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3-on-3: West Coast Business

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. Last season, the Pistons labored to an 0-6 record during the early-season road trip out west. How do they avoid that this season?

Dan Feldman: Trying. It’s difficult for Eastern Conference teams to win against the powerful Western Conference, especially on the road. Just two of 13 Eastern Conference teams had winning road records against the West last season, the Heat and Pacers. But the Pistons’ 0-15 at Western Conference teams last season was an unacceptable product of Lawrence Frank’s lackluster leadership and his players’ inability to lead themselves. The Pistons will probably lose most of their games at Western Conference teams this season, but they’ll win at least one if they try.

Brady Fredericksen: Continue to figure it out. It sounds elementary, but with every game, the team shows more and more glimpses of what they could potentially be down the road. This trip’s going to be tough, though. They’ll face some winnable competition, sure, but a road back-to-back against the Warriors has the makings of an, “Oh god, the horror!” losses. That’s just how the league works. Road trips are long, difficult and usually tough for teams still trying to figure out what they are. Hopefully there’s a more clear picture of what this team can do well when they return home.

Tim Thielke: Stagger the “big three”. Hopefully someone is bringing this to Maurice Cheeks‘ attention: with zero, one or all three of Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond on the floor, the Pistons have been outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions; with two of them on the floor, the Pistons have outscored opponents by 13.7 points per 100 possessions. And each pairing of two bigs has been about equally effective (although the sample size for Monroe/Drummond is incredibly small). I don’t care if it hurts someone’s ego, one of the three should be benched. Any one of them. So far Cheeks has had exactly two of them on the court for less than 18 mpg. That’s absurd. There’s no reason that number shouldn’t be about 30 mpg.

2. With big men like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins and Pau Gasol featured on this trip, what do you hope to learn about the Pistons’ big man trio?  

Dan Feldman: How they defend when not covering those impressive opposing bigs. The Pistons’ perimeter defensive rotations have been weak this season, and getting their bigs caught in space has been an issue. Players like Smith, Monroe and Drummond often measure themselves against opponents like Aldridge, Cousins and Gasol. I want to see how Detroit’s trio reacts when not covering those bigs, though. They must remain focused and active.

Brady Fredericksen: I actually want to see how they do offensively. When the team played against Memphis, one of the better “big” teams in the NBA, the big trio was actually more good than bad. Monroe and Drummond combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds, and Smith hovered outside and took 11 shots from 3-point range. If they can find more of the offensive cohesion they’ve flashed — ie: Smith being a creator — against these teams and players, I’ll feel better about their fit.

Tim Thielke: We should get a chance to see what type of player they are most and least suited to matching up with. Aldridge is a multi-talented, savvy player with range, but can be susceptible to bullying. Gasol is a physical beast with a lot of passing ability, but is slowing down and can’t match up with Detroit’s big men athletically. Cousins is the kind of player made for video games with every tool you could ask for, but lacks discipline on both ends of the court.

3. Between the Trail Blazers, Warriors, Kings and Lakers, which game are you most interested in?

Dan Feldman: Lakers. The Pistons are better than the Lakers, but the Lakers have played well in stretches and are capable of beating Detroit. Plus, it’s the freaking Lakers. I always want to see the Pistons beat the Lakers.

Brady Fredericksen: Kings. Maybe I’m just a masochist, but I’m fascinated by the Monroe-Cousins rivalry. Last year, Monroe (20 point, 12 boards and 7 assist averages) notched his first triple-double against Cousins (21 points, 13 rebounds) in an early-season matchup. These guys have a history, and they’re both playing the best ball of their careers. Plus, it’ll be a chance for the Pistons to make a statement with a nationally-televised game on ESPN.

Tim Thielke: Probably the Blazers. This will be our first look at how the Pistons fare against a team with a more traditional lineup of fitting players but without a ton of extra talent. I don’t think there is any way the Pistons stop all three of Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum. But the Blazers aren’t stopping all of Monroe, Smith, and Drummond.


  • Nov 11, 20131:25 pm
    by Otis


    1) Beat the Kings, plain and simple. The Warriors are likely to mutilate us. The Blazers are going to show us that (a) balance and chemistry trump a mass of ill-fitting talent, and (b) Greg Monroe is no Lamarcus Aldridge. The Lakers are probably going to show us the value of having proven shooters instead of a rookie and a euro and a 40 year old. Should show that even in Gasol’s decline, Moose could learn a lot from him. If we’re being honest, this road trip projects to be a 1-3, so winning that one at Sacramento is the likeliest way to return from the road trip feeling like this really isn’t the same team from last year.
    2) Almost literally my only real hope for any game this season: I hope that Greg Monroe displays a confident and reliable midrange jump shot that will make teams pay for giving him room. He was supposed to have this coming out of college, but he’s too comfortable scoring all of his buckets on wild shots down low. Until I see this, he’s just another center and we can’t dream of building around this jumbo mess. Nothing else matters enough to even care about at this point, with that bloated extension looming.
    3) A toss-up between the Blazers and Lakers, because they should at least be interesting and it will be fun to see how Moose stacks up against Aldridge and Gasol. They should all be fun games, but I’m thinking 1-3.

    • Nov 11, 20137:32 pm
      by frankie d


      imho monroe is a better player than aldridge.
      aldridge is strictly a mid range jump shooting PF who cannot handle the ball, is a horrible passer and who cannot dribble and who has no low post game.  the blazers lost 2 playoff series because teams blitzed aldridge, clearly understanding that he could not pass out of a double team competently and hurt their defense.
      defensively, he is very weak and understands this and has long lobbied for the blazers to get another big guy who can protect him down low.
      and he is a slightly below average rebounder for his size.
      he does run the floor extremely well and he does have a great mid range shot – especially for a big guy, so he certainly has his value.
      but monroe does everything better than aldridge, except shoot the jumper.  i clearly understand that that is no small matter, but when it is the only thing you do well, or better, i would take the  other player.
      here in portland, i will get my annual look at the pistons and i am looking forward to it.
      i have to say that i doubt that detroit’s backcourt will be able to handle the portland backcourt and that is where the game will probably be lost for detroit.
      wes matthews and lilliard are both playing well and i just don’t see detroit matching their production or poise. 

      • Nov 12, 20133:30 am
        by Otis


        I disagree very, very much about Aldridge. Aldridge is much, much better than Monroe, and I think he proved it tonight. If the players switched teams, we win the game. His handles looked noticeably better than Greg’s tonight, and I’ll take his face up game over Greg’s predictable clunky post moves, especially at PF. They play two different positions as far as I’m concerned, so it’s a bit like apples and oranges, but I’ll take Aldridge up front next to Andre any day. I think those two would be a terror in a way that Greg and his slow footed, limited athleticism game doesn’t.

        • Nov 12, 20132:56 pm
          by frankie d


          Aldridge would definitely be a better fit next to dre, but i would take monroe’s game over aldridge’s jumpshooting all day.  Aldridge is who he is: a jumpshooting 7 footer who  doesnt rebound or play d the way he should.  He certainly has value but a guy like monroe has more value.  And yea they do play different positions. 
          And cheeks is not smart enough to pressure aldridge’s handle.  Teams usually wait till the playoffs.

  • Nov 11, 20131:44 pm
    by Moonchild


    For us to bench one of our big three, I would have to feel like we have a legit starting three on the bench right now, and I don’t believe that we do….Hopefully Luigi will pan out, but Singler seems like a legit bench player for his career, considering his slow feet on defense, up and down shooting and lack of one on one play making abilities.
    I think our big three will eventually work, but we just need to hit shots and build chemistry….

    • Nov 11, 20132:16 pm
      by Otis


      Hi. Point of clarification: When you say you think the Big Three will eventually “work,” what exactly is your idea of working? Like, a .500ish team that figures it out well enough to get laughed out of the playoffs? Or that these three will be the foundation of a championship caliber team? I certainly don’t see the latter. At least not based on anything that’s happened on the floor so far. Our Big Three have played 111 minutes together this season, and they’ve yielded a mind blowing 114 points per 100 possessions during that time. And on top of that, the offensive flow has obviously been disgusting. I just don’t see what you guys are seeing here. Why are the Detroit Pistons the only team who can use chemistry as an excuse for going on six straight seasons when the pieces never ever looked like a good fit in the first place? Sometimes the pieces just don’t fit.
      It’s easy to say, “Hey they just need to start hitting shots…” But you don’t have the established shooters to instill confidence that they’ll come around. Kyle Singler is STILL your best shooter. Chauncey has looked very old, KCP is a rookie, and Gigi might never find his stroke in this league. How much more of this do you have to see before you decide that maybe this just isn’t the right formula?

      • Nov 11, 20132:36 pm
        by Tim Thielke


        “When you say you think the Big Three will eventually “work,” what exactly is your idea of working?”

        I think you’re looking at this all wrong. The beauty of having all three of them isn’t that they can be put on the floor simultaneously and brutalize the opposition. It’s that the Pistons never have to let up. They can go entire games always having two very good big men on the floor. Whenever an opponent sits a starting quality big man, the backup should be hopelessly outmatched.

        “How much more of this do you have to see before you decide that maybe this just isn’t the right formula?”

        Ummmm… more than 111 minutes. I agree that there should be less time with all three on the floor. But that’s mostly just to maximize time when two of them are playing. You were claiming this couldn’t possibly work on 0 minutes of evidence. So we know where you stand. You don’t have anywhere close to enough evidence to build an “I told you so” case. So instead of dozens of carbon copy comments, why not move on to another topic and return to this once there is enough evidence to defend or reconsider your stance?

        • Nov 11, 20132:56 pm
          by Max


          Tell him, Tim!

        • Nov 11, 20138:02 pm
          by Otis


          Of all my faults, looking at things “wrong” when it comes to the Pistons isn’t one of them. I look at things all right all the time. Theoretically I understand the value of having a three big rotation where two of these guys are on the floor at all times. And if I were dead set on this weird roster, that’s how I would divide their minutes. I might never, ever put them all on the floor at the same time. But in basketball it’s just too important to be able to put the best unit on the floor. The team that can field the best player or the best unit has an incredible edge over their opponent. You’ll win most of your close contests by having the edge come crunch time, and I don’t see how you could possibly amass enough talent to afford having one of your Big Three on the bench at all times when the game is on the line.
          It should be noted that I don’t think Monroe and Drummond, Smith or no Smith, are a good fit. I think they’re both centers who are at their best with a wide open floor and room to operate. For that reason, I actually understand what Coach Frank was trying to do in keeping them in a platoon at center. I just don’t think you’re going to get the most out of two centers who can’t spread the floor. How many lobs has Drummond connected on this season with that crowded paint? Not enough. I’d have just sucked it up and traded one of them (Monroe) to get complementary pieces to build around the other. And again, that was even before Smith. I truly believe you’ll get much more out of Drummond and Smith by subtracting Monroe. Then consider how much talent you could get for him and it’s not that hard a decision really.
          You can take my comments or leave them, but there isn’t really anything that matters to this team right now as long as this trio isn’t dominating. The deadline to cash in on Monroe is three months away, and nothing else in the whole world should matter to this team until there’s solid evidence that this unit is worth committing absolutely everything to.

          • Nov 11, 20138:30 pm
            by frankie d

            agree wholeheartedly with otis on the silly idea that you will want to sit one of your three best players during the most crucial parts of most important games, which is what is really being suggested when you advocate a strict rotation of the 3.
            while i agree that it may be best for this team to do so, it is very difficult to execute that in real time, and most teams will do what cheeks has done so far…tried to jam this square peg into a round hole.  especially when your team is not overflowing with talent to begin with.
            i would disagree with the assessment of drummond and monroe’s potential as a pair.  i think that the two can co-exist well, but it would take some creativity on the coach’s part and a very different SF to round out the front line.
            they simply need 3 shooters on the floor at all times when you have drummond and monroe on the court.  spacing has been talked about ad nauseum, but it is the simple and clear issue that has to be addressed and solved if drummond and monroe can play together.  that and monroe getting comfortable with the midrange jumper.  unfortunately with smith dominating the ball and taking so many mid range and 3 point shots, monroe’s ability to sharpen that skill is probably not going to be enhanced as long as josh smith is allowed to free range all over the court and jack up any shot he thinks is a good one.
            watching this pistons’ team is so similar to watching cheeks’ old blazers, except that those teams could bring it defensively, if they felt like it.  this team is as disorganized and as chaotic as his old blazers’ teams, but they don’t have the redeeming defensive intensity of those old teams.  this pistons’ team doesn’t have a ruben patterson or a joel pryzbilla to come in and knock heads and create havoc defensively.  or at least, cheeks isn’t playing a guy like mitchell who could do some of those things.
            it is going to be a long freakin year.  and it is not too soon to make that statement.  i’ve seen nothing to suggest that cheeks has grown in any way as  coach since he helped to create the mess that nate mcmillan had to clean up.

          • Nov 11, 20138:43 pm
            by Otis

            Nice to see some real talk about this team. Too much pie-in-the-sky BS from this battered fanbase. You’d think at some point they’d figure out that management has no idea what they’re doing, but I guess not.

          • Nov 11, 20138:54 pm
            by frankie d

            this summer was so disappointing.  and i guess lots of fans have just decided to ignore what is in front of their face and hope for the best.
            off to see the pistons at the moda center – formerly the rose garden! 

          • Nov 12, 20134:11 am
            by Max

            Otis said: It should be noted that I don’t think Monroe and Drummond, Smith or no Smith, are a good fit. 
            This is the funniest sentence I’ve ever seen on this site.  I think Otis is becoming completely unhinged and his rants have the tone of a lunatic maniac but I’m just starting to find it all funny and this sentence really drove it home for me.   
            Anyone who reads this site much at all has heard Otis express this notion hundreds to thousands of times and in every vitriolic variety and he says, “I think it should be noted that……”   Does the sentence mean he thinks anyone here doesn’t know what he thinks already or does he have the ego think his opinion bears any weight?–as in, he realizes everyone here has already noted it but that his opinion should act as an official notice to the powers that be.  Either way, utterly inflated, warped and totally priceless.           

          • Nov 12, 20134:22 am
            by Max

            Otis said:  Of all my faults, looking at things “wrong” when it comes to the Pistons isn’t one of them. I look at things all right all the time.  
            This is a quintessential Otis moment that combines smug, narrow mindedness mixed with a healthy portion of batshit crazy.   

      • Nov 11, 20132:49 pm
        by Max


        I don’t know why you keep saying other team’s are not having chemistry problems.   The only explanation I can think of is that you only look critically at the Pistons.   You even said the Celtics didn’t seem to have chemistry problems when they played the Pistons and that was a crazy statement since they were turning the ball over plenty, had problems getting the ball up the court, running their offense and defending in general.  They don’t even have a truly serviceable point guard who is healthy on their roster.
        Also, pointing out that the perimeter players aren’t good and lack shooting doesn’t strengthen your argument that the frontline can’t work since it rather implies that we’d have to see better personal around them first to determine the issue.  
        Finally, your opinions are highly strained in general but I hate when you exaggerate your facts.  Six seasons ago the Pistons were in the conference finals and if you’re using this year five games doesn’t make a season.  Further, there has been so much turnover since last season that there really isn’t much of a connection between last year and this year.   Maybe you don’t understand the issue but people naturally bring up chemistry issues in relation to players who are are newly playing together.   I’ll spell it out for you like you’re a four year old.  The Pistons have four new starters, the lone holdover playing a new position, a new coach, a lottery pick off the bench along with three other rookies and, yes, a very unusual frontline that may take time for them to figure out.   

  • Nov 11, 20132:28 pm
    by Vic


    Giving KCP and Datome more time would solve so many problems…
    KCP would help with defense on the wings, being the teams only actual shooting guard.
    I’d be willing to estimate that the defensive problems have not been because of the “Big 3″ but because of the “Small 2″ that Cheeks so stubbornly trots out while keeping KCP on the bench until there’s no chance to win. 
    Stuckey and KCP played great against Memphis but haven’t been given another chance.
    Also, giving Singler and Datome consistent minutes at the 3 would help stagger the bigs a little bit more too. In an ideal lineup the big 3 would only start for official purposes.
    Optimal Lineups.

  • Nov 11, 20132:32 pm
    by Max


    I think 2-2 or even 3-1 is very doable.  The Pistons haven’t lost to a non-elite team yet and only the Warriors qualify at all for that distinction.    I think we beat the Lakers and Kings and I’d give us at least a 30 to 40 percent chance to beat the Blazers.  Also, I don’t think the Pistons will get mutilated by the Warriors like Otis said and I don’t think they’ve been mutilated once by anyone yet this season despite losing to 3 teams that are all better than anyone on this trip.   

  • Nov 11, 20132:41 pm
    by Moonchild


    (@Otis) Chemistry has been an issue for the past 5 years, mainly  because we have had 4 coaches within that time frame, combined with Joe D’s contract mistakes. I do not believe anyone is justifying the past  five years,  its obviously been a mess, but its time to look forward and I believe MO cheeks and this current team have plenty to be excited about. If I was to grade the entire league within the first 2 weeks of the season like your doing with the Pistons, it looks like the Sixers and Suns could have a solid chance to meet in the finals
    The fact that our starting pt guard did not play one pre season game combined with our 2nd best guard missing all preseason, I think chemistry is obviously going to be an issue early on combined with the many new pieces that we have……I am still encouraged by our 2-3 record considering the competition we have faced (also Boston isn’t as terrible as people think, ask Miami).  This road trip will tell a lot, if we come out 1-3 like you mentioned, I will not be happy with that considering who we are playing.  I expect a lot from this team, but I am also wise enough to know its not going to happen over night, I believe this team can be a legit contender by 2015, with maintaining  the foundational pieces we currently have and building through the draft or trades.
    And when I say feel the big 3 will work, I imagine their success being similar to what Memphis has done, but exceeding.  Our bigs bring just as much to the table as Gasol and Zach (and Smith is an upgrade from Tayshaun and Rudy gay overall).  I just think Memphis has been able to build the CHEMISTRY for success, without having the best outside shooting team.  Obviously, Mike Conley is a very very solid PG, but I think Jennings can match and exceed what Conley has done.

    • Nov 11, 20137:38 pm
      by Otis


      Coaching has been a problem here for quite some time, but (1) it’s nowhere NEAR the biggest problem– personnel is far and away the biggest problem; not enough overall talent and a total imbalance of talent, and (2) I’ve seen enough already to tell you right now that Mo Cheeks is not the answer. He might well be one of the worst imaginable choices, between his quiet demeanor, lack of organization and preference for veterans. Dumars sure knows how to pick the worst man possible for the job, that’s for sure.
      I stand by my comments about chemistry. I’ll be here all season, so feel free to check back. If the pieces just don’t fit, you’ll struggle with chemistry for eternity, Our starting lineup consists of two point guards, two centers and a power forward. Our best shooting guard has been with the team for seven years without being able to shoot (he’s not suddenly a dead eye sweet shooter). This just doesn’t look like a formula to build around, so I guess we’ll have to see if this elusive chemistry ever comes around.
      I’ll never understand the mind of the kind of fan who’s like: “We’ll be fine. We just need to build through the draft or trades.” What on earth are we going to be able to add? Who among the likes of Stuckey, Villanueva, Singler, Jerebko are we going to be able to trade for UPGRADES? None of them? That’s a good guess. In theory I think you might be able to trade Stuckey to a decent team for a late first rounder, but in a thousand years I don’t see Joe taking even half a step backwards this year when he’s completely and totally desperate to prove that this is working, whether it’s true or not.
      But I guess this is just a waste of time. If you think our bigs bring just as much to the table as Gasol and Randolph I’m not sure why I’ve wasted any time typing much of anything. It’s not even close. Let’s touch base later in the season when one of us is proven right.

      • Nov 12, 20134:47 am
        by Max


        Hands folded with evil laughter about his master plan.  

  • Nov 11, 20133:46 pm
    by Corey


    Thielke gave us what is probably the answer to everything that ails the Pistons. I’ve been beating this drum, but it was just a feeling. Now we have data – at least 5 games worth, anyway. When any two of the pistons 3 bigs play, they have outscored the opponents by an average of 13.7 points per 100 possessions. That’s phenomenal.  And they did it with 3/5 of the teams they played being Conference Finals teams last year, or the Thunder.
    They should do one of two things:
    Start all 3, so they can all be “starters”, take one out 4 minutes into the game, and play with exactly two of them on the floor at all times after that, injuries and foul trouble willing.
    Grow the hell up and have one of them come off the bench – and almost always have exactly 2 of them out there. 32 mpg each and we’d have exactly two out there at all times. If we keep outscoring the opposition by 13.7 points per 100 possessions with that system, ONE of them is hopefully enough of a grownup to come off the bench. 
    In real life, it’d probably have to be Andre coming off the bench – Smith probably has too much ego.  Monroe is the team’s best player so far this year, and is in a contract year. Too much potential to mangle chemistry if you ask him to come off the bench. I hope Cheeks does this sometime soon (but note that Andre should still get 30 mpg off the bench). It’ll be fun to watch some of the fans scream and complain about Andre coming off teh bench even if the team starts winning more.

  • Nov 11, 20133:57 pm
    by MIKEYDE248


    How many teams have one of their top three players come off the bench?  The answer is probably zero, so asking the Pistons to do so is probably out of the question.  The season is still so young that they need to keep playing their best players until they know for sure if it will work or not.  5 games isn’t enough of a test.
    It’s also nice to see that I’m not the only one on here that thinks the Pistons shouldn’t be trying to trade Monroe at all costs.  How many other teams are trying to trade their best player without that player either being a problem or wanting to be traded?

    • Nov 11, 20137:47 pm
      by Otis


      More so than one of their top players coming off the bench: How many teams have one of their top three people GLUED to the bench in the closing minutes of a game? Crunch time is the most important time and when pretty much every competitive game is decided. If your top three players can’t play together, you’re going to have a HELL of a time beating teams whose best players actually complement each other. Even worse teams are going to win more than they should against a formula where you can’t play your best three players together. I wonder what it would take for people to understand that you’re not going to come in and reinvent the way basketball is played. You need pieces that fit.
      You say Monroe isn’t a “problem,” but what happens when the evidence mounts that this big lineup is a problem? So far they’ve played 111 minutes together, and not only has the offense looked predictably ugly, they’ve somehow allowed a whopping 114 points per 100 possessions. 114! Bad offense, bad defense, and you’re about to go all-in on this weird experiment. You might not like the idea of trading someone like Monroe, but sometimes you get lucky in the draft and happen to land two players you can’t pass up who play the same position. Better to make a shrewd trade and cash in on one of them than stubbornly commit to a losing formula just because you’re too stubborn to see that it’s not working. And yes, all of this assumes things keep going like they’re going. I just don’t see Greg Monroe waking up and suddenly being a power forward, or Josh Smith being more valuable at small forward than power forward. I just don’t see it.

      • Nov 12, 20134:47 am
        by Max


        You don’t see it?  You don’t say? 

  • Nov 11, 20135:25 pm
    by Toozman


    1)  Don’t go out and party before the Kings and Lakers games – they’re winnable.
    2)  Pound those guys, get them in foul trouble – and keep pounding their backups.
    3)  The Warriors, mostly because it will be the first back to back for the Pistons.  Will the bigs be fatigued?  Will Cheeks expand the rotation?  Will KCP chase around those shooters?  Will Mitchell play?

  • Nov 11, 201311:02 pm
    by Windy


    Last three shots from Stuckey are exactly why people want to pull their hair out…tight game heading into half and just chucking bricks, rushing shots and has the horse blinders on…

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