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Archive → January, 2014

Pistons reportedly want to trade Josh Smith, not Greg Monroe

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Pistons have been telling teams with Monroe interest that the restricted free agent-to-be — no matter what you’ve heard — is not available.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and "could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.

Tentative hooray? Tentative hooray.

A lot can change before the trade deadline – and this could just be posturing, anyway – but I really want the Pistons to build around Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. I believe those two can be key pieces on a very successful team.

It’s just difficult to envision that very successful team also including Josh Smith.

For one, Smith is five years older than Monroe and eight years older than Drummond. In the time it will take Drummond and Monroe to hit their primes, Smith , 28, will be heading over the hill.

Secondly, Smith has been a disastrous fit with Monroe and Drummond so far. I haven’t totally given up on the lineup’s potential – the talent is there – but the odds of those three ever consistently playing well together are already low and only falling. As Smith ages and his athleticism wanes, he’ll become an even poorer fit at small forward.

I’m not against trading Monroe. He’s certainly not as important to the Pistons’ future as Drummond. I just believe it will be difficult to get fair value for Monroe, and I’m definitely against trading him just to make the current roster fit a little better. I’d rather show patience and give the Pistons a chance to reconstruct the roster around those two – something they probably should have been more focused on doing sooner.

As for a Smith trade, you can read read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

PistonPowered Mailbag: A sidebar on translating stats, All-Star snubs and small forward solutions

Submit questions for the weekly PistonPowered Mailbag to  patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes.

I want to offer a quick thought building on Dan Feldman’s great, detailed post on the Pistons’ use of analytics from earlier today that everyone should definitely read. An excerpt from a talk Ken Catanella, Pistons director of basketball operations, gave at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference stood out to me:

And how could I add value walking in as a graduate assistant at that time?

I noticed a few things in terms of their pregame prep, and I was doing some video logging of opponent games. And I automated a process that created what now is commonplace, but over a decade ago was a rarity, is a shot-zone chart that had visuals and colors. At that point, I gave it to the coaching staff and thought nothing of it. And the next thing I knew, at the practice later that day, in preparation for the next day’s game, Coach had blown it up to an infinite size, brought it over to the bench where the guys were sitting. Of course, it was a proud moment for a geek like me, but he showed it to the guys and said, ‘This is what we have to do to stop this team if we play this player this way.’

And at that moment, I realized, if you can just find that niche of something that is missing or that you can add an element that can make them better at their job, they’re going to really appreciate you and trust that you have their best interests at heart.

I interviewed Kirk Goldsberry, whose amazing data visualization graphics highlighting advanced stats have been must-read at Grantland, The New York Times and a few other places over the last few years, last year. He said something similar:

There is really a lot of in-depth statistical work going on with complex and continuously evolving stats and measures in basketball, but there has always been a kind of push-back on that from people who may not understand or want to be bothered with the complex math or science behind it or who don’t think it’s a necessary element in the game. Do you think that work you’re doing, putting complex stats work into easy to understand graphics, can maybe help bridge that gap some?

I know it can. We’ve seen it in other domains. For instance in chemistry, the Periodic Table has made a huge set of chemical elements understandable in new ways. The power of graphics to simplify or translate statistical information into knowledge is one of the huge pillars of the project. My project is not unique in that sense, but it is unique in the context of basketball. I think that’s what it has the potential to do. Every one of those charts you look at is thousands of numbers encoded visually as opposed to encoded in a spreadsheet.

These spacial structures are immediately understandable to the human eye. You can take advantage of the most powerful sense we have as human beings, which is vision. I can show that chart to a basketball coach in four seconds and circle key areas with a Sharpie and walk away, and that coach has just understood the product of a really sophisticated statistical analysis in a few seconds without ever seeing brief notation, without ever seeing a decimal, without ever seeing some obtuse numerical jargon that, let’s face it, most basketball people and most human beings don’t communicate in that statistical language.

So yes, this helps people who are not domain experts in statistics understand statistics or at least understand the findings of statistical analysis. When you hear coaches or general managers or people in the media who are skeptical of statistical work or don’t see a use for it, to me, that’s on the analytics community, not the people pushing back. It’s part of our job to make our findings digestable by people. It’s the part of of the scientific process I like to describe as landing the plane. Great, you’ve done great analysis, you’ve found something out, now you know that. But I think that’s where a lot of people stop. One of the strengths of good visualization is it helps you land the plane in the sense that not only do you know that, now you’re sharing that with other people who also just learned that. The more effective you can be in that sharing, the better you are as a scientist, the better you are as a communicator.

Both guys touched on something really key — not advanced stats themselves, but how statistical analysts communicate their findings in plain English. At this point, there’s no debating the vital need for advanced stats work in the NBA (and in all sports, really). It’s a billion dollar industry with every team looking for every possible competitive advantage. Stats can help give a competitive advantage if properly analyzed and implemented into strategy, lineups, matchups, talent acquisition, etc. So it makes no sense for any team to employ so-called “non-believers.” Data visualization is a really powerful way to explain a complex topic to a general audience.

The key to getting all fans to embrace the importance of advanced stats lies in exactly what Catanella and Goldsberry are talking about — making them digestable and usable to anyone.

On to this week’s questions:

Is Andre Drummond really an All-Star “snub?” He’s the best player on the Pistons this season, but being a good player on a bad team usually doesn’t lead to an All-Star appearance. — Dan

I mean, it’s not a Kendrick Lamar losing to Macklemore level snub, but it’s still a snub. Drummond is having an incredible season for someone as young as he is, as Dan Feldman pointed out yesterday. He definitely deserves consideration, but I can’t say that any of the other bigs selected as reserves — Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, Paul Millsap, Roy Hibbert — are unworthy All-Stars. Those are all really good players on better teams than the Pistons. I could quibble with picking DeMar DeRozan and Joe Johnson at the guard spots, but if you want two guards on your bench, you can’t replace one of those guys with Drummond (and really, Kyle Lowry should be in over either of those two and Arron Afflalo has a strong case as well).

So I dunno … I get why Pistons fans are mad about it. Drummond is the lone bright spot this season and the first player they’ve had actually deserving of an All-Star appearance in damn near a decade. I can’t feign much outrage over it though. I mean, Anthony Davis isn’t an All-Star and he’s arguably been the most fun player to watch in the league this season (at least among players not named Kevin Durant). The talent disparity between the West and East is so off balance that I’d be in favor of blowing up the entire All-Star format, letting fans, coaches, players and media (and bloggers!) vote for the top 24 players in the league regardless of conference, then have the top two coaches at the break take turns picking their roster. That’s probably too much work for an All-Star Game though.

Recently read a few reports of Boston looking to dump contracts. Think there is any chance either side goes for a Charlie V for Jeff Green trade? I doubt we’re signing any FA who’d be much better than him at SF and Boston gets a ton of Cap space. — Mark

Green is no great shakes, but he’s solid enough, expensive but not super expensive and still relatively young. I can’t see Boston just giving him away for just an expiring deal, but if the Pistons were willing to offer an expiring and a couple of future second round picks … that might be enticing to them if they’re truly trying to cut salary.

The problem is, Green is basically an average NBA starter. He’d be an upgrade, but not a drastic upgrade. If the Pistons can’t hope to do better than “average-ish starter” at the small forward position in a trade, I’d prefer they hold off on making an in-season deal and see what develops either in the draft or on the trade/free agent market in the offseason. My hunch is you can get a similarly productive player to Green for less money.

I’m curious if those questions are real or made up. — Brian

I addressed this last week in the DBB comments after the … uh … minor shitstorm I started last week, but just wanted to reiterate here: no, I have yet to resort to making up mailbag questions. Full disclosure — I do know a couple of the people socially who have submitted questions in the sixish weeks I’ve been doing this, but the majority of questions really do come to me from people on Twitter or through email. You’ll be able to tell when I’m making up questions if they start containing an inappropriate amount of Workaholics references and/or multiple quotes from C.M. Punk promos.

Utah, worst team in the west, is only 2 games behind Piston. U think Dumars regreting picking KCP over Burke? — FT33

Nah. Caldwell-Pope hasn’t had the opportunity to put up gaudy numbers because he hasn’t really been asked to, but he’s been a decently effective rookie. As a starter, he’s a fifth option on offense and he’s already emerged as a very good perimeter defender in a league where good perimeter defenders come at a premium. I thought passing on Burke was the wrong move and I still do. But Caldwell-Pope has closed that gap. Long-term, I still believe Burke is the better prospect but I’m not convinced that it’s impossible for Caldwell-Pope to surpass him. An athletic, lockdown defender who can knock down a corner three with consistency is a long-term starter in this league, and if his game evolves offensively to more than just being a spot-up shooter, he’s a potential All-Star considering the age of the league’s top shooting guards at the moment. I mean, in a year where DeMar DeRozan made an All-Star team and Arron Afflalo was a serious contender for it, is it really a stretch to think that Caldwell-Pope has the potential to be at least as good as those players?

Things could obviously change in both in favor or against the pick, but as of right now, there’s no real reason for Dumars to regret it.

I know there is a lot of talk about moving a big for someone who can space the floor, but i personally don’t think this is our biggest issue. With the cap space we have this summer it shouldn’t be too hard to sign someone to fill that role. What scares me is watching Jennings night after night treat each game like an AAU tournament. He seems to have no clue how to run an offense, and is only engaged when he’s jacking up shot after shot. I don’t see him meshing well with the other teammates, and Cheeks (don’t get me started) can’t seem to get through to him. Do see any way out of watching him for the next 3 seasons? I’ve been praying for a swap of Rondo/Green for Jennings and Moose/Smith. — Mark (times two)

Brandon Jennings is better than Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton (although Middleton is looking more and more live a very nice young find for Milwaukee). So even with Jennings’ flaws, that trade is a win for the Pistons. His contract isn’t overly expensive, he’s talented if inconsistent and either he’ll figure out how to be a more traditional point guard with improved shot selection or he’ll continue to be an erratic yet occasionally explosive offensive player. He has value in this league, likely more value than Knight will ever have. Playoff aspirations aside, the Pistons came into this season looking to upgrade the talent on the roster. I’m not convinced Jennings is a long-term fix in the minds of anyone in the organization at this point, but he represents a definite talent upgrade who hopefully won’t turn into a negative asset for the Pistons like a certain other high profile offseason acquisition.

Who do you think projects as the better offensive player between the two (Caldwell-Pope or Michigan State’s Gary Harris)? — @HiroBeats

This was asked before Harris’ lights out performance against Michigan which kind of clearly made the case before I even had to, but Harris is by far a better offensive prospect than Caldwell-Pope and he might be a better defensive prospect as well (taking nothing away from Caldwell-Pope). I can’t find the link, but Tom Izzo recently called Harris the best offensive and defensive player in the Big 10. That’s certainly a subjective (and likely biased) analysis, but Harris has been insanely good this season. MSU is missing two important starters and has hardly missed a beat, losing a close game to a very good Michigan team and then beating a tough Iowa team on the road (in a place where Iowa rarely loses). Harris and Keith Appling are insanely fun to watch on defense, and the fact that Harris is a likely to 10 pick this season is a major reason I’m hoping the Pistons land somewhere in the top eight. Obviously, I’d love them to end up with one of the draft’s stars, but if they fall just short of that? Ending up with a defender and shooter like Harris to add to their perimeter would be a lot of fun.

As for whether or not he’s better than Caldwell-Pope offensively? If Harris had come out after his freshman season, where he was good but not this good, he still was likely to get picked higher than KCP would’ve.

Here are some questions/musings I like to hear your opinion on: 1. I hear so much about Drummond working with Coach Sheed and how it is helping him. That´s a really cool story but I would love if we could get Big Ben to be his next development coach for the summer. How great would that be, him learning the defensive ropes from one of the best ever and the Palace being treated to the Wallace brothers on the bench. On a similar note don’t you just wish Rip Hamilton would retire already so that he could spent his summers with KCP?; 2. The Pistons are dead last in ft%, we know that. But I cannot understand why they rank so low in FTAs (17th). They should be foul magnets with their combination of interior focused scoring and weak foul shooters. Combined with the fact that we are the no. 1 off reb team shouldn’t the Pistons love it if Drummond gets fouled? He might miss one but that might just be another opportunity at an offensive rebound. I would love it if the Pistons realized they are better off playing as much in the bonus as they can, even with their dismal ft%. What´s your take on this? 3. Lastly while Drummond is our best player and Smith our highest paid one (and also the media focus) the Milwaukee and NO games showed again that game to game the Pistons go as Jennings goes. If he is engaged defensively, they are, if he picks his spots and plays unselfishly their offense flows and vice versa. However I´ve never seen him string four good quarters together in a Pistons uniform. He always has at least one bad or good stretch each game which is one of the primary reasons for the Pistons fourth quarter problem as well. So what´s the solution? Shouldn´t the Pistons get a reliable pg backup? One who is a good shooter and better defender than Bynum? And if they decide to go that way, who is available? I´d love this trade but I doubt Dumars would do it. (Notice that Beverly and D-Mo are the focus as I doubt Asik would quit his whining in Detroit and play backup). — Fabian

1. Short answer — I would LOVE to have Ben Wallace involved in the organization in an official capacity. I think he and Rasheed Wallace are two of the smartest bigs to play in the modern era and they could teach Drummond/Monroe a lot about offense and defense in the league. Unfortunately, with the rate Maurice Cheeks is going, I’m not sure him or any of his staff will be in place next season. I don’t really share your enthusiasm about Hamilton … I loved watching him when he was good, but Caldwell-Pope is probably already a better defender than Rip ever was and I’m not sure Hamilton’s long-two heavy offense is how the Pistons envision Caldwell-Pope fitting into their lineup. They need him to be a killer from the corner three spots.

2. I don’t know that lack of free throw attempts is a problem. They rank low in overall free throw attempts, but their 25.8 attempts per game are fifth in the league. The problem isn’t getting to the line — several Pistons are very good at that. The issue, as you point out, is converting those opportunities.

3. The Pistons should, theoretically, address some of their roster balance issues. Whether they actually have the means — through assets they’re willing to part with and other teams are interested in giving something of value for — is debatable. Drummond and Monroe are likely the two main pieces the Pistons have that would be of interest to other teams, and they’re unlikely to part with either. The Pistons would probably love to trade Smith, but his contract and less than stellar play make it doubtful they’d get any positive assets in return. The trade you suggest to Houston would be really unfair to the Rockets. They’re taking back the worst contract, giving up a prospect in Motiejunas, who at one time was considered a potential top five-ish pick and giving up a really solid PG in Beverly while getting no clear replacement for him. They had some reported interest in Smith in the offseason and still might, but they would have all the leverage in any deal — the Pistons would have to give up really good assets in order for Houston to take that contract because Smith’s value has tanked this season.

What’s wrong with the Pistons’ offense?

Not long ago, the Pistons offense functioned at least moderately effectively.

Not anymore.

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

Through Christmas, Detroit ranked No. 12 in the NBA in points per possession. The Pistons’ offense wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Since then, the Pistons have the NBA’s 26th-most-effective offense.

It has gotten so bad, Detroit’s offense (20th in the league for the season) has nearly caught its defense (21st) in ineptitude. Since Christmas, the units are running even: 26th and 26th.

What has changed from before and after Dec. 25? Three areas stand out, one positive and two negative.

On the bright side, the Pistons have gone from above average to very good at getting to the free throw line. Unfortunately, the benefits are muted when Detroit makes a league-worst 66% of its free throws.

The negatives are much more pronounced.

To start, the Pistons have gone from making a woeful 32% of their three-pointers to an abhorrent 27%.

They’ve also started turning the ball over much more. Doing it at slightly better than the median rate before Christmas, Detroit ranks among the NBA’s worst ball protectors since.

These are the perils of building a team that is led by Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in field goal attempts, three-point attempts, assists and turnovers. The offense is bound to be erratic — particularly in the halfcourt.

The Pistons went from a strong fifth in fast-break points and eighth in second-chance points before Christmas to first in both categories after Christmas. They’re cleaning up when it comes to those defense- and rebounding-fueled methods of scoring.

That means the set offense has become the issue.

Turnovers and three-point shooting are both the root and symptoms of the problem.

Running the offense through Jennings and Smith, the Pistons frequently get themselves into trouble. If Smith and Jennings don’t turn the ball over or force a three-pointer early in the possession, the play too often still goes nowhere. That leaves mere seconds on the shot clock and little option to do anything but force a risky pass or a long shot.

Why do people believe the Pistons don’t make decisions based on statistics?

Imagine an NBA team that:

  • Hired a Director of Basketball Operations who’d gotten an MBA from Duke and risen through the league thanks to his focus on analytics
  • Drafted a player in the first round who was rated so highly by a statistical formula, not even the formula’s creator believed the player should have been selected there
  • Received a projection of 49-33 and fifth in its conference from one statistical formula and was expected to finish 46-36 and fourth in the conference by another, independent statistical formula

However, this team fell nine games below .500 early in the season.

The head coach had repeated run-ins with the team’s highest-paid player. The first-round pick showed solid potential, but he struggled after the team vaulted him into the starting lining up because it failed to acquire viable alternatives at his position. The top three players had no chemistry together.

Wouldn’t that seem like a team too reliant on analytics?

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I’m talking about the Pistons.

For a team that supposedly pays minimal attention to analytics, the Pistons sure put together a team that just happened to rate well in preseason statistical prognostications.

ESPN’s SCHOENE projection predicted 49 wins, and a projection based on Wins Produced yielded 46.4 victories. Kevin Pelton’s WARP projections placed Caldwell-Pope No. 4 overall, but Pelton ranked Caldwell-Pope behind Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum in his own subjective rankings.

And the Pistons hired Ken Catanella three years ago as their Director of Basketball Operations – a move The Palace president Dennis Mannion said was not forced on Joe Dumars.

Yet, David Mayo of MLive recently wrote:

This is largely a top-down approach and the Pistons have a couple of old-school guards in the top chairs. I’ve never heard Joe Dumars utter the word “analytics,” much less apply one. Maurice Cheeks, asked about advanced statistics earlier this year, responded with something about 3-point percentage. They govern by eyeballs.

Lawrence Frank was attuned to analytics and who/what succeeded/failed under specific conditions or stimuli. He had a coaching staff that was attuned to it, too. Cheeks’ coaches are, too. Cheeks has admitted his coaches would inundate him with such statistical analysis if he showed interest in it, which he admits he generally doesn’t. Cheeks’ stated approach is that he’ll listen to anything interesting that’s brought to him. If you bring him good information, he’s more likely to listen. That’s the analytics department here.

Perhaps, Mayo knows enough about how the Pistons truly run to make that assessment despite the circumstantial evidence to the contrary I presented above. But, if he does, he doesn’t credibly make his case here.

Dumars has never applied an analytic? NBA teams are especially secretive about their use of advanced stats, and the Pistons are secretive about everything, anyway. I don’t expect Dumars to run around talking about his use of analytics.

He doesn’t need to use the word “analytics” to apply one, anyway.

When Dumars says of Brandon Jennings, “We like his ability to score off the bounce,” that might have been determined through analytics. Maybe Dumars just watched game film without taking any notes, but I’d say it’s more likely he at least complemented that method with Jennings shooting-off-the-dribble statistics. You don’t have to talk in numbers to have numbers influence what you say.

As far as Maurice Cheeks, I’ve never seen him as a beacon of statistical understanding, but I don’t know how bringing up 3-point percentage disparages him – as if 3-point percentage is unworthy of the higher minds of basketball analytics. Perhaps, Cheeks embarrassed himself with his answer on the topic – it wouldn’t be the first time – but there’s nothing inherently wrong with mentioning 3-point percentage. If Cheeks’ answer lacked insight, it needs to be explained more thoroughly than Mayo did.

Regardless, this goes back to the first point. If another member of the staff crunches numbers and determines something about a player and then tells Cheeks in plain English, the analytics are working. There’s a value in translating numbers to digestible form.

On a related note, from the outside, it’s impossible to tell exactly how much the Pistons – from Dumars down – use the information Catanella and other statistically inclined members of the organization give them.

But it sure seems Catanella is the type of statistical analyst Dumars would listen to.

Catanella, who used to work on Wall Street, spoke at the 2009 New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports. He called communicating with co-workers who aren’t necessarily statistically inclined “by far, the most important part of the job.”

Catanella, years before the Pistons hired him, essentially described how he’d make an impact on a team run by Tom Gores and Joe Dumars:

Implementing that in the sports world is even more important, especially if this a new position to the team you’re joining, which it was when I was in New Jersey. … You’re developing a trust level with the organization, with the coaches, with the GM.

And that takes time, but if you’re open to telling them when you don’t know the answer and telling them why, I think they’ll trust you more. As opposed to, ‘I know the answer every time, and this is right, and this is what you have to do.’

Also, choosing your battles wisely. When it’s a really important decision in your mind, it might not be a really important decision to the general manager or to the coach. Be sure to make that clear.

And then, at the end of the day, if you actually are getting those things implemented, then you know you’re being successful. You could be the best statistical analyst in the world, and you know you’re right 100 percent of the time, and you knock the ball out of the park every time you do an analysis. But it only gets implemented one time out of 10, the guy’s who’s a little bit, not less aggressive, but not as accurate, but gets things implemented five times as often is probably the better analyst, in my mind.

It is trending more and more towards an analytical approach, partially due to the changes in ownership that have occurred in our teams. So, a lot of times, the owners of today are coming from backgrounds where they own businesses or they ran hedge-fund companies, and they’re used to seeing in-depth analytical studies on every major decision that their companies make. And they want to see the same type of work at their sports organizations.

I supposed it’s possible, despite his preparation for and focus on having influence, Catanella hasn’t achieved meaningful results in Detroit. But he spoke about that very subject during last year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Here are a few things he said:

I found the most benefit from having divergent backgrounds, especially in the front office, because each person lends a completely valuable different and valuable perspective that, at the end of the day, it probably comes down somewhat of a wisdom-of-the-crowds philosophy, right? And a lot of the times, we’ve seen more literature, that the best decisions are often made from completely different opinions.

In our organization, it’s exactly that way, and I think it’s structured beautifully to have someone that’s focused purely on, perhaps, the background element of a player or someone that’s focused purely on the coaching elements. We have former coaches that are scouts. We have former players that are scouts that get into the personal side of people. The analytical piece. And perhaps somebody that’s more experienced. And at the end of the day, the chief decision maker has much more information to make that final decision.

I think it gets back to the human element, because, if you think about somebody coming into your office and grandstanding and putting on a show and saying, “I’m 100 percent right, there’s no way that you could possibly be right, there’s no way you could possibly have something to add to this discussion” or that it couldn’t get better – doesn’t that make it eminently hard for you to accept the idea and then not only internalize it, but then make it an actionable item? That’s what we’re really trying to do. That’s what analysts are trying to do. They’re trying to make an impact on an organization by transferring their knowledge to somebody that will actually make use of it.

Whether it’s trying to get information to a player who’s about to guard somebody that has to be able to internalize it to the point where he doesn’t even have to think about it. He knows exactly the way he wants to guard that individual so that it’s reflex. To the GM that gets faith in the information and the decision that he’s ultimately making from that discussion, and he actually, potentially, partakes in the ultimate conclusion by adding to the discussion and tinkering with the idea, like you said.

A lot of times, our ideas are not entirely fully formed, even. Sometimes, I come into someone’s office looking for guidance. So, I think that just allows other people to gain greater acceptance and embrace your ideas when you have that type of approach.

That was a very challenging one, because you think about, I had played some professional basketball in Europe and worked in the front office over there. But here, there’s a program and a coach that had credentials, infinite credentials and a prestigious program. And how could I add value walking in as a graduate assistant at that time?

I noticed a few things in terms of their pregame prep, and I was doing some video logging of opponent games. And I automated a process that created what now is commonplace, but over a decade ago was a rarity, is a shot-zone chart that had visuals and colors. At that point, I gave it to the coaching staff and thought nothing of it. And the next thing I knew, at the practice later that day, in preparation for the next day’s game, Coach had blown it up to an infinite size, brought it over to the bench where the guys were sitting. Of course, it was a proud moment for a geek like me, but he showed it to the guys and said, ‘This is what we have to do to stop this team if we play this player this way.’

And at that moment, I realized, if you can just find that niche of something that is missing or that you can add an element that can make them better at their job, they’re going to really appreciate you and trust that you have their best interests at heart, like you were saying Alec. And if you can show that you have a passion for the game too and winning and that you’re a person that has a similar mindset and similar goals, those things also have a powerful impact.

Data really has a hard time with context. I can have as much information as I want, but if I don’t – I’ve explained this to you.

A term we use a lot is, ‘Smell the gym.’ Just get in there and feel the game again and feel what the player is seeing and what his interactions are like with his teammates and his coaches. Those are data points.

We just have to think about data in a different way and try to develop as much information around the core base of information that we use to evaluate a player. It might be on the periphery. It might be weighted heavily. It might be weighted lightly. But we definitely want to consider it.

Doesn’t that sound like the exact type of analytical specialist who can persuade Dumars?

Again, it’s still possible Dumars has ignored Catanella.

But would Catanella really choose to sit on a panel about having influence within an organization if that were the case? It’s possible, but that seems unlikely.

Would Gores compliment Catanella by name before while praising Dumars before the season for meshing with Catanella? Gores, via Dave Pemberton of The Oakland Press:

“Early on I said to Joe, ‘We got to make changes.’ I think the thing Joe has done is he’s adjusted along the way,” Gores said. “Just like in my own business, I have to grow, I have to adjust, it’s all about getting better and not getting stuck in the old way. Joe has shown every sign of a person who can grow.

“He’s done amazing things with his own basketball operations. Ken (Catanella) and George (David) and that group, those are great young men that are smart. They compliment Joe’s talents. We had success in the offseason.

I still can’t say with total certainty the Pistons don’t “govern by eyeballs,” but the circumstantial evidence is piling up that they don’t.

Analytics are not a magic bullet that solves every problem. A team can apply analytics and still make bad decisions. After all, the Pistons are competing with other teams that definitely use analytics.

We can have another discussion about whether the Pistons use analytics effectively. That’s not the question I’m addressing.

Do the Pistons use statistics in their decision-making? I definitely believe the answer is much more likely yes than no.

Andre Drummond snubbed for 2014 NBA All-Star Game

Andre Drummond, as expected, did not make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

I would have taken Drummond over Paul Millsap, DeMar DeRozan and Joe Johnson, so that makes Drummond a snub to me.

But since Drummond’s stock was highest, a few other East frontcourt players came on strong and Drummond drifted a bit. Simply, he didn’t do enough to make himself an obvious choice, and the Pistons’ 18-27 record didn’t get him any second looks.

That’s not fair to Drummond, who shouldn’t be held solely responsible for Detroit’s struggles when it comes to an individual honor. Yet, that’s the reality of the system.

In the long run, tonight won’t make a blip on Drummond’s resume. Bigger things are in his future, and snubs in his early years will fade into nothingness.

Drummond is just 20 years old. He’ll become an All-Star soon enough.

Here are all the players with at least 5.2 win shares – the total Drummond already has this year – in a season when they were 20 or younger:

  • LeBron James
  • Magic Johnson
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Chris Paul
  • Adrian Dantley
  • Dwight Howard
  • Kevin Durant
  • Chris Webber
  • Tony Parker
  • Elton Brand
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • John Drew
  • Chris Bosh
  • Joe Smith
  • Andris Biedrins
  • Tracy McGrady
  • Greg Monroe
  • Luol Deng
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Carl Braun
  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Anthony Davis
  • Brook Lopez
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Kevin Love
  • Stephon Marbury
  • Mike Miller

Of those 33 players, 25 became All-Stars.

Drummond, not even at the All-Star break, has already put himself in special company. As this season continues, he’ll separate himself even further from that group and show just how special he is.

He doesn’t need an All-Star berth to do that.

Pistons-Hawks game rescheduled for April 8

The postponed Pistons-Hawks game has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta.

That adds another tough game to what’s already a difficult April slate for the Pistons:

  • at Pacers
  • at Nets
  • vs. Celtics
  • at Hawks
  • at Cavaliers
  • at Bulls
  • vs. Raptors
  • at Thunder

Unless the Pistons are tanking by then. Then, the April schedule looks pretty good. Just have to figure out how to lose to the Celtics and Cavaliers.

3-on-3: All Star Edition

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. The All Star reserves will be announced tonight on TNT. The Pistons haven’t had an All Star since Allen Iverson in 2009. Is there any chance that changes this year?

Dan Feldman: Only Andre Drummond has the slightest chance, and I’d be very surprised if he’s selected. Since Drumond’s stock was relatively highest, Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah have come around strong. Hibbert is a lock, and the other two will likely get more votes than Drummond, too.

Patrick Hayes: No chance. It’s a popularity contest where wins, name recognition and national TV appearances matter more than merit (and that goes for both fans and coaches making selections). The Pistons aren’t exactly doing well in those categories.

Tim Thielke: Definitely a chance, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Even in the East, there are 12 players more deserving than Drummond (the only realistic option in Detroit). But never count out the possibility of injuries forcing the pool to stretch a bit deeper.

2. Which Piston, if any, should be selected for the game this season?

Dan Feldman: Drummond. Hibbert, Bosh and Noah should snag the three backup frontcourt positions. If Kyle Lowry and John Wall are the backup guards, as they should be, Drummond should get one of the two wildcard slots. I’d take Drummond over Arron Afflalo, Lance Stephenson, Paul Millsap, DeMar DeRozan or any other contender.

Patrick Hayes: Drummond. He’s leading the league in total rebounding percentage, averaging a double-double and he’s even improved his free throw shooting this season (OK, so it’s only improved from 37 to 40 percent … but still, progress!). Drummond won’t make it because the Pistons continue to be their irrelevant selves, but he’s having a brilliant second season in the league and he’ll be a fixture in All-Star Games when his basketball IQ catches up to his immense physical talents.

Tim Thielke: If any, it’s obviously Drummond. He has easily been the best Piston this season. Should he be selected? Probably not, but he’s so much more fun than more worthy candidates like Noah.

3. They’re always a polarizing topic, but do All Star games serve a purpose in professional sports or are they just a simple popularity contest that yields a half-hearted game?

Dan Feldman: They should serve a purpose – honoring the NBA’s “best” players at that given moment. After that, let the players turn the game itself into whatever they want. The best measure of who’s had the best season, what many purport All-Star Game selections to be, are really All-NBA teams.

Patrick Hayes: Does anything in professional sports really serve a purpose? Let’s face it, following sports (and I’m as guilty as anyone) is an extreme waste of time that, more often than not, leads to misery. You watch for the handful of times in your lifetime that the teams you love provide incredible moments like the 2004 Pistons championship. Those moments are few and far between though. The rest of the time you’re spending time debating whether or not Mark West should start over Oliver Miller. I don’t like to label, but I would be highly suspicious that someone who is anti-All-Star Games is probably a fascist. Who doesn’t love blocks and dunks? Or even the occasional iconic moment (like Magic getting the MVP in 1992)? All-Star Games are light-hearted fun. Even the NFL Pro Bowl, by far the worst of all pro sports all-star games, occasionally provides you with highlights like this. Anyone who gets bent out of shape about an exhibition game meant for laid back enjoyment is way too into sports. Relax.

Tim Thielke: The fan vote tends to be a popularity contest, but rarely do you get some one egregiously voted in (it does happen, I know, I remember Iverson). By and large, it’s at least debatable that everyone who gets in is a top 30 player in the league at that point for that season. That’s why we use terms like “six time all-star” when discussing how good a player’s career was.

Andre Drummond makes Rising Stars Challenge

Update: I participated in a Rising Stars Challenge mock draft on ProBasketballTalk, where you can see how high Andre Drummond went. I also tried to get Kentavious Caldwell-Pope into the mock game.

Andre Drummond was selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, a game for first- and second-year players that will be played Friday, Feb. 14 during All-Star Weekend. Drummond, who still has an outside chance of making the All-Star game, was an obvious inclusion.

The other eligible Pistons – Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva and Luigi Datome – aren’t surprising omissions, though Caldwell-Pope and Singler at least could have made arguments.

Aside from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Singler is the top vote-getter from last year’s All-Rookie team not selected. But John Henson and Mason Plumlee are much bigger snubs among second-year players, who reserved half the 18 spots in the All-Star-weekend game.

That leaves nine spots slotted for rookies, and Caldwell-Pope was the No. 8 pick in the draft, so…. Yeah, the Pistons don’t really have much to feel bad about here. The No. 1 (Anthony Bennett), No. 3 (Otto Porter), No. 4 (Cody Zeller), No. 5 (Alex Len), No. 6 (Nerlens Noel) and No. 7 (Ben McLemore) picks also didn’t make it. This has been a really awful year for highly drafted rookies making an immediate impact.

Here’s a full pool of players:

  • Andre Drummond
  • Anthony Davis
  • Bradley Beal
  • Damian Lillard
  • Dion Waiters
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Jared Sullinger
  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Kelly Olynyk
  • Mason Plumlee
  • Michael Carter-Williams
  • Pero Antic
  • Steven Adams
  • Terrence Jones
  • Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  • Trey Burke
  • Victor Oladipo

Teams will be drafted Thursday, Feb. 6 on TNT, though it hasn’t been announced who will be the general managers this year.

Pistons-Hawks game postponed

Tonight’s Pistons-Hawks game has been postponed due to the winter storm in Atlanta. The Pistons couldn’t fly into Atlanta, and there are dangerous road conditions in the area.

There’s no word on when the game will be made up, but both teams are off tomorrow. However, that would mean the Hawks play three straight days. When the NBA rescheduled the Spurs-Timberwolves game, the league didn’t make either team play a back-to-back-to-back. That leaves three possible makeup dates:

  • Feb. 28
  • April 7
  • April 8

Phillips Arena looks clear all three days, so each seems viable.

Woohoo! The Pistons get a convincing win, albeit against a really bad team. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

Orlando Magic 87 FinalRecap | Box Score 103 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +2Monroe rebounded well, particularly offensively, but he could never make anything happen on those offensive boards. And the shots he did make were not really attempts he should be going for, including a long jumper (which at least he took without hesitation) and a shot down low that he put up after about 500 head fakes.

Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +17Smith was taking terrible, terrible, typical Josh Smith shots. But he was making them, so credit where it’s due. And he had one of his best perimeter defensive performances of the season. Also, his fast break block was sick.Funniest moment of the night: when Smith tried to be the Piston to take a technical free throw. Jennings saw him going there and sprinted to get to the line first.

Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 33 MIN | 5-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 17 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +19Drummond was a beast. You see his 17 boards and 2 blocks. What you don’t see are how many attempts he altered. Nor the fact that every time he didn’t crash the offensive glass, he was hustling back on defense hard. He was almost back to the paint by the time Monroe corralled an offensive board for Detroit.

Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 7-19 FG | 4-7 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +22Jennings was a tale of two halves. He was brutal in the first, but hit some really big buckets in the second. I average that out to a mediocre game.The most damning part of his performance wasn’t the inefficient scoring. It was the noteworthy drop off in defense when he played as opposed to Bynum. I don’t expect strong D from Jennings, but you don’t want to be the guy who looks way worse on that end than Will.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +4Why did KCP play so few minutes? He wasn’t incredible, but he was better than 19 minutes. Not much to analyze here.

Tony Mitchell, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9Mitchell made the most of his minimal floor time.

Josh Harrellson, PF Shot Chart 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -1Harrellson contributed to the Pistons domination of the glass (dropping Orlando to 0-23 when outrebounded), but apart from that, he was awful. He spent too much time near the basket (when he’s on the floor presumably to space it), he missed shots, he turned the ball over 3 times in spite of the fact that he hardly ever touched it, and he got repeatedly burned on D, forcing him to foul.

Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -8Jerebko was lackluster. I can’t blame him as the game was over when he entered, but that’s not how you get more minutes.

Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +20It is so much fun to watch Singler crash the offensive glass. He picks his spots, but makes the most of them. Other than that, it was pretty much a typical game for Kyle, but he hit his shots at a slightly better rate than normal.

Luigi Datome, SF 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -7Ok, I’m drawing the line here. There just wasn’t enough to analyze.
Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +5Bynum’s stat line doesn’t look very good, but he came in and changed the tempo of the game. He got Detroit’s lead started and then it continued to balloon after he sat (is that a plus or a minus for him?). Mostly, I was really impressed by his defense, forcing Nelson into a 24 second violation and then blocking a layup after it looked like Nelson had everyone beat.

Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +16Typical numbers, typical game from Stuckey. It was hilarious to hear the commentator talking about the right corner being Stuckey’s sweet spot after he hit a shot from there. “He’s now 7-12 from there on the season”. Really, he shoots from there once every four games and that’s his spot?

Maurice Cheeks
I’m not quite sure what was up with Cheeks. He was in the stands, not on the bench. I don’t know if he showed up late or just decided to try deferring responsibility to his assistants, but it worked. Clearly, less Cheeks, is Mo. Let’s hope he continues to take himself out of the picture moving forward.