Andre Drummond excels, Kyle Singler steps up, Brandon Jennings sits, and everyone plays hard in eventful win
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 10-17 FG | 2-6 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | +14
Monroe played with great purpose on both ends. There was no wasted movement as he sought and got clear looks at the basket and snatched rebounds. He even contested shots on the other end, maybe even verging on being overly aggressive.
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 7-17 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | +13
Smith was really hustling defensively and on the glass, and when he plays like that, he gets more leeway in other areas – like leading the team in misses and turnovers.
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | +16
At one point, George Blaha mistakenly called him “Kyle Korver” – a relatively minor mistake tonight. Singler shot 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, including a couple clutch makes to seal the game. Singler didn’t simply spot up from beyond the arc, either. He was hustling all over the court.
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 33 MIN | 10-11 FG | 0-8 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | 0
Early in the fourth quarter, Drummond swiped a perimeter Atlanta pass, burst up court and dunked on Elton Brand. That put the Pistons up five, their biggest lead to that point. Not many big men can make a play like that. Drummond is special – and he showed it most of the night. But his weakness is glaring. Later in the period, the Hawks got back into the game by intentionally fouling Drummond, who missed all his free throws tonight. John Loyer had no choice but to pull him, and with that, went Drummond’s A+.
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 3-12 FG | 4-6 FT | 2 REB | 14 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +7
Jennings forced too many bad shots, which partially explains his 0-for-8 start. But he passed well, and then Hawks got him going by fouling him a couple 3-point attempts. The Pistons have clearly tilted their defense to account for Jennings being the weak link. Still, I’m docking Jennings points for Shelvin Mack (21 points on 16 shots, six assists and one turnover) going off. If your team can’t trust you defend Shelvin Mack, that’s a problem. Jennings didn’t play in the fourth quarter, when he typically hijacks the offense and hurts the Pistons’ chances of winning. Jennings gets no demerits for that tonight, but he’s probably lucky he sat before his efficiency dropped.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -4
Every time he tries to do something offensively, it seems forced. At least he didn’t try to do too much tonight, and he even made a 3-pointer. He couldn’t defend without fouling, though.
|Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | 0
Bynum got to the rim with ease, and he remained under control once he reached the paint – either scoring himself or dishing to a teammate. His defense, however, was suspect.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -7
In his last three games, Caldwell-Pope has posted a combined 16 trillion. It’s as if he and Loyer are playing chicken, with Loyer reducing the rookie’s role and Caldwell-Pope trying to prove he’s not interested, anyway.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | 0
I’m generally OK with Contract-Year Rodney Stuckey hunting his own offense, because he’s one of the Pistons’ more efficient scorers. But when he’s taking running hook shots, he’s probably gone too far. Once Stuckey reigned it in just a little, he returned to being effective.
After back-to-back losses to the Bobcats that were demoralizing while they were still being played, the Pistons could have packed it in. They didn’t, instead playing some of their most-passionate basketball of the season. Loyer deserves at least some credit for that. He definitely deserves credit for sitting Jennings in the fourth quarter and avoiding the trend of Jennings commandeering and hurting the offense. I also thought Loyer pulled Drummond at the appropriate time, after Atlanta sent him to the line twice. One quibble: The Pistons play far too passive defense to excuse how many open 3-pointers they allow. Atlanta shot 13-of-31 (42 percent) from beyond the arc. I really thought the Pistons would get more aggressive defensively under Loyer, but they haven’t.
- Teams: Atlanta Hawks (25-28) at Detroit Pistons (22-32)
- Date: February 21st, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Pistons are 0-2 against the Hawks this season (they were supposed to have played three games together by now, but the bad Atlanta weather this winter caused a cancellation), both from very early in the season.
In both games, Hawks budding guard Jeff Teague played very well, making Brandon Jennings look rather foolish on defense. According to Keith Langlois, Teague (and fellow Hawk DeMarre Carroll) is a game-time decision tonight. Teague not playing would be a huge boost for the Pistons, but they shouldn’t bank on it. The Hawks are also missing rookie Pero Antic and star Al Horford to season ending injuries, so they’re just a shell of what they were when the Pistons played them back in the fall.
Also, it seems worth mentioning the Josh Smith narrative. Smith, as you all probably know, spent his first nine NBA seasons with Atlanta. In his highly-anticipated first game against Atlanta, he scored 11 points. In his second game against the Hawks, though, he was held scoreless. Tonight’s play from Smith will probably be marginally influenced by the fact that he’s playing against his former team, although the fact that he’s been a part of the Pistons for over half a season now will probably minimize the effect it has.
The Hawks are currently in a downward spiral, down four rotation players (Pero Antic, Hoford, Teague, DeMarre Carroll) and on a seven game losing streak. They were towards the upper quarter of the Eastern Conference most of the season, but after this abysmal stretch they have dropped down to seventh in the East, only two spots ahead of the ninth place Pistons. The Pistons are 0-2 since the break, being dominated by the Bobcats two straight nights. A win for either team in tonight’s game would break a bad spell and maybe start a turnaround towards prosperity and a playoff berth. With only 28 games left to go, each game remaining is pivotal.
Read about the Hawks
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. The Pistons not-so-surprisingly didn’t make a move at the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday. Does this tell you anything about the state of the franchise?
Dan Feldman: In itself, no. Maybe the Pistons were aggressively — and quietly — negotiating trades that just didn’t get done. Or maybe Tom Gores has stripped Joe Dumars‘ power, including the ability to make trades. I suspect the truth sits somewhere between, but where on the spectrum it falls would mean a lot of different things.
Patrick Hayes: Not anything that we didn’t already know — the only assets the team has that others would be really interested in giving up good value for (Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe) were likely not available. And the players that the Pistons would probably be open to moving (Josh Smith, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, etc.) probably weren’t appealing enough to any suitors to give up anything remotely valuable in exchange. As for the state of the franchise, the Pistons are a bad team suffering the consequences of several years of mismanagement. We already knew that before the trade deadline.
Brady Fredericksen: That the team knows minor deals wouldn’t fix them. There were probably opportunities to shuffle minor pieces around, but outside of trading Smith, there probably weren’t any deals that would help push the Pistons ahead of the apparently far superior Bobcats. They don’t need to make moves for the sake of making moves, especially when they’ve made, what, one good move (last season’s Prince-Calderon trade) in the past four years?
Jameson Draper: This tells me that the franchise isn’t going for the playoffs this year. If they were, they would probably make a couple small moves to put them into better position. They didn’t, and it looks like this season is another lost one.
2. It’s rumored that the Pistons wanted more than just empty expiring contracts for Smith — smart strategy to hold off on moving him?
Dan Feldman: First of all, I’d be fairly surprised if the Pistons actually got any offers of only expiring contracts for him. So, keeping him probably was smart. I don’t want to repeat the Ben Gordon mistake and deal a valuable asset just to dump a contract. The Pistons aren’t in a position where that makes sense.
Patrick Hayes: Pretend you’re Dumars. You’re on the verge of failing to deliver on a mandate to make the playoffs, coming off of back-to-back blowout losses to the Charlotte Bobcats, having your hand-picked coach fired 50 games into the job and for the second time in less than five years, watching two major, expensive acquisitions flop. Would you (again, pretending you’re Dumars, not a person who can objectively see the summer of 2013 for the failure it was) follow up that awful recent track record by essentially giving away Smith for nothing but an expiring contract? It would be admitting less than a year into the Smith signing that you failed yet again. Also, I think it’s a stretch to assume an expiring deal was even on the table for Smith. Maybe the Pistons leaking that they wouldn’t take just an expiring for Smith was their subtle way of saying, “SOMEONE PLEASE OFFER US AN EXPIRING DEAL!”
Brady Fredericksen: Smart. First, I don’t think Dumars will be back next season, so why would ownership allow a potentially lame-duck GM to make more moves? Secondly, Smith has been a trainwreck this season, but he isn’t a bad player. He has a PER of 12.2 at small forward, but a very good rating of 19.9 at power forward. His contract is big, but there are a lot of inferior players with terrible contracts. Smith could be a big trade chip when the draft rolls around for whoever’s in charge.
Jameson Draper: I think so, only because I think any moves at this point would be kind of pointless, and it kind of is like Dumars admitting his errors, which he would never ever do.
3. This is going to be who the Pistons are the rest of the way, what’s the outlook for the final 28 games?
Dan Feldman: The Bobcats are on pace to win 37 games. To best that — remember Charlotte has the tiebreaker — the Pistons would have to go 16-12. They haven’t done that well in a 28-game stretch since one that began in 2008! The outlook? Dim.
Patrick Hayes: It’s bad, bordering on disaster. We all know what disaster is — missing the playoffs AND not being bad enough to keep their lottery pick, which is top-eight protected. I think we can all agree that we HATE THE DISASTER OPTION SO MUCH. But let’s not pretend either of the non-disaster options are all that great. Making the playoffs only to get destroyed by Miami or Indiana brings them a couple of home playoff games worth of revenue, but based on attendance and waning fan interest do you think those playoff games are selling out? And if they miss the playoffs and keep their lottery pick? Sure, that gives the promise of hopefully getting another impact player in the draft. But at the end of the day, it’s another trip to the lottery and a likely reset button/rebuilding effort if there are major regime changes in the offseason, so who knows how long it could be before the Pistons are a relevant franchise again?
Brady Fredericksen: We’ll see the same inconsistencies. These guys are who they are, they’ve been together for over 50 games — the adjustment period is over — and they’re not going to magically change their style of play. They won’t flame out quite like they did last season, which could be a huge problem. In order to 100 percent keep their pick, they’ll have to finish in the league’s bottom five. If the playoffs are unlikely, their best hope is that Cleveland passes them (likely) and the Knicks get hot and do the same (ditto) before they’re battling with true tanking teams. It’s an uphill climb no matter what direction they go — fitting, considering how much of a struggle the last five seasons have been.
Jameson Draper: Poor. I said in the last 3-on-3 that the Pistons would not make the playoffs if they lost both games after the break to the Bobcats, and that’s exactly what they did. The Bobcats are a “playoff” team and are several games under .500. This Pistons squad can’t match up with THAT? Yeah, no way they’re a playoff team.
The Pistons not making a move at the trade deadline probably was OK.
Unless it was an utter disaster.
Sure, it would have been nice if the Pistons unloaded Josh Smith or got value for the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey or Charlie Villanueva. But missing those opportunities won’t cost the team in the long run. This summer, Smith’s contract will be shorter and more tradable, and Stuckey and Villanueva will come off the books and offer enough salary cap room to add an impact player.
But not trading Greg Monroe? If that was a mistake, it’s irreversible.
Hopefully, it wasn’t a mistake.
For the record, I wanted the Pistons to keep Monroe. I believe he can play with Andre Drummond (though with Smith at small forward), and I like Monroe’s efficiency-based skill set. He obviously needs work defensively, and he’s not a great athlete. But at 23, he likely hasn’t peaked.
However, as I’ve said since the extension deadline passed in October, the Pistons should keep Monroe past the trade deadline only if they’re willing to give him a max contract this summer.
Now, I wonder how certain the Pistons are about Monroe. Did they decide they’d pay him max money if necessary? Or does Gores just want the team to make that choice when he sees fit, regardless of how big a bind the timing puts the team in? This was the last chance to trade Monroe in a non-sign-and-trade, so deferring the decision would only mean fewer options.
Complicating matters, the Pistons might have a new general manager when Monroe hits free agency. After Gores stepped in to fire Cheeks, Joe Dumars might not carry the same power within the organization anymore. Could he even trade Monroe if he wanted to?
Hopefully, someone in the front office who will remain there this summer — even if it’s Gores himself — drove the decision to keep Monroe and did so for all the right reasons. This would be simpler if the Pistons had a more stable general manager, someone executing a multiyear plan. If they don’t, though, the responsibility falls to Gores to ensure that the long term is accounted for.
If the Pistons made a conscious choice to keep Monroe because they’re willing to give him a max contract, we’re fine here. But if they’re just delaying their assessment of Monroe’s value, they’re asking for trouble this summer.
Not surprisingly, the Pistons kept relatively quiet during Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Detroit’s silence at the deadline should have been expected. There were Josh Smith rumors floating about, and there were murmurs of minor deals — Will Bynum for Jerryd Bayless — but no small trade was going to make this dysfunctional roster much better.
The issue is who makes the next move. This is a franchise that just fired Maurice Cheeks after 50 games on the job, and that move alone says a lot about owner Tom Gores — and probably more about how the Pistons would handle business at the deadline.
Joe Dumars is in the last year of his contract, and the fact that his coach was fired so quickly says, I think, a lot about how he’s viewed by ownership; there weren’t going to be any more mistakes made.
It appears Gores was the one who wouldn’t allow Dumars to spend more money on a mid-season replacement like Lionel Hollins, so why allow him to make more of a mess before his contract runs out this summer?
From everything we’ve seen, it looks like Dumars tried to wiggle out of his latest mistake (Smith), albeit to no avail.
Now, you just have to wonder if it was his last trade deadline in Detroit.
Other teams say Pistons indeed shopping Josh Smith, but demanding more than just dead expirings.
Bill Simmons of Grantland ranked the NBA’s worst contracts, and Josh Smith placed No. 9:
Lessons from Detroit’s Josh signing include: Don’t put Josh and Brandon Jennings on the same team unless you’re trying to win a sulking contest; don’t put Josh with a new coach on a two-year contract; don’t play Josh at the 3; don’t assume you’ll be good defensively if you play two big guys with Josh; don’t sign Josh to a contract that doesn’t include a mandatory $10,000 fine every time he takes a 3; and don’t overpay someone whose departure from his previous team inspired fans to react as if you shot $100 bills out of a T-shirt cannon at them.
And after saying all of that … you know what? I spent 30 minutes on YouTube recently watching old Oak Hill highlights with Josh and best buddy Rajon Rondo while wondering if the Celtics should deal Jeff Green and Keith Bogans’s expiring deal for him. You know what frightens me? I think I’d be excited if this happened! My God, Josh Smith is my Atrocious GM Kryptonite!
Smith is 28, and while I don’t believe he’s over the hill, players age faster than most people realize. Smith is likely past his athletic peak, and even if he might remain athletic enough for several more years, that’s a scary thought for a player who’s so reliant on his physical skills.
What are the odds Smith makes this worst contract list again next season? He could rebound, but if forced to choose, I’d bet on him taking a spot again.
As poignant as his Smith analysis was, Simmons really nailed this:
Of the 10 teams that kept their amnesties, reasons range from “Billy King saved our ass from using it” (Atlanta) to “we never needed the help” (Boston, San Antonio, Chicago) to “we wish some of our current guys were eligible” (Sacramento, New Orleans, Memphis) to “we’re generally confused and probably misunderstood how it worked” (Detroit) to “we’re too freaking cheap” (Utah, Oklahoma City).
OK, it’s probably “we’re too freaking cheap,” but even that explanation can’t totally be separated from the Pistons seeming confused.
The Cavaliers have had conversations with several teams, including Dallas, Detroit and Indiana about Deng, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, there’s no traction on a deal and no team seems inclined to give up valuable assets for a player who could walk away in free agency.
Could the Pistons use a small forward who plays strong defense and shoots adequately from outside? Absolutely.
Get those Josh Smith-for Deng trades out of your mind, too. No way Cleveland does that.
At best, this is the Pistons doing their due diligence. At worst, it’s a leaked report to create the illusion there’s a chance Joe Dumars even has the power to make a trade of that magnitude.
Neither scenario points to Deng becoming a Piston.
hearing Greg Monroe won’t move
That jives with everything we’ve heard lately, and I’m glad about the development.
Regardless of whether the Pistons value Greg Monroe enough to give him a max contract (a necessity if they’re keeping him past today) or whether they’re just stagnant due to Tom Gores stripping power from Joe Dumars, Monroe should remain a key building block.
It’s unlikely the Pistons get fair return on Monroe now, when other teams see the Pistons desperation and also know they can make a run at him in free agency.
Monroe has major deficiencies, most of them on the defensive end. But he’s very talented offensively and still young. There’s no guarantee he’ll become a major success, but he’s worth taking a chance on – especially considering the Pistons’ limited resources to add another potential star through other means.
If the Pistons keep Monroe today, I’d appreciate that. But they better follow that with a strong plan for him this summer, when he’s a restricted free agent. Otherwise, it’d all be naught.
|Greg Monroe, PF 31 MIN | 5-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -26You ever seen a kids’ basketball game? You know, one where everyone is huddled in the paint and there’s no room to do anything? That must be how Greg Monroe feels every night. He struggled mightily, missing his first nine shots of the night. He wasn’t bad in his stint defensively against Al Jefferson late, though.|
|Josh Smith, SF 41 MIN | 7-18 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -26He padded his stats late in the game, but he struggled right alongside Monroe. Both struggled with the interior demon known as Bismack Biyombo (five blocks) and Smith couldn’t keep up with the Bobcats’ supastar stretch-four, Josh McRoberts (three 3-pointers).|
|Kyle Singler, SF 29 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -20He’s solid, he’s steady and he did what he’s out there to do. Singler made both of his early 3-point attempts, he didn’t get burnt too horribly on defense and that’s about it. He is what he is, and his 3-point ability helps the starting five.|
|Andre Drummond, C 33 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -12Do you think Drummond will wake up late tonight in a cold sweat thinking about the awful things Al Jefferson has done to him the past two nights? Drummond’s a great young player, but his weaknesses as a post defender have been totally exposed in these last two games — albeit against arguably the craftiest post scorer in the NBA.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 35 MIN | 7-18 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -17He let his emotions get the best of him late in the game, collecting a pair of technicals and an early trip to the locker room, but he was decent otherwise with six assists and just two turnovers. Kemba Walker piled up 24 points, 16 assists against him, but he only shot 8-for-20.|
|Tony Mitchell, PF 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2Mitchell came in and made an effort play, grabbing an offensive rebound. The only problem was Jeff Adrien blocked his put-back.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 20 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +4There haven’t been many personnel differences between Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer — except the sudden emergence of Jerebko. It’s tough to watch him play these days. He was such a fun, grimy player when the Pistons drafted him in 2009. Hopefully he realizes that he should rebound and defend, not float around and shoot long-2s.|
|Luigi Datome, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2His beard and pony tail looked stylish, as always.|
|Will Bynum, PG 21 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -2Solid night’s work from Bynum, who has been the other player revived by Loyer. Bynum worked well against Walker, he didn’t fare too poorly on his wild drives to the basket, and his eight-assist, two-turnover night is a refreshing reminder of what he’s capable of on a good night.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4Poor kid did absolutely nothing but stand around and run up and down the court for three minutes. I don’t know that he’s hit a wall physically, but it sure as heck looks like he has mentally.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +1Who knows if Stuckey (or Jerebko or Bynum or Smith or Monroe) will be Pistons by 3 p.m. on Thursday, but Stuckey rebounded nicely from a nightmarish 1-for-11 night against the Bobcats on Tuesday. If this loss means the Pistons are changing course from playoffs to lottery, getting rid of Stuckey’s production would jumpstart the tanking.|
It’s funny, against San Antonio and Cleveland, Loyer had the Pistons playing defense. They were legitimately trying and having some success forcing turnovers and generating offense off of that. But against the Bobcats it’s been absolutely the opposite. Charlotte is legitimately a good defense, so the frustration created by that may have an affect on the Pistons’ defensive effort, but watching both of these defenses is like night and day. Loyer can only do so much — he’s an interim coach for a reason — but he hasn’t looked a whole lot better than Cheeks four games, and three losses, into his tryout period.