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3-on-3: Looking back on the Detroit Pistons in 2013

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. Who has been the most important Pistons’ player in 2013?

Dan Feldman: Josh Smith. It should have been Andre Drummond, but the Pistons, even after Jan. 1, didn’t play him enough last season, and they haven’t devoted themselves to rebuilding around him since. Smith is the team’s highest-paid player and quite possibly difficult to move at the moment. Smith forces the Pistons’ hand in terms of direction, including how to handle Greg Monroe.

Tim Thielke: Definitely Drummond. He so vastly exceeded initial expectations and continues to be so good that he arouses consternation in many fans about Monroe and Smith, otherwise very good players. And of course, his continued development remains the Pistons’ best shot at getting the superstar that they probably need to contend again.

Brady Fredericksen: Monroe. The guys been pretty much the only consistent over the past year, he’s a rock. He’s struggled at times, but more often than not he’s thrived — albeit quietly. For a guy who has gone from underrated to overrated over the past year — while doing so at a brisk 22 years old — he’s still played pretty well. There’s a chance he will be the most important Pistons’ player in 2014, too, due to his impending free agency and all of the future ramifications that will bring.

2. What has been the lowest moment for the Pistons in 2013?

Dan Feldman: Every game Jason Maxiell started over Drummond. The Pistons were bad in 2013. Drummond was not, and to boot, he was young. Lawrence Frank ruined many opportunities for fans to be excited about this team in the present and for Drummond to develop and better the team even more substantially in the long run.

Tim Thielke: So many to choose from: not getting to see what Monroe and Drummond could do together last season, hiring Cheeks, pushing themselves just out of the range of the best prospects in the draft, this run of losing five of six to make the playoffs look like they’re not a given even in such a down year with the influx of talent they got. But no, the low point definitely has to be when, yet again, one of the top prospects in the draft, at a position of severe need, fell into the Pistons’ lap and Dumars decided to grab the sort of player who can be had in free agency any year. Because that set the Pistons back a potential star–which is what the team really needed.

Brady Fredericksen: Drummond’s back injury last season. Right before the Pistons pulled the trigger on the Jose Calderon deal, Drummond went down with a back injury and was lost for most of the second half of the season. Making matters worse was that it finally appeared Larry Frank was taking off the reigns a little and giving him some leeway. The idea of Drummond with a really good pick-n-roll guard like Calderon still is appealing, but it never came to be, and once Drummond went down the Pistons went from just plain bad to horrendous.

3. What was the best memory for the Pistons in 2013?

Dan Feldman: Charlotte Bobcats draft Cody Zeller and Phoenix Suns draft Alex Len back-to-back at No. 4 and No. 5. That guaranteed the Pistons could draft one of Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore or Trey Burke at No. 9. The joy, obviously, was short-lived — even if it works out in the long run.

Tim Thielke: Not nearly so many choices on this one. I’d say the hope that came after landing Smith and Jennings. I, like many, was skeptical of how it would all come together. But at least there was talent on the roster. So there was a chance, as there still is, of the team figuring out how to fit it together.

Brady Fredericksen: Anything Drummond, really. It’s tough to watch a team struggle as un-appealingly as the Pistons did last year, but Drummond was the first really exciting player the franchise had had in a number of years. We’ve been able to see this teenage manchild grow from, “he’s definitely a bust,” to, “he’s pretty decent, I guess,” to, “holy crap, he’s really, really good,” over just one short year (and a half). Now, he’s just 20 years old, and there’s soon to be more of those moments — hopefully continuing to get better and better, too.


  • Jan 1, 201410:58 am
    by Jacob


    I got one. Worst things Pistons did in 2013. Not Drafting Trey Burke. Signing Josh Smith. Trading Middleton and Knight for Jennings. Not firing Joe Dumars. Hiring Mo Cheeks. Losing 5 of their last 6. Alright bring on 2014.

    • Jan 1, 20145:39 pm
      by Brandon Knight


      Brandon Knight — Brandon Knight 
      Brandon Knight started very slow this year but he has been playing  great lately. He is averaging 18.5 points 5 assists and 5 rebounds in December. I like Jennings but I hated the trade. If from the beginning Dumars wanted to get Jennings why didn’t he draft Burke and send him with Middleton to the Bucks for Jennings??? Why did he gamble on KCP? We could have kept Knight as our shooting guard!  KCP literally sucks. He has no offensive game, other than shooting the ball from long distance. Did you guys notice all the misses for KCP on the fast break? Jeez this guy can’t get the ball to go in. 
      Brandon Knight scored 37 points yesterday check out the highlights.

      • Jan 1, 20146:25 pm
        by jacob


        Trey Burke has also been playing well.

      • Jan 1, 20147:20 pm
        by oats


        Burke is a lot better than Knight. There is actually room to argue that he is already better than Jennings, and he will likely be better than Jennings in the long run. It would make a lot more sense to draft Burke and not trade for Jennings at all, and that way the Pistons would also still have Middleton.
        As for KCP versus Knight, it’s obvious that Knight is the better player right now. Yet Knight is basically the same player now that he was as a rookie but with a higher usage rate, and he’s 2 years older than Pope. Plus Pope is the better defender. I’d expect Knight and Pope to end up as relatively similar in terms of their production when it’s all said and done. Pope has farther to go to get there, but the fact that Knight is progressing so slowly leaves the door open for Pope to catch him. Give it 3 years, then we’ll have a better idea of of how those two actually stack up.

        • Jan 1, 20147:45 pm
          by Brandon Knight


          Ummm no Trey Burke is not better than Knight or Jennings! Right Now tho… Idk about later! We will have to wait and see. Also KCP will never be a good offensive player…simply because he doesn’t possess the offensive skill. Other than shooting, he can’t do anything else TBH.
          Let me as you this question: Which backcourt combination would you rather have? :
          1- Jennings and Knight
          2- Burke and Knight
          3- Jennings and KCP
          4- Knight and KCP
          Jennings and Knight is the best combination out of all these.

          • Jan 1, 20148:43 pm
            by Jacob

            Until KCP can dribble and attack the basket, he will be very limited offensively. Every time he gets the ball he either passes or shoots. It’s like he is scared to dribble. So this hurts Detroit. In the NBA you need two guards that can handle the ball.

          • Jan 1, 20148:54 pm
            by oats

            You are wrong. Burke’s clearly better than Knight. Knight gets an extra 1.2 points and 1 extra rebound a game. Burke gets .7 more assists and .9 fewer turnovers. That gives Knight a pretty bleh 1.65 assists per turnover compared to Burke’s very good 2.8 assists per turnover. That’s a huge difference. Knight is better as a defender, and that narrows the gap some. It’s just not enough. Burke is legitimately a starting caliber PG. Knight is a 6th man that could be the worst starter for a decent team.
            For Jennings it is a bit closer. First of all, keep in mind that Jennings plays a lot more minutes than Burke. Jennings scores .8 more points and has 2.1 more assists per 36 minutes, but he also has 1.1 more turnovers. Jennings has a solid 2.4 assists per turnover. Jennings also has an advantage in steals. That said, neither of them are actually quality defenders. MySynergySports.com has Burke giving up fewer points per possession though, and that matches my personal eye test. Burke’s still a bad defender, but Jennings gambles way too much and is much more likely to be out of position. The argument for Burke is based on ball security and being a slightly better defender. I would still take Jennings right now due to his higher assist total, but it’s pretty close.
            To answer your last question, do you mean solely for this year? For this year and this year only the answer is Jennings and Knight. Going forward from here the answer is clearly Burke and Knight. The difference between Burke and Jennings right now is pretty small, and Burke is 3 years younger than Jennings. That means that Burke will likely be the better player in a few years. Not only that, he’s way cheaper and leaves the team a lot more flexibility to make moves than Jennings. On top of that, his contract is a year longer and after it he becomes a restricted free agent. Burke is practically locked up for 7 years after this year while Jennings is locked up for the next 2. That’s an incredibly easy decision. Burke and Knight is the best long term combination by a wide margin because Burke is the best long term player by a wide margin.

          • Jan 1, 20149:05 pm
            by oats

            @ Jacob. That depends on what you mean by 2 guards that can handle the ball. You don’t need the off guard to handle it like a combo guard. The Spurs start Danny Green who is awfully limited with the ball, and really not all that much better than KCP. The Spurs also have on of the best offenses in the NBA, so the need for the starting SG to be able to attack the basket isn’t all that great. He could be a useful offensive player if his 3 point shot just starts falling. Then again, Danny Green is also an awfully limited offensive player and Mo Cheeks is definitely not Greg Popovich.

          • Jan 1, 20149:18 pm
            by jacob

            I guess. It just annoys me he never tries. It seems like every time he gets the ball and isn’t open or is to far away from the basket, he only looks to pass.

          • Jan 1, 20149:43 pm
            by oats

            Yeah, I’ll agree that it is one of the areas he needs to focus on in his development. As quick as he is he should be able to break a defense down off the dribble, but his ball handling doesn’t really allow that. Yet he could be a useful offensive player if he just knocked down more shots. Having the ability to beat a guy off the dribble changes how a guy gets defended, so learning to do that might even help him hit a few more of those looks. Ball handling drills and just shooting a ton are the two things I want him doing when the off season comes around.

          • Jan 1, 201410:42 pm
            by Brandon Knight

            @oats To be fair, If you we are going to compare their stats we should only look at the month of December. In November both were injured; they played few games but they didn’t play full minutes. Check the game log you will know what I mean.
            So based on the month of December you are wrong. Knight is the better player…But close
            Knight: 18.5 pts 4.6 ast  5.3 reb 1.1 stl  2.4 turnovers 41% FG 
            Burke: 14.8 pts 5.9 asts 3.1 reb 0.6 stl 1.9 turnovers 41% FG
            BTW both played exactly 32.7 minutes. There is no difference in minutes at all. 
            So looking at these averages Brandon Knight is the better player. 

          • Jan 2, 201412:02 am
            by Max

            @Brandon Knight  To be fair, and maybe this is just my opinion, the December numbers clearly show that Burke is the better player for one simple reason–assists.   4.6 assists in 32.7 minutes is just unacceptable from a starting point guard unless there is someone else in the starting lineup like LeBron James who makes up for an nontraditional lineup by averaging more assists than the point guard.   Burke’s 5.9 is not a lot more assists but it still falls into the acceptable range for starting point guards so what you have is an acceptable line for a PG versus a PG line that suggests the player should be playing a different position or come off the bench.   By all indications so far, Knight is simply not a starting caliber point guard because he does too little as a playmaker.  
            A point guard who averages 4.6 rebounds in 32.7 minutes is very roughly the equivalent of a center who averages 4.6 rebounds with the same amount of minutes.   Except in very rare cases, such a lack of production is unsustainable for a decent team and the lack of production means the player needs to be replaced.  It would seem that Knight needs to be replaced in Milwaukee as the starting PG if they are ever going to be good unless Knight improves significantly.   Burke’s production on the other hand is in line with other schemes that have proved successful in the past and since he is a rookie, his production is most encouraging.   Therefore, I have no problem stating that Burke has already proven he is better than Knight–at least if the question is restricted to who the better starting point guard is. 

          • Jan 2, 20141:03 am
            by oats

            @ BK. I agree with Max here. Look at some key stats. Assists are a big advantage to Burke, as are turnovers. That leaves Knight with unusually good for him total of 1.9 assists per turnover, but Burke is at an unusually good for any PG total of 3.1 assists per turnover. Once again, the difference there is huge. Burke is an efficient but relatively low volume passer, who adds average scoring on average shooting efficiency. Knight is an inefficient and low volume passer, who adds some volume scoring on average shooting efficiency and solid defense. Since they are PGs, the answer is that Burke is the better player. A PG’s primary job is to run the offense, and Knight is just not that good at that.
            That’s all if we assume that it makes sense to only look at December. I mean, we’ve seen an awful lot of Brandon Knight before and this isn’t his first strong month. He’s come down in the past, and his season averages are perfectly in line with what he was doing in Detroit. I will agree it’s his best month to date, and a sign that maybe things are looking up for him. I’m just not ready to say this is more than just a hot few games for a player that we should all know is pretty streaky. If he has a couple months playing this well then I’ll gladly reassess him, but as of now he looks like he is basically the same guy we were watching in Detroit.

          • Jan 2, 20145:21 am
            by Brandon Knight

            @oats @max I agree that Burke is the better point guard, but overall, Brandon Knight is the better player – he is ”more valuable” to a team than Burke. I am saying right now, not in the future! 
            He has an edge in points, rebounds, steals and defense.
            BTW you guys focus too much on the turnover ratio, I know it is a major a statistical measure for point guards but it is not everything. 

          • Jan 2, 20145:22 am
            by Brandon Knight

            I meant the assist to turnover ratio!

          • Jan 2, 201410:23 am
            by Huddy

            They are focusing on AST/TO ratio because it is a major differentiation between the two.  They are close in more categories and it is more important to be efficient than it is to overvalue 3 ppg or 2 rpg from a PG.  Knights defensive edge is  only really against opposing PGs because he doesn’t have a size advantage with SGs.  Burke is the better PG, which is a more important position, and some of the areas that Knight has an advantage in are diminished at SG so what about him makes him more valuable?  
            It makes little sense to ignore the fact that Knights numbers are after 2 years in the league and that Burke has upside.  When you question what backcourt combination people would like a smart fan will factor in upside because Jennings/Knight aren’t brining a championship this year anyway.  I prefer Burke at PG because he is on a rookie and is already at least comparable and it’s his first couple of months playing pro ball.  If your point is that knight looks better in December 2013 ONLY then you are arguing a pretty useless point.

          • Jan 2, 201411:04 am
            by Kevin S.

            Knight had spurts of decent basketball last year as well. Nonetheless, he has consistently hovered around 51% TS, which is completely unacceptable for a shooting guard. 

      • Jan 2, 201410:58 am
        by Tim Thielke


        I’d way rather have KCP than Knight.  He’s a significantly better defender, a slightly inferior shooter, has more room left to grow, and has two extra years of rookie scale.

        • Jan 2, 20145:44 pm
          by Brandon Knight


          @Tim KCP is going nowhere!! Sorry but I just don’t see him evolving with his limited offensive skills. He can’t drible, he can’t drive, he can’t post, he can’t pass and he can’t finish. BTW shooting is considered his biggest strength but he is not shooting the ball well either. 

          • Jan 2, 20147:56 pm
            by Tim Thielke

            Defense is considered his biggest strength.

            We don’t know how much KCP will grow. It’s clear, though, that he is way less valuable than Burke, but more valuable than Knight.

  • Jan 1, 201412:04 pm
    by seenable


    Looks like Dan woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

  • Jan 1, 20141:01 pm
    by Otis


    Happy new year to, oh let’s say 60% of you.

  • Jan 1, 20141:18 pm
    by ZekeKhaseli


    Happy new year pistons fan. I wonder what Joe Dumar’s resolutions are?

    • Jan 1, 20141:39 pm
      by Jacob


      Lose weight. Keep the Pistons below .500. haha

  • Jan 1, 20142:43 pm
    by D_S_V


    “The idea of Drummond with a really good pick-n-roll guard like Calderon still is appealing, but it never came to be”
    This was one of my personal biggest disappointments about how the offseason went. Because of the mismatch of talent on the team now, the Drummond PnR is a rare occurrence. There’s no reason Drummond couldn’t be more effective than Tyson Chandler in this area. The Drummond high screen with wing shooters could’ve been the bread and butter of the 4th quarter.
    Instead it’s Smennings PnR. Happy 2014!

  • Jan 1, 20144:40 pm
    by frankie d


    The bigs are so used to jennings ignoring the dive man they are often not rolling to the basket.  It is ridiculous.

  • Jan 1, 20147:08 pm
    by anacaniwelk


    1. Best moment was not drafting Tiny Burke (aka poor man’s Brandon Knight). Tiny Burke can’t defend his own shadow and makes Stuckey look like Steve Nash at point guard. I was meh on the KCP pick but KCP all day every day over Tiny Burke.
    2. Trading for Brandon Jennings.  Pistons offense is scoring so much more.  If Knight or Burke were running the point Drummond would be scoring 6 points a game and the Pistons would be averaging 92ppg.
    3. Andre Drummond getting exposed defensively. Andre Drummond being completely useless offensively when Brandon Jennings isn’t on the court. Drummond will be a “project” 10 years from now.

  • Jan 1, 20148:21 pm
    by jacob


    Ya we should probably trade Drummond.

  • Jan 1, 20148:42 pm
    by grizz3741


    As of now …
    Jennings PER 17.2 DRtg 110
    Knight PER 15.8 DRtg 108
    Burke PER 15.3 DRtg 113
    KCP PER 8.5 DRtg 110

    • Jan 1, 20148:48 pm
      by Jacob


      Jennings is ok. It just sucked that we couldn’t have just signed him. The Bucks didn’t want him.

    • Jan 1, 20149:38 pm
      by oats


      I have to be honest, I don’t really like those stats that much. PER is a terribly flawed stat. It sets the threshold for shooting efficiency really low, so even really bad shooters have their PER go up if they just shoot more. That makes it a pretty bad stat.
      DRtg on individual players is also problematic. It basically just looks for stops and uses that to adjust team DRtg to individual players. Yet there is a lot to defense that doesn’t show up in a stat sheet, and it’s really tough to determine who is most responsible for what on a given play. I think with Jennings it is giving him a bit too much credit for his reasonably high steals total. I also think it has a tendency to reward guys too much for being on a good defensive team and be overly punishing for being on a bad defensive team. Boozer is generally thought of as a weak defender among scouts, but his worst D rating in Chicago is 100 and his best is 95. That would suggest that he’s been a great defensive player, when really he’s just playing on a great defensive team.

      • Jan 2, 20149:28 am
        by Dan Feldman


        “DRtg on individual players is also problematic. It basically just looks for stops and uses that to adjust team DRtg to individual players. Yet there is a lot to defense that doesn’t show up in a stat sheet, and it’s really tough to determine who is most responsible for what on a given play. I think with Jennings it is giving him a bit too much credit for his reasonably high steals total. I also think it has a tendency to reward guys too much for being on a good defensive team and be overly punishing for being on a bad defensive team. Boozer is generally thought of as a weak defender among scouts, but his worst D rating in Chicago is 100 and his best is 95. That would suggest that he’s been a great defensive player, when really he’s just playing on a great defensive team.”

        Totally agree. I rarely use individual defensive rating (Basketball-Reference version), but nearly never to compare players on different teams. I will sometimes use it to compare players on the same team.

  • Jan 1, 20148:43 pm
    by AYC


    Lol at people who gripe about Brandon Jennings defense and then clamor for Trey Burke or Jose Calderon. 

    • Jan 1, 20149:10 pm
      by oats


      So you can’t complain about a guy being a bad defender if you’d rather the team have a higher upside player who is a similarly bad defender? Jennings gives up more points per possession than Burke according to the camera tracking data used by Synergy Sports. That data isn’t fool proof, but that fact does substantiate the idea that Jennings is a pretty terrible defender.

    • Jan 2, 201411:03 am
      by Tim Thielke


      I’d take a poor defender with superstar potential over a poor defender with fringe all-star potential.

      But Jennings/Burke comparisons are irrelevant anyway. Jennings/Knight/Middleton comparisons are relevant, as are Burke/KCP comparisons.

      • Jan 2, 20141:09 pm
        by Huddy


        Mixing conversations of those two groups of players isnt irrelevant because even though they were separate transactions they effect each other.  If Burke was selected then keeping Knight/Middleton and not getting Jennings becomes a new conversation.  Essentially if the team had solved its PG problem in the draft then Making a trade for Jennings becomes unnecessary…how is that irrelevant?  You could say that Dumars wasn’t aware of the trade possibility during the draft, but IMO if he thought Jennings style of play was a good enough fit for the contract and loss of 2 young players it’s tough for him to defend how he didn’t think Burke would be.  Obviously he felt there was a hole at PG either way so his talk of what fit loses credibility with that trade.
         Joe used a valuable pick because he wanted a SG with size and defense regardless of star potential and he reached to fill the star potential with Jennings regardless of his documented problems.  Seems obvious that it would be easier to find size and defense via trade or free agency and that you would rather take a chance on a younger player that projects to have similar defensive problems to Jennings without the problem efficiency issues.

  • Jan 1, 20148:59 pm
    by rascal


    the best memory of the pistons last 2013!! is when de andrei jordan dunked over brandon knight!!! thats the best reason why kinght traded to the bucks!!!

  • Jan 2, 201412:30 am
    by Max


    Best Pistons memory of 2013 was also kind of the worst memory.  Remember when Josh Smith hit a three pointer during the preseason to win the game and the team plus Tom Gores ran onto the floor like they’d just won the championship?   I had such a mix of reactions to this but I did ultimately enjoy it and feel hopeful for a little while.  

    • Jan 2, 201412:31 am
      by Max


      Actually forget what I said about worst memory since that was clearly passing on Trey Burke.   Obviously there are other candidates but to my mind that was the worst thing Dumars has ever done as GM. 

      • Jan 2, 201410:05 am
        by Huddy


        Have to agree.  The team would have had a PG with more upside on a rookie contract and kept Knight to play D and spot up (possibly helping his efficiency by relieving some of the pressure on him by not being the primary ball handler).  That additional money saved by not paying Jennings could be used to strengthen the bench, acquire a high dollar player in the off season, or at least make the team more flexible for mid season trades.  Not signing Jennings is one of the biggest factors really because even of KCP eventually is around as good as Burke the additional cap space makes the decision even easier.  i don’t understand how Joe justified the draft pick with fit When he made a move to acquire a similar style PG in the off season anyway.  BPA would have been the right choice plus the team would have Middleton/Knight and could easily have added what KCP provides with that combo or by signing someone like Dorell Wright.  He probably would have even strengthened his job security becauase homers would love to root for Burke making a run at ROTY.

  • Jan 2, 20141:39 am
    by oats


    1) Most important Piston of 2013? Drummond. He makes the team watchable, he’s the best player, and he’s the key to the team’s future. He is also a key part of my answer for the third question.
    2) The lowest moment of 2013? With the 8th pick of the draft the Detroit Pistons select Kentavious Caldwell Pope. We kept hearing they were going PG. I was not sold on MCW, but I bought into Burke. It turns out that MCW might be a little bit better, but the two of them were clearly the two best players available at that pick. I still think it’s awfully hard to have projected MCW to be this much better as a rookie than he was as a college player, but no hindsight is necessary for Burke. I actually really like Pope as a player because I really like his defense, and it’s still way too early to declare that decision a total mistake. Still, I got really excited when Noel, McLemore, and Burke were all on the board at pick 6. I was even more excited when the injured guy that might not fit came off the board so it would be easy to take one of McLemore or Burke. McLemore goes off the board and I’m certain that Burke is going to be a Piston. Then the pick comes, and it isn’t Burke. Yeah, that was disappointing.
    3) Best memory of 2013? When I found myself rooting for the Pistons to win and I realized just how much I missed that. I always hated it, but the last few years I’ve wanted the Pistons to tank their way to better talent since they weren’t going to be good no matter what they did. After every win there was that feeling of disappointment. Tanking is not really an option any more. They are too talented to be really bad, and it’s not all that necessary anyways. They have a potential top tier talent in Drummond, a few other talented players, and the flexibility to make some moves outside of the draft. The team doesn’t have to just be bad, they can actually get better while trying to be competitive. That means I don’t have to regret wins any more, and I am enjoying that.

    • Jan 2, 20143:47 am
      by gtg2013


      “Still, I got really excited when Noel, McLemore, and Burke were all on the board at pick 6. I was even more excited when the injured guy that might not fit came off the board so it would be easy to take one of McLemore or Burke. McLemore goes off the board and I’m certain that Burke is going to be a Piston. Then the pick comes, and it isn’t Burke.”
      Tell it. Seismographs around the world jumped as Piston fans yelled “Dumars! You idiot!” simultaneously.

      • Jan 2, 20147:45 am
        by @GPMasters


        Yep the same.
        Worst bit was that Twitter was about 3 minutes ahead of the picks, I can’t remember who it was backstage (Maybe Aldridge?) that was leaking the picks out but when my timeline was full of journalists confirming it was going to be KCP after the same people had a 100% hit rate on the picks thus far, it was horrible.

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