We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every owner, basketball decision-maker and coach from 0 to 10, and we asked the panel to tell us how important each role is. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team’s front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.
The Pistons have endured a disastrous season, and being ranked poorly in any capacity shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. With a dysfunctional roster, dysfunctional coaching situation and (apparently) lame-duck GM, the Pistons sit comfortably in the cellar of ESPN’s ranking of the league’s best and worst run teams.
Joe Dumars was ranked dead-last at No. 30 in the front-office executive rankings, which is surprising to no one. Dumars seemed to have regained some of his magic last season when he acquired Jose Calderon and freed up a ton of cap space by moving Tayshaun Prince. But then, of course, he blew all of that dough on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What’s better is that Dumars’ former right-hand man, John Hammond, is ranked one spot ahead of him at No. 29. Currently the Bucks GM, Hammond helped Dumars build the Pistons 2004 title team and looked to have put together a roster mediocre enough to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.
Instead, the Bucks are the worst team in the NBA despite Philadelphia’s recent 26 game losing streak.
While Dumars was ranked last in the GM rankings, the Pistons front office was actually ranked 27th ahead of the Bucks and, of course, the Knicks. It’s worth noting that three of the five teams in the Central Division are ranked in the bottom four here, and that the Spurs rank first in both categories because they’re the best-run franchise in all of sports.
The third and final set of rankings, coaching, will be released on Friday. It’s probably safe to assume interim head coach John Loyer will be slotted comfortably near the bottom of the rankings, too.
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 6-21 FG | 5-6 FT | 16 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +6Tonight’s game featured a lot of Monroe’s signature move: the post-shot scream. Monroe was active on the glass and active offensively, but if you take away his 3-for-5 start, he shot just TWO FOR FIFTEEN the rest of the way. He could have taken 15 jumpers and been better. I agree Greg, arghaahhh.|
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 9-20 FG | 3-7 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | -11So, remember how Monroe was great in the first quarter and horrible the rest of the way? Josh Smith joined the party, too! Smith made 6-for-11 shots in the first quarter, and fizzled the rest of the way. His poke-away steal and subsequent diving bounce pass to Drummond was actually really great, though.|
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3It’s tough to watch Singler on nights when his jumper isn’t falling, but those nights are exacerbated when he’s forced to guard a guy like Lance Stephenson. Say what you will about Stephenson’s playground style, but he had his way with Singler.|
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-6 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -5Drummond’s as automatic a double-double as you’ll find in the NBA today. He did a good job overcoming two fouls within the first eight minutes of the game, and his defense was solid around the rim. Fourteen rebounds is nice, but he was competing for boards with the league’s worst rebounding center in Roy Hibbert.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +2This really wasn’t a bad effort from Jennings. His hailmary shots went down for the most part, and he was a big reason the Pistons had 16 fastbreak points and 17 points off turnovers. But he dribbled right into George Hill’s hands with just under two minutes to go before committing a dumb off-the-ball foul to give Indy a free throw in the final minute. Maybe that deserves an A? I dunno anymore, this all blends together.|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +6He went through the motions, missed a three and his night was over by halftime.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6Charlie was just so excited that his UCONN Huskies are playing in the Final Four that he tackled Hibbert — a former Big East great himself — while he was trying to tell him.|
|Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -9Bynum had a few good drives to the basket, but he wasn’t really on the same page as the rest of the Pistons tonight.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -5Nice alley-oop to Drummond in the second quarter. Other than that, nice job cheering from the bench.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 32 MIN | 6-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -16Stuckey was efficient offensively and passable defensively, so par for the course. However, I thought about this during the game, if you’ve got to sign either Stuckey (say, for 3-years, $20M) or Evan Turner (say, for 3-years $30M) who do you pick?|
The Pacers have been engulfed in a horrible slump recently, and tonight was the first time they scored 100 points in a game since… wait for it … the last time they played the Pistons on March 15! Also, if you’re interested in seeing the Pistons season in a nutshell, check out Loyer’s response to Paul George’s damn-near-half-court shot.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (27-47) at Indiana Pacers (52-33)
- Date: April 2, 2014
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Indiana Pacers will be the No. 2 seed tonight when they enter the contest with the Detroit Pistons.
Indiana owned the best record in the league throughout much of the season, but they have stumbled in the second half. The Pacers won 40 of their first 52 games, but the All-Star break seemed to slow them down.
Indiana is only 12-11 since All-Star weekend, mostly because the defense has slipped. Initially, the Pacers looked like the best defensive team in league history – yes, better than the 2004 Detroit Pistons – given how easily they shut down opponents.
Frank Vogel’s unit was beating up teams despite a somewhat mediocre offense because the defense was essentially elite. Provided that his players maintained that level of commitment and excellence, the team had a shot at making the NBA Finals.
However, they have regressed on both ends. The offense has fallen apart, and the defense has clearly seen better days. Indy has had the fifth best defense in the league since mid-February per NBA.com.
That’s hardly a death sentence, but the offense has fallen off a cliff during the same time span. As a reference point, it’s been slightly better than the Philadelphia 76ers’ offense, which ranks in the bottom of the league since the All-Star break, according to NBA.com.
The issue is the team’s attitude as David Aldridge noted over at NBA.com:
When the Pacers play against really good defenses like Miami and Chicago, the ball moves from side to side, inside-out, and the Pacers look like the championship contender they are. But when they play against less celebrated defenses, the ball too often sticks. And [Paul] George, too often, is believed to be the main culprit.
This was on full display earlier in the week against the San Antonio Spurs, and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst captured the details:
[Roy] Hibbert, frustrated by a lack of touches recently, forced some shots. George, who has been criticized for not acting like the superstar he is, tried too hard to take over and found himself going 1-on-3 as he tried to will himself into making plays in what turned out to be futile second half.
The Pacers must now find a way to bounce back, otherwise they will be in danger of losing a little more ground in the standings. Perhaps a matchup with the Pistons will help them get out of their funk, but then again, it’s entirely possible that their issues will be exposed yet again.
The Pistons have one of the worst defenses in the league, and Indiana has had issues against these types of teams because of their willingness to be one-dimensional against them.
Also, let’s not forget, Detroit is one of the five teams that actually secured a victory in Indiana this season, and that was when the Pacers were playing at the top of their game back in December.
Detroit used a 15-rebound edge to beat Indy on their home floor. To be fair, Detroit is every bit as different now as Indiana. The Pistons have seemingly given up on the season, which gives the Pacers an opportunity to right the ship.
Still, it feels like this game could be better than anticipated when looking at the teams on paper.
Read about the Pacers
|Greg Monroe, PF Shot Chart 40 MIN | 12-21 FG | 4-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 28 PTS | +19
Like the loss to the 76ers on Saturday, Monroe began the game with good effort. Unlike Saturday, it didn’t wane. Players have more control over their attitude than they’re sometimes given credit for. To whatever degree the Pistons are tanking or losing unintentionally, players can choose not to be infected by the losing. Monroe played hard, showing his pride couldn’t be overcome by the problems around him.
|Josh Smith, SF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 11-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -1
Smith played terribly for the game’s first 42.5 minutes. He shot 1-for-6 outside the paint and defended even worse. Cutters easily surged by an idle, ball-watching Smith for easy shots at the basket. At one point, Smith found himself in position to defend Jeff Adrien inside. Rather than contest the shot, Smith just jumped on Adrien’s back. Easier to watch Adrien shoot free throws than sustain defensive energy for even two seconds. Smith didn’t grab a single rebound in the first 42.5 minutes, either. He looked like he had given up on the season, not to mention this game. Then, suddenly, he didn’t. With the Pistons down six with 5.5 minutes remaining, Smith took over. He shot 6-for-7, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, down the stretch with his 15 points in that span leading the Pistons to victory. He even grabbed a rebound.
|Kyle Singler, SF Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +2
The Pistons’ point guards did a good job looking for Singler spotting up behind the arc, where he shot 2-of-5. Singler also helped himself by crashing the offensive glass.
|Andre Drummond, C Shot Chart 28 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +23
Drummond played well while he was on the court, but he must avoid careless fouls. When the Pistons care more about winning next season, they’ll need their best player on the court.
|Brandon Jennings, PG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 13 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +6
Jennings does an excellent job of getting the Pistons into transition and semi-transition, and then he does a good job of making plays in that format. I can only imagine how much more brutal the Pistons’ offense would be if they played in a slower halfcourt system. Even a point guard more adept at running an offense would struggle to make a team with so little floor spacing work in the halfcourt. He does just enough so you can’t say the Pistons would be better with Brandon Knight (25 points on 7-of-21 shooting, nine rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers). For now.
|Jonas Jerebko, PF Shot Chart 11 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3
Jerebko was mixed bag defensively – fouling because he didn’t move his feet quickly enough and rebounding because he did – but his offense was counterproductive.
|Charlie Villanueva, PF Shot Chart 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -11
Sometimes stats like this can be misleading, but I assure you this one accurately reflects what happened on the floor. With Villanueva in the game, the Pistons grabbed as many rebounds as they allowed dunks (four).
|Will Bynum, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -1
Bynum’s assist total is not as impressive as it seems. Passing to Smith and hoping he makes a jumper is not a dependable way to facilitate the offenses, but it worked tonight. Bynum also received a couple questionable assists, getting credit after passing once to Stuckey and once to Monroe and then watching them drive for a basket.
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -12
After shooting 1-for-4 in the first half, Caldwell-Pope disappeared in the second half. His confidence seems to have regressed. His defense was not good, either.
|Rodney Stuckey, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +3
Stuckey got to the basket early, making a couple short shots. Then, he settled for jumpers.
For most of the game, many Pistons looked like they’d quit. But because the Bucks are so bad, Detroit was still within striking distance late. At that point, it’s not hard to summon the energy needed to win down the stretch, which the Pistons did. What was Loyer supposed to do? He put Smith back in the game, which seemed as likely as any move to get the loss. It just didn’t work.
- Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (14-59) at Detroit Pistons (26-47)
- Date: March 31, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst record in the league.
The Philadelphia 76ers seem to want that distinction because it will improve their chances of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, but that won’t exactly be easy. The 76ers recently ended a 26-game losing streak at the expense of the Detroit Pistons, and the win gave Philly two more victories than the Bucks.
It should be a tight race given how close their respective records are. Milwaukee has lost nine of their past 10 games, thanks in large part to a defense that might remind fans of cartoon boats filled with holes that simply sink to the bottom of the ocean (the good old Bugs Bunny days or something).
In the month of March, the Bucks have surrendered 114.1 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. Projected over a full season, that would easily beat out the Utah Jazz, who own the worst defensive rating figures in the league.
What’s more, Milwaukee offers very little appeal. The team lacks a specific identity, offers very little entertainment value and has a glaring need for star power. In other words, the Bucks might need to win the draft lottery more than any other team in the league.
Milwaukee has become the Eastern Conference version of the Sacramento Kings.
They have a couple of pieces (O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders) that could definitely be solid contributors on playoff teams, but when grouped together, it’s like watching Jason Bourne die in the opening minutes of The Bourne Identity, only for the movie to still last 119 minutes.
It’s quite brutal.
Tonight, Pistons fans get an opportunity to get acclimated to the Bucks, after watching the Pistons fall before the 76ers. Although some fans have been cheerful of Detroit losses because of the draft lottery, one has to believe that even the most ardent supporter of the tanking Pistons does not want their team to lose in succession to Philly and Milwaukee.
What will you be cheering for tonight? Let us know in the comments section.
Read about the Bucks
|Greg Monroe, PF 32 MIN | 7-16 FG | 6-8 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -7Monroe actually started the game playing hard, and believe me, that stood out. But he eventually faded into the abyss with his teammates.|
|Josh Smith, SF 25 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 4 PTS | -13For most of the game, Smith looked like he was trying to get ejected. He screwed that up too, drawing only one technical foul.|
|Kyle Singler, SF 25 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -21Looked extra pissed sitting on the bench with his arms crossed late in the game.|
|Andre Drummond, C 24 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-6 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -26Pretty passive.|
|Brandon Jennings, PG 11 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -8Showing Smith how it’s done, Jennings got ejected late in the first quarter for arguing a call. Jennings didn’t have to come out for the second half. How’s that for efficiency?|
|Jonas Jerebko, PF 24 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -15Jerebko padded his stats in the fourth quarter, which the Pistons entered trailing by 30 (!) points.|
|Tony Mitchell, PF 6 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +3Drafting Mitchell in the second round was GREAT value, which shows just how much more important first-round picks are. At least the Pistons will probably keep theirs now.|
|Luigi Datome, SF 6 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +3The vaunted Italian sharpshooter is now 6-for-35 (17 percent) on 3-pointers this season.|
|Peyton Siva, PG 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +5How bad this game get? Siva played in the third quarter.|
|Will Bynum, PG 18 MIN | 2-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 5 PTS | -13Bynum had as many turnovers as points.|
|Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 29 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -13Not Trey Burke Michael Carter-Williams.|
|Rodney Stuckey, SG 27 MIN | 3-11 FG | 11-11 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | -20OF COURSE Stuckey boosted his scoring average in a game like this.|
|Charlie Villanueva, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION
A DNP-CD doesn’t save you from my wrath tonight.
If the Pistons were going to do this, why not make Rasheed Wallace the interim coach?
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (26-46) at Philadelphia 76ers (15-57)
- Date: March 29, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD Plus
What to look for
The Philadelphia 76ers own tanking.
In perhaps one of the most impressive displays of throwing away a season, the 76ers have lost 26 games in a row. Defeats were not sufficient for this Philly team though, they had to do it big.
During the losing streak, the 76ers are losing games by 17.1 points per game according to NBA.com. The front office has done everything in its power to ensure Philadelphia does not win games.
It’s honestly an incredible tank job when we take an in-depth look at the numbers.
On the season, the 76ers outscore teams by 13.7 points per 100 possessions in the clutch (defined as last five minutes of the game with scoring margin within five points). That’s the fifth-highest figure in the entire league per NBA.com.
Confused? So was I initially.
The data indicates that Philly loses games on average by double digits, but when they get into tight games, they have the ability to pull them out. The reason is actually simple: The 76ers just play how they play.
Indeed, late in games, Philly goes to their normal plays instead of opting for isolations like most teams. As a result, they often get high-percentage looks while defenses worry about stopping either Michael Carter-Williams or Thaddeus Young.
On the other end, opponents abandon their game plan and go to one-on-one plays with the hope of conquering a bottom-third defense. However, even the worst defenses in the league can manage against isolations.
Management probably realized this, and decided to blow things up at the trade deadline despite the fact they had already shoved a stick of dynamite on the roster in the 2013 offseason.
The 76ers traded away Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Indiana Pacers, and they jettisoned Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Philly received a few draft picks coupled with Byron Mullens, Danny Granger and Earl Clark in those deals. Clark and Granger were waived.
Coincidentally, Philadelphia’s crunch time numbers flip flopped after these moves. The Sixers were a top-three clutch team (based on differential of offensive and defensive efficiency) prior to the trade deadline, but since February 20, they are among the five-worst clutch teams in the league per NBA.com.
The only reason their overall numbers are still high is because Philly has only managed to be close late in the fourth quarter for a total of 12 minutes (!) since making all the swaps.
Getting rid of some key pieces has resulted in the team’s inability to make games competitive in the final period. This makes for an incredibly “interesting” contest tonight against the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit has embraced tanking, although it appears as though they stumbled into it. Both teams are trying to lose, but one can only wonder which team will truly shoot itself in the foot.
Consider this nugget: Opponents outscore the Detroit Pistons by 32.9 points per 100 possessions in the clutch, by far the worst figure in the NBA.
As a result, we are left to conclude that Detroit should win going away. However, if the contest is close, the Pistons are worse than the 76ers in final minutes of games, which probably means the Philly losing streak might come to an end.
Read about the 76ers
- Teams: Miami heat (48-22) at Detroit Pistons (26-45)
- Date: March 28, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons will host the Miami Heat tonight in a matchup that could prove quite exciting.
Miami is coming off a tough defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, in a game that may have decided the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
LeBron James was sensational in the outing, pouring in 38 points in a variety of ways at the expense of the Indiana defense. Dwyane Wade was the only other player for the Heat to score in double figures with 15 points.
The Heat were sloppy with the ball – credit to the Pacers defense – and committed 18 miscues. James and Wade combined for 12 of them.
Given what was at stake in that matchup (home court advantage), it’s entirely possible that Miami might decide to take things a bit easy down the stretch of the regular season.
Wade left the game late because of a hamstring injury, and Ray Allen missed the contest due to illness. What’s more, James had back issues a little over a week ago that forced him to sit out a contest.
Allen is scheduled to miss tonight’s game, while Wade’s status remains up in the air. Nonetheless, James will be in the lineup, and that might be the only development that matters ultimately.
James is coming off back-to-back- 30-point games, and his presence alone might bring some excitement.
The Pistons seem headed for the lottery, but that doesn’t mean they cannot give fans some compelling games along the way. Let’s hope tonight is one of them.
Read about the Heat
The Pistons will run their own D-League team in Grand Rapids next season, rather than continue sharing a squad with five other NBA teams. That will cost real money. The Pistons will have to hire a coach and a basketball-operations staff, and they’ll likely spend more on scouts to find players to fill the roster.
This season, 14 teams have their own D-League affiliate: three of the NBA’s strongest championship contenders (Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma Thunder), a few threats to advance in the playoffs (Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets), prominent franchises in the league’s power structure (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks) a team with an extremely promising future (Philadelphia 76ers) and the Cavaliers and Kings.
With the exception of Cleveland and Sacramento, it’s absolutely a group you want to join.
But these teams aren’t well-positioned because they have their own D-League teams. Having their own D-League team is a signal that they’re doing whatever they can to gain an edge. A team that goes out of its way to negotiate a one-to-one affiliation usually is doing many other things right.
The Pistons put themselves one step closer toward including themselves in that reality. Though they will have to back it up with other savvy moves, Gores sincerely deserves credit for paying to alter the Pistons’ prognosis for the better.