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Archive → November, 2013

Fear the Deer? Not at the Palace…

Essentials

  • Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (2-10) at Detroit Pistons (5-8)
  • Date: November 25, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Life in Wisconsin is hard these days. Ryan Braun was suspended for PED use after emphatically chastising baseball’s drug testing program, thus sidetracking the season of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Green Bay Packers have not won in a month because their superstar has been sidelined due to a broken left collarbone. The Pack have been forced to watch the NFC North fall apart and fail to capitalize on it because Aaron Rodgers cannot suit up.

And lastly, the Milwaukee Bucks are dreadful. Last season they had arguably the most undisciplined backcourt in NBA history (Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse have to also be in the discussion) with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis taking turns putting shots up.

Bucks management conducted a sign-and-trade for Jennings and allowed Ellis to walk in free agency. As a result, the team has gotten worse, much worse. Larry Sanders is currently on the shelf dealing with a thumb injury and consequently, the team is missing one of hits best players.

Typically, teams struggle whenever one of their top talents goes down but in the case of Milwaukee, figuring out just who is their best player is difficult proposition. Here are the options to choose from:

  • Caron Butler
  • Larry Sanders
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Ersan Ilyasova (aka James Franco)
  • Gary Neal

Take your pick. The inability to settle on one player highlights the lack of talent on the roster. The Bucks have very little to offer in terms of skill and also, their schemes accomplish very little in terms of helping them maximize whatever “advantages” they may have.

For instance, they run a lot of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops to create favorable matchups for their players, but the guys on the roster are not particularly skilled offensively. Ilyasova is great as a stretch-four when he pulls away big defenders from the hoop and dribbles past them for scores.

Mind you, he needs a good point guard to set these plays up for him and well, he does not have one.

Butler and Mayo are above average offensive players for the most part but they thrive off beating defenders in one-on-one situations where there is little defensive help coming their way.

Because the Bucks do not have any real great players or terrific offensive concepts, their wing players tend to see a lot of guys in their grills. Put it all together and Milwaukee’s offense turns into the Kobe System.

Kobe Bryant is a terrific offensive player and has put in numerous years of hard work into his craft. That allows him to make some of the most difficult contested shots and in turn, that encourages him to continue taking them.

The Bucks take contested shots, but lack the Black Mamba. In what is surely not a coincidence, Milwaukee boasts the second-worst offensive efficiency in the league. They complement their overall ineptitude with bad overall defense.

They do a poor job of closing out on shooters (Ilyasova is particularly subpar on this front) and post players do well against them because they are quite slow when it comes to sending help down there.

Thus, Milwaukee is not exactly a quality opponent by NBA standards. There is actually a possibility that things might get ugly for the road team tonight at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball.

Pistons’ dancing usher gets a challenger

I really hope that kid wasn’t planted by the Pistons’ publicity arm, because if genuine, that was pretty awesome.

Josh Smith returns to starting lineup after benching for missing practice

Josh Smith coming off the bench for Kyle Singler in the Pistons’ loss to the Hawks on Friday was a disciplinary, not strategic, decision by Maurice Cheeks. David Mayo of MLive:

Smith missed practice Thursday after skipping the team flight home from Atlanta, his hometown, on the assumption that the Pistons would have a day off after playing Tuesday and Wednesday.

Smith already planned to stay in Atlanta, then was convinced to do so after learning his father, Pete Smith, was suffering from the flu.

Josh Smith said he was surprised not to see his father in the customary courtside seat where Pete Smith always watched Hawks games involving his son when the Pistons lost Wednesday in Atlanta.

“I consider him my best friend, and so it does bother me,” Josh Smith said.  “When that came about and I didn’t see him in the stands, it really was a shock to me.  I wanted to be able to make sure I took care of that.  That was my main priority, moreso than anything else.”

Smith said he learned about 12:30 a.m. Thursday that Cheeks had scheduled an 11 a.m. practice.  But by then, Smith had skipped the team charter flight.

“Generally, 99.9 percent of the time, on back-to-backs, you have a day off,” Smith said.  “And considering that I was at home and my father was dealing with a real serious illness, I thought it was self-explanatory.  But I should have made better communication on my part, as far as letting these guys know that I was going to stay over.

“I apologized to Joe Dumars and Mo Cheeks the following day.  It’s a situation that’s very minor and I really want to move past it, because it’s a situation where I thought it was a day off.”

The good and most important news is Smith’s dad is feeling better, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News.

In terms of more trivial matters, as Cheeks said would be the case, Smith returned to the starting lineup in a win over the Nets on Sunday. As he should have.

We can get into whether starting Smith is the correct strategic choice at another time. As far as a disciplinary issue, Smith served his punishment – and maybe a little more.

Cheeks’ flexible/disorganized (take your pick) style put Smith in a bind. It seems Smith didn’t communicate well enough, and Cheeks is entitled to call a practice with as much notice as he wants to give. But why did it come to that? Why not announce the practice sooner?

Often, being organized/inflexible (take your pick) makes things go more smoothly.

Smith missing a single practice is no big deal, and it also seems Smith is going out of his way to take the fall. That’s fine here, because the fall came with a minor price, and it will help Smith repair his image as difficult. But I wonder whether this irritated him, whether he learned a lesson or both. We might get a better idea the next time a similar issue comes up, if it does.

But this episode should be firmly in the rearview mirror.

This was a minor transgression, and Smith paid a minor price. He wasn’t fined and wasn’t suspended, but he was embarrassed publically a little bit. I’m not sure he deserved that, but there’s no use protesting a slap on the wrist.

Rodney Stuckey sticks it to former coach and sometimes foe Lawrence Frank

Detroit Pistons 109 Final
Recap | Box Score
97 Brooklyn Nets
Greg Monroe, PF 34 MIN | 8-12 FG | 2-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +8

Monroe just looked different in this game. Confident. Assertive. Large. He was producing with the same effectiveness he typically does in his good games, but everything just seemed to come more smoothly than usual. That very well could have a lot to do with the Nets, who now trail the Pistons in defensive rating, but Monroe still deserves credit.

Josh Smith, SF 33 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-8 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +14

I didn’t like his shot selection, but he made enough of them, defended hard and was active on the glass. … I just re-read that sentence and realized, "but he made enough of them"-pending, that sentence probably works in every Smith post-game writeup.

Andre Drummond, C 27 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-4 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -5

Drummond was very active around the offensive basket, both going for offensive rebounds and making himself available for passes. But he didn’t make enough of a defensive impact.

Brandon Jennings, PG 41 MIN | 2-10 FG | 10-10 FT | 2 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +4

Jennings recently told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, "I don’t have any confidence in my shot right now. That’s the reason I’m missing, because there’s just no confidence there.” It was clear Jennings was still hesitant Sunday, passing up shots he’d typically take. And he still took 10 shots! So, that probably says something about his approach to the game. What saved Jennings’ scoring line? Shaun Livingston, who foolishly fouled Jennings on an off-balance long 2-pointer as the shot clock was expiring and then on a 3-pointer, and the Nets committing a defensive three-second violation that got Jennings a free throw and then intentionally fouling with the game clearly decided to get him two more freebies. At least Jennings did a pretty good job of getting his teammates good looks, both in the halfcourt and transition.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 24 MIN | 2-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +7

I still believe Caldwell-Pope will get past his rookie jitters and find his shooting stroke, even if he has to keep taking a ton of long 2-pointers to build his confidence, which he did Sunday. But until he actually gets past his rookie jitters and finds his shooting stroke, he’s going to receive poor grades.

Tony Mitchell, PF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0

Made no impact in 25 second of garbage time

Josh Harrellson, PF 11 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +12

Harrellson’s size inside made it easier for his teammates defend aggressively further from the hoop, but he looked slow. That didn’t matter Sunday, though, because Harrellson ran hard all over the court.

Charlie Villanueva, PF 12 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | 0

On his first offensive possession, Villanueva posted up 18 feet from the basket because he couldn’t get better positioning. He caught the entry pass (as much a pass to someone 18 feet from the basket qualifies as an entry pass) and promptly whipped around to shoot an airball with nine seconds on the shot clock. But Villanueva Villanuevaed Villanuevaing this game. He actually hustled after loose balls, defended OK and passed willingly. I bet he’ll make the rotation for Detroit’s next game, too.

Kyle Singler, SF 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +7

Singler worked hard offensively, and that effort yielded good results. Defensively, he spent a lot of time scrambling to close out on open 3-point shooters, but I don’t think that all on him. The Nets, who made 14-of-26 3-pointers (54 percent), are just the latest team to take advantage of the Pistons’ poor perimeter rotations.

Peyton Siva, PG 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2

Made no impact in 34 second of garbage time

Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 10-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 27 PTS | +15

With Lawrence Frank on the sideline as a Nets’ assistant, Stuckey showed his old coach what he could do when not spotting up in the corner. Stuckey ran pick-and-rolls, drove to the basket, posted up, shot from mid-range, kept the ball moving and then still worked hard on defense. This was the liveliest I’ve seen Stuckey in quite some time.

Maurice Cheeks

The Pistons had lost seven of nine. Their highest-paid player was just demoted to the bench for missing practice. And then they were trailing the woeful Brooklyn Nets, on the road no less, at halftime. Recent Pistons teams would have thrown in the towel facing far less. But not only did the Pistons stick with it in the second half, they came out of the locker room defending hard and running harder. NBA coaches have a lot of responsibilities, but an important one is establishing the right mindset. I liked the Pistons’ mindset very much to start the third quarter, and teams’ play in that part of the game is often tied to the coach.

Pistons travel to Brooklyn for early game

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (4-8) at Brooklyn Nets (3-9)
  • Date: November 24, 2013
  • Time: 2:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons are coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks and will try to rebound today in the state of New York. Greg Monroe and company will take on a struggling Brooklyn Nets in the “bottom of the Eastern Conference” bowl (note the early start time for this game!).

The Nets are facing a multitude of issues that have derailed the start of their season. One of the biggest problems Jason Kidd has stumbled upon is the inability to play his best guys for long stretches.

Indeed, Joe Johnson’s 32.7 minutes per game surprisingly leads the team. The remainder of the players are either right at 30 minutes on average or less, which is mind blowing to say the least.

The combination of age and injuries has forced the coaching staff to sit players for long stretches of games in an effort to conserve them during the 82-game grind. The strategy makes sense on the surface because Brooklyn is playing for May and not November.

However, the Nets actually have to make the postseason and in turn, that requires them to play better collectively starting now. The obvious answer here is to feed more minutes to top guys on the team but that is not the lone area of focus.

Brooklyn is a bottom-third offense and defense. Read that again. A team that many assumed would give the Miami Heat a run for their money in the Eastern Conference is looking up at the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics in the standings. Oh the irony.

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce exited Boston because the team was going into a different direction — a losing one — for the bright lights of NY. Obviously, it’s still early in the season and Kidd can right the ship, but the decision of the former Celtics to defect certainly looks questionable now.

Brooklyn has lost four games in a row and owns the fourth worst scoring differential in the entire NBA at minus-7.3. The absence of Deron Williams certainly contributes to the team’s woes.

Their floor general will miss today’s game and consequently the Nets will probably rely on an isolation-heavy offense. Johnson and Pierce will likely see the ball in their sweet spots and take things from there. The problem of course is that they have struggled shooting the ball in 2013-14, which partly explains Brooklyn’s ineptitude on this front.

The contest will probably be played in the mid-90s and the unit that has does the best job defensively probably comes out with the win.

Read about the Nets

Brooklyn’s Finest.

New venue, same result as Hawks beat Pistons back-to-back

Atlanta Hawks 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
89 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -1Millsap was at his best when guarded by Monroe. But that was expected and it’s not like he torched Detroit. Monroe’s offense, though, was lacking. He loses the ball far too often when trying to make post moves and was fortunate to escape with just two turnovers.
Andre Drummond, C 35 MIN | 6-7 FG | 3-8 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +3Drummond was a beast on both ends of the court. He continued to get rebounds and putbacks nobody else could, but what really impressed was when he helped Jennings guard Teague. It was probably the best defensive possession by Detroit this year as the Hawks got a 24 second violation without coming close to getting a shot off. Also, Drummond was “on fire” from the stripe as one announcer put it, hitting multiple free throws for the first time all year.
Brandon Jennings, PG 38 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 14 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 8 PTS | -8This game may as well have been a caricature of Jennings. He missed a ton of shots, played horrible D (except for when Drummond helped him out), and still racked up a ton of assists. The point total was surprisingly low and the turnovers too high. But I was happy to see him pass up a good look on the fast break to give Pope a better look. He hasn’t been doing that consistently.
Kyle Singler, SF 41 MIN | 9-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | -10Singler got a surprise start over Smith. He responded with a career high in scoring, and he did it very efficiently. He did get away with a blatant travel early and didn’t do enough else on the court, but it was a very good game for him. I loved his fast break block on Teague.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 28 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +4Pope played some very good defense, but once again, his shooting was abysmal. This seems like it could wrap up every game he has played. If Pope can become a reliable outside shooter, he’ll be exceedingly valuable to Detroit. If not, he’s just another ill-fitting piece on the roster.
Josh Harrellson, PF 11 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -8Harrellson made the most of his time on the floor. He doesn’t look to have a ton of upside, but he is rapidly earning a larger role by hitting outside shots and hustling enough to not pose a liability as a big man.
Josh Smith, SF 20 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -8Not all of Smith’s shots were terrible, but he took multiple long 2s early int he shot clock with a defender up on him. That is the epitome of the shot Smith should never take, and it worked out in the worst way possible. The Hawks blanked Smith and that was probably the difference between a win and a loss.
Peyton Siva, PG 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | -1Siva didn’t get much time on the floor, but he turned the ball over every chance he got. He didn’t even touch the ball on one of his eight played possesions and there was only one possession when he did anything more than bring the ball past halfway and pass it to a teammate without turning it over. Even if Mack hit only one of three shots with Siva on him, that is abysmal.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 6-15 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | -10Stuckey continued to shoot the difficult shots he has been hitting this year. That’s bad news as they weren’t falling this time around. The really bad news: he may be the Pistons’ best chance of generating something on many possessions.
Jonas Jerebko, PF 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Jerebko didn’t play enough merit grading.
Maurice Cheeks
Cheeks tinkered with the starting lineup, putting one of the bigs on the bench, he gave Siva a chance but quickly yanked him when he kept feeding the ball to Hawks, and he gave more minutes than normal to Harrelson and Pope (although he gave none to Datome). That may be all he did right, but that’s better than normal for him.

Three Things We Saw

  1. This game was pretty much deja vu. A competitive game for much of the night but when the Pistons fell behind late, it was hard to envision them making the run necessary to catch up.
  2. As Draper pointed out after these teams’ last meeting, the Pistons were hopeless against the pick and roll. They haven’t been destroyed by it nearly as much against other teams, so do the Hawks just cause bigger matchup problems for the Pistons on this play or have other teams just not bothered yet to catch on to the easiest way to dismiss Detroit.
  3. The Hawks were probably going to get the win anyway, but a couple terrible calls late in the game put it out of reach. First Singler got hit with a clear path foul when he had definitely reached in for the steal while still in front of Carroll. Then the refs failed to whistle Stuckey for an incredibly obvious foul on Millsap on the fast break. Because of that, Carroll got the offensive board for a three point play opportunity. Each mistake led to two extra points for Atlanta and about an extra 20 seconds coming off the clock.

Pistons host Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Atlanta Hawks (7-5) at Detroit Pistons (4-7)
  • Date: November 22, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Atlanta Hawks are surprisingly one of the best offensive units in the league. They score 103.4 points per 100 possessions (nine in the league) with the aid of some intriguing pieces that surround Al Horford.

Josh Smith’s defection to the Detroit Pistons should have set the Hawks back but Atlanta is learning to cope. He was replaced by a solid and underrated power forward in Pau Millsap. The former Utah Jazz big man is equipped with decent ball-handling skills, good finishing ability at the rim and a jumper.

In other words, he mitigates Smith’s departure with the blend of skills he brings to the table. Mind you, Millsap is not the lone player alongside Horford that makes this offense click.

Jeff Teague has evolved as a point guard and gives Atlanta some playmaking off the bounce. Furthermore, the Hawks keep defenses honest by running Kyle Korver through a series of screens. This team has players capable of putting the ball inside the hoop and they accomplish this through execution.

This was widely evident in their last matchup against Detroit. Indeed, Atlanta started their offense by running off-the-ball screens on one side of the floor and from there, the big man came over and ran a simple pick-and-roll with the ball-handler.

Some of the Hawks’ sets were incredibly simple and yet, the Pistons simply had no answer. The man setting the ball screen consistently got loose for easy looks because Detroit players struggled with handling a second defensive rotation.

Atlanta ran some stuff that simply confused tonight’s home team and thus resulted in high-percentage looks. Interestingly enough, the tandem of Smith and Andre Drummond is so athletic that there are times where their physical gifts will allow them to get back into plays defensively.

For instance, Drummond was late on a few plays, but he still managed to blow things up by contesting shots seemingly out of nowhere. With that said, Maurice Cheeks’ group has had a chance to view these plays on film and also defend them firsthand.

Consequently, the Pistons should do a better job of dealing with the multiple actions the Hawks run. Granted, they might still bring a few wrinkles to the table but Detroit simply must be better defensively in order to compete with this Atlanta team.

Read about the Hawks

Hawks Hoop.

3-on-3: Chewing over Josh Smith’s return to Atlanta

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. Josh Smith made his triumphant return home to Atlanta on Wednesday and the results were, um, probably not as he’d imagined. What did you think of his performance? 

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Same Josh Smith as always. The heavily pushed narrative said Smith — who took 15 shots, more than anyone on either team besides Brandon Jennings — tried to do too much while returning to his hometown. I don’t buy that. He’s averaging 15 shots per game for the season. This is just who he is.

Jameson Draper, PistonPowered: It was really, really bad. I tweeted out his shot chart and people generally agreed with me. He was 5-of-15 from the field and didn’t make any baskets outside of the paint. Recently, Smith has been taking less shots and making more, which has been nice to see. He went back to his old ways against the Hawks, though, and that was a frustrating game.

Bo Churney, HawksHoop: It was about as bad as I’ve seen Smoove play in the last few years. It wasn’t just his jump-shooting; even his defense seemed off from his remarkable exploits in Atlanta. His passing was still there, but that was about his only bright spot for the game.

2. While his Pistons’ tenure is just 11 games old, what is the one area that Smith must improve upon in order for this team to right the ship?

Dan Feldman: Defend the perimeter. Smith is an excellent athlete for a big man, but at small forward, his foot speed is so-so at best. I don’t know how much he can improve that in-season, but it appears to be a major reason the Pistons’ defense is often left scrambling.

Jameson Draper: He must try to be more efficient. He’s providing some of the only good defense on the team, he’s passing, he’s rebounding, he’s blocking shots… he’s just not shooting at an efficient rate. His true shooting rate is 49.7 percent this year, which is really bad. If he can chuck less, find better shots and generally shoot less, he’ll be the best player on this team and it won’t be very close.

Bo Churney: Josh — or someone in that frontcourt — is going to have to learn to make a shot outside of eight feet. If Smoove can actually start hit threes at a 33% clip (a mark he made a few years ago), then that will actually help the awkward spacing issues the Pistons have on offense.

3. Luckily (or unluckily), Smith will get a second shot at his former mates in Detroit tonight. Can we expect a more composed version this time around?

Dan Feldman: I’ll point to this quote from Smith after he scored 11 points on 15 shots against the Hawks on Wednesday. Via Bo Churney at ESPN:

“I was good,” Smith said, reflecting on his game. “Took shots that I normally take. They just weren’t able to drop tonight.”

How many games in his nine-year career have left Smith saying the same thing? Has he ever considered the shots he normally takes aren’t the shots he should normally take? Smith is who he is, a trait I find both endearing and infuriating.

Jameson Draper: I would say so. I mean, we know he’s taken a LOT of heat for his performance in Atlanta on Wednesday, there’s no reason to think he should improve on that. On the flip side, though, I would not be shocked if he didn’t play well tonight, because he’s Josh Smith, and that’s something he would do.

Bo Churney: I think he’ll be better. The fans can sometimes get in Smoove’s head, and the Atlanta faithful screaming at him to “SHOOOOTTT!!!” probably threw him off some. He may not improve by much, but I highly doubt he goes 5-for-15 from the floor again.

 

Why Josh Smith should shoot more 3-pointers part 2: When Josh Smith should shoot fewer 3-pointers

I apparently wasn’t clear enough when I wrote before the season why Josh Smith should take more 3-pointers, but let’s set the record straight now. Me at the Detroit Free Press:

My logic previously was two-fold:

1. It would be difficult for the Pistons to space the floor with Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the lineup. One way to create space would be for one of those bigs to drift to the perimeter, and Smith was best suited for that role.

2. If shooting from perimeter, Smith was much better off taking three-pointers rather than long 2s. He makes both types of shots at similar clips, but considering threes are worth 50% more points per make, they’re much preferred.

To his credit, Smith has aced that second point. After just 41% of his perimeter shots were three-pointers last season, 72% are this season. That’s a fantastic improvement.

But shooting more from the perimeter because it’s necessary to coexist with Monroe and Drummond has proved trickier.

With a conventional lineup featuring Smith at power forward, he should rarely shoot from the perimeter. He’s not very good at it but is a strong finisher near the basket. Typically, getting looks in the paint should be his focus.

My three-point plan for Smith came purely from necessity to facilitate Joe Dumars’ mad-scientist frontcourt.

But Smith is not taking his three-pointers because he’s playing with Monroe and Drummond.

Despite playing just 43% of his minutes without the Monroe-Drummond combo, Smith has taken 53% of his three-pointers during those stretches, according to nbawowy.

No, Josh, no.

This is not the sign of a well-coached team

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Stuckey made seven of his 12 shots but had five turnovers, mostly due to the defense.

“We just didn’t have a counter,” Stuckey said. “We just have to be ready for next time. We didn’t go over any situation where they would trap me in the post. We have to read it better. Part of it is my fault.”

No coach can prepare his team for every scenario, particularly first-year coaches and particularly early in the season. And this is just a small strike on Maurice Cheeks’ record, albeit a strike nonetheless.

Not only was the team unprepared for Rodney Stuckey to get trapped in the post, Stuckey talked about it publically afterward. Players are unhappy with coaches all the time, but when a player is dismayed enough that he expresses it publically, that sometimes signals a great frustration.

Is this the end of the world? Not at all. Heck, it might not even be important.

But it’s an opportunity to evaluate Cheeks – one of what has been and will be many throughout the season – and a reason I’ll be watching more closely what other players say in an attempt to gauge how they feel about Cheeks.