Category → Notes
Before the Pistons’ loss to the Clippers yesterday, I answered a few questions in a panel for ClipperBlog, including one about Detroit’s defensive issues:
Given their personnel, why have the Pistons struggled so much defensively?
Dan Feldman, Piston Powered, (@PistonPowered): The biggest letdown, based strictly on defensive ability relative to defensive output, has been Josh Smith. Miscast as a small forward, he’s struggled to chase quicker players around screens on the perimeter. Rodney Stuckey has underwhelmed too, sometimes relaxing on defense as he focuses on scoring during a contract year. Otherwise, the defensive problems have mostly been expected. Andre Drummond has high defensive potential, but he hasn’t mastered the finer points of help-side rotations. Brandon Jennings is only occasionally interested in defending, and even an engaged Jennings is just a so-so defender at best. Greg Monroe showed flashes of defensive improvement earlier in the year, but he’s regressed back to his typical subpar level. And with Maurice Cheeks in his first with the Pistons, confusion is still common.
If you read my game grades, you know I don’t blame the Pistons’ defensive problems totally on the players. But there are player-related issues, too.
One team that is interested in Monroe is the Washington Wizards, according to multiple league sources. It’s becoming clear that Washington is planning to pursue in Monroe, either through trade or free agency.
The Pistons are certainly a team to keep an eye on over the next month. Rival executives have said that there is “turmoil” within the organization and that they haven’t decided what to do as the deadline approaches.
Drummond was out on the floor hours before the game, too, working with an animated Rasheed Wallace (is there any other kind?) on his post game. That’s the next big weapon for Drummond, and it is coming along nicely.
"He’s definitely been a big help for me," Drummond said. "He’s taught me a lot. My back-to-the-basket game is getting better. I’ve learned a lot of moves that before, I wasn’t doing. I’m actually doing — last night, or the night before, I think it was — I did a drop-step spin move into a layup. I haven’t done that, ever. It’s working on things like that, that get me really excited."
"My back-to-the-basket game, and my pick-and-roll defense," Drummond said of his biggest current challenges.
On a basic level, those two are just better than Drummond right now at post-ups, and that’s why Maurice Cheeks calls their number more often. Here’s how many post-ups and points per post-up each player has had this season, according to MySynergySports:
- Monroe: 201, 0.79
- Smith: 163, 0.75
- Drummond: 51, 0.73
For a team trying to win right now, it makes sense to give more post-ups to Monroe, and when the matchup dictates, Smith. Drummond might have the highest ceiling for that type of play, but the Pistons’ margin for error is too small to let him correct his mistakes during games.
The other issue is the Pistons’ well-documented spacing issues when Smith, Monroe and Drummond play together – which has happened for 57 percent of Drummond’s minutes this season.
Post-ups generally are not a reliable way to score efficiently, though I believe it’s possible Drummond some day becomes an exception to the rule. But they are helpful for getting the defense to collapse and kicking to open shooters. Drummond, a solid passer, can make that play.
Unfortunately, the defenses already collapses against the Pistons’ jumbo front line, and Drummond has few, if any, shooters to kick to.
I really like Drummond’s potential as a back-to-the-basket player. He’s looked brilliant posting up at times this season. But he’s also looked horrid, and it will be a while until that becomes a reliable part of his game.
As far as Drummond’s other focus, pick-and-roll defense, Synergy rates him very well already. He ranks 38th in the NBA in defending the roll man this and was 36th last year. This is an area where I believe Synergy’s numbers don’t tell the whole story, as there have been numerous cases of confusion in pick-and-roll coverage that would leave Drummond free of blame in the database but not reality. However, the numbers at least indicate someone with big potential here, too – which completely matches the eye test when you see such a huge man move so quickly.
If you read Megdal’s piece, much wider reaching than the part I excerpted, he tries to explain why Drummond has succeeded in the NBA despite so many doubting him entering the league. There are a lot of factors, but Monroe explains a prominent one:
"He’s just been putting in the work," Greg Monroe explained to me, sitting at his locker prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. "From the outside, you guys don’t understand it. But being around him every day, we’re not surprised within the organization."
At this point, none of us should be surprised anymore. And for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised when Drummond steadily improves his back-to-the-basket offense and pick-and-roll defense, either.
Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland named the worst shooters so far this season, and, sigh, Josh Smith made the cut:
Sometimes I feel like every column I write about bad shooting is a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and the part where I rant about Josh Smith is “Free Bird.” Everyone knows it’s coming, but I have to do it anyway.
Last summer, I was very excited when Smith entered free agency; I felt that in the proper offense, under the right coach, and alongside the right teammates, something might click and his All-Star potential could finally be unlocked. I have always claimed that if Smith would only focus on offensive rebounding, attacking the basket, and operating on the blocks, he’d be a really great player.
I still feel that way, but Detroit is just not the place, at least right now. It’s an unstable situation, the offensive tactics are unclear at best, and with young bigs like Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond clogging up the paint there’s no room in the Pistons frontcourt. As a result, Smith plays the 3 too much, and in turn he’s taking even more jumpers than he did in Atlanta.
This is like sending Cookie Monster to a rehab run by the Keebler Elves.
What if Smith had landed in a place like Dallas? Something tells me his chart would look different this year. But he’s in Detroit, and I may as well have copied and pasted this chart from his Atlanta days because it feels like a rerun, and this bird has not changed.
You can click through to Grantland to see Goldsberry’s shot chart for Smith. Spoiler alert: It contains a section called “PLEASE STOP THIS.”
Maybe Maurice Cheeks playing Smith less often at small forward will help Smith, but there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.
For one, Smith says he doesn’t look where he is on the court when he shoots. And it shows. Smith should get a little more license to shoot 3-pointers as a small forward, because that helps create space for Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond inside. But Smith, as of last check, has taken a disproportionately high percentage of his 3-pointers as a power forward.
Smith brings a lot of positives to the Pistons, but shooting most definitely not one of them. Goldsberry’s critique is fair – and probably very similar to what will appear in his next edition of the NBA’s worst shooters.
The New Girl is a show that people watch. Coach* is a character on that show. These are facts as best I can tell because I haven’t actually watched the show.
* Sidenote: Coach is played by Damon Wayans’ son. Damon Wayans’ son is 31. We are all SO old.
There might be a reason for Pistons fans to check it out, though now. Apparently, Coach is a huge Pistons fan. Also, apparently the “Pistons butt bump” is a thing that Pistons fans do? I dunno …
“We’re trying to find a balance where Jess trying to be friends with Coach through sports created some kind of conflict with Nick [Jake Johnson],” says New Girl writer Rebecca Addelman in a behind-the-scenes look at the episode, “and we landed on a sex standoff.”
But Nick is not upset by the newly initiated bonding, he’s mad that Coach manages to get Jess to root for the Detroit Pistons instead of the Chicago Bulls. Jess’ Pistons affection gets her kicked out of bed when she turns up in a Detroit T-shirt.
Coach quest, alas, also involved a fair amount of lying because Jess didn’t know a damn thing about a “basketsball.” You know who did know about basketball? Nick. A diehard Bulls fan, he was predisposed to despise the Detroit Pistons, Coach’s team of choice, but he was willing to humor his lady. That is, until she made some headway by somehow convincing Coach the “Pistons Butt Bump” was a thing (it’s not, right?) and slithering into his bed wearing a Pistons shirt. Thus began the “sex stand-off”; the “sex tap” was off.
Having never watched the show, I can’t really recommend whether it’s good or not — fans in the comments can hash that out. I can emphatically say, however, that Rick Mahorn would DEFINITELY be the king of the Pistons Butt Bump.
Also, in other TV news, a former Pistons dancer and the mother of Rodney Stuckey’s son is already making quite the impression on The Bachelor this season.
The Mad Ants were without their two Detroit Pistons players, Peyton Siva (wrist) and the other Tony Mitchell (ankle), for a second straight game. They were returned to the NBA after the game.
If Siva and Mitchell are still injured, obviously the Pistons would prefer they be around Auburn Hills as opposed to Fort Wayne.
If Siva and Mitchell are ready to play, Saturday’s call-up made sense all along. With five days off between games, the rookies can practice a bit, which I sense the Pistons find more valuable than D-League games.
The next question would be, what happens when the Pistons are playing regularly again, leaving no practice time? If Siva and Mitchell are healthy, might they head right back to the D-League?
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – led by Malkmus, the former lead singer and guitarist of Pavement – has a new song about Brandon Jennings: “Chartjunk.” It’s mostly about Jennings’ time with Scott Skiles in Milwaukee, but parts still apply
This tune is inspired by the NBA and a specific player, Brandon Jennings. He’s a prima donna point guard. He went to Italy young, he didn’t go to college, he just went straight to European league and then he came back and he’s a real hot dog gunner. He had a relationship with a specific coach, his name is Scott Skiles, he’s a very bossy, my-way-or-the-highway-type coach. They butted horns. Skiles was also an ex-NBA player, and he was saying, ‘I’ve been there, I know what you’ve been doing, and I can tell you,’ and Jennings was like, ‘You’re not my mother, I’ve got a contract and I don’t need you to tell me what to do. I’m my own man.’ This all happens over a Chicago Transit Authority, ham and eggs, rock ’n’ roll song, complete with Chicago-style horns and sort of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”-song, which might be a Canadian band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive-style singing…You can make this metaphorical about anything. There must be some Freudian angle or early Greek — Odyssey, Icharus, something going on there. But on the second verse it gets specifically into things like dropping dimes and dipsy doos and the D-League in Wichita, which is a minor league basketball league, so that’s pretty specific. I can’t really get away with that.
Before last night’s win over the 76ers, I answered a few questions for Carey Smith of Philadunkia, including one about the possibility of Maurice Cheeks losing the locker rom:
Philadunkia: Between the Josh Smith run-in and a month long stretch filled with losses, is 76ers legend and former Sixer head coach Mo Cheeks on the verge of losing this Pistons locker room?
Dan Feldman at pistonpowered.com: Maybe, but Cheeks has several things working in his favor. I think these Pistons respect Joe Dumars enough to at least try to bite their tongue about coaching grievances during interviews, which is the same reason I think the Pistons mostly internalized their problems with Lawrence Frank last season. Plus, after Cheeks was hired, the players spent a lot of time praising Cheeks as a person just to make Frank look worse by comparison. I think they know if they complain about Cheeks now, they’ll be contradicting something they said recently and will want to avoid admitting their own mistake. As far as Smith specifically, I think he wants to shed the “difficult” label he developed in Atlanta. I don’t know whether he has the patience to do that, but I believe he’s trying.
I can say with certainty there is no talk of trading Greg Monroe currently. Could that change? Sure, but right now the Pistons are going to be patient.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
And J.R. Smith is just a fool.
Smith, having dodged attention for trying to untie Dwight Howard’s shoe during a free throw and then getting warned by the NBA for pulling the stunt on Shawn Marion, tried – or at least pretended to do the same to Greg Monroe during last night’s Pistons-Knicks game.
But Monroe was too quick for it.
Good for Monroe avoiding getting clowned. He clearly read the scouting report on Smith.
As for Smith, he got fined $50,000.