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. Let’s just start this out with the obvious question: What the heck has gotten into Rodney Stuckey this season?
Dan Feldman: The Pistons have finally stopped asking too much from him. Stuckey is assisting and rebounding at career-worst clips, effectively focusing on scoring. He’s developed a short mid-range game that has helped him shoot a career-best 2-point percentage by giving him another option than driving out of control to the rim. After trending up the last few seasons, Stuckey’s 3-point attempts are wisely coming down. Better selection from long range has produced a career-high 3-point percentage, too.
Patrick Hayes: He’s a totally committed, consistent player who just needed the right coaching and role to thrive. Just kidding. Contract year, contract year, contract year. Stuckey has always had an incredible amount of athletic talent. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s athletic, he’s versatile enough to give competent minutes at both guard spots and he draws and absorbs and incredible amount of contact. Also, for all of his faults as a full-time point guard, he still takes pretty good care of the ball. He just doesn’t try hard all the time, and he said as much in a recent interview with Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. So, any team that wants to sign him to more than a short-term deal should be very wary of that — if he doesn’t like the coach or his role or whatever, he’s probably going to “shut down.” But a motivated Stuckey on a short, make-good deal? I’d take that skill-set on my team any time.
Brady Fredericksen: Patrick said it, but the dude wants to get paid. Contract Year Rodney Stuckey is aware of the stink that follows him around these days, and he’s always been capable of shaking it. This year he’s comfortable. Michael Curry had a very un-polished version of Stuckey, John Kuester had a very unhappy version of Stuckey and Lawrence Frank had a very perplexing version. He is what he is — a scoring guard that can give you minutes at both spots. He should come off the bench, and he should use his ability to draw contact at the rim. He wants to cash in this summer and he’s being used right, maybe?
2. We’ve seen flashes of this kind of play throughout his career in Detroit, but what’s the one thing he’s doing this season that has kept him so consistent?
Dan Feldman: I reject the premise of the question. If this holds up, it would be Stuckey’s best season, but it’s been just 18 games. Even now that he’s focused more on scoring than he ever has previously, Stuckey has two other independent higher-scoring 18-game stretches: late in the 2011-12 season and December 2009. If there’s any reason to hope Stuckey keeps it up this time, it’s Maurice Cheeks. Stuckey is finally playing for a coach that likes him. That doesn’t excuse Stuckey for his troubles with previous coaches — a lot of that was on him — but as a moody player, Stuckey has definitely benefited from Cheeks’ confidence in him, and that seems like it will remain all season.
Patrick Hayes: A couple of things. First, Stuckey has had a sneaky good post game for a guard for a while now, he just hasn’t always used it — whether that’s his own fault or the fault of coaches for putting him in bad situations is up for debate (though Stuckey clearly feels it was coaches using him incorrectly). It’s probably a bit of both in reality. Stuckey has been used in head scratching roles by the past three Pistons coaches, but he’s also been content to settle for jumpers too often or barrel into the lane with reckless abandon in search of contact. This season, he’s more under control and he’s using great post moves and craftiness around the basket to get better shots for himself. Secondly, he’s hitting his mid-range shots better than he ever has. In fact, he’s also hitting the three at a decent 35 percent clip, although I’m not sold he’ll sustain that number all season — bad long range shooters don’t miraculously turn into good ones over night, so we’ll see where he’s at when the season ends. In short, he’s looking for his shot more but is also more selective about good shots vs. bad ones, he’s playing more against reserves and he’s, by his own admission, playing harder. Those three things have combined to, finally, make him a pretty valuable player.
Brady Fredericksen: Money aside, I think he’s excited to be playing for something. The last three seasons have been draining to watch as a fan, imagine how it is to be one of those players? There’s something to earn, something to play for and a sign of positivity within the organization — that’s going to get any player going. He doesn’t have to try to be a “star” anymore; it’s apparent he’s not, so just go do what you do and help the team win. The last time we saw a Stuckey who was fully engaged, coincidentally, was 2009-10 when the Pistons were last in a playoff race.
3. Reports have already said the Pistons won’t be trading him this season — so, does it make sense to keep him around with the team pushing for the playoffs?
Dan Feldman: Probably. As we saw with the Josh Smith signing and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope draft choice, the Pistons have prioritized — I’d say over-prioritized — making the 2014 playoffs at the expense of their long-term upside. Part of Stuckey’s league-wide appeal is his expiring contract, but unless the Pistons take a worse contract of a better player in return, using Stuckey’s contract in a trade won’t help this season if the return is a worse player on a multi-year contract and draft sweetener. For a team desperate to make the playoffs, the Pistons can get value from Stuckey from using him the rest of this season, regardless of what happens in the offseason.
Patrick Hayes: Other than Andre Drummond, it doesn’t make sense for the Pistons to oppose trading anyone. That doesn’t mean they should make a lopsided deal or one that improves the team in the short-term at the expense of the long-term, but the team is also simply not good enough to keep anyone other than Drummond off the table. Stuckey is valuable when he’s playing at this level, particularly to a team that is weak in the backcourt as this one is. But he could also help any number of guard-needy teams. I would prefer the Pistons trade him rather than sign him long-term provided they can get good value for him, but he’s also made himself an asset again, so I don’t think there’s any pressure to trade him just because the risk of losing him as a free agent looms.
Brady Fredericksen: If playoffs are the goal, keep him. There’s value in his expiring contract ($8.5 million), and there’s value in a guy who is playing well and has an expiring contract. I’ve always noted that just Stuckey isn’t enough to bring anything back. If the Pistons were to make a legitimate trade, it would probably include Charlie Villanueva ($8.5 million) expiring deal, too. Those are the most valuable trade chips the Pistons have — especially in a year where so many teams want to bottom out. But, if it comes down to keeping Stuckey all season and also making the playoffs, go for it. Just don’t be the team to pay him this summer, too.
I have no doubt that Drummond is a future All-Star. He posted 4.5 win shares last season, at age 19, and a large majority of players who even neared that level as a teenager eventually became All-Stars.
Of the 15 players with more than three win shares in a season as a teenager, 11 became All-Stars: Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett. Anthony Davis will make that number 12 this season.
Thaddeus Young still has a chance to make an All-Star Game, but that seems extremely unlikely now. Cliff Robinson (not to be confused with the former Piston who went by Clifford and mad the 1994 All-Star Game) never made one.
That leaves Drummond.
With all due respect to Roy Hibbert, Al Horford and Chris Bosh, Drummond is the Eastern Conference’s best center right now. Those three could catch Drummond, maybe even before the All-Star break, but Drummond leads right now with his powerful effectiveness that produces 13.5 points on a league-best 64.6% shooting, 12.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
Unfortunately, being the best — or even most popular — center in the conference doesn’t guarantee an All-Star berth anymore.
Last season, the NBA switched from starting one center and two forwards to starting three frontcourt players, giving Drummond more competition in the fan vote for starters.
LeBron James is a lock to get one of those spots, and Carmelo Anthony — who has started the last four years and nearly topped LeBron in voting last season — is a safe bet despite a down year.
The third spot is up for grabs, though.
Drummond repeatedly has made the NBA establishment regret sleeping on him. It’s time he stops getting overlooked and gets an All-Star nod this season.
The ball is in Drummond’s court to ensure that the voters, whether they’re fans or coaches, don’t drop it.
Rob Mahoney of Point Forward wrote an awesome article on the Pistons that is definitely worth a read, but this part especially caught my eye:
Detroit’s starting five was eaten alive on the perimeter in the first few weeks of the season. Over the last 10 games, though, the Pistons seem to have caught a rhythm. The clear point of demarcation was an injury-induced change to the starting five. With Chauncey Billups sidelined by tendinitis in his left knee, wiry rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has assumed a spot in the starting backcourt.
That shift, among others, has made a fairly dramatic defensive difference. Despite not logging a single minute with the other starters during the first seven games of the season, Caldwell-Pope stepped in to provide more pressure and athleticism on the perimeter. Billups, 37, still has a reputation as a strong defender, but he shows his age when chasing opponents around screens and was a burden on Detroit’s pick-and-roll coverage. It wasn’t all his fault; Monroe and Drummond are frustratingly terrible at guarding the pick-and-roll without impeding the movement of the ball handler, which made Billups’ job that much more difficult. The Pistons attempted to compromise by having Billups (and many of their other guards) go under screens, though that only afforded opposing guards a safe pocket from which to pull up and shoot.
The entire arrangement was a mess, on top of Detroit’s more generally sloppy coverage through a tough patch of schedule. Billups’ tendinitis, though, forced Cheeks to insert a quicker, longer player into the starting lineup to contend with opposing guards.
The Pistons’ defensive rotations really aren’t that much cleaner than they were at the beginning of the season, but Detroit has managed to ramp up its effectiveness by chasing shooters off the three-point line, jumping passing lanes and pressuring ball handlers. It’s amazing how much length and size alone can do under those circumstances. By attacking the ball handler and forcing him to make a decision under duress, Detroit’s bigs are in a position to deflect or intercept passes.
In the 10 games since the Pistons switched lineups and began dialing up the pressure on the perimeter, Drummond, Smith and Monroe have averaged a combined 5.5 steals per game. Detroit has cuffed its opponents by creating turnovers: Of the 25 lineups that have played 100 minutes or more this season, Detroit’s new starting unit ranks third in points allowed per possession. With that group turning opponents over on 31.2 percent of their possessions, avoiding fouls at a remarkable rate and locking down the defensive glass to avoid giving away extra scoring opportunities, the Pistons have seemingly found a way to survive their own over-helping and inconsistent rotations. They’ve leaned into the gambling tendencies of players like Smith and Jennings, in a sense, and had enough success in doing so to both undercut opponents and fuel their own fast breaks.
After bottoming out as the NBA’s worst defensive team, the Pistons have climbed to 20th in defensive rating. At this point in the season, the early failures still weigh heavily on that stat. So the recent improve has been extreme to compensate, and Caldwell-Pope has been at the heart of it.
Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are basically locks to get major minutes. The fifth player to join them has mostly been Billups, Caldwell-Pope or Rodney Stuckey. And as Mahoney said, that lineup with Caldwell-Pope has been among the league’s best defensive units.
Here’s how the Pistons have defended with each Caldwell-Pope, Stuckey and Billups joining the big four. Column widths are scaled to minutes the lineup has spent together, because at this point in the season, we’re still dealing with sample-size issues.
Just to reiterate, the gap between Billups (and to a lesser degree Stuckey) and Caldwell-Pope is amazing. Not only do the Pistons’ big four defend better with Caldwell-Pope rather than Billups or Stuckey as their fifth wheel, they’re better by every major measure. They force more misses and turnovers, yield fewer free-throw attempts and grab a higher percentage of available rebounds.
But why do the Pistons defend so much better with Caldwell-Pope joining that lineup rather than Stuckey, who’s defended fairly well this year?
There are few things at play:
1. Stuckey played more early in the season, when the Pistons were still working out team-wide kinks in their defense and playing a tougher schedule. This unfairly weighs down his defensive numbers in ways that don’t apply to the rookie, who was buried on the bench early. Since Caldwell-Pope entered the rotation, the Pistons defensive rating with the big four and Stuckey is a more respectable 104.9.
2. Caldwell-Pope is probably just a better defender than even an engaged Stuckey, which he is this season in a contract year. The MySynergySports numbers – Caldwell-Pope ranks 85th in points allowed per play to Stuckey’s 123rd – bear this out, and anecdotally, Caldwell-Pope just appears to stick tighter with his man.
3. This one is most important: Caldwell-Pope is a much better off-ball defender than Stuckey. Stuckey is solid on the ball, but he can definitely lose track of his man off it. With Smith, Monroe and Drummond in the frontcourt, the Pistons are short on speed to cover the entire halfcourt area. So, a single defensive liability in the lineup makes a massive difference. Most teams can rotate to cover for a weak spot, but the Pistons are too slow to do that. So, Caldwell-Pope’s ability to stick to his man off the ball has been particularly key.
Maurice Cheeks was handed the tough task of making a lineup featuring Jennings, Smith, Monroe and Drummond work. Before the season, it appeared offense would be the biggest issue, but it quickly became clear the unit was more flawed defensively.
Billups’ injury certainly served as a catalyst for the fix, but inserting Caldwell-Pope into the starting lineup was merely one option of several. Credit Cheeks for choosing the right one and getting the Pistons’ most-used lineup trending in the right direction defensively.
Yes, that’s three straight road wins for Detroit.
The Pistons also have won three consecutive road games for the first time in more than five years.
That seems like a long time. Is that a long time?
Before Wednesday night, the Pistons had gone 1,761 days without a three-game road win streak – easily the longest-such active drought in the NBA.
Days between three-game road winning streaks is obviously a contrived stat, but I think there’s some meaning here. The Pistons for too long lacked the talent and discipline to win consistently on the road, but that’s changing for the better.
There’s obviously a long way to go, but Detroit is making progress, and this is a sign of it.
Now, I look forward to when the Pistons winning three straight road games happens at least once per calendar year and isn’t cause for special attention, as is the case for a majority of NBA teams.
Andre Drummond ensures Pistons win Brandon Jennings’ return to Milwaukee, get third straight victory
|Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 6-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 17 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +9If you throw out a terrible second quarter where Monroe missed all three of his shots and grabbed just two rebounds, he piled up 16 points and 15 rebounds in three quarters. Most of those struggles came against the Bucks’ big lineup of Ekpe Udoh and John Henson, and they’re both looong and athletic — Monroe’s primary kryptonite.|
|Josh Smith, SF 42 MIN | 6-19 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +8Smith struggled again tonight offensively, forcing up way too many long jumpers. This isn’t a recording, but that’s still a product of playing small forward and being around the perimeter. He needs to use his size as an advantage against other small forwards more. If you can’t shoot over them, muscle them a bit.|
|Andre Drummond, C 38 MIN | 8-13 FG | 8-14 FT | 19 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +17We might be seeing the start of something here with Drummond. The guy’s just so productive, and he’s so low maintenance at that. He’s grabbed 56 rebounds in his last three games. The more the Pistons feature him offensively, the better they’ve gotten — coincidence? The big man also went 8-for-14 from the line, which is an, uh, improvement.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 42 MIN | 4-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 6 TO | 17 PTS | +15Early in the game, it was Brandon Jennings vs. the City of Milwaukee. Once he got that out of his system, he looked pretty good. Chemistry is obviously building between Jennings and his teammates, specifically Drummond. That’s great, but there were also two instances of Jennings leaving his feet to pass — and legitimately having no clue where to go once he got up there — but outside of his shooting, he was productive in his return.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 28 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +7Stats won’t show it, but Caldwell-Pope was great defensively tonight. He really made life tough for OJ Mayo and Gary Neal, as well as hitting some shots (including a pair of 3-pointers) on his own.|
|Josh Harrellson, PF 3 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4Harrellson missed some bunnies in the second quarter when Milwaukee went to their zone. If the Bucks’ long, athletic defenders bothered Monroe, imagine how much they bothered Jorts?|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3Slowly, Jerebko is sneaking his way back into the rotation. As long as he does the little things out there — rebound, defend — and avoids forcing the issue on offense, he’ll stick around and get some minutes.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 21 MIN | 5-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -9Well, well, it looks like Singler found his jump shot. It was tough to watch him struggle early this year, but he did everything else he needed to do to maintain Maurice Cheeks’ trust. If he can shoot it consistently, he’s going to be very valuable to the Pistons.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4He committed a charge and otherwise just chased Luke Ridnour around. At this point, Siva just isn’t ready to play.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 25 MIN | 1-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -1It’s crazy to think that Contract Year Rodney Stuckey is capable of an off-night, but tonight he struggled. For all he lacked offensively, he played decent defense and moved the ball.|
Similar to Monroe, if you forget about the Pistons’ struggles in the second quarter, he did a pretty good job. Detroit’s defense was great in the third quarter, which is where the Pistons out-scored the Bucks 35-17. It seems like he’s making an effort to feature Drummond more on offense, which is good. It’s just he can’t find a way to keep Smith from floating around the 3-point line constantly, that’s bad. You’ve also got to give him some credit for sticking with Singler throughout his slump; it’s paid dividends the past two nights.
Tonight’s guest on PistonPowered Live is none other than PistonPowered’s very own Brady Fredericksen (@Brady_Fred). Tune in at halftime to see the show!
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (8-10) at Milwaukee Bucks (3-14)
- Date: December 4, 2013
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons started their three-game road trip with a bang. They defeated the Miami Heat on their own floor thanks in large part to a superb collective effort.
They consistently led throughout the contest by double digits and got a late scare in the game when the Heat made a run in the fourth quarter. Still, the Pistons picked apart a stifling Miami defense with exquisite passing.
Pistons players were consistently a step ahead of the Heat rotations and thus, they kept finding the open player either directly at the basket or from deep. The Heat eventually turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter and made a game of it, but Mo Cheeks’ guys eventually found their footing and won the contest by double figures.
The next leg of this small trip has Detroit making a pit stop tonight in the state of Wisconsin in what has now become the toughest game of this east voyage.
The Milwaukee Bucks own the worst record in the league and their play certainly reflects their loss total. They simply are not all that talented and their schemes fail to take advantage of the pieces on the roster.
The Pistons defeated the Bucks in late November by 19 points and probably feel as though they can reproduce such a result even on the road. Keep in mind, tonight’s contest comes on the heels of a victory over the back-to-back champs.
Hence, Detroit has every reason to be feeling themselves going into this matchup. In other words, they might be looking past this game and getting ready for their bout with the Chicago Bulls.
This could be a huge mistake given that Milwaukee could still surprise them. Granted, they have only collected three victories in 2013-14 and in addition, they have come against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, on the right night, any opponent can fall, especially if the 3-ball is in play. Tonight’s hosts sport a top-10 shooting team from downtown and the long ball often plays the role of equalizer whenever underdogs find ways to stay within striking distance of an opposing team.
The Pistons better be wary of the Bucks.
Read about the Bucks
|Greg Monroe, PF 37 MIN | 8-10 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +11
Whether working with or without the ball, Monroe consistently established shooting position deep in the paint. In fact, all 10 of his shots came in the paint. The undersized Heat did their best to swat at the ball when Monroe had it, but he showed off his improved core strength to keep them at bay. Monroe looked bad defensively, but he was often guarding perimeter players – obviously not his forte. Monroe’s defensive issues seemed mostly due to a gameplan that put him in position to fail (though maybe a gameplan that sacrificed Monroe on defense to avoid greater problems on that end).
|Josh Smith, SF 39 MIN | 7-21 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +3
Shots. So many shots. Smith made just 1-of-10 attempts beyond seven feet, a mark that is dreadful for both the volume and quality of his jumpers. Smith defended well, but his performance on that end fell short of the of the high bar that convinces coaches to look past his poor shot selection.
|Andre Drummond, C 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 18 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -2
Drummond had a few 50-50 calls go against him, and that led to him fouling out. Before that, he rebounded like crazy, especially offensively, and provided plus defense. Drummond has to be more careful about avoiding fouls. He’s too good to get trapped on the bench, even if he didn’t necessarily deserve it.
|Brandon Jennings, PG 44 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 15 PTS | +3
Jennings often over-dribbled, which resulted in most of his season-high seven turnovers. Those were problematic, but they didn’t define Jennings’ performance. He got to the rim effectively and made 2-of-4 3-pointers. He also used his quick hands to make up for otherwise-pedestrian defense, most memorably late in the fourth quarter as Detroit prevented a Miami comeback. LeBron James drove on a fastbreak, but Jennings made a quick swipe as LeBron rose to finish. Then, Jennings got the ball upcourt in a hurry for a Monroe layup.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +13
Caldwell-Pope started very aggressively, making 3-of-4 shots in the first five minutes, by cutting harder off the ball than he usually does. Then, he faded into the background.
|Josh Harrellson, PF 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +5
Harrellson didn’t really play like himself. He drove from beyond the arc right through the Miami defense, and he also attempted a mid-range jumper. On defense, he covered LeBron on the perimeter, and LeBron took a 3-pointer. All three shots missed, probably a decent tradeoff.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 10 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +4
Jerebko was very active and shot well. Offensive and defensively, I was quite pleased with him. He’s knocking on the door of getting another chance at a bigger role.
|Kyle Singler, SF 27 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +9
Singler rewarded Cheeks’ confidence by making 4-of-7 3-pointers, leading Detroit’s 7-for-16 night from beyond the arc. That brings the number of Pistons making 3s at better than the league-average clip to… one – Rodney Stuckey, a notoriously bad outside shooter who would be below average had he missed one more of his small sample of 3s. Only one current Piston has a career 3-point percentage above the current league-wide season average, and that’s Chauncey Billups, who’s both injured and past his prime. Long story short, Singler’s and Detroit’s outside shooting against Miami was impressive, but it wasn’t encouraging – and there’s a difference. That Singler, now up to 29 percent for the season, is one of the Pistons’ top 3-point shooters says more about them than him.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 33 MIN | 4-9 FG | 8-8 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 16 PTS | +4
Stuckey is not shy about attacking nearly every time he gets the ball. That led to plenty of free throws, shots near the basket and turnovers. In this game, and most games lately, those positive outcomes far outweigh the negative ones. Stuckey also got a few assists by faking a drive to create passing lanes.
I don’t think Cheeks was the catalyst for this win. The Heat had a ton of unforced turnovers and missed many open 3-pointers they’d typically make. But the Pistons did a good job of generating fastbreak opportunities (15 fastbreak points) and quality looks in semi-transition (60 points in the paint) even though Miami sacrifices offensive rebounds to get back on defense. Cheeks’ style is really beginning to take hold, and that particularly shows in games like this one, when no single player dominates.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (7-10) at Miami Heat (14-3)
- Date: December 3, 2013
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons will start a fairly small but difficult three-game road trip tonight that has them making stops in three separate states. They will take on the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in their respective venues.
The matchup against the Bucks probably does not inspire much fear, but Miami and Chicago have been Eastern Conference powerhouses since 2010-11 and as a result, Mo Cheeks’ players will have to bring their best effort.
It all starts tonight in a contest against the defending champions. Miami is flying under the radar this season because of the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers, but they are one of the most balanced teams in the entire league.
They are the proud owners of a top-10 offense and defense, a feat that is reserved for only a handful of teams (the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are the other units accomplishing this).
Offensively, they are one of the most fun teams to watch in the league. It’s easy to stop at LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but it’s also a mistake. The Heat have superstars to carry them through games but it’s not always a necessity.
Miami is quite comfortable with sharing the ball and playing as a unit until the contributions of the superstars are truly needed. They own the best offensive efficiency in the league because they give up good shots to obtain great ones.
They own the best field goal percentage in the NBA and are amongst the top-five passing teams in the Association. The Heat hunt down 3-point shots and seemingly always create an open look from long range thanks to a combination of execution and misdirection.
Indeed, they will use the same play over and over again and add a few wrinkles every now and then to continuously keep defenses off balance. For instance, they will have Ray Allen set a screen and then receive a back screen of his own to run free for an open jumper.
After using that, they might remove the back screen from the play and just have him drift out towards the perimeter with his man hugging me, which creates a perfect driving lane for the ball-handler.
Miami just always keeps the floor spread out manages to create open looks. Even when the offense takes them all the way to their fifth option on a given play, it’s usually a decent mid-range jumper.
When all the avenues have been exhausted on particular set, Erik Spoelstra simply puts the ball in the hands of LeBron and asks him to bail the team out. James is shooting 59.8 percent from the field this year and in addition, he is making 48.1 percent of his treys.
These factors make Miami a juggernaut with the ball in their hands. Keep in mind, they are just as scary on the other end of the floor.
The Heat play at two different gears defensively and it’s quite misleading. They have a relaxed and controlled level of defense where they wall off the paint and contest shots. That’s good enough to beat most teams in the NBA. That’s their cruise control gear.
When they are playing at their peak, they trap, switch and jump into passing lanes. They force turnovers and stymie opponents trying to get into their sets. Also, Miami has some big wings that can cover point guards and make their lives quite difficult.
Thus, there is a chance that Brandon Jennings will see either Wade or James at some point depending on lineups tonight. The Pistons have a tough battle ahead of them tonight, but they have some of the necessary weapons needed to counter their hosts.
Detroit lacks shooters, however they can make up for that weakness with solid passing. The Heat defenders like to get a jump on their rotations, which makes them prone to ball fakes.
The tandem of Josh Smith and Greg Monroe can definitely help on this front as pressure release points. It will be interesting to see if they can outsmart a team that perfectly blends athleticism, execution and team play on both sides of the ball.