Monday, September 24, 2012

What's the Biggest Problem? - Detroit Pistons Preview

 (Here's a lil' Deeeeeeeee-troit Pistons preview from our man The Source. He's one of the last remaining Detroit Pistons fans, wearing his colors proud and his tears heavy. Take a look at his MAMBINO debut!)

Starting Five: PG Rodney Stuckey, PG Brandon Knight, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Jason Maxiell, C Greg Monroe

Key Bench Players: G Will Bynum, SF Corey Maggette, PF Jason Maxiell, C Andre Drummond
Notable offseason additions: SF Corey Maggette, C Andre Drummond (9th overall pick)

Offseason subtractions: G Ben Gordon, C Ben Wallace

Let’s be honest: there isn’t much to be excited about. The best thing the Pistons have going for them right now is an 18 year old kid with clearly no chance of being NBA-ready by Halloween and who shoots 28% from the FT line. Seriously – he shoots 28% from the FT line! But with an adolescent head coach and a newly over-the-hill Corey Maggette, Andre Drummond is really all we’ve got.

Since Christmas, the only thing Piston fans have genuinely been excited about was the day we finally got rid of our best shooter. Ben Gordon was so bad for us, and so overpaid, we had to throw in a first round pick just to get Charlotte to take him off our hands. We landed Maggette in return, who no one is excited about, but after this season the move saves Joe Dumars somewhere around $10 million. I can support that. 

Unfortunately, the other travesty of the 2009 summer, the horrific signing of Charlie Villanueva, continues to haunt us. I guess you could argue he earned his $7.5 million last year with that gaudy stat line he threw up: 7.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG in 13.8 minutes/game. All with no eyebrows, mind you.Villanueva really isn’t the problem though. He would be, but Lawrence Frank doesn’t play Charlie V enough for him to live up to the cancer-to-your-team hype that KG labeled him with. So what’s the real issue? No go-to guy? Lack of talent? Missing pieces? Inexperience?

Well, those are all the real issue. The roster the Pistons roster is not very impressive. Look at the point guards: Stuckey, Knight, Bynum. Now look at our shooting guards: Stuckey, Knight, and Kim English. See the problem here? The backcourt is incomplete and it’s time everyone stops acting like “combo guards” are good things. Stuckey can score, so can Knight, and Bynum is a speedy driver who is good for 12-15 minutes each night. But none of them can shoot and Stuckey and Knight both averaged less than 4 assists per game last year. So now we’ve got a starting PG (Knight) who doesn’t distribute well and a starting SG (Stuckey) who can’t shoot. But hey! You can switch them back and forth and get the same production!

Kim English is a rookie from Missouri who might actually be helpful if he can be the NBA shooter we are hoping for. If he can put up 40% from the 3-point line, then the Pistons will have….one guy who can shoot 40% from the 3-point line. There just isn’t much hope for the backcourt this year. Stuckey and Knight are pretty good players but they aren’t the guys who lead a team. They don’t complement each other the way Rip and Chauncey once did back there.

As you move down the depth chart it doesn’t get any better. There is a log jam of mediocre players vying for the small forward spot. Of course, we’ll keep it reserved for Tayshaun Prince because he was a big part of the ’04 championship team so we have to act like we still like him. Truthfully, Prince isn’t really very good at anything: his defense is overrated these days, he still can’t shoot well, and, for some reason, the frailest guy in the league seems to get the ball on the block at least 5 or 6 times each night. Maybe this will be the year he finally gets traded to a contender (which is the only way he’s actually valuable to a team) and we can dump his contract and open up minutes for the younger guys like Austin Daye, Khris Middleton, and Kyle Singler. That would be ideal actually, since Daye has a few years under his belt now and Middleton could be another decent shooter which we desp—what? Ohhhhh right we have Maggette too. Well, forget it then. We’ll just roll out Prince, use Maggette as his backup and then justify their minutes with clichés like “having veterans like that on the floor gives us the best chance to win games.”

The power forward position is a bright spot as we actually have a legitimate basketball player in Greg Monroe. In his third year he averaged 15 and 10 and that’s while having no perimeter shooting and being the only low-post player on the team. Monroe should continue to progress offensively and the hope is that Drummond will turn into the defensive-minded shot blocker/rebounder to complement Monroe’s finesse post game and grounded defense.  The other PFs include Jonas Jerebko who’s a good hustle player with decent size and Charlie V who’s 6’11’’ and is more into bricking 3s than rebounding. Sure, Sheed was 6’11’’ and hated the paint (and took more bad 3s than CV) but in his years with the Pistons, Sheed always averaged at least 6 RPG.

At center, the Pistons have two projects and an established veteran (“established” as in “he has established himself as a slightly below average bench player”). Jason Maxiell will mostly likely be the starter on opening night and no one really cares. Drummond certainly won’t be ready and Vyacheslav Kratsov is a 7 foot Ukrainian who has the potential to be, optimistically, the next Zeljko Rebraca (if you’re a Pistons fan you almost don’t even know what that means). No one expects Kratsov to have a major impact as he’s only ever played Euro ball and we know what we are getting from Max. Even though we want to be excited about Drummond, he’s only 18 and he smiles too much

I really think the Pistons should do all they can to keep Ben Wallace on the team for another year. He doesn’t contribute much on the floor these days but we all know he could teach Drummond the ins and outs of post D and shot blocking.  Who is going to mentor Drummond now? 5 foot 3 Lawrence Frank? Give Ben whatever money you can, let road games be optional for him, tell him his hair still looks good, and let him work with Andre Drummond.

So to confirm, the only thing I really want from the Pistons this season is for them to talk 38-year-old Ben Wallace out of retirement. See? I told you there isn’t much to get excited about.

Best Case Scenario:
Drummond contributes earlier than anyone expects, improves the interior defense, and I’m totally wrong about Brandon Knight – he shoots well, turns in 7 APG,  and the Pistons finish a few games over .500, get the 7th seed and manage to win a playoff game before a first round exit. A respectable record with a playoff berth and now that we’re improving, there is some decent free agent interest in Detroit next offseason.

Absolute Apocalypse:
Monroe is nagged by constant double teams, our backcourt stinks, and we try to tank for a lottery pick but Frank is too good of a coach, our D remains respectable (95.7 PA against in ’12, down from 100.6 the year before he arrived), and we’re bad enough to miss the playoffs but good enough to ruin our lottery chances. We set the table for another 3-4 years of “rebuilding” but continue to consider ourselves one of the young and upcoming teams in the NBA.

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