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Joe Dumars not resigning (Don’t worry– about that, at least)

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

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

David Mayo of MLive:

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?

Pistons host Raptors

Essentials

  • 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

Raptors Republic

Pistons to end the season with strong, though not certain, chance of keeping their first-round pick

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:

image

Considering how unlikely this outcome appeared, I’d gladly take 82.4 percent. It sure beats The Disaster Zone.

Still, I’m pushing for 90.3 until the bell sounds.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Zach LaVine

Info

  • 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

Chad Ford:

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.

DraftExpress:

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%.

Highlights

Previously:

Bulls erase 18 point deficit and overcome Drummond’s beastliness

Detroit Pistons 98 FinalRecap | Box Score 106 Chicago Bulls
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.

John Loyer
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.

Pistons at Bulls preview

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-50) at Chicago Bulls (46-32)
  • Date: April 11, 2014
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Chicago Bulls are currently seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, and they have an opportunity to climb to the third spot.

The Bulls have four games left on the regular-season calendar, and this is how they shake out: Detroit Pistons (tonight), at New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and at Charlotte Bobcats.

They currently have an identical record to the Toronto Raptors who currently own the tiebreaker. Hence, they need to finish with a superior record than Toronto to get the third seed.

The Raptors have won four in a row and end the season against sub-.500 opponents: Knicks, at Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and at Knicks.

Thus, these games still count for these playoff teams. Still, I’m intrigued at the idea that perhaps Chicago might want to remain seeded fourth. The Miami Heat have owned them in the postseason since the 2011 playoffs, and a third seed might mean a second-round date with the defending champions.

On the flip side, if all things remain equal and the Bulls advance to the second round, they will find the Indiana Pacers waiting for them. Given the Pacers’ struggle with respect to scoring, it might be the best matchup for the Bulls.

Hence, tonight’s matchup has actual meaning for Chicago.

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

Pistons’ odds of keeping their first-round pick, by scenario

When the Pistons’ season ends, they will have between a 30.8 percent and 99.0 percent chance of keeping their pick which goes to the Bobcats unless it falls in the top eight.

We’re close to narrowing that range, though. A single result by five teams – the Pistons, Cavaliers, Pelicans, Kings and Lakers – would swing the minimum or maximum.

Here are the current range of possible season-ending odds along with what happens if one of whatever is listed in each scenario occurs:

image

Note: Each scenario affects only the minimum or maximum. So, if multiple scenarios occur, you can apply both changes. E.g., if Detroit loses and Sacramento loses, the Pistons minimum increases to 82.4 and their maximum decreases to 90.3.

Charlie Villanueva has nearly played out his entire five-year contract

In what seems like an upset considering how little he’s factored into the team’s rotation over the last three seasons, and how much of a lightning rod he is for fan criticism, Charlie Villanueva is about to complete his entire five-year deal with the Pistons. In my column for the Detroit Free Press today, I look at why that may have happened. Namely, for all of his on-court faults, Villanueva has never seemed like a bad locker room guy or bad teammate:

If there’s one thing we should all know from watching the NBA, it’s that no contract, no matter how undesirable the player attached to it might seem, is untradeable. Villanueva has very clearly underperformed, but the Pistons also could’ve cut ties with him if it became imperative to do so. They could’ve sought a trade that sent him to another team for little in return (and since his contract wasn’t as big an albatross as Ben Gordon’s, they might not have even needed to include a future potential lottery pick as a sweetener). They could’ve used the amnesty clause in any of the last three offseasons to remove the remaining years and dollars on his deal from their salary cap and him from their roster. They could’ve even released him or worked out a buyout at any point this season since they obviously had no plans to use him in their rotation.

For whatever reason, none of that happened. That’s at least in part a testament to the fact that for all of the frustrations that Villanueva surely has about his tenure with the Pistons, and the team surely has with the fact that he didn’t perform as expected, he was never a malcontent. He was one of six players to not participate in the team’s boycott of a shootaround in Philadelphia over unhappiness with then-coach John Kuester in 2011, even though perhaps no player under Kuester had more grounds for complaint about his up and down role than Villanueva. He’s always appeared to be a positive teammate, cheering on others in spots that he surely wanted even though some of those players getting regular minutes (looking at you Jason Maxiell) were not exactly productive themselves. Despite that “soft” label, he’s shown moments of toughness in his Detroit tenure — in 2010, when he was a rotation player in a frontcourt lacking depth, he played through both plantar fasciitis and a broken nose. He never publicly vented frustrations (other than those aforementioned and relatively mild tweets) or made it clear he wanted to be elsewhere.

The Pistons obviously thought they were getting far more than those positives listed above. Admittedly, I’m grasping at straws a bit to describe them as ‘positives’ rather than ‘neutrals.’ But they still merit a mention when evaluating Villanueva’s five-year Pistons legacy.

I hope Villanueva gets another chance with a different team next season, and maybe without the pressure of trying to live up to a huge contract, the expectations for what he’s capable of producing will be more reasonable.

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Joel Embiid

Info

  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 250 lbs, freshman center from Kansas
  • Key Stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game, 63 FG% and 69 FT%
  • Projected: Top three

Matters to No One But Me …

I know there are injury red flags. I know he doesn’t fill a need. But watch this Dream Shake and tell me you wouldn’t be all in on an Embiid-Drummond-Monroe frontcourt rotation:

Also worth loving: according to his Twitter page, his name is actually Joel-Hans Embiid. You’re telling me you wouldn’t love rooting for a guy named Joel-Hans?

Fits with the Pistons because …

Positionally speaking, he doesn’t. Until a new regime tells us otherwise, the Pistons appear committed to Drummond and Monroe as their two building blocks, which doesn’t leave an immediate opening for Embiid.

But Embiid does do something that neither current promising young big does — he defends. He was the Big 12′s Defensive Player of the Year, a great shot blocker and, most importantly, he has great footwork, timing and instincts. The Pistons hope Drummond, who is already arguably the league’s best rebounder and among the best shot blockers, becomes a game-changing defensive presence. But as we’ve seen this season, Drummond lacks the awareness and instincts on that end of the floor (as evidenced by his tendency to never meet a pump fake he won’t bite on). Those things should come to Drummond, who has proven to be hard-working and coachable.

Monroe doesn’t have the upside on defense that Drummond does, and he compounds the issue by also clearly lacking the timing, strength and footwork to excel as a one-on-one defender. He’s also had a longer period of time in the league to develop those skills with little improvement as a defender. Embiid is already clearly further along than both, and if the Pistons land in the top three and are truly committed to building a dominant defensive team, he’d merit consideration.

There are many other positives for Embiid — his per-minute rebounding and shot-blocking numbers were fantastic, his attitude and work ethic were praised at Kansas, he has a midrange game (which Monroe and Drummond also lack) and he can handle the ball well for a big (something Monroe has gotten better at and a skill that Drummond hasn’t shown that much). Despite getting on the NBA radar a little later than players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, Embiid has every bit the upside (if not more) than either of those more established prospects.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Along with positional fit question specific to the Pistons, the big red flag with Embiid is injury concerns. He didn’t play late in the season for Kansas due to a back injury. Deadpsin’s Regressing site took an in-depth look at Embiid’s injury if you’re interested in that sort of thing. If you’d like the condensed version: teams are understandably leery of young, possibly still growing, bigs who have injury problems because very team is terrified of being the next to use a top pick on the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden while the next Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant goes shortly after (sorry, Portland fans … I would dig for better examples, but yours are too illustrative to not use).

A team drafting Embiid first overall would have to be relatively secure feeling that, 1. his injury concerns aren’t going to be a long-term issue, and 2. that his upside is greater than that of Wiggins or Parker, the two other players most discussed as potential No. 1 picks.

Aside from the injury, Embiid does have to get much stronger to contend with NBA bigs. Oh, and the last time the Pistons picked a young center in the top three who struggled to drive a car, that did not turn out so well.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

However, a recent spate of back injuries has put his draft status in question. We won’t really know how it affects his draft stock until NBA doctors get a look at him during the pre-draft camp in Chicago in May.

As a prospect, however, Embiid has so much going for him. He has elite NBA size, is a fluid athlete and has shown major improvements on the offensive end. He projects to be a big man who can score both with his back to the basket and on the perimeter. He’s also an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. The only real knock against him this season has been his relative inexperience and his back issues.

If he gets a clean bill of health, Embiid will be back in the discussion as the No. 1 pick. If it’s a minor issue, he’s still probably a top-three pick. If it’s something more serious with longer ramifications, then his stock might slide out of the lottery.

DraftExpress:

Embiid looks the part of a NBA center. Very new to the game of basketball, the Kansas commit has a limited feel for how to make his presence felt consistently, and doesn’t always know his limitations, but flashed some intriguing tools on both ends of the floor, even though he wasn’t at 100%. Knocking down a 20-foot jump shot, making a nifty move to score a left handed hook shot in the post, and putting in some impressive efforts on the offensive glass, Embiid has some unique skills for a player only beginning to pick up the nuances of the game.

On the defensive end, Embiid is a talented shot-blocker who has the tools to become an excellent defender on the ball and rotating over from the weak-side down the road. The Basketball Without Borders product is a bit foul prone and could stand to be more aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim, but his timing was impeccable at certain moments in practice.

Highlights

Previously:

Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Patric Young

Info

  • Measurables: 6-foot-9, 240 lbs, senior center from Florida
  • Key Stats: 11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game, 54  FG% and 60 FT%
  • Projected: Second round

Matters to No One But Me …

Patric Young is the type of player NCAA mythologizers love. Despite opportunities to leave college for the NBA, Young has stayed at Florida for four years. That leads to quotes like this from his assistant coach:

“You take Tim Tebow and you take the Heisman Trophy and all that, and I get that,” McCall said. “But if we are able to win a national championship, I think you have to put Patric Young in that same type of category just because of the type of human being he is.”

I don’t know if staying in college four years ultimately helped or hurt Young’s NBA chances. I do think, luckily for him, that his talents translate to pro basketball a little better than Mr. Tebow’s translate to pro football.

Fits with the Pistons because …

First and foremost, defense. Young has had great physical tools — size, athleticism and an impressive physique — since virtually the second he arrived on campus at Florida. Though there is a wealth of data available that shows he probably should’ve left for the NBA much sooner, I also don’t discount that fact that Young undoubtedly became a better, smarter basketball player while at Florida, most notably on the defensive end. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he moves his feet well, he’s a decent rebounder and a decent shot-blocker. And that impressive physique he had as a freshman? That’s only got more impressive as he’s matured.

Young’s probably not a starting-caliber NBA player. But Young has been an integral part of winning teams at Florida, he’s hard-working, he’s been well-coached, he’s defensive-minded, he’s strong, he’s athletic and he plays hard and with intensity. Anyone the Pistons take in the second round won’t necessarily be a lock to make the roster, so they could do worse than taking a player like Young, who will undoubtedly work and push everyone in the summer and in camp for a spot. And if he does make the team, his ability to defend might eventually allow him to break into a rotation that includes too few players who are adequate defensively at this point.

Also, the Pistons once had an offensively-limited center who was great defensively, was a monster in the weight room and was extremely hard-working. That profile resulted in a pretty successful NBA career for Ben Wallace, so if Young is going to follow a best-case scenario, that might be the guy to model. Young has light years to go as a rebounder and shot blocker before the Wallace comparison is close to apt, but their physiques, athleticism and defensive ability make them somewhat comparable if absolutely everything goes right for Young at the next level.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Young was remarkably consistent during his four years at Florida. That’s both a testament to his readiness for college basketball right out of high school and a red flag that he may already be close to maximizing his upside as a prospect. In a deep draft, the Pistons should be picking low enough in the second round that prospects with more upside still should be available. Young might be a good test case for whoever the Pistons’ new regime ends up being — do they go with a surer, albeit more limited, prospect like Young in the second round or do they go after a less productive, high risk/high reward player with more upside?

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

Young does nothing flashy, but he has an NBA body, is a warrior in the paint, plays great defense and rarely makes mistakes. He’s never going to be a scorer (though he has improved in that area), but he has the makings of a decent backup big in the NBA.

DraftExpress:

Defensively, Young’s physical tools alone – his top-tier explosiveness, strength, lateral quickness, and length, in particular – allow him to be a competitive defender at this level, even if he is undersized for the NBA center position. Luckily, he also shows solid focus and energy on defense, guarding a variety of variety of NBA caliber post players and doing a fairly good job of holding his position and denying his man the ball. He is not outstanding guarding perimeter oriented big men, where he oftentimes fails to maintain his stance when taken off the dribble and struggles to close out on shooters. He also could stand to improve guarding the pick-and-roll, as he sometimes loses track of his man and allows open jump shots.

Highlights

Previously:

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