the starter at point guard. As I discussed yesterday, Billups and Caldwell-Pope are likely battling for minutes at shooting guard.

That leaves Bynum and Rodney Stuckeywhom Maurice Cheeks seems to be intrigued by — for the remaining minutes at point guard. I think it’s safe to say that Bynum, a Patrick Hayes’ favorite, is the better choice to back up Jennings, but it’s also possible that Billups and Stuckey will see time, too.

That leaves Bynum in an awkward spot; good enough to be the backup, but in a cluster of other guards.

One thing that should help Bynum’s chances is his chemistry with Drummond. Last season, the duo proved to be a nice pick-and-roll combo. Josh Smith has the same skill set as an athletic, roller to the basket, which also bodes well for Bynum’s style of play.

Whether that’s in Cheeks’ thinking is another story. But right now, the roles of all the Pistons’ bench players is kind of up in the air. We’ll know more once the team gets on the court in the preseason, but as of now, Bynum could be the up-tempo, change-of-pace backup or he could be riding the pine.

What do you think?

 

Brandon Jennings reportedly gets hit in the mouth by rapper The Game

That is according to the site Hip Hollywood, (hat tip: Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk):

Jennings was at (LA club) Lure hosting his birthday party with friends, which didn’t sit well with the Compton rapper who frequents the club. “Game feels like Toxic is his, and he didn’t like that Jennings was hogging the microphone. He felt like he was being disrespected,” one person who witnessed the altercation tells us. “Game tried to have words with him, and it just escalated quickly and Game hit Brandon in the mouth,” another source says.

Decide the veracity of this report for yourself. I don’t have much experience with Hip Hollywood.

But I can tell you I don’t judge Brandon Jennings on how he spends his leisure time. If he wants to go to clubs and fight The Game, that’s his business as long as he’s ready for the season. A little beef between Compton natives can definitely end as a minor dustup.

But a word of advice to Jennings: If you keep associating yourself with Drake, The Game is going to keep thinking you’re soft and punching you in the mouth.