- 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?
Guest writer and occasional PistonPowered commenter Pardeep Toor on his favorite NCAA player
- Measurables: 6’4, 220 lbs, Sophomore Guard from Oklahoma State
- Key Stats: 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.9 steals, 8.1 Free Throw Attempts, 42.2 FG%, 29.9 3P% and 72.8 FT%
- Projected: Top-five overall
Matters to No One But Me …
What do we know about Marcus Smart? No, seriously, I have no idea. I usually rely on Patty and Daniel on this here site to equip me with knowledge and jokes. Without their guidance, here’s what I think we know about Smart’s intangibles:
By drafting Marcus Smart you are embracing unpredictability. You are welcoming combustibility as a force for good. There’s an on-court passion and intensity to Smart that is impossible to quantify but we are sure of its existence because it radiates the basketball court as either a dominant performance or a complete meltdown. It’s the same mentality that makes Russell Westbrook a polarizing figure and made Allen Iverson oblivious to his deteriorating abilities and circumstances late in his career. There’s an unwavering stubbornness to Smart that is simultaneously a prerequisite for greatness and catastrophe.
I love Marcus Smart for the same reason that I enjoy Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Demarcus Cousins - lingering volatility that promises a break in the basketball monotony (or because I have horrible taste in basketball players). After years of uninspired hoop from Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey and Josh Smith, it would be refreshing to infuse this organization with the most passionate player in this draft class, who if nothing else, promises a change from the apathy of the past five years.
Fits with the Pistons because …
Big secret: Marcus Smart is going to fall to the Pistons at the 7th or 8th pick in this year’s draft because athletes approaching seven-feet like Noah Voneleh, Aaron Gordon and Willie Cauley-Stein are going to enchant general managers in empty gyms all spring. The organization’s only responsibility from now until the draft is to determine what they do when he’s sitting there, in a bowtie, I’m guessing. Do you trade down to a team who values him more (Bulls for 16/19, Suns for 14 (Gary Harris!)/17(Nik Stauskas!))? Do you take Smart and beg another team to take Brandon Jennings? Do you take Smart and hope that he does something so many coaches have failed to do before, yell at Josh Smith for being awful? I sure hope so.
Marcus Smart doesn’t fit with the current Pistons roster but he’s worthy of the opportunity to become a fit. His ability to put pressure on opposing defenses by attacking and finishing at the rim, getting to the free throw line at a high rate and generating ball pressure and turnovers on the defensive end is going is to make him a franchise guard in the league. He possesses an NBA-ready build which should seamlessly translate his strengths to the next level.
This team needs talent and this is the last realistic opportunity to get it in the draft since they are almost certain to lose their 2015 first round pick (top-one protected) to Charlotte. A Marcus Smart/Andre Drummond future is enough talent to restore faith in the organization in the exact same way that a Trey Burke/Drummond core would have done last June. Let’s hope the Pistons get it right this year and take one of the most talented guys in the draft rather than falling for Chad Ford’s latest fast riser.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
If we are going to get technical about it then he doesn’t fit with the current Pistons core of Greg Monroe , Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. He doesn’t help the team’s spacing issues (instead he adds to the weakness), or the gaping hole at the shooting guard/small forward positions. Pairing a ball dominant guard beside Brandon Jennings would create the same clutter in the backcourt that the Pistons have this season and will inevitably end with each guy taking turns trying to make plays (see: Jennings/Monta Ellis in 2012-13). It’s not an impossible situation. Orlando has creatively assimilated Victor Oladipo at both guard spots either as a starter or off the bench without hurting his development despite the presence of veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo. But that assumes a level of coaching competency and long-term vision that has been lacking in this organization for the past many years.
The poor outside shooting is an issue that is more difficult to resolve than I used to think. Seeing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggle to find any range in his shot and ultimately give up shooting altogether (5.8 field goal attempts this year) is the worst case scenario for Smart’s jumper. Teams will sag on Smart from the opening day of Vegas League, pack the paint to limit working space for Monroe and Drummond and (*GASP*) probably result in more long jumpers for Smith. That’s a nightmare nobody is interested in reliving next season.
From the Experts
Smart shocked everyone last season by returning to school for his sophomore year despite the fact that he was slated to be a top-3 pick. He wanted to show scouts that he could improve his jumper and handle, and he really wanted to lead the Cowboys to an NCAA title. None of that has happened. The team has struggled, Smart has had issues with his shot and turnovers again, and his frustration has boiled over, dinging his rep as a high-character player. Despite all of that, though, most NBA GMs and scouts still believe there is greatness with Smart.
Smart makes a living inside the paint, as he relishes contact and gets to the free throw line nearly ten times per-40 minutes, while finishing 57% of his shots around the basket in the half-court. The role he will play in the NBA appears to be well defined, as he’s very good in transition and on the pick and roll, and is more than capable of creating shots for himself and others, something he appears to have improved on in his sophomore year. Smart’s assist to turnover and pure point ratio both increased notably this past season, particularly his ability to avoid coughing the ball up, as his turnover percentage decreased from an alarming 19% as a freshman to a much more manageable 14%.
Another area Smart is likely to excel in very early in the NBA is on the defensive end. With his size, strength and length, Smart is capable of guarding multiple positions, which gives his coach nice versatility to take advantage of in different schemes. He even proved strong enough to put a body on big men in certain stretches, showing the type of toughness and competitiveness NBA executives love. On top of that, he brings terrific anticipation skills for blocks, steals and rebounds, hauling in seven boards per-40 minutes and over three steals thanks to the intensity level and timing he displays.
Kevin Durant (11/20/13)
“… I like his demeanor. I like how he handles his teammates. A player like him, he always can burst out and get 30 or 40 points … He is poised.”
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 8-12 FG | 5-5 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | -14
Monroe scored dependably inside.
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 11 PTS | -12
In maybe the most hilarious sequence of the game, Smith tried to back down his man, over-dribbled and then threw a pass to Kyle Singer. Singler just let the ball sail out bounds, no doubt surprised Smith passed after beginning his move. Oh, and Smith had zero rebounds and four turnovers.
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 0-5 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +12
For a player who shot 0-for-5, Singler didn’t play badly. But he still shot 0-for-5.
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 40 MIN | 9-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 20 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +11
Drummond had trouble against Boston’s more-skilled big men, but in the way he does, Drummond still dominated.
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 6-15 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -2
Solid, though self-focused, on offense. Asleep on defense.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +16
Jerebko has really turned into a strong defensive presence lately. If he can keep that up and continue making his 3-pointers (2-for-4 tonight), he’ll stick in the rotation all of next season.
|Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 0-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +6
I’m still not sure Siva has the skills to stick in the NBA, but on nights like this, I can at least talk myself into believing Siva should return as the third point guard. His energy was a real asset.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 7 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -10
Caldwell-Pope barely made the net move on his only shot, a 3-pointer no less. He wasn’t as crisp defensively, though.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 32 MIN | 8-17 FG | 10-12 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 26 PTS | +13
Stuckey had a chance to take over down the stretch, and he did. Aggressively taking the ball to the basket, he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter comeback.
The Pistons were 0-35 when trailing by more than one point entering the fourth quarter. This team lacks fight, so it seemed Loyer couldn’t ruin tanking when the Pistons entered the fourth quarter down 10. Using a Stuckey-Singler-Jerebko-Drummond lineup that had struggled throughout the season, with Siva and Jennings taking turns at point guard, seemed to be playing it even extra safe. But Detroit came back. What can you do? On a more micro level, why did Caldwell-Pope get so little playing time? And what would it take to give Tony Mitchell a chance?
- Teams: Boston Celtics (23-53) at Detroit Pistons (27-49)
- Date: April 5, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD+
What to look for
If a basketball game happens, but no one is there to see it, does it actually occur? We might find out tonight.
The Detroit Pistons will host the Boston Celtics tonight in the lone NBA contest featuring teams with losing records. Normally, that might be enough to get people to turn their attention to other ball clubs, but this night might offer more distractions than usual.
The Final Four will be played this evening, and it’s safe to say that many will at least have an eye on the college games. For those of you willing to bypass the NCAA in favor of Detroit and Boston, I offer an interesting way to look at tonight’s contest.
Ask yourself this when observing the game: which player is the best on the floor?
Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe could potentially be the answers to this question, but that’s a little too easy. Instead, we want to focus on four specific players that will be part of interesting head-to-head matchups.
Here are your candidates:
- Brandon Jennings
- Jeff Green
- Josh Smith
- Rajon Rondo
Rondo and Jennings have very different roles, but they will get opportunities to go at each other and run their respective teams. Based strictly off history, Rondo is the superior talent.
However, an argument could be made that Jennings has been better this season. Jennings has been a volume shooter more than anything, and he’s also been a decent setup man, which is on par with his entire career.
Rondo on the other hand hasn’t consistently demonstrated great synergy with his teammates, and he’s had trouble converting shots. Jennings and Rondo are both sub-40 percent shooters from the field, but Detroit’s point guard is putting up more points on average.
If asked last season which player was destined for a better 2013-14 season regardless of the surrounding pieces, most likely would have picked Rondo. And yet, the answer today is Jennings.
As far as the wings are concerned, a similar conversation comes up. Smith and Green share the same position, but have vastly different games. Green is supposedly a multi-faceted player capable of occupying both forward spots.
Early in his career, many could tell that Green had a little Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom in his game. Indeed, he offered athleticism, defense and even a bit of ball-handling.
Interestingly enough, that comparison is actually more accurate than many would probably want to accept. Green is a solid supporting player, but not someone that can be entrusted with carrying a huge offensive load on a nightly basis.
He struggles to create shots and isn’t much of a playmaker. Conversely, Smith has always had All-Star talent. Like Green, he offers comparable gifts to other hybrid forwards, but he’s left fans underwhelmed this season.
These four players make for an interesting game tonight, because either one of them could potentially dominate the contest and serve us with reminders about their talents.
They all tease us with a combination of developing skills that get athletes paid in this sport. In related news, each of them earns $8 million or more annually. Based strictly off the events of 2013-14, can we trust any of them for an 82-game schedule? Probably not.
But for a random night towards the end of the season? Absolutely.
I have Jennings as the best player tonight, and what’s your pick? Let us know in the comments.
Read about the Celtics
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -13Monroe was the worst possible version of himself, getting torched by both Pierce and Teletovic while failing to exploit their lack of size.|
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -15Josh Smith took stupid shots… more of them went in than normal. Good job, I guess?|
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -13Singler did a good job on Joe Johnson, producing a comparable line to the all-star.|
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 42 MIN | 10-14 FG | 3-7 FT | 18 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +1As predicted, Drummond feasted on a pathetic rotation of bigs that had no business being assigned to deal with him.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 9 PTS | -5Jennings was just flat out awful. he perpetually looked a step slow, he was sloppy with the ball, and he made Shaun Livingston look like a star.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +2Jerebko has really made the most of the second half of this season. He legitimately looks like a rotation-caliber player. But the Pistons still have guys who need the minutes more.|
|Peyton Siva, PG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -7I am okay with Siva getting big minutes, but his only real asset is that he can help a team lose. Better to evaluate players who are still question marks.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +5KCP plays a very minor role on the team, even while on the floor. So he needs more court time than most to really evaluate. seven minutes doesn’t cut it.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 25 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -15Stuckey’s game couldn’t possibly get any more mediocre than this.|
Teams usually tighten up their rotations when getting a couple more wins is significantly more important than player evaluation and health. Why is Loyer playing so few guys?Does this man have any plan at all?