By losing to the Cavaliers tonight, the Pistons guarantee they’ll at least tie three ways for the No. 8 seed in the lottery. That means they’ll enter the offseason with at least a 30.8 percent chance at keeping their pick, which goes to the Bobcats unless it falls in the top eight.
Before the lottery, though, those odds would change significantly – as a coin flip would determine whether Detroit, Cleveland and/or New Orleans would get a higher pick if any don’t move into the top three.
However, don’t count on it getting to that point. Another Pistons loss would clinch at least sole possession No. 8 seed – and at least an 82.4 percent change of keeping the pick. Another Cavaliers win would eliminate them from tying Detroit, bumping the Pistons’ odds of keeping the pick to 44.25 percent. Ditto another Pelicans win. Or if both Cleveland and New Orleans win another game, Detroit would get to 82.4 percent without losing itself.
In other words, barring catastrophe, the Pistons will finish the season with at least an 82.4 percent of keeping their pick after the lottery. It’s a good night.
|Greg Monroe, PF 33 MIN | 7-18 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | -22
Monroe struggled to guard Spencer Hawes (6-of-8, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers) on the perimeter, and even Anderson Varejao pulling him out of the paint presented issues. But Monroe still made solid contributions offensively and on the glass while his teammates let the game slip away. Monroe didn’t do much to save it, but it wasn’t his fault the Pistons fell behind 69-37 at halftime. On the bright side, that deficit all but ensured the Pistons could do whatever they wanted in the second half without risking a win.
|Kyle Singler, SF 28 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -14
Singler was OK. Offensively, he didn’t look as good as what he produced. Defensively, he didn’t look as bad as what Luol Deng produced against him. Net result = OK.
|Andre Drummond, C 29 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-7 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -17
Drummond lacked his usual lift on the second night of a back-to-back, a team-wide issue that was most evident with him. That he still grabbed 14 rebounds in those conditions says a lot about his talent. Drummond also goaltended on both ends of the floor, saying something about his focus.
|Brandon Jennings, PG 31 MIN | 5-17 FG | 6-8 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | -18
Three of the Pistons’ first 11 possessions ended with Kyrie Irving stealing the ball from Jennings. Jennings also missed his first 10 shots. But he heated up in the third quarter just enough to post a decent total in the points column.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 28 MIN | 4-14 FG | 7-7 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -18
If Stuckey ever plays for a team that warrants serious advance scouting, I wonder whether teams would just stop fouling him and dare him to finish after making his quick and strong moves. He excels at putting defenses on their heels, placing them in position where fouling usually makes sense. But he finishes so poorly, maybe the line should move in favor of letting him shoot.
|Tony Mitchell, PF 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +7
Mitchell was sort of all over the place, missing a jumper and pulling in rebounds. But at least he got in the game, playing his most minutes since Dec. 10. That’s how he’ll get better.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 26 MIN | 5-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -12
Jerebko’s defensive versatility proved to be an asset, as he stuck with Cleveland’s outside-inside bigs better than Monroe could (though Jerebko didn’t exactly shut anyone down). Jerebko raining 3s, making 4-of-7, was a bonus. No Piston was better tonight, and it’s nice to see Jerebko’s late-season surge continue.
|Luigi Datome, SF 12 MIN | 2-3 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +6
Datome played the entire fourth quarter, only the second time in the 2014 calendar year he’s played at least eight minutes. He made a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer and put the ball on the floor for another made jumper, flashing the perimeter-shooting skills he was expected to bring this season.
|Peyton Siva, PG 22 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -11
Siva had a chance to get ahead of the crowd dribbling in transition, but without breakaway speed, he let a Cavalier catch up and block his shot. Then, Siva couldn’t get back quick enough on defense, and Matthew Dellavedova made a 3-pointer. Siva’s lack of speed was a theme throughout, but at least he made another 3-pointer.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 23 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -11
Caldwell-Pope made one shot, a dunk after getting a steal and taking the ball immediately to the basket. Otherwise, he just settled for jumpers and missed them all. His defense can get him going offensively, but he didn’t play enough defense for that to happen tonight.
|Josh Smith, SF DNP LEFT KNEE INJURY
Will Smith play again this season?
The Pistons-Cavaliers series in recent years has been defined who wants it more, and by "it," I mean to tank. I haven’t forgotten how Cleveland fell behind 100-50 two years ago, essentially giving Detroit no chance to win the tanking battle that game. Well, the Pistons – flat from the get-go – reversed the script best they could tonight. (They’re not bad enough to do 100-50, but they did enough.) By halftime, the loss was in the bag, and then Loyer played the young reserves. He probably should have inserted them earlier, but for him, this is major progress. And as noted above, this loss was huge.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-49) at Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47)
- Date: April 9, 2014
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
With the end of the season approaching, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a bit of turmoil.
It’s not just the idea that the Cavs will miss the playoffs once more, or that the franchise appears to lack a plan, rather, everything is simply a flaming mess.
Cleveland has failed in building a culture conducive to winning. They’ve imported draft pick after draft pick, but they’ve hardly produced wins. The team hasn’t had an identity since LeBron James uttered the words “South Beach” on national television, and that doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future.
Ownership finally decided they wanted a successful program this season, and they acquired a coupled of veterans to make it happen. They brought back Mike Brown and then signed Andrew Bynum.
When Bynum failed, the Cavs jettisoned him and brought in Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes at mid-season. The veterans were supposed to finally help steer the team back into the playoffs after a four-year drought, but that backfired.
By trading for Deng and Hawes, it’s as if the Cavs had signed Jason Statham and asked him to play in a romantic comedy. In retrospect, Cleveland was doomed prior to the start of the season.
And yet, that wasn’t rock bottom.
Cavs the Blog, the ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog for the Cavaliers, conducted a Q&A session with Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com where Windhorst questioned Kyrie Irving’s maturity.
What’s more, in that same piece, Windhorst made it clear he did not believe Irving was a max-contract player — I actually agree — and that he had no interest in staying with the Cavs.
This prompted Irving to lash out at the media on Twitter. Cleveland has been a disaster since the 2010 summer, and it only appears as though things are going to get worse.
Cleveland has suffered the same fate as Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, except there isn’t a caped crusader in sight to rescue the city. For whatever reason, management figured Deng could help with that role in some way, shape or form, but instead, the Cavs did this to him:
Another offseason approaches, and well, it looks as though the path Cleveland has taken for the past four years is right there waiting for them once more. Thus, tonight’s game with the Detroit Pistons probably won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Normally, late-season games for young players on losing teams serve as reps to build up a program, which eventually leads to the playoffs. But we’ve seen this story repeat itself over and over again through the years, and the result never changes.
Once upon a time, Cavs versus Pistons was a marquee game on the NBA calendar. That has since become a distant memory, as both franchises have faded. Detroit’s future appears to be brighter, but that’s only because Cleveland has turned failure into an art form.
Read about the Cavs
- Measurables: 6-foot-8, 215 lbs, sophomore forward from Duke
- Key Stats: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, 46 FG%, 42 3P% and 818 FT%
- Projected: Top 15
Matters to No One But Me …
Rodney Hood has already show great decision-making once in his college career — getting away from the infamous Renardo Sidney-led Mississippi State basketball team in favor of Duke. Instead of toiling as a talented player in a directionless program, Hood spent a year leading Duke’s scout team and educating his teammates on the merits of soul food before excelling on the court this season:
“They haven’t tried it, being from different places of the country, and they miss out on good food, so I just try to share it with them,” Hood said. “They still can’t get over the name, but if they tried the food, they’d like it.”
Junior guard Quinn Cook has had a plate.
Hood sat out last season as a transfer from Mississippi State, so while the Blue Devils played in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break, he went home to Meridian, Miss.
Cook and Hood have been roommates the past two seasons and don’t exactly cook for themselves often. So Hood brought back to school his leftovers, which included an entree that was foreign to Cook.
“So I ate some chitterlings for the first time in my life,” said Cook, a Washington, D.C., native. “It was good. It was good.”
Fits with the Pistons because …
Picture this: a perimeter player who takes a lot of shots from 3-point range. This shouldn’t be hard — we’ve seen players doing this a lot this season. Only now picture those shots being A. good looks at the basket and B. going in.
Hood doesn’t just fill a need for the Pistons. He fills the most overwhelmingly glaring deficiency on the team as a great 3-point shooter who also happens to be 6-foot-8, meaning (if he adds a bit more strength) he has the ability to play small forward and provide competent floor spacing. He also runs the floor well, he’s athletic and, after playing this season next to star Jabari Parker, he’s comfortable contributing in a complementary role, meaning he could still get shots naturally while the Pistons run their offense through Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond next season. Or, if you’re a masochist, if they run it through Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.
In addition to his shooting, Hood is smart, doesn’t turn the ball over much, can get a shot off the dribble and runs the floor and finishes well. All of those sound like the exact qualities the Pistons would want in a wing to complement their young bigs offensively.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
Hood’s biggest question mark is on defense. He’s part of a Duke team that was not particularly good on defense this season. He’s tall and athletic enough to potentially improve on that end (although Draftexpress points out that Hood doesn’t have long arms), particularly if Drummond can add “not biting on all the pump fakes ever” to his arsenal and Monroe can add “moving feet on defense” to his next season. He’s also not particularly strong yet, so some of the league’s bigger wings could bully him.
Hood also plays with a laid back demeanor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for a Pistons team that frequently for … oh … five years or so now … has played with little to no intensity, it would be nice to come out of this draft with a player who adds a little fire to their lineup.
From the Experts
Hood is a little more one-dimensional, but his great size for his position and effortless stroke from long range have earned him a lot of fans in the late lottery to mid-first round.
Hood is generally an efficient player offensively, as he takes what the defense gives him and rarely looks out of control. He’s a solid straight-line ball-handler, particularly attacking closeouts, but was also given some ball-handling responsibilities in the half-court. Duke relied primarily on small-ball lineups this year, with Hood seeing a good amount of minutes at the power forward position, where he can be very effective as a mismatch threat against slower collegiate big men, particularly with the terrific spacing his team displayed. 32.5% of his offense came off isolation plays and on the pick and roll, even if it remains to be seen how much of a shot-creator he’ll be in the NBA when he’s asked to move down one or two positions and is guarded by legit wing defenders.
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 10-24 FG | 1-1 FT | 13 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +7Monroe excelled inside, hitting the offensive glass and scoring. Most encouragingly, he did it in tandem with Drummond. The future, without Smith such a major part of it, could be bright.|
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -4Singler started at small forward, which should typically a better fit for him defensively than shooting guard. But Kyle Korver is as adept at freeing himself off-the-ball on the perimeter as any shooting guard, meaning Singler faced all the usual challenges. Korver scored all 12 his points while Singler played and shot 0-for-4 with Singler on the bench. Singler shot poorly himself, too.|
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 31 MIN | 7-9 FG | 5-11 FT | 17 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +1Drummond used his size to absolutely dominate the Hawks. They had no absolutely no answer for him.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +9Jennings didn’t light the world on fire, but he mostly stayed out of the way.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 8-17 FG | 12-14 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 8 TO | 29 PTS | +13Stuckey started in place of Josh Smith, giving the Pistons a sensible starting lineup. It’s not a good lineup, but at least it was sensible. Offensively, Stuckey saw points for the taking against a lethargic and discombobulated opponent, and to his credit, he took them. Stuckey defended well in the halfcourt. When the Hawks got into transition, Stuckey remained on offense. That carelessness extended to taking care of the ball, too.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 2-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +4Jerebko provided efficient, energetic minutes.|
|Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | 0Siva entered the game shooting 1-for-9 on 3-pointers this season. He shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc tonight, all three makes coming on pick-and-rolls. On two, the Hawks went way under and made no effort to recover. On the other, they hedged and then quickly left Siva wide open. If Siva can consistently make opponents pay for that type of defense, that would go a looong way toward making him a viable NBA guard and forcing teams to guard him like he is one.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +5Caldwell-Pope had a putback and dunked twice. He just missed everything else. Credit Caldwell-Pope for generating dunk attempts, especially one where he knifed through a supposedly set Atlanta defense. Plus, he defended really well.|
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart DNP LEFT KNEE INJURY Smith missed the game due to knee tendinitis, and the Pistons won. Coincidence?|
A team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs should use an eight-man rotation and give DNP-CDs to a pair of rookies. Wait. That’s not right.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (28-49) at Atlanta Hawks (34-42)
- Date: April 8, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket
What to look for
The Atlanta Hawks’ playoff push will resume tonight when they host the Detroit Pistons.
The Hawks closed out March with a six-game losing streak, but they rebounded by winning three of their past four contests. The consecutive defeats came to a halt against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the other victories occurred against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.
The win in Indiana was the most surprising one given that it was a blowout on the road. Indeed, the Hawks led that contest 55-23 at halftime in a game that was never close.
The New York Knicks are trailing the Hawks in the playoff race, and are three games behind in the loss column. Atlanta appears to have the inside track by virtue of their superior record and weak schedule.
The Hawks have six games left to play, and half of them are against teams with sub-.500 records.
On the other hand, the Knicks have four contests left in the season, and they are all against plus-.500 squads. The list of opponents reads as such: at Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, at Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors.
Hence, it appears as though Atlanta is headed to the postseason. Granted, the Hawks still need to post wins to ensure that becomes a reality, and the final stretch starts tonight.
With six games scheduled over the next eight days, it’s entirely possible that tonight’s contest versus Detroit will be the easiest game on the schedule (yes, even easier than the last game of the year at the Milwaukee Bucks, because it will be the end of a relatively tough eight-day stretch).
The Pistons simply want to get the season over with and start the rebuild…again. Two teams heading in different directions, and the one with the best outlook is Josh Smith’s former team. Go figure.
Read about the Hawks
In what has been considered an inevitability much of the season, Joe Dumars is likely to step down as Pistons president of basketball operations in the near future. I’ve already had a handful of questions come in this morning for the mailbag related to Dumars, so I won’t spend too much time analyzing his tenure in this part of the mailbag. I do feel like these are the important highlights to stress:
* Time heals. Dumars has to own some of the colossally bad decisions he’s made just like he gets to own the amazing moments he orchestrated for this franchise. In the end, one of those collections endures and one doesn’t.
* Make no mistake, he has to own the failures. They haven’t all been his doing, but by far the most crippling moves made by this organization over the last five years are, in order: 1. Ben Gordon signing in conjunction with Rip Hamilton extension 2. Josh Smith signing 3. Charlie Villanueva signing 4. Brandon Jennings sign/trade. Add in the tie for fifth of giving away good, cheap, young and useful players Amir Johnson and Arron Afflalo and, well, there you have your recipe for two awful rebuild attempts, even if the silver lining is finding elite talent late in the lottery in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
* Dumars has overseen as many losing seasons as winning ones. As the elaborate defenses of his tenure (or, perhaps more aptly put, revising) come out over the next few days (and make no mistake, they will), it is important to remember this fact. Dumars has been given an extraordinarily long time to do this job, way more time than the vast majority of his peers get, particularly considering the lack of success over the last five years. As Dan wrote, he deserved longer than most because he does have a championship track record. But any suggestion that Dumars was deserving of a longer tenure than he received isn’t credible. The length of time he kept his job is exceedingly rare in modern professional sports and was more than a generous amount of time to turn around the franchise’s tailspin.
* Dumars leaving does not mean Detroit’s problems are solved. Tom Gores is still a question mark who hasn’t exactly wowed fans (other than with his dancing moves) since purchasing the team. Every time he’s been interviewed, he gives vague non-answers about his love for winning. He became so enamored with that enchantress Lawrence Frank that he HAD to hire him over any other coach on the market (not that Mike Woodson, Dumars’ choice, was all that much better based on his results in New York). He ultimately okayed the Smith/Jennings signings, he okayed sending Ben Gordon and a first round pick to Charlotte rather than just amnestying him and he made the decision to bring Dumars back as a lame duck with no contract beyond this season and a “win or else” edict that never, ever, ever works in sports. It was time for Dumars and the team to part ways, but let’s not pretend that Gores is exactly confidence-inspiring.
Anyway, those basically sum up my thoughts. On to your questions:
Am I the only one irked by the “Detroit Basketball” promos? The ones where they mash highlights of the team that went to six straight conference finals from 2003-2008 to the current collection of talent pushing 30 wins every year. By constantly, making that association, no matter how faint it is, aren’t we tarnishing the conference finals streak? It reminds me of the Undertaker from the past five Wrestlemanias (WM 26-30), and how his performances have been dismal but they are propped up by the previous 16 straight victories. Speaking of which, what’s a more impressive streak – 21 straight victories at Wrestlemania or 6 straight conference finals appearances? — pt
To answer your first question, yes, I do find it offensive that the current version of the team is in any way compared to the confident, overachieving Going to Work era Pistons. I just imagine Pistons practices as Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace standing around with their arms crossed, shaking their heads the entire time. I don’t want those two to ever have to talk to or associate with, like 65 percent of this roster.
As for the second part of your question … I’m still not recovered from what I witnessed Brock Lesnar do to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30 on Sunday. Streak is dead. You got me again, Vince McMahon. You always do.
You’re correct … the six straight conference finals appearances are an incredible feat, something that will be hard to replicate (although the Heat are likely to get to their fourth straight this season, and should continue that as long as LeBron stays in Miami). There are two caveats to throw in here. The East, as it is now, was incredibly weak, so a talented, veteran team like the Pistons could put together an ECF run more easily than a West team could. For example, San Antonio and Dallas both have had sustained runs of excellence similar to the Pistons, but both franchises have won titles and also had early exits during those runs. The Pistons at their peak were never in danger of losing a first round series and only a couple of times played competitive teams in the second round. The road for West teams to copy that feat is just way harder. And secondly, the impressiveness of the six ECF appearances for the Pistons gets tarnished a bit because there is an expectation that that team should’ve made the Finals at least one or two other times and should’ve won another title. There were at least two years (2005 and 2006) that good arguments could be made that they were the best team in the league, but neither resulted in titles.
Anyway, the main difference between the ECF streak and THE STREAK is the fact that literally no one expected Undertaker to lose Sunday whereas everyone expected the Pistons to get crushed by Cleveland in 2008 in the first round. The Pistons couldn’t elicit responses like this when their streak ended.
(A couple of fun hypotheticals from Brady Fredericksen) Would you take Darko and the one title or Wade/Bosh/Melo and a coin flip for two titles or none? and Dumars dealt Chauncey in 2008-09 and he finally fell apart in 2010-11. Say the Pistons held on to the core until 2011 — how good would they have been in those three seasons? – Brady Fredericksen
Love these questions. The first one is easy for me — Darko and his frosted tips are easily one of my most hated memories of my basketball fandom life (although I really did get into the fanfiction bizarro world Darko as a superstar character that I created in my book, which you can still totally buy — it’s ranked number 3.8 million on Amazon’s best seller list!). But I would still likely take Darko plus a title over Wade/’Melo and no guarantee of a title. That’s probably why I’ll never be a GM … taking Wade, ‘Melo or Bosh (or, who are we kidding, Kirk Hinrich or Chris Kaman or virtually any other person in that draft) would’ve obviously changed the construction of the Pistons, but it’s hard to not picture them still being unbelievably good. Even if the fit wasn’t seamless, those players would’ve been tremendous assets who would’ve probably fetched more than Rodney Stuckey’s limitless potential in return if they became unhappy in Detroit or made it clear they were leaving. Still though … that title was too important to some of my formative years in my 20s for me to give it up. Oh, and incidentally, Brady also picked the title but the cold, calculating Feldman totally took Dwyane Wade and is going to try and win six straight championships with him. You already knew that would be Feldman’s choice though. He probably has a graph coming to prove why he’s right.
I’ve already written about the second question. I think if Dumars would’ve held onto his core, particularly not making the Billups trade, we wouldn’t be discussing his legacy today because his job with the Pistons would be secure. He was almost onto what the Spurs have successfully done (though obviously on a smaller scale … the Pistons didn’t have a Duncan/Parker/Ginobili). But the short version of what that post I wrote a year or so ago says is you keep Billups as your transitional star (he was still playing at an All-Star level then), you don’t extend Hamilton, you let Hamilton, Wallace and McDyess expire and splurge on a better free agent (like David Lee, who the Knicks probably weren’t going to match) rather than Gordon/Villanueva and you rely heavily on young, solid players like Stuckey, Afflalo and Amir Johnson to grow into bigger roles. Then, heading into the 2009 draft, it’s likely the Pistons would’ve been picking in the mid 20s where they could’ve nabbed someone like Taj Gibson. They had three second round picks, so you give them Jerebko with the Raptors pick they owned and then with two picks later in the second they choose between useful players like Marcus Thornton, Chase Budinger, Patrick Beverly, Patty Mills, Danny Green and Jodie Meeks (seriously that was a really good second round in 2009).
I think the 2008 team could’ve made another playoff run with Billups/Hamilton/Prince/Wallace — Orlando made the Finals that season and the Pistons had Orlando’s number in those days. After letting some of their veterans walk in the offseason, their main roster becomes something like Billups, Prince, Lee, Afflalo, Stuckey, Johnson, Jerebko, Gibson, Thornton and Mills. Is that a contending team? Certainly not. But it’s a possible playoff team and, more importantly, it has veterans who are attractive assets in Billups, Prince and Lee and it has an abundance of promising, cheap young players. The team would be talented enough to compete for lower tier playoff spots and flexible enough to continue adding pieces through free agency or trades. That’s obviously a far better outlook than locking up Gordon, Hamilton and Villanueva.
I’ve got a general NBA question for you that applies to the Pistons this season. Pretty much every fan knows what’s at stake when their team is in a situation like the Pistons and have chance to lose their draft pick if they don’t tank well enough. But are the players aware of this? I ask because I hear about players not understanding the salary cap, a team’s financial future when they’re in free agency, etc. Don’t want to be insulting to the players, but just curious if they’re even aware of their team’s situation in cases like this. – Jacob
For the most part, I think players understand the basic constraints their team is operating under. There are probably very few cap experts on rosters in the league, but there are certainly guys all over the league like Billups, Shane Battier, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Tyson Chandler, etc. (Seriously, the list of smart, savvy NBA players is a really long one and includes many of the league’s superstars … despite the awfulness of the Pistons, this is a great time to be a NBA fan. The league is full of incredibly talented players who also conduct themselves well and seem like genuinely interesting people off the court.), who have some understanding of the financial/business side of running a team.
As for the Pistons, I think the fact that they could lose a draft pick has been covered enough that the players know about it. They might not pay much attention to the specific protections or what would or would not cause them to lose it, but I would guess everyone has some understanding of it. I don’t think it enters their minds much or is a discussion point though. I think they’re pretty singularly focused on playing and on their own schedules, as they should be. It’s a lot harder to be oblivious to these types of things than it was in the past. The volume of coverage the league gets, the fact that all players are pretty much using some form of social media and the 24/7 nature of news mean it’s always in the backdrop. In the past, I think players could more easily tune out media or news they considered distractions.
What do you think are the best places to follow for Pistons news? — Jason
I’m probably not the best person to answer this one anymore — as most have noticed, my day-to-day writing about Pistons news has dwindled to almost non-existent over the last year. I’m perfectly content writing sporadic mailbags and doing potential draft pick profiles. That’s about the extent of my expertise anymore. I’ll give you a few who I still follow pretty regularly though. Locally, Vince Ellis is the only beat writer I check out regularly. I just tend to think he’s the most connected and best among that group. Along with Vince, I obviously read what Feldman, Brady, Tim and J.M. (seriously … J.M.’s game previews are Best in the World) regularly and I’m a daily Detroit Bad Boys reader as well. Other than that, I think you can get every single thing you need when it comes to NBA coverage from Grantland. If you’re not reading Zach Lowe, Jonathan Abrams and Kirk Goldsberry religiously, you’re doing it wrong.
I’ll let commenters handle other recommendations — who are the best writers/outlets for both Pistons and NBA coverage? Help this guy out.
Is it totally ridiculous to try to swing a trade for Dennis Schroeder? — Toruk Matko
I have no idea … is he available? I’ll assume he is. His attributes, as far as I can tell, are that he’s young (20), very athletic and he’s a point guard. He hasn’t played a ton in Atlanta this season, and when he has, his numbers haven’t been impressive — he’s a bit turnover prone and he’s hitting 25 percent from three. He is, however, averaging 17 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds per game in the D-League, so he has obvious potential. I don’t think the Pistons should be opposed to looking to upgrade talent at any position. I would be surprised if Atlanta is ready to give up on Schroeder yet — they’ve never seemed all that in love with Jeff Teague, so maybe they are grooming Schroeder to hopefully push him for a job down the road. The Pistons haven’t found a solution at point guard yet (apologies, Mr. Jennings), so sure, why not, see what it would take to get Schroeder? As long as the price isn’t Drummond or Monroe, I’d be fine with anything else. Do you think the Hawks would like Josh Smith back?
If you’re Tom Gores, how do you fix this team?
-Who are some GM candidates you’d be interested in?
-Who are some front-office assistants you’d be interested in? Asst. GM, Head Scout, Analytics, etc.
-Who are some HC candidates you’d be interested in?
-Who are some coaching staff assistants you’d be interested in? I guess that depends on who the HC is, but a great big man coach for ‘Dre is an absolute must!
-Who do you like in the ’14 draft, assuming we have the #7/8 pick (or in the ’15 draft, assuming we don’t).
-What are some potential trades you’d be interested in?
-Who are some free agents you’d be interested in?
-Any long-term future plan you have?
Large philosophical question, but I’d love to hear any thoughts you have! — Eric
Whoa, we’ll close this with a detailed one. I’ll try to keep responses brief and go bullet by bullet:
- I honestly don’t have a dream candidate. I think the best hires these days are guys who come from some of the league’s best front offices. So I hope Gores looks at anyone currently working for San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami, Indiana, Dallas, Portland, etc., who might be ready for a promotion. As long as any candidate’s first words in the interview are, “Here’s my plan to dump Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings,” I’m intrigued by that candidate.
- I don’t have anywhere near the level of league insider-nous necessary to know this. I do know that the Pistons have a well-respected analytics guy in their front office now in Ken Catanella. I hope he gets a chance to prove his worth or maybe even get promoted. Just because someone has worked in a supporting role in an organization that hasn’t performed well doesn’t mean that person is part of the problem. Maybe Catanella is the best candidate to fix this. Maybe not. But Gores should be willing to look both internally and externally for the best possible front office team.
- In no particular order, Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Nate McMillan, the Van Gundy brothers (probably with a slight preference for Stan because I’d LOVE to see him clown inane questions from media up close like he used to in Orlando). I think Hollins might not be a perfect fit if a front office crew that is heavy on analytics is assembled considering the … uh … not so smooth way that transition went between Hollins and the new regime that came into Memphis. But here’s why Hollins is my frontrunner — he led a Memphis roster that had two bigs who need touches and little shooting to the Western Conference Finals and he undeniably helped mold that team into arguably the league’s toughest (the GRINDHOUSE is my favorite NBA arena). The Pistons could desperately use a coach who is both innovative in the system he runs and no-nonsense enough to shake the team out of the passive way they’ve played for about half a decade now.
- No preference on assistants, other than whoever comes on board I hope gives strong, strong consideration to retaining Rasheed Wallace in his player development role. In general, I’d prefer assistants who are great at relating to players and at least one each who is a savant when it comes to drawing up or breaking down offensive or defensive sets.
- I currently hate the options (namely, Aaron Gordon) currently pegged in that range for the Pistons. I’d hope that something weird happens (like Marcus Smart falls a few spots) or the Pistons trade their pick to Phoenix or Chicago for two picks later in the first round and end up with some combo like Nik Stauskas and Adreian Payne. I think it’s also possible that wings like Stauskas and Gary Harris rise into lottery range and the Pistons could snag one or the other. Both of those guys are really underrated in mock drafts at the moment. So is Payne — any man who can do this at 6-foot-11 and also hit 42 percent of his threes is clearly a lottery pick.
- Trades, I’d be interested in the following: anything that makes Josh Smith not on the roster; anything that makes Brandon Jennings not on the roster; a Greg Monroe trade that brings back a top eight pick in this year’s draft (unlikely) or a really good, young wing player (and if any of you say “Harrison Barnes” in the comments, I swear … the Hounds of Justice will come after you). Basically, the only player I wouldn’t be open to trading is Drummond. Anything that makes the Pistons either better or gives them more roster flexibility will ultimately be a positive.
- Free agents? I’ve heard this LeBron James guy might be worth pursuing. But in the likely event that that’s out of the question, I wouldn’t be opposed to a large offer to Lance Stephenson, who is an unrestricted free agent — he gives them the young, brutish, defensive-minded and improving wing they need. As far as filling out the roster, the Pistons could use a veteran wing who can defend (like Shawn Marion), a veteran big who can defend (a small offer to someone like Emeka Okafor, coming off an injury, might be an OK low-risk move to find a backup) and finding more shooting (plenty of shooters who should be relatively cheap on the market including Alan Anderson, Matt Bonner, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Anthony Morrow, etc.). The Pistons have to enter the offseason with getting better defensively and adding more shooting as the priority in free agency, the draft and on the trade market.
Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Is Joe Dumars’ departure best for the franchise?
Dan Feldman: Yes. The Pistons’ problems are not all Dumars’ doing, but too many of them are, and he has not shown an ability to overcome outside setbacks. Dumars has achieved no success with Tom Gores, and though that might the former’s fault, Gores isn’t going anywhere. The Pistons need a general manager who can work with Gores, and they need a general manager who is not overly attached to this flawed roster. It’s time for a fresh start.
Patrick Hayes: It’s best for business. It’s not fair to blame Dumars for all of the Pistons’ failings since he deconstructed a team that was still contending, but it’s fair to blame him for most. He’s overseen two major (and expensive) attempts to retool the franchise, and his wild spending on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this summer shows he learned nothing from his splurging on contracts to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009. That’s … a problem. The organization needs a new direction and Dumars will get another opportunity to run a team somewhere else if he chooses. Hopefully, that fresh start will help Dumars rediscover the attributes that once made him arguably the league’s best GM.
Brady Fredericksen: At this point, yes. Dumars has been given chances to revive the franchise since its downfall began in 2009, but a string of failed coaching and personnel moves have put him in this position. If he was named Phil Smith and he was given the Pistons’ job in 2009, he would have already been fire — that’s how badly the past five years have gone. Sure, the freeze during the Davidson-to-Gores era didn’t help, but he really hasn’t done himself any favors since. The league has evolved and Dumars hasn’t been able to keep up; it’s time to find someone who can.
2. How do you grade Dumars’ tenure as general manager?
Dan Feldman: A-. Am I weighing Dumars’ successes more heavily than his failures? Absolutely. The first-round exits of the mid-90s were preferable to the dreck of the last few seasons as I’ve lived each era, but in the long run, I won’t remember either fondly. They’ll just blend together in the abyss of forgettable seasons. But the Goin’ to Work Pistons brought such joy, I won’t soon forget those. And Dumars single-handedly assembled those peak teams. I just don’t see much value in a general manager producing a mediocre, rather than bad, team. But forming a contending team? That’s a hugely important accomplishment.
Patrick Hayes: B+/A-. The championship and sustained success for much of the first half of his tenure were incredible, but let’s not forget, he had opportunities to keep that team competitive even longer. He never sufficiently implemented a talent development system for young players on the bench like Carlos Delfino and Amir Johnson (both of whom could’ve helped the veteran core immensely) and he held onto and over-valued limited veterans like Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince rather than flipping them for younger assets when they’re value was higher.
Brady Fredericksen: I’ll give him an A- too. Do you know how many active GMs have won an NBA title? Only six. How about reaching multiple NBA Finals? Just six, again. Dumars has not been a good GM in the past five seasons, but he was a truly great GM the previous nine seasons. Pistons fans are spoiled by the success the franchise saw under Dumars. He built a title team and sustained it by reaching six consecutive conference finals. He took a franchise losing its best player (Grant Hill) and had a 50-win team three years later. Fans are going to be happy he’s finally gone, but I just hope the general assumption isn’t that whoever the Pistons hire is automatically going to be way better; GMs capable of building title contenders are tough to come by.
3. What will be Dumars’ legacy with the Pistons?
Dan Feldman: Champion. Dumars has been instrumental two all three of the Pistons’ championships, two as a player and one as a general manager. Everything else will fade in time. Honestly, Darko might serve Dumars’ secondary legacy, and that was the most reasonable of all his mistakes.
Patrick Hayes: As a champion and one of the most beloved figures in franchise history. A poor track record over the course of the last five years is certainly enough justification for a change in direction. However, it doesn’t discount the immense contributions Dumars has made to the organization as a player and executive. Those things will be far more enduring than the forgettable last five years.
Brady Fredericksen: That he’s one of the greatest Pistons of all time. We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, and unfortunately for Dumars, lately things have been pretty terrible. My thing is that the good of Dumars far outweighs the bad. Proof is in the pudding, Dumars was really, really bad near the end, but he’s still damn near the top of the Pistons’ Mount Rushmore. There are no NBA titles in Detroit without him — no Bad Boys, no star-less champions.
It’s time for change, and I hope they find the next great GM. But while fans celebrate his departure, good luck finding another person in basketball who has provided as much collective joy and success to one franchise as Dumars has to Pistons fans over the past 29 years.
Dumars has told multiple sources within the NBA that he plans to resign — possibly as soon as this week
Dumars’ championship and remarkable run as an executive should have gotten him a long leash, and it did. His glory days as a Pistons player probably gave him even more leeway, which is not a courtesy that needed to be extended.
But time has, justifiably, run out. Few general managers would have survived the mistakes Dumars has made the last few years, and now he won’t.
Now, it’s just a matter of it becoming official.
You can read more of my thoughts there now, and we’ll have much more coverage here as well later in the day.
As the name suggests, real plus-minus shares a family resemblance with the +/- stat in the box score, which merely registers the net change in score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court.
RPM is inspired by the same underlying +/- logic: If a team outscores its opponents when a player is on the court, he’s probably doing something to help his team, whether or not he’s putting up big numbers.
But the familiar +/- stat has a serious flaw: Each player’s rating is heavily influenced by the play of his on-court teammates.
For example, in the basic +/- numbers, Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson is ranked 27th in the league. But he’s also spent the majority of his minutes playing alongside Kevin Durant, the league’s likely MVP. What we really want to know is how much of Jackson’s elite rating is attributable to his own play, and basic +/- simply can’t tell us.
You’ll have to check out the entire article to truly grasp the ins and outs of RPM. The numbers — offensive and defensive RPM along with the newly debuted wins above replacement stat — say what you’d expect about the Pistons.
They’re not very good. Before someone gets worked up about these, don’t worry, I’m with you: advanced statistics aren’t perfect. They aren’t perfect in baseball and they won’t be in basketball, but the eye test has its flaws, too.
It’s the usual suspects rounding out the top six in WAR with LeBron James (17.07 WAR), Kevin Durant (16.73), Stephen Curry (13.68), Chris Paul (13.10), Kevin Love (13.05) and Dirk Nowitzk (12.41), but it goes off the rails at No. 7 when DeAndre Jordan (11.58) makes an appearance.
Yeah, I’m a little perplexed, too. Perhaps the ratings favor defense and rebounding (and obviously overall team success) over lackluster offensive production? That logic would surely mean that Andre Drummond grades wonderfully with this new stat, right?
Not so much. Drummond (3.01) graded out as the No. 20 center according to WAR, trailing powerhouses like Boston’s Jared Sullinger (4.03) and San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter (4.36). The RPM stats grade Drummond as a minus player offensively (-0.09), defensively (-0.24) and overall (-0.33).
That’s not all Drummond’s fault — the Pistons’ roster and lack of wins doesn’t help him — but it is interesting to see that, despite having such a great season on the boards, that Drummond has been pedestrian in other areas.
I’ll let you guys skim through the stats and draw your own conclusions, but it is worth noting a few things:
- Josh Smith grades out as the No. 8 small forward via WAR (7.41) and No. 12 via RPM (2.22). Go ahead, be mad.
- Can’t find Brandon Jennings‘ WAR rating? That’s because he’s ranked last at No. 87 (-3.26).
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, for all the ups and downs he’s had, graded out as the No. 8 shooting guard (0.83) in the defensive RPM rankings.
- Greg Monroe actually graded out better on defense (1.18 DRPM) than on offense (0.95 ORPM). Whoda thunk?