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Terrico White was good value at No. 36 – just not for the Detroit Pistons

I’m not attacking Terrico White.

If you have any deductive skills, by this point, you can probably guess the rest of this post won’t be so positive. But to clarify, I’m against the Pistons picking White, not White himself – and there’s a difference.

Look, I get it. White is ridiculously athletic – maybe the best athlete in this draft. It was the second round. The odds of finding a future contributor are low. Why not swing for the fences?

Because the Pistons give him too small a chance of succeeding.

Like I did with Greg Monroe earlier, let’s take an in-depth look at White.

Athleticism

This has to be the conversation starter with White. He was arguably the best athlete at the NBA Combine:

  • Lowest body fat
  • Highest max vertical
  • Fifth-fastest sprint
  • Sixth-highest no-step vertical

At minimum, those numbers mean White has tons of potential.

Rodney Stuckey/ Dwyane Wade comparisons

White likes to compare himself to Dwyane Wade. Many Pistons fans have been a touch more sensible, saying White’s skill-set resembles Rodney Stuckey’s. All three are tweener guards with the strength and speed to trouble the league’s smaller or average-sized guards.

The big difference: Wade and Stuckey actually do it.

The hallmark of Wade’s and Stuckey’s offensives games are getting to the free-throw line. Wade led all guards eligible for the scoring title in free-throw attempts per game last season, and Stuckey ranked ninth.

Both showed that skill in college, too.

Wade averaged 9.2 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted), his final season at Marquette. Stuckey took 9.4 free throws per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) his last year at Eastern Washington.

White took only 4.1 free throws per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) last season – 12th among the 15 guards drafted this year.

There are few reasons why White comes up short:

  • He’s a suspect ball-handler, especially in the traffic of the paint.
  • His agility rating at the combine was only so-so (and DraftExpress said he has good lateral quickness, the aspect of the agility drill least relevant here) which might mean he’d struggle to get defenders off balance and draw fouls.
  • He often uses pull-ups and floaters when driving. (To be fair, White’s offensive strength is his mid-range game.)

So, despite similar body types, White doesn’t stack up to Wade and Stuckey.

Scoring

At Mississippi, White’s main objective seemed to be scoring.

He tied Avery Bradley for tops among drafted guards with .97 field-goal attempts per possession. White’s assists and turnovers per possession ranked last among that group.

But he didn’t do it effectively. Of the 15 guards drafted this year, White’s true shooting percentage ranked 13th.

His mid-range game gives him a chance with Detroit, but a lot of White’s offensive success at Mississippi came playing up-tempo. He won’t have those opportunities nearly as frequently with the Pistons.

Point guard

White has said he’s more comfortable playing point guard than shooting guard. Why someone who shoots first, passes last and doesn’t dribble all that well would say that is a little confounding.

Point guards are certainly more valuable than shooting guards, so maybe White’s agent – who hasn’t been shy about talking up his client in the media – told White to say that. I don’t know.

White was criticized for shooting too much last season, when he played shooting guard. He shot even more often (per 40 minutes, pace adjusted) the year prior as a point guard.

White averaged 1.8 assists per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) – last among among the 15 guards drafted this year.

His supporters will emphasize he turned the ball over just 1.6 times per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) – fewest among drafted guards.

But I think that’s just a sign White doesn’t look to pass. It’s difficult to turn the ball over when you shoot quickly.

Maybe White really is a good point guard, or maybe he’s not. But he didn’t show much one way or the other in college, and I think most players with sufficient point-guard skills tend to reveal them in the course of two seasons.

Defense

If I’m Joe Dumars, here’s what I tell White:

Concentrate on defense. That will your ticket to playing time this season. Work on your offense for down the road. But if you want to see minutes this year, it will be because we can count on you as a stopper in limited minutes.

The big question is how that would go over for someone who was so offensively focused at Mississippi.

His steals ranked 14th, and his blocks ranked 13th among guards drafted this year. Obviously, those don’t tell the entire story.

Mississippi allowed 0.5 fewer points per 40 minutes with White on the court compared to him on the bench. But that only ranks eighth among the 15 drafted guards.

Still, there’s a lot more to learn about White’s defense that stats don’t tell us. Summer league and the preseason should begin to reveal a more complete picture.

White has the tools to be a quality NBA defender. But I’m not sure he’s close to taking advantage of them.

Projection

Style comparison: Shannon Brown (Extremely athletic guard, who has defensive potential because of that, but only occasionally takes advantage of it. Didn’t find a fit offensively until he joined a team that allowed him to play point guard without handling almost any traditional point-guard duties.)

(Thanks to Daniel Bromwich for helping with the comparison.)

Ability comparison: Jason Kapono this year (Kapono, a usually solid role player and 3-point specialist, struggled with the 76ers’ Princeton offense because he didn’t fit the scheme, which required him to be a better all-around player.)

(Thanks to Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching and probably more relevantly here, NBA Playbook, for helping with the comparison.) (Yes, I needed a lot of help with this section.) (I might also be using too many parentheses because of it.)

Bottom line: The good news? White has the physical tools and playing ability (emphasis on the former) to make an impact in this league.

The bad news? The odds of it happening in Detroit are pretty low.

He’s best-suited for an up-tempo system, which the Pistons didn’t have even before drafting Greg Monroe, who fits best in a half-court system. And White will be buried on the depth chart if Detroit doesn’t make a trade or let Will Bynum walk.

Maybe White has the talent to overcome all that, but it’s not likely.

Greg Monroe is a great addition to the Detroit Pistons. Here’s why.

I’ve been e-mailing with Jeff Green’s Dad, who wrote this nice piece on Greg Monroe for Casual Hoya. (No, that’s not actually not the Oklahoma City Thunder forward’s dad, just an online handle). One statement stood out.

“I’m pretty convinced he’s going to be a better pro than he was in college.”

It’s a sentiment I agree with.

A lot of Monroe’s worth comes from how polished he is. He’s probably the third, maybe fourth, most NBA-ready player in this draft. Most who think Greg Monroe will be better in the NBA than he was at Georgetown think that because of his style of play.

  • His passing will help Ben Gordon more than it did Jason Clark.
  • His knowledge of the game will help him grasp complex schemes.
  • His ability to create his own shot will come in handy in the matchup-based NBA.

But I think there could be even more reason to believe in Monroe at this level. He just turned 20. As complete as his game looks, he’s young enough to get a lot better.

I’ve sized up what I consider the key facets of Monroe’s game, exploring what’s in store for the Pistons.

Body control

The first thing I notice when watching Monroe play is his body control. He’s 6-foot-11 and 247 pounds, but he moves like a small forward.

Joe Dumars has shown a propensity for players with long wingspans. Monroe’s is slightly above expected for his height, but nothing to write home about.

Still, I think he brings many of the same advantages long-wingspan players do. By nature, tall players tend to be clumsy and awkward. It’s just not easy maneuvering 7 feet of body. But players with long wingspans can play tall without the awkwardness of being tall.

Even with his fairly average wingspan, Monroe plays like he has the perks of having a long wingspan.

Offensive rebounding

Here’s a chart of offensive- and defensive-rebounding percentages for frontcourt players drafted in 2010. There are a lot of ways to analyze this (based on position and round), but the chart is customizable, so choose your preference. No matter how you set it, Monroe is an excellent defensive rebounder and poor offensive rebounder.


(First-round picks are filled, and second-rounders are unfilled.)

The difference between his production for those similar skills is pretty astounding.

But I think his offensive rebounding will improve markedly in the NBA.

Jeff Green’s Dad said Georgetown frequently played Monroe at the top of the key, where he was too far from the basket to rebound the Hoyas’ missed shots.

Part of the reason Monroe played on the perimeter was to be in position to see the court and take advantage of his passing ability, but JGD said Monroe passed and offensive rebounded effectively in the rare times he played in the high post. That’s where I expect to see him in Detroit.

Anyway, using Roy Hibbert as a model indicates Monroe will be a much better offensive rebounder in the NBA.

In the his first three seasons at Georgetown, Hibbert had offensive-rebounding percentages of 12.0, 15.1 and 14.6, according to KenPom.

With Green in the NBA, Hibbert assumed that role at the top of the key as a senior. His offensive-rebounding percentage fell to 11.5.

With the Pacers, Hibbert has returned to being a quality offensive rebounder. Among everyone who played at least 41 games per season and at least 15 minutes per game since Hibbert entered the NBA, Hibbert ranks 43rd in offensive rebounding, according to Basketball-Reference – ahead of Kendrick Perkins, Brook Lopez, Tim Duncan, Anderson Varejao and Jonas Jerebko.

This offensive-rebounding quirk might make Monroe even better than expected next year, and judging by John Hollinger’s numbers, the expectations are already pretty high.

Passing

Monroe is an excellent passing center. I’ve heard a lot of people say Monroe could serve as Detroit’s point center.

But let’s not get carried away. Centers just don’t hold that role often, and when they do, they’re not as effective as guards.

Tom Boerwinkle had the highest assist percentage for a center in NBA history (33.8 in 1974-75 for the Chicago Bulls). That would only rank 11th this year among all players last year. Again, the center with the highest assist percentage of all-time didn’t even surpass Jose Calderon’s assist percentage last year.

Only six centers have ever had multiple seasons with an assist percentage higher than 20 percent (Boerwinkle, Alvan Adams, Wilt Chamberlain, Rich Kelley, Sam Lacey and Brad Miller). Fifty-two players had assist percentages higher than 20 percent each of the last two seasons.

For Monroe to be the Pistons’ point center, he’d have to be the best or one of the best passing centers of all-time. Monroe, obviously, in all likelihood, won’t be that good.

He turns the ball over a lot for a big man. He also has the ball a lot more than a typical center, which mostly explains all the turnovers.

But if you’re calling for Monroe to serve as Detroit’s point, you have to compare his turnovers to a typical point guard. And given he doesn’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much as a point guard, Monroe turns the ball over way too much to serve as a full-time point.

Still, his passing is a big plus and should make Detroit offense a lot more efficient.

The Pistons have players capable of initiating the offense from three positions: Rodney Stuckey at guard, Tayshaun Prince at forward and Monroe at center. It would be intriguing to see an offensive scheme that relied on each of to play point equally or near equally.

I think there’s a good chance that would confuse the Pistons just as much as the opposing defense, but if I was John Kuester, I’d spend at least a couple practices experimenting.

Defense

In my mind, this is the biggest question about Monroe’s game. Relayed by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Monroe described what he brings:

"I’m just another big man that’s going to come in and rebound and score and be able to make plays for his teammates and a hard worker whose main focus is to help the team win," Monroe said.

I wish he mentioned defense. One of the main ways I’ll be evaluating Kuester this year is how he gets Monroe to buy in defensively.

I’m not sure Monroe has the leaping ability to ever be counted on to protect the rim.* But that doesn’t mean he can’t become a solid defender.

*It’s sour grapes now because the Kings picked him a few spots before Detroit drafted Terrico White, but Hassan Whiteside, with his shot-blocking ability and explosiveness, had the potential to be a great defensive complement to Monroe.

Monroe’s frame should allow him to gain strength. Combined with the body control I mentioned above, I think Monroe could become an excellent on-ball defender in the low post. Think Rasheed Wallace in that brief period around 2007 or 2008 when he still played excellent on-ball defense but lost the mobility to rotate and help.

Perhaps, the biggest key to Monroe’s defense will be his attitude. Will he ever have the tenacity necessary to really get after it and make opponents uncomfortable?

Projection

Style comparison: Brad Miller (a good rebounder with great passing ability for a center who can score, but never defends as well as his measurables would suggest)

Ability comparison: Mehmet Okur (a quality starting center who legitimately sneaked into an All-Star game)

Bottom line: For the first time since Darko Milicic, the Pistons have a big man it appears they can rely on long-term. Playing the odds, this will probably go better.

If the Pistons re-sign Ben Wallace and/or use the mid-level exception on a veteran center, I predict Monroe will begin the season coming off the bench. But I expect him to be starting by the end of the year.

He plays with a certain calmness, and that works for him. I can’t see him getting rattled in high-pressure situations.

But that can also make him look passive, which doesn’t inspire greatness from his teammates. He has oodles of talent, but I’m not sure he has the presence to lead a team to a title.

Of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself. By the time Detroit is ready to contend, Monroe could have had a Pau Gasol-like intensity transformation.

For now, I’m absolutely thrilled the Pistons have Monroe’s calmness, intelligence and ability. It sure beats the disarray, confusion and ineptness of last year.

Player Report: Ben Gordon

Role

Gordon is Detroit’s sixth man, but he should play close to the minutes of a starter. He’s owed more money than anyone else on the team. You don’t sign someone for so much money to play him like a backup.

Scouting report

Will: Score.

Gordon can shoot from the outside and mid-range. He can drive to the basket and get to the line. He makes easy shots, and he makes tough shots.

In many ways, Gordon is just a role player, and his role is scoring.

As note previously, just eight players scored more with a higher true shooting percentage than Gordo last season:

  • Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James
  • Danny Granger
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Martin
  • Chris Paul
  • Brandon Roy
  • Amar’e Stoudemire

When he’s healthy, Gordon will prove he belongs among the league’s elite scorers.

Won’t: defend.

I talked with Matt McHale of By the Horns (more from him later) a little bit before the season about Gordon’s defense. Matt said if Gordon is around good defenders, he won’t be a liability. Gordon just doesn’t have the size or instincts to be a good defender – no matter how hard he tries (and he does try).

Basically, Matt told me not to waste time figuring out how Gordon can become a better defender. It’s not happening.

That reminded me a lot of Richard Hamilton, who was probably the weakest defender in the Pistons’ recent-glory-days starting lineup. But Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups didn’t really have to cover for him. Around those guys, he could hold his own.

So, even though Gordon won’t ever be a good defender, I’m encouraged for a few reasons.

1. Playing with Rodney Stuckey should allow Gordon to cover more point guards, who will probably be a better matchup for him.

2. Gordon has a 6-foot-8.5 wingspan, which should help make up his lack of lateral quickness.

3. With Gordon’s top-end scoring ability, it makes sense for the Pistons to surround him with good defenders in the long run, anyway. It’s nice to know he won’t cripple their defensive efforts.

Must improve: playmaking.

In the short term, it would be great if Ben Gordon could play some point guard, so he can play minutes with Richard Hamilton. This is especially important if Will Bynum remains out with an injury.

But the long term is much more significant here. Unless the plan has changed, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey are the Pistons’ backcourt of the future.

As we’ve learned, Stuckey plays best when he spends some time off the ball. For Stuckey to do that, Gordon will have to play some point guard.

Gordon has talked about a desire to be more a playmaker, so I don’t think he’s just stuck on scoring. But he still needs to show he can be one.

Stock

Falling

With his injuries and lack of production so far, Joe Dumars has taken a lot of heat for signing Gordon. Gordon has only played 25 games with the Pistons, so this could easily change. But the early returns have been poor.

Three predictions

1. Gordon will lead the Pistons in scoring next season and several straight after that.

Since arriving in Detroit, Richard Hamilton has led the Pistons in points per game for seven straight seasons. He’s leading again this year, and I think he’ll hold on.

But I think he passes the torch to Gordon next year. Gordon will have a lengthy streak of his own, but I don’t think he passes Hamilton’s – whether it ends at seven or eight.

2. Gordon will be the Piston to make an All-Star team.

Ben Wallace might deserve to go this year, but playing strong defense on a bad team doesn’t usually garner an All-Star berth.

Gordon will develop the stats and recognition to become an All-Star. As I wrote above, Gordon might be just a role player. But his role, scoring, is the most noticed.

3. This season will be Gordon’s worst as a Piston.

He’s suffered multiple injuries and just hasn’t gotten into a rhythm yet this year. He’s only 26, so I think his best years are ahead of him. And there’s a decent chance Richard Hamilton isn’t a Piston next year.

Add all that up, and Gordon has plenty of room to go up.

In other words

Matt McHale of By the Horns sent this great analysis:

“Here’s the thing about Ben Gordon: He will always go balls to the wall (or all out, if you want to put it cleanly) at what he does best: scoring. Having a player who can give you 20 PPG, no matter what, is quite an asset, especially when that guy knocks down 40+ percent of his treys. He also can drill clutch shots, and he’s never afraid to take them. Ben’s not quite Reggie Miller in that respect, but he’s closer than you might think. (It would probably help if he got more chances to make waves in the playoffs.)

His weaknesses are in the following areas: ball-handling, playmaking and defense. Basically, everything else (other than scoring) that you want from a shooting guard. It’s not that Ben doesn’t try on defense — he does — but he’s simply too small for his position. He might match up pretty well against opposing point guards…I wouldn’t know. But he simply can’t match up against guys 6’5" or taller, because what he lacks in height, he does not make up for with quick hands or feet.

BG is a conundrum. On the one hand, he’s almost completely one-diminsional. On the other hand, his one dimension is pretty darn useful. I’ve always felt that Gordon would be an invaluable resource if he could find the right niche with the right team. Ideally, he could be a (much better) Eddie House for a contender: a fearless and unstoppable shooter/scorer off the bench.

Unfortunately, Ben (probably rightly) feels he should be starting. I mean, how many 20-point scorers come off the bench, right? (This is where guys like John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Detlef Schempf and Ricky Pierce cough lightly and raise their hands.) He kinda wants to be The Man, but Ben Gordon cannot carry a team by himself (save for the occasional spectacular game).

To summarize: Great scorer, limited "other" skills, has to be hidden on defense.

One last thing (or perhaps a couple things) worth noting. The biggest dig on Ben has been "He may score 20 PPG, but he gives up 25 PPG." That’s not quite fair. According to 82games.com, the 2008-09 Bulls scored 23.8 PPG from the SG position while giving up 20.2. That’s a net production of +3.6, which ranked 6th in the league at that position. The Bulls also had a net PER of +2.6 at shooting guard, which ranked 7th in the league. Since BG played about 37 MPG, most of that was his handiwork. The point is, Ben Gordon — on average — solidly outperformed opposing shooting guards last season.”

Player Report: Ben Wallace

Role

Ben Wallace is Detroit’s starting center and best defender. Nobody else on the team comes close to matching his inside presence. Ideally, he’d play big minutes. But at 35, he probably can’t sustain such a heavy load – no matter how much the Pistons try to give him one.

Scouting report

Will: defend and rebound.

He might not be as athletic as he once was, but he’s smarter. His positioning is excellent, and that’s why he’s still effective.

Won’t: score.

Wallace has virtually no offensive game. He has no post moves, no jumper and is a terrible free-shooter. Most of his points come from put-backs and other hustle plays.

Must improve: free-throw shooting.

I was nearly inclined to put nothing here. By three seasons, Wallace is Detroit most-experience player. At some point, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But Wallace is making a career-high 49.1 percent of his free throws this year, and he can keep that up. He actually has decent form in warmups. His problems are mental.

Maybe he’s past them and has improved from the worst free-throw shooter of all time to merely terrible.

Stock

Rising

Before the season, Wallace spoke to the media and gave short answers to every question. It seemed like desperately just wanted the crowd to focus on another player. Finally, some flatly asked him if he was trying to downplay his return to the Pistons.

“It’s kind of hard for me to downplay my return,” Wallace said. “I mean, I’m 6-9, 240. I’m pretty sure everybody sees me coming.”

I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

Wallace has been remarkable, and nothing shows that more than his playing time. Despite John Kuester’s preliminary plans to sit Wallace at times, Big Ben has played in all 30 of Detroit’s games and is second on the team in total minutes.

Nobody else on the roster comes close to matching his interior defense and rebounding.

Three predictions

1. His passing will become overrated.

Wallace is an excellent passer for his size. His passing was always pretty good, and it’s really improved since he first left Detroit.

He hasn’t gotten much credit for the skill, but that’s beginning to change. I think it’s only a matter of time until it goes too far.

Wallace was underrated for much of his career. Finally, people noticed, and it became chic to say Wallace was underrated – to the point he probably became overrated. I suspect his passing ability will receive the same fate.

One reason it’s easy to overrate his passing: his assists look remarkably skillful. But he either makes the pinpoint pass when he sees an opening or makes an easy pass back to a guard near halfcourt.

He’s not involved in the offense enough to make the quality in-between passes that teams must make to facilitate good ball movement.

2. Wallace will be a factor in end-of-season-award voting again.

Since he won the 2005-06 Defensive Player of the Year award, Wallace finished sixth for the award the next year. Otherwise, he hasn’t even received a single vote for any major award.

But that could change this year. Wallace should garner attention for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. His numbers are better than they’ve been since his first year with the Bulls, and he’s forcing teams to account for him when they’re on offense.

3. Wallace will return next season.

It would be easy to look at Wallace’s near-decision to retire this offseason as evidence he’s almost done.

“Oh no, that wasn’t the first time I thought about retiring,” Wallace said. “I was pretty much retired. So, that’s not frustration. I know what I can do in this league. I know what I’ve done in this league. It was just one of those things where I thought I was closer to the end than the beginning.”

Wallace doesn’t seem very introspective. And I don’t think the season he’s having will push him any closer to the end. Trying to get a read on him, let’s look at why he returned to Detroit.

“I just figured that, if I was going to retire, this would be a good spot for me to retire,” Wallace said.

Why?

“C’mon, man,” he continued. “That’s a no-brainer.”

Maybe his only reasons for returning to Detroit were the painfully obvious ones. But I think it’s more likely he hadn’t put much thought into it. He liked it it in Detroit, and that was it. I don’t buy he was thinking about retiring when he made that decision.

A lot of speculation here, but my gut says he’ll be back.

Player Report: Charlie Villanueva

Role

Regardless of who starts, Villanueva is Detroit’s top power forward. He’ll play big minutes.

His backups, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox, haven’t played consistently enough to prove to Pistons coach John Kuester they deserve a lot of playing time.

Scouting report

Will: score in a variety of ways.

Villanueva likes to drive to the basket, which makes sense considering he’s usually quicker than the power forward guarding him. He’s not shy about launching 3-pointers, either. He has an ugly-looking hook shot when he’s inside that’s fairly effective. And he’ll take a few mid-range jumpers, too.

Won’t: keep the ball moving.

Many have compared Villanueva to Rasheed Wallace because of their similar outside-inside offensive game and length. But passing is a key difference between the two.

Detroit could run its offense through Wallace because he was such an able and willing passer. Give him the ball in the high post, and he’d hit cutters in stride.

Villanueva hasn’t shown anywhere near that ability.

There might be some about concerns Villanueva’s willingness to pass (see Jeremy Schmidt’s “In other words” below). But I think the biggest issue is his ability to do so effectively.

Must improve: his defensive footwork.

Villanueva leads the Pistons with 3.2 fouls per game. But a lot of those are easily avoidable.

The biggest key for him has been moving his feet. Villanueva gets in stretches when he’s on heels and just reaches to help on drivers. Obviously, that ends up in a lot of fouls.

When he’s active and moving his feet, he’s actually a pretty good defender. He just needs to do it all the time.

Stock

Falling

Villanueva missed most of the preseason with an injury, and his rust showed early in the year. He got in a groove for a while. But now he’s battling plantar fasciitis, and even though he’s playing through it, he’s extremely limited.

Three predictions

1. Villanueva will have the best defensive year of his career.

Playing for Scott Skiles last season certainly set the defensive tone for Villanueva. With Kuester also emphasizing defense, I think Villanueva has bought in.

I’m not sure Villanueva has the lateral quickness to be a great defender, but he has the length to be a good one.

Playing next to Ben Wallace won’t hurt, either. Villanueva had to play center at times in Milwaukee, even guarding Dwight Howard once. But he shouldn’t have to face matchups like that with Detroit.

2. He will have a tweet that makes news.

I’m not sure if it will be intentional (like the follower contest with Chris Bosh this summer) or unintentional (like the halftime tweet). But I think Villanueva will have a news-worthy tweet this year.

Villanueva straddles the line of completely understanding Twitter’s impact and being naive about it. Just look at these quotes from before the season:

“Twitter is all fun and games. It’s a way to stay connected with the fans. I think the fans deserve that. And I have a good time doing it.”

“(On the halftime tweet:) The crazy thing is I didn’t even mean for it to get that much of attention.”

“I don’t know how it happened, but Coach Skiles called me into the office and, ‘What’s this about?’ I was like, ‘Whoa, how did he know about this?’ ”

“Some people didn’t know who Charlie Villanueva was, but they know now.”

“It’s cool. It doesn’t hurt me at all. The more attention, I guess the better. Marketing your self — you’ve got to brand who you are. So, the Twitter incident definitely helped me out.”

I’m not sure which of the line Villanueva will fall on. He might let emotions get the best of him at some point, or he might have a tweet designed to get attention. Either way, I bet he tweets something news-worthy.

3. He will start more games than he comes off the bench.

Villanueva has started 16-of-28 games so far this year, but he’s been coming off the bench lately. For a couple reasons, I think he’ll return to the starting lineup.

1. Maxiell and Wilcox just don’t offer that much. They’re not special offensively or defensively. They’re not young players who need to be force-fed minutes. Anything they do would be just as, if not more, effective off the bench.

2. With Ben Gordon and Will Bynum coming off the bench, I don’t think the second unit will lack a scoring punch.

That said, when Tayshaun Prince returns, Jonas Jerebko could be a threat to start at power forward. But I’m not convinced Prince will return soon. And I think Jerebko’s high-energy game is a good fit off the bench.

In other words

Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball kindly wrote about Charlie Villanueva for us. After seeing a bit of Villanueva with the Pistons, I think I mostly agree with Jeremy’s assessment.

There are a lot of things to like about Charlie Villanueva. He’s funny, his cup seem to overfloweth with offensive skills, he’s athletic, he seems to be capable of being a good passer, and he dresses well. The thing is, as many things as there are to like about Charlie Villanueva, there is one thing which offsets so many of his great basketball skills, and for some reason I didn’t realized until I saw someone else suit up in his position for the Bucks.

He’s a ball hog.

Possessions come to Charlie Villanueva to die. But I don’t blame Chuck V. for this. Last year, he was responsible for scoring points in bunches after Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down. He was one of the Bucks only true scoring threats left along with Richard Jefferson.

The problem is, Chuck V. isn’t excessively gifted at scoring quickly or with great ease. His primary weapon by the end of the year seemed to be trailing on a slow to develop fast break and breaking out his three point shot from near the top of the key. By season’s end, he was converting this more often than not, but that still didn’t always make it efficient offense.

Quick decisive decisions never appeared to be Villanueva’s strong suit. He seemed to frequently hold the ball for a few seconds after he got it on the wing before making his move to the basket. This bogs down offenses and makes him easier to defend.

Although his PER ranked 11th among power forwards last year, there is still light years difference between him and the best (and most complete) power forwards in the game.

Player Preview: Austin Daye

Role

Jonas Jerebko beat Daye for the backup small forward spot. With Tayshaun Prince out with an injury, Jerebko has moved into the starting lineup. That has meant consistent minutes for Daye.

But he hasn’t done anything to pass Jerebko. When Prince returns, Daye is likely out of the rotation again.

Scouting report

Will: Jack up 3-pointers.

Daye’s skills are limited at this point. He knows how to get his shot off (see Matt Santangelo’s last question below for more info). And he has a sweet shooting stroke.

So, when Daye gets in the game, expect him to try to contribute how he can. For now, that means a lot of jumpers.

Won’t: Jump out of the gym.

Daye’s pre-draft combine numbers were embarrassing. His rankings out of fifty players:

  • No-step vertical: 49th
  • Max vertical: Tie for 49th
  • Bench Press: 49th (Of 49 because Sam Young didn’t lift)
  • Agility: 49th
  • Sprint: 50th

Kevin Durant couldn’t lift the bench press once either, and I’d say his career has turned out OK. But he’s playing small forward and shooting guard. Daye projects to be a 3/4.

These numbers don’t put a kibosh on his NBA potential. But make no mistake, they’re an issue.

Must improve: His toughness

In the limited minutes he’s played so far, I haven’t really seen a mean streak from Daye.

He can create a lot of mismatches as a power forward. But he’ll also have learn to take an elbow from stronger players – and dish it out, too.

I think if Daye was given steady minutes, he’d just get pushed around on a nightly basis.

Stock

Falling

In the summer league and preseason, Daye seemed like he had worked himself into the rotation. The initial assessment that he wouldn’t be ready to do much this year looks true again.

Three predictions

1. The more Daye plays, the fewer Tayshaun Prince comparisons you’ll see.

They’re both thin. We get it. That doesn’t make them the same player.

Daye is a better outside shooter than Prince. Prince is a better ball handler, defender and rebounder. In time, that will show.

2. Daye will get stronger.

From Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Dumars consulted with strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander before selecting Daye.

"We met several times on Daye, just about his body and his ability to get stronger at that size," Dumars said. "If Arnie looks at me and says, ‘I don’t think I can put weight on this or get him stronger,’ I don’t know if I back away, but it would have given me more pause."

Clearly, Kander sees an NBA body lurking within Daye.

"Remember, he’s younger than Tay was and it’s really just a matter of taking care of his body," Curry said. "He will get stronger as he gets older. It’s not a matter of putting a certain number of pounds, it’s just about continuing to get his core stronger, get a routine and he should be fine."

Kander is the best in the business, so I trust Daye can add weight. But I’m not sure if Kander can project how added weight will affect Daye’s play.

3. Jerebko will have a better career than Daye.

Someone asked in one of the ESPN chats which of the two players I thought would have a better career. To me, it’s basically a toss up.

Daye has more upside, but I’ll take Jerebko because he’s better right now.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: The Slipper Still Fits

Zach Bell and Max Mandel of The Slipper Still Fits were a big help and sent over their evaluation of Daye.

Impact

Austin Daye’s legacy at Gonzaga University will always be a point of contention.

The main reason for this intense scrutiny is because Gonzaga has typically been a place where stars have stood out. Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau, Ronny Turiaf all put teams on their backs at varoius points in their careers. 

With Daye, this was never the case. Austin’s impact at GU and numbers were impacted by two things that many people tend to forget. 

First, he was a prototypical guard in high school before hitting a major growth spurt which launched him to 6-feet-11. Because of this, he was still growing into his body at
Gonzaga and many would argue that he was forced to play out of his comfort zone in Spokane. 

Austin’s biggest strength is his ability to play from the outside and use his above average handles to create plays and get into the lane. At Gonzaga, he was forced to play mainly
as a power forward which forced him to spend a great deal of time in the paint rather than on the perimeter. 

Secondly, Gonzaga was extremely deep last season. This was not the Gonzaga of old where Austin could take an Adam Morrison type role and score 25 points in a half. Six players from last year’s team averaged nine points or more a season ago so obviously, the ball was in great demand. 

If Austin had stayed another year at Gonzaga, he would have had the chance to be the guy but unfortunately for Gonzaga fans and luckily for Pistons fans he decided to go pro.

Skills

As far as his skill set, I’m sure you all have noticed that he really can do it all. He’s got a beautiful perimeter shot. I’ve always been a little upset with the Tayshaun Prince comparison because Austin’s shot is so much more pure than Tay’s hitch n’ go. 

He can rebound well in traffic thanks to his length and it already looks like he has put
on some strength over the summer. That will continue as his body is still developing.

He’ll be a great locker room guy for the franchise as well. He sometimes lets his passion get the best of him on the court but that is just the kind of player he is.

I honestly feel like the Pistons are getting a real gem that can contribute now and has
star potential down the line.

In other words: Matt Santangelo

Matt Santangelo played point guard for Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight team. He blogs for Lost Lettermen and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

What do you think of Austin Daye?

“I think Austin’s going to be a great pro. I think because of the situation at Gonzaga, it was good for him to go to the NBA because I think he needs to be around grown that are examples of how to be professional, how to carry yourself on and off the floor. And, hopefully in Detroit, my understanding is that the type of team Detroit has, he’ll get that from day one — good examples. This is how you act. This how you interact with the media. This is how you treat your teammates, the coaches. …

I think he’s a tremendous talent. I think he’s going to be a very good NBA player because of his versatility, his length and his skill set. I think being in that league with the better examples, they’re going to toughen him up quicker, which is one of the things he needs to work on.

Obviously, his body needs to get stronger, which he’ll get that at the NBA level because they’re investing a lot of money in that body. So, they’re going to take the time to develop it and work with it if he’s committed to making those improvement – which I think he is.

I think as far as how The Gonzaga team is, I think they’re a better, more cohesive unit now than they would’ve been had Austin come back.”

Looking at his stats compared to other players picked in that range, they’re not overwhelming. Did Gonzaga just have a balanced offense?

“I think some of that was toughness. Some of that is you have five seniors on that team. So, he was kind of battling that, too. By all means, if he would’ve come back this year, I think expectations around Gonzaga would be a lot higher. I think their talent level, you just can’t replace a guy like that because there’s just not that many Austin Daye-type players. …

Once he got into the workouts for the NBA and obviously summer league and everything else, when he really got to show off his skill set, he shined. And there’s no question about his talent, and like I said, his versatility.

I think if he had come back to Gonzaga this year, his whole mindset would’ve been playing for the lottery for the draft. I think that would’ve thrown off the whole cohesive unit, and Gonzaga would’ve struggled, battled with that all year long.”

When he went to the combine, his strength and speed numbers weren’t very impressive. Is he just not that athletic or could that have just been a bad day? Does that show up on the court?

“Obviously, Kevin Durant had a huge amount of publicity for his combine scores as well, the weight lifting and that kind of thing. And he’s Kevin Durant. He’s one of the premier players in the league.

Austin’s not real explosive. He doesn’t jump out of the gym. Some of the dunks he had barely got over the front of the rim.

But what he does is he’s a tremendously skilled basketball player. He handles that he’s 6-11 and 7-foot-whatever wingspan. He has tremendous timing defensively.

Like I said, there’s going to have to be a lot of development, and it’s going to have to happen pretty quick. He’s going to have to get a lot stronger or people are just going to put him on the block and go to work.

But at the same time, they’re going to put him on the block because they’re stronger than him, but he’s going to be longer than a lot of guys he’s going with. That’s going to affect them. That’s what we saw during the good games at Gonzaga.

And I like I said, hopefully the examples around him with Tayshaun Prince and Rip and Stuckey and the rest of the guys, hopefully, he learns pretty quick about being tough and competing ever play, every possession – offense and defense.

I think if he can figure that out, coupled with his skill set, he’s going to be a tremendous NBA player. And I think he’ll learn that quicker at the NBA level than he would have had he come back for his junior year at Gonzaga.”

When he was drafted, the buzz was that he wouldn’t contribute much this year or maybe even next year. From what you saw at Gonzaga, does he have some NBA-ready skills?

“Oh, yeah. He really shoots the ball well. He can get to it. Like I said, he’s so long, he creates his own shot.

Defensively, there’s a couple question marks there: his lateral quickness and his physical strength. But he’s long enough that he’s still going to make an impact on the defensive end. …

His ball handling for his size is amazing. His footwork for his size – that’s such a skill that not too many people talk about it, but he has great footwork. And that’s what allows him to get his shot off a lot.

Where some guys might rely on their speed or maybe jumping ability to get a shot off, he has to rely on his footwork and ball handling to get his shot off because he’s just not that explosive athletically.

So, he’s really skilled. I think, yeah, he definitely has some NBA-ready (skills).”

Player Preview: Chucky Atkins

Role

Atkins will be the team’s third point guard. If he plays regular minutes, there’s a problem.

Scouting report

Will: Make me happy.

I always felt bad for Atkins. He was the starting point guard when the Pistons went from 32 to 50 wins, and he did everything then-Pistons coach Rick Carlisle asked of him.

But Detroit brought Chauncey Billups in the next year. Billups was bigger, more talented and ready to become one of the league’s top points guards.

Atkins went to the bench, a role that doesn’t really suit him. He’s a streaky shooter and needs minutes to get in rhythm.

He was good enough to help the Pistons turn around. But he wasn’t good enough to make Detroit elite, like Billups did. So, he was cast aside after toiling on the bench for two years.

I feel for a guy who did all he could, and it still wasn’t enough. By making the team this year, Atkins finally has karma swinging in his direction.

Won’t: Play.

Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and maybe even Tayshaun Prince will see minutes at point guard before Atkins gets on the floor.

Must improve: His point guard play.

Before the season, Atkins talked about how he had become more of a true point guard in the last few years. I’m not sure how true that is since he played just 56 games the last two seasons, but that also means there’s little reason to assume it’s not.

“Over the years, I’ve learned how to hold back and do other things and let the scoring game come to me,” Atkins said. “So, I’ve learned over the years. I was a young, brash kid when I first got here. I’m a little older now.”

Atkins said the main thing he’s learned is how to conserve his energy. There’s no need to burn out right when he enters the game.

“The game may not dictate you scoring a lot of points at that time,” Akins said.

Know of any point guards on the Pistons who sometimes try to score too much and tire because of it – either in the course of a game or a season?

If Atkins keeps improving his ability to be a true point guard, his value as a mentor will increase.

Stock

Rising

Atkins appeared washed up when Detroit signed him for training camp. And he still might be, but at least he made the roster. That’s a pretty big upset.

Three predictions

1. Stuckey will repeatedly praise Atkins for mentoring him.

Joe Dumars is banking on Stuckey being the future of the franchise. Without having observed training camp, I have to think Atkins made an impression on Stuckey. That would be the most logical reason Atkins made the team.

2. Atkins will be a positive force in the locker room.

I don’t think Atkins will even be active for more than 25 games this year. But I think, as a 10-year veteran, he knows how to act.

Sometimes, you can put up with shenanigans from your star. But it makes no sense to allow nonsense from your 14th man. In that sense, Atkins was a good signing.

3. Atkins will be in the NBA, but not Detroit, next year.

Atkins was in the right place at the right time to make the roster this year. The odds of everything working out in Detroit again next year are pretty slim.

But I think a year with Arnie Kander will do his body wonders. I don’t see Atkins, 35, retiring quite yet, and I think he’ll be healthy enough to latch on somewhere.

Player Preview: Chris Wilcox

Role

Wilcox played just six minutes against the Grizzlies in the season opener – a blowout the Pistons dressed just 10 players for.

Besides Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, Wilcox is the Pistons’ only other legitimate center. Wilcox isn’t that good, but he’s in a good position to see minutes – at least compared to where he’d be on other teams.

Scouting report

Will: Score

Wilcox runs the floor pretty well, and he can finish on the break. He also has couple of low-post moves.

He’s not great, but he can put the ball in the hoop. His career offensive rating of 108 is solid.

Won’t: Defend.

On the other hand, Wilcox’s career defensive rating is also 108 – pretty dismal. It’s never seemed like he wants to absorb and dish out the contact that good interior defenders must.

Must improve: His outlook.

Wilcox and Kwame Brown are very similar. Both were high draft choices who haven’t performed up to that billing. And both have tremendous physical statures.

Brown has reinvented himself as a defender and a rebounder, and it’s worked out great. Wilcox would do well to take a lesson from his new teammate.

Stock

Falling

Wilcox is entering his seventh year in the league. And the former No. 8 pick still hasn’t made a significant impact.

He’s talented enough to hang around the league for a while. But time is quickly running out (if it hasn’t already) for him to make the type of impact many though he could.

Three predictions

1. Wilcox will be the last player from the opening-night roster (including the suspended players) to crack the rotation.

He’s a step ahead of DaJuan Summers and Chucky Atkins – but that’s it.

Pistons coach John Kuester preaches defense – not exactly Wilcox’s strong suit. Wilcox isn’t on the fast track to endear himself.

But he’s still talented enough that he will get a chance at some point when injuries strike.

2. Wilcox will have the best offensive game of any Pistons center this year.

Wilcox doesn’t produce consistently, but he’s definitely capable of putting together a few monster games. His offensive ceiling is much higher than Wallace’s or Brown’s. Even with fewer opportunities than them, Wilcox will have at least one great game. 

3. Wilcox won’t be a Pistons next year.

Everyone said Ben Gordon was a bad fit with the Pistons. But what about Wilcox? At least Gordon tries on defense.

Wilcox has a $3 million player option for next season. If he picks it up, I bet Joe Dumars will look to move him.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: Royce Young

Royce Young, who runs Daily Thunder, explains what the Pistons should expect from Wilcox.

If there is one word to describe Chris Wilcox, it’s inconsistent. He can actually drive you nuts with it.

He’ll go through a lull of four games doing nothing – 18 minutes, four points, two rebounds two turnovers, or something like that.

But then on the fifth night, he’ll blow up for 16 points, 11 boards and a crucial block or two. He’ll energize the arena with a soaring dunk. And you’ll think, "Okay, here we go! Let the Chris Wilcox era begin!"

Sadly though, the next game it’s back to another lackluster performance. I don’t know if he’s unfocused or uninspired, but it really drives you batty. To have that much skill and ability and not work to harness it.

It finally got to Scott Brooks last year as he stuffed Wilcox on the end of the bench before Presti finally got him shipped to New York after the failed Tyson Chandler deal.

Wilcox can definitely help win you a game here and there, but that’s the problem. He’s all here and there.

Player Preview: DaJuan Summers

Role

Summers is buried on the bench right now. He’ll probably be inactive to start the season. I see a lot of D-League games for him this year.

Scouting report

Will: Score in many ways.

He can make jumpers, drive against bigger defenders and post up smaller threes. He will be a tough matchup (if he cracks the rotation).

Among the 13 small forwards drafted this year, Summers had the second-best true shooting percentage (via DraftExpress).

Won’t: Produce if Kuester decides to slow the tempo.

In a good interview with Dan Steinberg on the D.C. Sports Bog, Summers said his strong summer league play didn’t surprise him.

Did you come in with that kind of chip on your shoulder, to prove the kind of player you know you are?

Not so much. I mean, I always knew I was that player, so just because things were different in college–it’s not an open system and not a high-tempo team–it never discouraged me. I knew when I got here I would be able to play my game. Coach always said the same thing. It’s just not the run and shoot we play at Georgetown. So nah, I don’t feel like I’m proving anybody wrong. It’s just me. I’m just playing.

Must improve: His focus.

Summers has an NBA body. But he doesn’t lock in and get the little things done that he clearly could be capable of doing.

Among the 13 small forwards drafted this year, here’s how Summers’ ranked last season*:

Rebounds: 13th.

Assists: 11th.

Turnovers: 12th.

Summers has the tools to improve all those. He just needs to put his mind to it.

*The numbers are per 40 minutes and paste adjusted – basically a way to put everyone on equal footing – and also come from DraftExpress.

Stock

Falling

Summers was the star of the Pistons’ summer league team, if not the entire Las Vegas League.

But he has missed two of Detroit’s six preseason games. And only Chucky Atkins, Deron Washington and Maceo Baston are averaging fewer minutes.

With Tayshaun Prince’s injury, maybe Summers sees some minutes as the backup small forward. But even with Prince out, Jonas Jerebko and Richard Hamilton might see more time filling in at the three than Summers.

Three predictions

1. It will be at least a month before Summers dresses for a game.

From The Oakland Press:

Kuester downplayed Summers’ struggles and said Summers has shown flashes in practice.

“DaJuan is learning as he goes,” Kuester said. “I tell you this, he has a bright, bright future in this league because he’ll continue to work hard and he’s a great kid. Do not read into that at all.”

Sorry, John. I’m going to read into it. I think Kuester wants to keep Summers’ spirits up when the rookie is buried on the bench for the first time in his life.

Summers really hasn’t done much to that kind of deserve praise.

2. Summers will never post better numbers than he did in the summer league (18 points and 5.4 rebounds per game).

Not in the summer league next year, not in a preseason and certainly not in a regular season. Summers was clearly on a hot streak in Las Vegas.

His preseason struggles suggest the summer league was an aberration. And even if he develops into a pretty good player, those are some gaudy numbers.

3. Summers will be one of the 2009 draft’s better second-round picks.

I liked Summers a good deal coming into the draft. But he didn’t seem good enough for the Pistons to take him at 15. And he seemed too good to slip into the second round.

But to the shock of many, including Joe Dumars, he was available for Detroit’s second pick. There’s a reason many projected him to go higher, and the summer league reinforces the thinking.

That said, being a fairly good second-round pick in a specific draft doesn’t mean much. He could be out of the league in a few years, and I could be right.

But I like his chances better than most of the other late picks.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: Jeremy Hofmann

Jeremy Hofmann, a 2008 Georgetown graduate, analyzes Summers.

DaJuan Summers will be a very good professional basketball player. Let’s start right there. 

Will his LeBron-esque body and ferocious athleticism tantalize Pistons fans into expecting more than he can deliver? Absolutely.

That was the problem Georgetown fans had with DaJuan in his three maddening years on the Hilltop. He looks like he should be a star.

He is 6’8” 240 lbs with 25 foot range and a 40+ inch vertical leap. Yet, there were countless games in his three years where he seemed disinterested and would finish with a stat line like 2-9, 7 points, 2 rebounds and 4 fouls. 

DaJuan is to Georgetown fans what Vince Carter is to Nets or Raptors fans. A guy that settles for too many jumpers, barely makes an effort on the glass or defensive end, has one or two “wow” plays a game and leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth more times than not.

Still, I was absolutely shocked that he slipped to #35 in the draft, especially in a draft like 2009. Even DeMarre Carroll went ahead of him. DeMarre Carroll?

DaJuan was projected as a near lottery pick after his freshman year. Even in January of this year, when Georgetown was in the top 10, DaJuan was expected to be a lottery pick. The only reason he slipped so far was because of the Hoyas’ pathetic end to its 2008-2009 campaign.

Being a second round pick will end up being the best thing that ever happened to DaJuan’s career and will greatly benefit the Pistons. NBA athletes with questionable motors need slights to prove their worth.

Just like previous second round picks of the same mold – Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer and Rashard Lewis come to mind – DaJuan will use his draft position to prove himself for his entire NBA career. He will never forget the feeling of having his family and friends with him in the ESPN Zone in Baltimore waiting for 34 names to be called before his.

Both his performance in the summer league, when he was arguably Detroit’s best player, and his “I’m going to prove everyone wrong through cliché rap lyrics” on his Twitter page tell me that for the first time in his life, DaJuan’s work ethic will finally match his prodigious athleticism.

Player Preview: Jonas Jerebko

Essentials

Position: Power forward/ small forward/ center

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 231 pounds

Years pro: Rookie

From: Kinna, Sweden

Role

These player previews are coming out in reverse order of who I expect to have the biggest impacts this season. But if I had waited a bit to decide the order, you probably wouldn’t see this post for a few more days.

By all accounts, Jerebko is impressing Pistons coach John Kuester. But where will he play?

Austin Daye seems to have solidified the backup small forward spot.

It seems like the Pistons want Jerebko to develop into a center, and that’s where he played in the summer league. But I’m not sure he’s ready to play there (if he ever will be). Via the Detroit News:

"I’ve never done it before (play center), so it’s a new experience," Jerebko said. "It’s physical but I like it. I don’t like to play the five, but to get minutes, I will do it."

That leaves power forward, which is probably his most natural fit going forward. But the Pistons have a pretty talented player in Jason Maxiell already there (more on this later).

Kuester has fueled speculation the rotation could go 11 deep. But I don’t see that happening.

Coaches talk all the time before the season about having long benches. But when push comes to shove, there just aren’t enough minutes to go around.

I don’t see Jerebko cracking the rotation – at least for now.

Scouting report

Will: Do more than his stat line suggests.

For better or worse, Jerebko is good at a lot of things — but a master of none. A lot of his contributions will go unnoticed by many.

Kuester gives a few examples from Detroit’s preseason game against the Hawks in The Oakland Press:

“You can’t look at what he did, in regards to six points, six rebounds in 17 minutes and understand the impact that he had on the little things that we want to get accomplished,” Kuester said. “Whether it be shows on the high pick-and-rolls, his second and third energy efforts going after the boards, whether he got it or didn’t get it. I was very proud of him. I’ve seen that in him in practice.”

Won’t: Slow down.

Jerebko might not always look smooth, but he has a big motor. He played a preseason-27 minutes against the Wizards. And even then, his effort didn’t waver. Kuester via the Detroit Free Press:

"His energy has been outstanding," Pistons coach John Kuester said. … "Jonas has a motor that keeps on running and running at a high level," Kuester said. "He knows what a coach wants. That kind of energy is contagious and excites a coach."

He’s going to make it as hard as he can for Kuester to keep him off the court.

Must improve: His comfort on the court.

Jerebko might be all over the court, but it doesn’t look smooth. I’m not sure if this comes from his age, the transition from Europe or what.

At least the issue seems to be ironing itself out. From Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

Jerebko, less than three weeks into his first NBA training camp, feels more comfortable by the day. In fact, last week’s debut already seems like a long time ago, when he was so hyped. Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander said he was almost hyperventilating.

“I was excited,” he grins. “Family was there, from Buffalo. The first three minutes, you go in cold, the first time you get on the floor, the chest doesn’t want to go with your legs. But it was fun.”

Every day will be something new for Jerebko for a while. Once that phase passes, we’ll get to see what he can really do.

Stock

Rising

Jerebko is the first Swedish player in the NBA, so that’s pretty cool. And every time you hear his name mentioned lately, it’s something positive.

That can’t last forever, but I’m not sure any Piston has seen his reputation rise more since the preseason started.

Three predictions

1. Jerebko will be one of two Pistons whose roles are being overinflated right now.

Kuester has been gushing about Jerebko, absolutely gushing. I think the coach likes Jerebko, but that might be based on expectations.

Jerebko is playing very well for a rookie in the preseason. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be better than veterans in the regular season.

(More on the second Piston who I think is overhyped in a future player preview)

2. He won’t get the benefit of the whistle.

Call it the Zeljko Rebraca effect. He’s not the most athletic. He plays physical. And he’s a rookie. I don’t see refs reacting favorably.

3. Jerebko will give the Pistons a better backup power forward than they had last year.

Jerebko will help Detroit, but it might not be the way he wants.

Jason Maxiell’s production slipped across the board last year. It’s hard to believe the contract extension he signed at the beginning of the season didn’t have something to do with it. He just didn’t look hungry on the court.

Jerebko might just be the kick in the butt Maxiell needs. And if that doesn’t work, that likely means Jerebko is playing well.

Win-win.

For each of the Pistons’ new players, I want  get another voice (or more) besides my own into the previews – someone who has seen these players up close more than I have. I call this feature “in other words.”

In other words: John Beilein

Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein recruited Jerebko when he was at West Virginia and is a friend of his family. For more info, check out this Buffalo News article.

You recruited him at West Virginia?

He ended up actually attending one of our summer camps. But the big thing is his dad, Chris, played at Syracuse.

And his uncle, Peter Jerebko, both played and was my assistant coach at Le Moyne College. He was one of the greatest shooters, could be as good of a shooter I’ve ever had at any time. And I’ve had some shooters. He’d be in the Pittsnogle range of consistent shooters.

So, (Jonas) looked at Syracuse. He looked at University of Buffalo. And he looked at West Virginia.

He chose University of Buffalo because that’s where the family’s real home is. That’s where the grandpa is. All the uncles are there. A lot of the grandchildren are there.

But then, (he) decided in that spring to go pro instead of going to college.

How far along did you get recruiting him before he picked Buffalo?

I was going to over and visit him in the fall and have him in for an official visit.

Did you offer him a scholarship?

We were going to offer him an official visit in the fall. Our standard thing is an official visit usually has a scholarship offer on the table.

But not at that time. We didn’t have all those things yet.

He had the talent. We wanted to see all the other things.

What did you like about his game?

He really had a great feel for the game. He could really shoot the ball, really shoot the ball.

I loved that he could block shots. At the college level, he was going to be able to block some shots, even though he’s a forward. He had great timing.

Did you see him as more of a small or power forward in college?

Oh, you know how are forwards play. They would have been very much the same. He would’ve played either forward for us.

What did you see that you wanted him to work on? Which parts of his game weren’t as developed?

I don’t think they was anything in particular. We saw him as a very, very good prospect to play in college.

A lot of people, if they had reservations, it was about a kid from Europe. You get a verbal from them, and then they go pro and while you told everybody else no.

Those things are typical of European players because there are so many great opportunities for the ones that are already over there.

If there wasn’t that concern, how hard do you think he would’ve been recruited?

I think he would’ve been recruited at a very high level had he been in the United States …

He was basically unknown in the States, unless you know the Jerebko family. … If he had the exposure, he would’ve been a highly sought after recruit.

Is there anybody you can compare him to in stature coming out of high school if he would’ve had those opportunities?

Kyle Singler, that type of player. (Singler was a five-star recruit, according to rivals.com) … But this is four years ago now.

Is there anything else to know about him?

He comes from a great family. He’s a great kid with a great family.

His brother played at Syracuse. His other brother played Division II, but could’ve played anywhere. He could’ve played Division I anywhere.

Just a real solid family.