- Measurables: 6-foot-2, 195 lbs, senior point guard from Ohio State
- Key Stats: 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.6 turnovers, 2.5 steals per game, 47 FG%, 30 3pt% and 74 FT%
- Projected: Second round
Matters to No One But Me …
OK … so I will admit that I wasn’t exactly pumped when Aaron Craft was one of the prospects readers chose in the informal poll I did before starting this season’s Draft Dreams series. As I’ve written before, I’m not a fan of the way basketball is played in the NCAA. One of my biggest complaints is that offenses choke the life out of the ball, college officials seem to have no clue how to call a charge (often rewarding guys for diving under players in the air, for flopping on minor off-arm contact from the ball-handler or, my personal biggest grievance, giving charge calls to defenders who stand around and take a bump from someone long after that player has passed the ball) and the rules are basically geared to help less talented teams even the playing field against more talented ones. Ridiculous zones that allow teams to just keep multiple defenders under the basket along with way to much clutching and grabbing allowed for perimeter defenders.
Which brings me to Aaron Craft. For all of the positive attention Craft received for maximizing his talent, for hustling, for defending his ass off, during his college career, he also got a tremendous amount of leeway to be ultra physical that not every guard in the country received. Personally, I’m a Michigan State fan, so I’ve spent the last four years watching Craft play clutch and grab (and, admittedly, effective) defense on the much faster, more athletic and more talented Keith Appling. But it’s not just my bias speaking here — ask a Michigan fan what they thought of how Craft defended Trey Burke, for example.
It’s not that I hate physical defense — as a Pistons fan, I pretty clearly don’t. It’s just that Craft’s … we’ll say, handsiness … doesn’t exactly have me sold that his reputation as an elite defender will carry over to the pros.
Fits with the Pistons because …
The pros of Craft are easy — he’s tough, he’s strong, he understands not only one-on-one defense but team defense, he’s passionate, he plays hard all the time and he’s willing to throw his body all over the court to make plays. Those attributes are sorely lacking from this version of the Pistons, with a roster that often plays passive, soft and disinterested basketball.
The Pistons would consider drafting a player like Craft for many of the same reasons they took Peyton Siva last season — defense, intelligence, experience and intangibles. Second round choices don’t stand a great chance at making a roster. If they do make it, most don’t hang around particularly long. So if there’s no prospect you’re in love with when you choose in the second round, why not take a proven player who you know will work hard, push the players on your roster and challenge them with physical play in practice?
Craft’s claim to fame is defense. He’s not the quickest player in the world, but he moves his feet well, he beats guys to spots, he’s strong and he’s willing to step in front of anyone to take a charge. The Pistons currently have maybe the worst combination of defensive point guards in the league with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum. If nothing else, bringing in Craft as a third point guard (assuming the Pistons have the same top two next season) (please don’t have the same top two next season) gives them a more viable defensive option to cool off opposing PGs who find things too easy against Jennings/Bynum.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
As I mentioned above, Craft is a college star whose reputation allowed him some luxuries with officials. That’s great for his college team, but he will have to adjust his physicality if he’s going to carve out a NBA role. Hand-checks and upper body contact as an impediment to driving guards are called much more regularly in the NBA, and both were part of Craft’s repertoire to help nullify the quickness of opposing guards.
I think he’ll figure out the defense though. My much larger issue with Craft is that he can’t shoot. For all of the coverage (and he got a TON of coverage) praising his work ethic and desire during his career, the fact that he never really improved much in four years always seems to escape the narrative. In fact, his three-point shooting got worse — from 38 percent as a freshman to 30 percent each of the last two seasons. On top of that, he has a wonky looking shot that suggests he has quite a bit of work to do if he’s ever going to add a reliable spot-up jumper to his repertoire, something that will be vital to him sticking in the league.
Also, somewhat contrary to his rep as the ultimate heady player, he is not opposed to being a bit of a risk taker at times, occasionally throwing low-percentage passes into traffic or taking bad shots.
Craft’s defense is good enough to get him in the second round conversation. His offense is not NBA-caliber, and the fact that he’s played four years of college with little offensive improvement makes it a longshot that he has much room to grow there.
From the Experts
Craft isn’t your traditional NBA point guard by almost any standard. But his toughness and defense have led many NBA scouts to contend that he’ll find a way to make and stick on a team. He’s a likely second-round pick to undrafted, but so many scouts admire the way he plays that someone will give him a chance.
One area Craft will have to focus on to stick in the NBA is his ability to create out of the pick and roll. Craft has shown he can be a distributor in this area, but he often doesn’t have a passing lane because the defense goes under the screen, daring him to take a jump shot. Craft looks uncomfortable shooting off the dribble (27% FG%), as he struggles to get balanced and has a slow release that will allow NBA defenders to recover and challenge the shot when they see him prepare to shoot. Craft took only 1.8 three point attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted,third lowest among point guards in our top 100. He shot only 30% on these three pointers, on par with the rest of his career and not high enough to make defenses guard him at this distance. If he doesn’t develop a passable jump shot, it will be harder for him to stay in the league because defenses will not need to guard him in this area, making it harder for him to create for his teammates.
- Jabari Parker
- Devyn Marble
- Nik Stauskas
- Marcus Smart
- Rodney Hood
- Patric Young
- Joel Embiid
- Zach LaVine
The vision changed too many times, and now, the general manager had to also.
Joe Dumars has overseen several iterations of Pistons Basketball, the team changing identities too rapidly under his watch despite a reputation for measured stability. The latest change, made official today, removes Dumars from his role as general manager.
On days like this, it’s impossible not to reflect on Dumars’ reign – and how much he’s changed since it began in 2000.
Then, he said the league was going another direction.
He needed players who could break down opponents off the dribble. Rodney Stuckey became a sacred cow.
But the NBA hadn’t changed as sharply as Dumars believed. Defense remained a priority to successful teams, and as Dumars de-emphasized it in Detroit – through his actions, though not his words – the Pistons fell into the cellar.
Again, the plan changed.
The result of this latest, half-baked scheme? A mess on the court, yet another season that ends before the playoffs and Dumars effectively being fired from his position (even if it’s disguised as an accepted demotion).
And don’t get me started on coaches, who’ve changed more rapidly than Dumars’ philosophy. George Irvine, Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank and Maurice Cheeks were all scapegoated for Dumars’ failings.
Today, the tables have turned. Dumars is taking the fall for, at least in part, mistakes made by others after years of doing the same to his coaches. So, I have no sympathy – sadness yes, sympathy no – for Dumars. What goes around comes around, and Dumars put himself in this position
Nearly a decade-and-a-half of change came to this, but throughout the destructive transitions emerged three constants that led to Dumars’ downfall: failed pursuits of superstars, repeated unwillingness to challenge players and a lack of long-term planning.
Failed pursuits of superstars
Dumars began his tenure with a flop.
Tasked, above all else, with re-signing Grant Hill, Dumars helplessly watched the Pistons’ biggest star since Isiah Thomas leave for Orlando.
As the narrative went, Dumars realized right then and there he didn’t want superstars. Detroit was a blue-collar city, and the Pistons would win through effort and teamwork.
It’s a great story. It’s just not true.
Dumars always wanted a star, and he never hid that.
He tried to sign Chris Webber, and he tried to trade for Allen Iverson years before he actually did. In fact, Dumars put the writing on the wall while he was still playing. Jackie MacMullan of Sports Illustrated:
Retiring Detroit veteran Joe Dumars’s final gift to the game was the advice he gave Philly guard Allen Iverson during the season. Dumars says he reminded Iverson to keep doing the right things. "He was very receptive," Dumars says. "Allen is what I call an ‘environment guy’ Put him with the right people, and he’ll be fine."…
Dumars believed he had that environment when he actually traded for Iverson, convincing himelf the Pistons were somehow organizationally superior to the rest of the league.
And not only did it cost them Chauncey Billups, Dumars’ miscalculation further eroded the Pistons’ culture. But it didn’t stop him from seeking that superstar.
Repeated unwillingness to challenge players
What did Dumars do best? Trading and drafting – two areas where he was trying to outwit other general managers.
But when it came to free agency, Dumars, a former player, never had the stomach for using leverage on former players. He gave out big contracts, enabled bad behavior and then fired coaches to back his players.
Dumars has left his coaches on an island to fend for themselves and done so under the guise of providing freedom for the coaches to run their teams. This wasn’t a sinister decision by Dumars. He thinks it’s best course for the franchise.
But the side effects of the philosophy – four fired coaches in six years and near-consistent player bickering between – negate the positives of Dumars’ hands-off policy.
Dumars gives his coaches enough rope to hang themselves, and when the noose is tightening, Dumars still won’t step in to help the man he hired. He’ll just provide the final yank.
How does a general get to the point where he can neither effectively keep or fire his coach?
A lack of long-term planning
Under Dumars, the Pistons never properly rebuilt.
His first direction as general manager was to make the team good. It sounds simple, but it’s a difficult plan to execute, and Dumars did it amazing well. He mined the league for undervalued players like Ben Wallace, Clifford Robinson, Chucky Atkins, Corliss Williamson, Jon Barry and Zeljko Rebraca – and everyone fit together seamlessly. He then flipped several of those players to upgrade Detroit’s talent, and the team won a championship.
The Pistons are revered for being the rare team to win a title without a star, but that’s an improper label. Ben Wallace, at that time, played like a star. He didn’t hold the stature, and his elite-level peak was short. But in that moment on the court, the only things that mattered toward Detroit’s championship hopes, he was a star behind only Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. (Shaquille O’Neal lacked conditioning and motivation, and Kobe Bryant hadn’t yet learned how to assert himself without harming his team.)
What really set the Pistons apart: They won a championship without significant contribution from a lottery pick they drafted or acquired on draft night. Dumars should be hailed for how meticulously he built that 2004 team without getting bad first.
Really, it was part of an incredible run of general-managing. As I wrote a few years ago:
In 2001-02, Detroit won 50 games with a starting lineup of Chucky Atkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Michael Curry, Ben Wallace and Clifford Robinson.
The Pistons won at least 50 games the next six years. Last year, the final season of the streak, Detroit started Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace. And the entire bench was different, too.
No other team has ever completely turned over its roster during a streak of 50-win seasons.
Anyone complaining that it’s impossible to rebuild on the fly is wrong. Dumars already did it once.
But it’s such a difficult route to go, Dumars erred by trying to catch lightning again. The Pistons’ next general manager will be fortunate to have Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe’s bird/matching rights, but it very easily could have been John Henson and Ekpe Udoh’s.
Dumars left the Pistons in better shape than he found them, but they were a lost franchise in 2000. Now, well… I guess not all that much has changed.
The Detroit Pistons announced today that Joe Dumars will step aside as President of Basketball Operations, effective immediately. The team has launched a search for a new head of basketball operations.
“Joe Dumars is a great champion who has meant so much to this franchise and this community,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores. “We are turning the page with great respect for what he has accomplished not only as a player and a front office executive, but as a person who has represented this team and the NBA with extraordinary dignity.”
During the transition, Director of Basketball Operations Ken Catanella and Assistant General Manager George David will continue preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft and free agency signing period, reporting to ownership executives Phil Norment and Bob Wentworth. Mr. Norment said the organization has developed a preliminary list of candidates that includes “the best executives in the business,” but he declined to place a specific timetable on selecting a replacement.
Mr. Dumars will continue his relationship with the franchise as an advisor to the organization and its ownership team.
“It’s time to turn the page on a wonderful chapter and begin writing a new one,” Dumars said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great people throughout the last 29 years as both a player and executive, and I’m proud of our accomplishments. Tom Gores and ownership is committed to winning and they will continue to move the franchise forward.”
You can read my initial thoughts at ProBasketballTalk, and I’ll have more here this afternoon.
|Greg Monroe, PF 34 MIN | 8-13 FG | 7-11 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | +6Moose is great and I love that Mason exclusively refers to him as “Moose Monroe” in arena. Every time I get down on Moose, which I have been for the past couple weeks, I watch him play and I’m back on the bandwagon again. Also, love that Chuck Hayes was put in as the “Moose Stoppa” (like Ruben Patterson was the Kobe Stoppa and DeShawn Stevenson the LeBron Stoppa) on multiple occasions during the game. He was better on Moose than anybody else the Raptors had today.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 41 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -14Singler was having a such a good game and season too. It’s a shame that it had to end this way.
“The Atlantic Division Champion Slam”
The saddest part about this crime scene is that it wasn’t his fault. If you watch the first five seconds of the clip below, Drummond is way out of position and then decides to jump out on DeRozan rather than let Singler recover. It was an unnecessary switch that led to a very necessary incident. Singler’s only fault is that he tried to make the right basketball rotation on a team that doesn’t care for such things.
|Andre Drummond, C 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-8 FT | 17 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +2Another monster game for Drummond. He’s was active and dominant around the ball and didn’t bite on Valanciunas’ pump fakes this time around. The Raptors could have drafted him and established the modern version of the twin towers but they took Terrence Ross one pick ahead of Drummond instead to fill a need rather than stockpile raw talent. As intriguing as this hypothetical is, it still doesn’t rank in the top-three imaginary scenarios for Toronto. Here are the top-three: 1) What if Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter stayed together? 2) What if the Raptors kept the pick that landed Roy Hibbert (to pair with Chris Bosh) rather than trade it for an aging Jermaine O’Neal? 3) What if Joakim Noah declared for the draft in 2006 when he was projected as the number one pick rather than going back to Florida for one more year? A Noah/Bosh front court could have changed everything. Instead they got a Bosh/Bargnani front court. Drummond gets docked points for his aloofness on the defensive end when he’s away from the ball but this is a bigger story than just this game.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 29 MIN | 6-18 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -4Why are you still shooting? Why? Please stop. I can’t talk about this right now. I need more space and time. Lowry/Vasquez combined to go 14-of-27 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point territory and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 28 MIN | 5-11 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | -4Stuckey was fantastic today.His ball denials on Grevis Vasquez in the first half and DeRozan in fourth quarter were inspiring. He got to the line and put enormous pressure on the defense. Forgive my ignorance but has he been this good all year? Somebody pay this man. At least the April 13, 2014 version of him.|
|Tony Mitchell, PF 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -3Poor Tony Mitchell. After not playing most of the season, he finds himself guarding Jonas Valanciunas one-on-one in the post in the first quarter. This leads to three consecutive Valanciunas post-ups and the end of Mitchell’s afternoon. Of course the guards didn’t sag to help and a double-team never came.Either the Pistons really believe in Mitchell’s one-on-one defense versus a creative and skilled big man or this was a classic case of rookie hazing. I felt bad for Mitchell. Hopefully there are better days ahead in his career.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -20I must have been on a 23-minute pretzel break when when Jerebko played because I don’t remember seeing him out there. Looks like he did fine.|
|Luigi Datome, SF 13 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1Datome receives an outstanding grade for interrupting the halftime t-shirt toss by coming back out to the court at the 8:31 mark of halftime (meaning he only spent 5:30 in the locker room) to launch mid-range jumpers despite the chaos around him. Datome made his point. He will not be intimated by a t-shirt cannon.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 20 MIN | 2-9 FG | 5-7 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -5Siva does not impact the game in a positive way on either end of the court. Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez waltzed to anywhere they wanted on the court without resistance when Siva (or Jennings for that matter) was in the game. Offensively, the Raptors went under on screens which jammed the bigs and stunted the offense even more because Siva is not a threat to shoot.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 15 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2KCP – look at me. Listen to me. It’s not your fault. This season is not your fault. You are innocent. It’s not your fault that the team never runs a set play for you or tries to get you open. It’s not your fault that you had to force up multiple off-the-dribble jumpers today because that’s the only way you can get a shot. It’s not your fault that you had to play with Peyton Siva. It’s not your fault that you used to start and now play sparingly. Your rookie season has been mismanaged and you are not to be blamed for that. Hopefully you will have a Terrence Ross-esque comeback next year meaning you will get consistent minutes no matter how much you are struggling, will be held accountable on defense, will be asked to drive and kick as well as launch long distance jumpers and have screens set specifically for you to get open.|
|Josh Smith, SF DNP LEFT KNEE TENDINITISGrade is for the entire season.|
I’m not sure about the strategy to play Stuckey/Jennings in the first and third quarter and then Siva/Caldwell-Pope in the second and fourth (until the game got close at which point Jennings and Stuckey were brought back in). Simultaneously, there was a lack of commitment to player development and winning. It felt like a middle ground of indifference. We shouldn’t expect anything else at this point in the season.
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 8-13 FG | 7-11 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | +6
Monroe’s play has been criticized lately. But there’s not a lot negative you can say about this outing. Against a pretty good team with a lot to play for (they want that 3rd seed), Greg scored efficiently and often, he rebounded well, and he kept Johnson and Patterson in check.
Oh, and he did all of that as a PF if anyone cares.
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 41 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -14
Singler put up a solid line, but he wasn’t able to keep up with Toronto’s perimeter players. And, once again, he got way too many minutes. But I can’t really blame him for that.
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-8 FT | 17 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +2
Drummond continued to grab every board in sight. His help defense could be a lot better, but, over the past 8 games, Drummond is averaging 17 points and 18 rebounds in 35 minutes. He is even a +17 in that time frame in spite of the Pistons being -42.
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 6-18 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -4
A 17 and 7 line sounds solid but Jennings was awful. Besides bricking all game, he was almost as bad defensively as some of our more exaggerating commenters like to insinuate that he typically is.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-11 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | -4
Stuckey not only scored well, he actually filled out his stat sheet a bit for once.
|Tony Mitchell, PF Shot Chart 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -3
Yay, minutes for Mitchell. As always, his per minute numbers were excellent. And, as always, that tells us nothing because he got so few of them.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -20
Jerebko was efficient enough, but his usual hustle was lacking to my eyes. And really, he didn’t produce as much as could be hoped for in half a game.
|Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-9 FG | 5-7 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -5
Siva has vastly improved his assist to turnover ratio since early in the season. But he was still terrible in this one. He missed more shots than he should have taken total and he didn’t play a lick of defense.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2
I still hope KCP can turn back into a useful player. But right now, he doesn’t look like one.
Loyer still gives way too many minutes to Singler and Stuckey and honestly Monroe and Drummond too. But at least he finally gave a little more than garbage time to some of the guys whose abilities are not completely known.
Given how bad of a coach he is, that makes almost a commendable performance.
Source: Dumars has agreed to remain on as executive adviser to the #Pistons, but away from basketball operations.
Pistons executives George David and Ken Cantanella will run team through draft and free agency as ownership conducts search for replacement
Joe Dumars will not have his contract renewed as #Pistons president, in an ownership decision. He did NOT resign.
I’d guess Dumars will still be out when his contract expires in a month and a half. This new role sounds as superficial as Lawrence Frank’s daily reports for the Nets. Effectively, Dumars is done, and that’s been clear for a while.
But why are David and Catanella slated to run the team for so long? Tom Gores and crew aren’t further in a search for Dumars’ replacement? Surely, this didn’t catch them off guard, so what gives?
- Teams: Toronto Raptors (46-33) at Detroit Pistons (29-51)
- Date: April 13, 2014
- Time: 3:30 p.m.
- Television: NBATV, FSD
What to look for
Over at Raptors Republic, I answered a few questions about the Detroit Pistons, and Tamberlyn Richardson went on to preview the contest based on some of the analysis I provided. Here’s an excerpt:
“Smith is an underrated passer and solid defensive player when engaged, but Pistons fans will find that hard to believe since they’ve only seen that player sporadically. I don’t expect any change from Jennings going forward, but Smith can certainly be salvageable depending on the team’s philosophy and scheme next season.”
Feel free to give it a read.
Read about the Raptors
With the Pistons’ loss to the Bulls on Friday, Detroit clinched at least an 82.4 percent chance of keeping its first-round pick.
Extremely likely, that’s where the Pistons will remain when the season ends. Only if they lose out and the Kings win out would Detroit change its odds – bumping it to 90.3 percent.
Here are the final scenarios:
Still, I’m pushing for 90.3 until the bell sounds.
- Measurables: 6-foot-5, 180 lbs, freshman point guard from UCLA
- Key Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 turnovers per game, 44 FG%, 37 3pt% and 69 FT%
- Projected: Top 15-20
Matters to No One But Me …
I watch college basketball because I am way too into basketball, basically. But my dislike the NCAA coupled with my dislike the college game in general — it’s officiated terribly inconsistently, teams run awful iso systems that choke the life out of the ball and the way the game is played is set up to limit the impact of the most athletic, physically gifted players on the court by allowing teams to play gimmicky defenses, double and triple team players without the ball, pack guys in the lane and never move them and just generally make the beautiful sport into a brutish cluster. OK, rant over. That’s basically my way of saying I watch college basketball with some self-hatred for supporting a product I’m not a huge fan of.
Anyway, that’s some context for why I am a big Zach LaVine fan. From Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg:
Paul LaVine told the Los Angeles Daily News late Thursday night that his son will declare for the NBA draft because the family thinks LaVine will be a first-round pick and because they aren’t happy with how UCLA has used him. UCLA coach Steve Alford has played LaVine almost exclusively off ball, handing the starting point guard job to all-conference Kyle Anderson and giving backup responsibilities to his son, Bryce Alford.
Love that. “Oh, you’re not going to play me and let me develop where I’m most comfortable while you find minutes for your son? OK, well I will just go to the NBA and get paid then. We’re done here.”
I also loved that the immediate reaction to LaVine leaving from NCAA media was, “He’s not ready for the NBA!” (see Eisenberg’s analysis in the link above), but the immediate reaction from Chad Ford, for example, was, “he’s a top 15 player in this draft!“
Fits with the Pistons because …
The last time UCLA had a prospect entering the draft who was super athletic and whose NBA position was somewhat of a question, things worked out pretty well for Russell Westbrook. LaVine doesn’t have Westbrook’s massive build, but he can jump out of the gym and finish like Westbrook, and he has the added bonus of having a better 3-point shooting touch.
He was right to want to play more point guard at UCLA. If he can learn to play the position, at his size, with his athleticism, that significantly enhances his NBA value as he’d be among a select few PGs in the league with those physical tools. If he turns out to be more of a shooting guard, his size and athleticism are a bit more average among NBA wings. That’s why the Pistons tried so hard for many years to make Rodney Stuckey into a full-time point guard. Obviously that didn’t work out as intended, but the thinking behind attempting to make him learn the position was sound.
The Pistons still need a point guard and they also need shooting. I’m not convinced LaVine can come in and be a full-time point guard from day one, but his shooting would be enough to earn him minutes on a team like the Pistons, his athleticism would be a fun addition to the lineup and his passing ability would certainly be enhanced by the fact that the Pistons have strong finishers like Andre Drummond and Josh Smith on the roster and good cutters like Drummond, Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko. LaVine is likely a project, but at the back of the lottery where the most likely prospects available are bigs like Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon, where guards like Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas might be a bit of a reach, taking a high upside player like LaVine who could pay off with Westbrook-like improvements is an intriguing option.
LaVine’s long arms and quickness also make him an intriguing perimeter defender. He could create a lot of steals and bother a lot of shots against opposing guards, which would be a major upgrade over the Brandon Jennings/Will Bynum combination, which might be the worst defensive point guard duo ever assembled.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
If Tom Gores continues his “win right now here’s all my money spend it on whoever” mantra, taking a project like LaVine over a player who more immediately addresses Detroit’s deficiencies on the wing and shooting the ball is probably not preferable. LaVine also struggled down the stretch of the season, either out of frustrations with his diminishing role or possibly just fatigue (he is young, after all). He also needs to add strength.
The biggest issue is that, as mentioned above, the Pistons already know what happens when you take a prospect with insane physical tools but no real defined position and said player doesn’t turn into Russell Westbrook. Not that Stuckey is a useless player by any stretch, but the Pistons need production. Stuckey is a free agent, Chauncey Billups looks like the end is near, Peyton Siva hasn’t shown in a late season audition that he can be counted on as a rotation player, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hasn’t been a major contributor and Kyle Singler playing any minutes at shooting guard for a third straight season is something no one, Singler included probably, wants to see. If LaVine needs time to develop, that’s completely fine, but it also might put him off the Pistons’ radar as they search for more immediate contributions.
From the Experts
LaVine is still a controversial prospect. Some NBA GMs and scouts love him, thanks to his upside (he’s an explosive athlete with good size for his position who can really shoot the rock). Others point to his frail body, poor shot selection and inconsistent play in Pac-12 competition as they question how ready he is for the NBA. He’s not. But that hasn’t stopped teams in the past from drafting players almost exclusively on upside. His draft stock is all over the place, but I continue to hear that teams in the late lottery are looking at him hard.
The appeal around LaVine revolves heavily around his tremendous athleticism, as he’s one of the most explosive open court dunkers in college basketball. He’s an amazing leaper off one foot, and also possesses a dynamic first step and great quickness in the open floor. LaVine will likely test about as well as any player athletically at the NBA Combine, which undoubtedly gives him significant potential to continue to improve as his career moves on.
LaVine is also an impressive shot-maker, sporting unorthodox mechanics but looking very confident in his shooting stroke, be it with his feet set, pulling up off the dribble, or even coming off screens. The ball comes out of his hand very smoothly and he has deep range and a quick release on his jumper. LaVine started off the season in very impressive fashion, making 42 of his 97 3-point attempts (43%) in the first three and a half months, but then tallied off quite a bit in his final month in college, making just 6 of his last 31 attempts (19%), which brought down his season percentage to a still decent 37.5%.
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 36 MIN | 3-9 FG | 1-4 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | -6I like to compare Monroe to Boozer, but tonight the latter soundly thumped the former on both ends of the floor. Monroe was a big part of the reason the Bulls were able to come back in this one,|
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 43 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -2Singler had a couple pretty offensive rebounds in traffic. But apart from that, he was fairly worthless. Why is a limited-upside role player getting big minutes in meaningless games at the end of a lost season?|
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 42 MIN | 11-17 FG | 4-9 FT | 26 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 26 PTS | +1Drummond wasn’t as good as his numbers, but that’s not taking much away from him. 26 and 26 is absolutely ridiculous. I really hope the Pistons soon manage to put a good team around him. Players who have managed a 25 and 25 game have generally turned out pretty well..|
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 7-17 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -2As per normal, Jennings’ shooting was poor. But he wasn’t passing well either. On the plus side, he covered Hinrich well.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 32 MIN | 10-18 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | -5Besides Drummond, Stuckey was the primary reason for the Pistons’ big third quarter lead. But it’s a rare night when Stuckey can carry the team to a win.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -11Jerebko was still hustling hard. But his energy and movement mostly looked undirected and useless in this one.|
|Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 17 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6Siva had his best offensive and statistical game of his NBA career. But his defense was pretty weak. Augustin burned him time and again. When you can’t check Augustin, that’s a problem.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 19 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -9KCP rarely looks good these days, but he should still be seeing more minutes.|
Siva and KCP got a few more minutes than they normally have of late. So I’m not going to flunk Loyer. But his rotations still suck and being unable to hold on to an 18 point second half lead is pretty pathetic.