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Archive → September, 2013

Pistons old and new, Chauncey Billups and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope revealed in #NBArank

When the Pistons passed on Michigan’s Trey Burke and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in June, it felt as though the entire Barclays Center went silent. The Pistons passed on the known for the unknown.

One month later, the Pistons flipped the script, forgoing on the unknown in free agency for an old acquaintance in Chauncey Billups, who was welcomed back by many in his introduction press conference with applause.

Welcome to the battle for the Pistons starting shooting guard spot.

Both Billups (No. 245) and Caldwell-Pope (No. 234) debuted in the #NBArank countdown on Wednesday, representing two players who will need to have roles to make this Pistons team work. Those roles aren’t going to be anything monumental, but as it’s been noted everywhere, the Pistons big weakness is that they can’t really shoot.

Luckily, that’s what these two bring to the table.

Though their careers are trending different directions, both players should be valuable as perimeter shooters/scorers. Caldwell-Pope showed signs of his scoring and shooting ability in the summer, while Billups had a few good moments with the Clippers in last season’s playoffs.

Realistically, if Billups is the starter, he isn’t playing the majority of the minutes at shooting guard anyways. Caldwell-Pope will still see time — as well as the yet-to-be-ranked duo of Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum — and Billups will have his chance to run the offense as a point guard, too.

If anything, Billups role this season will be as a shooter, a leader and a guy who can hopefully reel in the sometimes overly-boisterous Brandon Jennings.

Caldwell-Pope could, and should, be more. He’s still rail-thin, and he’s going to have to adjust to the NBA game after spending his college career in the basketball-blah SEC, but he’s got the talent to earn playing time. If all he proves to be is a 3-and-D player in 2013, that’s actually alright.

Two guys ranked near Caldwell-Pope — Nick Young and Francisco Garcia — each have some, but not all, of the parts of an uber-valuable role player. Just to be clear, this does not mean Caldwell-Pope is like Young, but if he shoots 3-pointers at an above average level like Young, that’s good.

If he’s a guy who knows his role and place like Garcia, that’s also a good trait to have in a rookie. Who knows what the NBA-version of Caldwell-Pope will look like, but if he can shoot and put it on the floor a bit like Young, while still bringing some defense and intangibles like Garcia, that’s a win.

Either way, both will see the floor (probably together at times) and give the Pistons a much-needed boost at that off-guard spot.

In need of a bounce-back year, Jonas Jerebko drops in #NBArank

The case for Jonas Jerebko is an interesting one. Prior to his achilles injury in 2010, he appeared to be one of Joe Dumars latest second round success stories; out-playing then-lottery pick Austin Daye from the start. He was athletic, energetic and scrappy while being somewhat skilled for a guy who wasn’t quite small forward and wasn’t quite power forward.

But then he missed the entire 2010 season, and after that he just hasn’t been the same — highlighted by last season’s benching.

So, it’s not unreasonable that Jerebko came in ranked at No. 242 in #NBArank today, but it’s also a question to watch this year. What Jerebko is going to show up? Where’s he going to fit into this rotation? Can he swallow some pride and go back to being the grinder he was as a rookie?

It’s just hard to get a gauge on what he’s going to be expected to do. There will be opportunity — it seems like every player has their chance, especially under a new coaching staff — but it’s going to come down to Jerebko’s ability to slide into the role that Maurice Cheeks wants; something he couldn’t seem to do under Lawrence Frank.

Jerebko was joined in these rankings by former teammate, now-Magic forward Jason Maxiell, who comes in at No. 254. There’s not much to say about Maxiell at this point, but hopefully he’s found a good situation for himself in Orlando. He’s really the only veteran frontcourt player they have, so with a handful of bright, young teammates, maybe some of that Jason Maxiell swagger will rub off.

However, Magic fans, your only worry is that those young guys get that Maxiell, “I’m shooting ALL OF THE 16-FOOTERS” swag, too.

P.S.

Chauncey Billups was also ranked No.245, look for something on him later today.

Kyle Singler, lowest ranked 2013 All-Rookie player in #NBArank

One season in, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kyle Singler is a solid, NBA player, no?

He’s not going to wow you, but that’s alright. Most nights, he does what he needs to do to be useful on the floor — which helped earn him All-Rookie Second Team honors last season.

But as Singler rolls in at No. 257 on ESPN’s #NBArank countdown today, there’s one name ahead of him on the list that caught my eye: Steve Novak.

Nothing against Novak — arguably the league’s best “if there’s no one within 15 feet of me at any point around the 3-point line, I’m making this” shooter — but, I mean, Singler’s a better overall basketball player than the cement-footed Novak, right?

I know, I know, these rankings are to project what a player will do this season. The fact is, Singler’s starting job is now occupied by a much better player in Josh Smith. Meanwhile, Novak is going from a situational player on a good Knicks team to a, well, situational player on a not-so-good team in the Raptors.

If Toronto could find playing time for Andrea Bargnanithe Italian Charlie Villanueva,  then they’ll probably find time for a Novak who is actually a great shooter, too.

Singler, on the other hand, is kind of in a weird spot. One of the Pistons’ better lineups, in theory, is probably Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups in the backcourt with a frontcourt of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Smith.

No Singler, you see.

The bench situation, as Dan detailed earlier this month, is fluid. Singler will have chances to contribute because he can shoot a basketball and that tends to be an issue for some other guys on this team. But he’ll also be competing for playing time with Luigi Datome, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (until he earns that starting gig) and maybe Jonas Jerebko.

There’s not a clear spot in the rotation right now for Singler right now. Last season, Singler as a victim of his own situation. He’s not a guy who should have to guard starting-caliber wing players, nor should be be handling the ball much.

That shouldn’t be an issue this season. As long as he can focus on being a more consistent shooter — along with being able to come in and at least be serviceable on defense —  he’ll probably be just fine.

ProBasketballTalk Pistons preview

I previewed the Pistons for ProBasketballTalk. An excerpt:

Prediction: 43-39. The Pistons should make they playoffs. Beyond the Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls and Knicks, the East is pretty open. Joe Dumars has sacrificed a little bit of long-term upside in order to maximize postseason odds for 2013-14, and in a season where tanking is even more incentivized than usual, he’s probably done enough. If everything comes together perfectly, the Pistons could win a playoff series, but more likely than not, this is a one-and-done team. Still, in Detroit, that’s major progress.

Rip Hamilton ranked highest of current/former Pistons in #NBArank, so far

Unlike the not-so-beloved Pistons player in the last post, former Piston Richard Hamilton is still floating around the NBA. He comes in at No. 306 in ESPN’s #NBArank. That’s seven spots higher than Charlie Villanueva, and 119 spots lower than last season.

Coming off a pair of forgettable seasons in Chicago, Rip’s kind of at a crossroads in his career — is there anything left for him in the NBA?

It’s impossible to forget how good he was during his time here, but from 2010 to now, he’s really fallen off sharply. That may just be a matter of not fit right with what Chicago was trying to do. But it’s tough to see where Hamilton lands this season, if he lands anywhere at all.

Rip’s a prideful guy, he’s made that obvious many times over his career. Could he be a situational bench player on a title team? Of course. Would he lower himself to being a guy who, quite frankly, wouldn’t be relied on for much at all? I don’t know, but I lean towards no.

Right now, he’s without a contract and coming off his worst season since he was a rookie 12 years ago. I’ll always love reminiscing about Rip as he ran around screens literally all night — piling up what felt like three miles of running a night — before letting those midrange jumpers fly.

Poetic, really.

Oh, and no, the Pistons shouldn’t think about signing him. Just had to throw that one out there, too.

Beloved Piston Charlie Villanueva ranked No. 313 in #NBArank

Ah, Charlie Villanueva. If there’s one guy on any Pistons team over the last decade that makes the majority of fans’ blood boil, it’s you.

Villanueva comes in at No. 313 in today’s #NBArank update. It feels pretty high for a guy who can’t  even stick in a bad team’s rotation. On the bright side, with his eight-million dollar salary, he’s only the second-most overpaid guy on the list, so far.

But at the same time, this ranking seems maybe a bit low. Stick with me here.

These rankings are crafted with the idea of how good a player will be in the upcoming season — not season’s past. That means they’re completely ignoring the past. Mercifully, they’re ignoring the horror of Charlie V’s initial four years in Detroit.

That leaves this season, a contract year. As Joe Dumars probably still has nightmares about, Charlie V was pretty darn good (16 points, 7 rebounds) during his contract year in Milwaukee back in 2008-09. That’s a level of play that he hasn’t, and absolutely will not, approach in Detroit. Maybe it was a big, fat anomaly — who knows — but it got him (over)paid.

Villanueva’s issues have always been linked to effort. Giving full effort on the court. Not settling for long 3-pointers. Waiting to get into shape during the regular season. Heck, we could make a drinking game based on the number of times “Charlie V is in the best shape of his life” or “Charlie’s been boxing this offseason, he’s really getting ready” have been said early in the season.

I think he’s cognizant of how he’s characterized and thought of these days. I think he also knows he’s got, maybe, one last chance to get paid decently this summer. To do that, he needs to be active nightly, a reliable shooter and just an overall solid stretch-four off the bench. That’ll help the shooting-challenged Pistons and it’ll help him.

Of course, he could very well be the same old Charlie V, shooting 26 footers and occasionally venturing into the paint for a rebound.

There’s evidence of contract year’s being the motivation he needs. He’s going to get his chance to play, based solely on his ability to shoot, so let’s see how badly he wants some team to show him the money next July.

How will one-time rookie starters Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler fit with more-talented Pistons?

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

My eyes tell me Jerebko and Singler started as rookies for two reasons:

1. They were pretty good.

2. The Pistons were pretty bad.

Now that the Pistons have added Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups and Luigi Datome, “pretty good” might no longer cut it for Jerebko and Singler.

And that’s OK.

As much as Jerebko and Singler started because they were on bad teams — Jerebko especially stood out because he played hard on a team that didn’t — they also contributed to the teams being bad. Jerebko’s forays into trying to be more than a hustle player have gone poorly, and Singler excels at nothing.

Sure, there’s virtue in Jerebko’s effort and Singler’s balanced competence, but as the Pistons have made the necessary step of upgrading talent, Detroit probably can do better than what Jerekbo and Singler contributed as rookies.

In other words, Jerebko’s and Singler’s heavy minutes were a product of their proficiency and the Pistons’ lack thereof, but I think the Pistons’ bleakness played a larger role. Put Jerebko and Singler on even slightly better teams, and they probably don’t start as rookies — and maybe never in their careers.

However, historical precedent indicates that my eye test might be off.

Since 1980, just four other second-round picks (indicative of lesser players) have started at least 70 games as a rookie on a losing team: Marc Gasol, Nick Van Exel, Grant Long and Hot Rod Williams.

All four turned out pretty well. Gasol and Van Exel made All-Star Games, and Long and Williams had lengthy careers that included starting roles.

Of course, it’s a small sample, but this group greatly surpasses an average sample of second-rounders.

Starting 70 games as a rookie, apparently even on a bad team, indicates a high aptitude. Plus, all that playing time surely helps a player improve during his first year.

John Kuester leading candidate to become 76ers’ top assistant

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Tony Mitchell jumps six first-round picks in #NBArank

Tony Mitchell surprisingly fell to the Pistons in the second round, and they gladly picked him between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva. He’ll again fall between the Pistons’ other two 2013 draft picks, coming in at No. 366 ESPN’s #NBArank.

Many considered Mitchell a first-round prospect entering the draft, and he passed a few players who were actually drafted in the first round:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15 pick, No. 376 rank)
  • Solomon Hill (No. 23 pick, No. 383 rank)
  • Steven Adams (No. 12 pick, No. 406 rank)
  • Andre Roberson (No. 26 pick, No. 409 rank)
  • Rudy Gobert (No. 27 pick, No. 423 rank)
  • Nemanja Nedovic (No. 30 pick, No. 447 rank)

To me, it’s interesting Mitchell ranks so closely to someone he really reminds me of: No. 369 Tyrus Thomas.

Both are athletic, long power forwards who like to shoot (not to be confused with being good at shooting). They both have nice instincts for blocking shots and using their athleticism to corral rebounds. Obviously, Thomas has been a bust based on his draft position (No. 4 in 2006), but if Mitchell has a Thomas-like career, that’s a steal in the second round.

When I talked to Mitchell at the Orlando Summer League, he came off as a really nice kid. He’s genuine, and he knows what people said about him  before the draft. He’s still a limited player offensively, but in Orlando, he seemed to quiet that pre-Draft questioning of his motor and willingness to play hard consistently a little.

Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are sure-fire bets to play big minutes in the Pistons’ front court. After that, Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva and Mitchell can all bring something unique to the table as a power forward. It’s up to Mitchell to prove he belonged in the first round, and he can start by earning Maurice Cheeks’ trust in practice and getting on the court regularly this season.

Corey Maggette places behind Nuggets scout in #NBArank

Former Pistons player Corey Maggette placed No. 375 in #NBARankone spot behind a Nuggets scout. Yet, Maggette still seems overrated.

Maggette hasn’t been effective in a couple years, and he couldn’t even crack the Pistons’ rotation last season. He’ll probably miss two-thirds of the upcoming season with a minor injury of some sort – if someone signs him.

Maybe the forecast sees Maggette again dunking and getting to the free-throw line regularly, but I don’t. He’s 33.

Still, I’ll be rooting for his rejuvenation.