Opinion: Pistons Need to Shake Things Up

JAN 21 – After a MLK Day drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Detroit Pistons found themselves with a record of 17-24. At this time last year, an “inferior” Pistons squad was 16-25. The addition of superstars does not guarantee success, I suppose. Detroit must do something to break out of their funk and take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference, and it starts with the starting lineup.

Coach Mo Cheeks likes to have Andre DrummondGreg Monroe and Josh Smith on the court at the same time. While this combination may be physically imposing, it also creates problems. Spacing has been a major concern ever since Smith signed on the dotted line and those concerns have not gone away with time.

Drummond is ineffective outside of five feet. Monroe has slightly more range than Drummond, but likes to utilize post moves. Smith is at his best when he drives to the basket, but has a tendency to jack up more than the occasional three-pointer. With the paint so congested, defenses can collapse down low and deny any penetration.

The Pistons need to make a change to their starting lineup, and they should go smaller. According to nba.com, the Pistons are dead last in opponent field goal percentage from 15 to 19 feet and 20 to 24 feet. Opposing teams take advantage of Detroit’s lack of athleticism and quickness by drawing the bigs out of the paint and creating mismatches. While on offense, the Pistons are in the bottom five in field goal percentage outside of 10 feet, yet they are No. 3 in field goals attempted from 25 to 29 feet.

According to nbawowy.com, with the combination of Smith, Monroe and Drummond on the floor, opposing teams shoot 48.8 percent from the field. Take out Monroe and insert Kyle Singler and things change. Opponents now shoot 44.6 percent from the field. Detroit cannot afford to load up the paint and neglect the rest of the court.

Now to the backcourt. With Rodney Stuckey finally playing at a high level, I believe he should be in the starting lineup instead of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Using nbawowy.com again, the combination of Brandon Jennings and KCP produces 1.035 points per possession while shooting 44.5 percent. With Jennings and Stuckey together, they produce 1.103 ppp and shoot 46.5 percent.

Coach Cheeks usually gives both players the same amount of minutes, but Stuckey is vastly outplaying the rookie. Using per 36-minute stats to make things perfectly even, Stuckey shoots nearly seven percent better from the field and almost doubles the rookie in scoring. I can understand wanting to give KCP experience, but the Pistons should be in panic mode right now. Start Stuckey and the offense immediately improves.

There have been strong rumors that the Pistons will be active before the trade deadline. Most people think that Monroe will be dealt because of his expiring contract and the fact that his agent will push for a max contract over the summer. With Stuckey also having an expiring contract and playing so well this season, he could be thrown in to sweeten the deal and help with the salary cap.

The strongest rumor has been Monroe and Stuckey for Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic. Afflalo, a former Piston, is having the best season of his career, averaging 20.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. This could be a fluke season (see Charlie Villanueva) or the birth of a great young player. Harris is also playing much better than his career numbers. He is averaging 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at just 21 years of age.

Whatever the Pistons do, they need to do something before it is too late. If the Smith/Jennings signings do not result in a playoff birth, then look for Joe Dumars to be out the door very quickly.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/01/21/opinion-pistons-need-to-shake-things-up/#sthash.Aa04L5YP.dpuf

Bright Spots in a Bleak Season

JAN 9 – What was once considered a slow start is now turning into a disappointing season for the Detroit Pistons.

As owners of a 14-22 record and a six-game losing streak after their loss to the Raptors Wednesday, underachieving might be an understatement. There have been a rash of injuries and a few benchings along the way, but the season is still young. Luckily for Pistons fans, there are a few bright spots for coach Cheeks’ squad.

* * *

Andre Drummond:

The former UConn Husky has lived up to, and exceeded, expectations that the “experts” had for him coming into his sophomore season in the Association. In a team filled with streaky shooters and plagued with injuries, Drummond has been one of the few consistent bright spots. The second-year center is averaging 12.8 points and 12.7 rebounds while shooting a stellar 60.5 percent from the field.

Drummond has not missed a game so far this season, showing that the back injury he suffered last year is not a lingering issue. Drummond is currently in eighth place in All-Star voting for frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference.

* * *

Rodney Stuckey:

In the last year of his contract, he has also exceeded expectations thus far. As the Pistons’ sixth man, has given coach Cheeks the opportunity to switch up the backcourt combinations during the game without seeing a drop-off in production. Unfortunately, Stuckey has missed eight games already with various injuries.

Through the Pistons’ first 36 games, in which Stuckey has played in 28, Rodney is averaging 14 points per game, up 2.5 from last season. His shooting has also improved, up four percent from a year ago. When comparing Stuckey and Brandon Jennings using per 36-minute stats, Stuckey actually averages 2.6 more points per game than Jennings. The Pistons could capitalize on Stuckey’s impressive season and his expiring contract by shopping him before the trade deadline.

* * *

Greg Monroe:

Moose, who is also in the last year of his contract, has given the Pistons solid production from the power forward position. Along with Drummond, you can almost always count on Monroe to post a double-double every night. He averages 14.6 points and nearly nine boards per game.

Many scouts believe that he has hit his ceiling in terms of potential, which is one reason why the Pistons decided not to give Monroe a contract extension this year. If Detroit decides to break up the “Big Three” of Drummond, Monroe and Josh Smith, then Greg would be the first one to go. There have not been any rumors as to who might trade for the big man, but there are several teams in need of a power forward like Monroe.

* * *

The Eastern Conference:

Yes, the Conference itself is a bright spot for the Pistons. The teams are so atrocious this year that Detroit finds itself only one game out of the playoffs despite being eight games under .500. If the Pistons were in the Western Conference, they would be merely three games ahead of last place.

With so many games remaining in the season, the Pistons have an excellent shot at making the playoffs this year. Eighth place will likely need a win total in the mid-thirties by year’s end, which is very doable for the Pistons. So cheer up Pistons fans, we stink, but so does everyone else.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2014/01/09/bright-spots-in-a-bleak-season/#sthash.4EmL5z4e.dpuf

Pistons Recap: December 4-13

DEC 15 – BMO Harris Bradley Center hosted the Pistons, on December 4, to take on the struggling Bucks. Detroit jumped out to a seven-point lead after the first quarter. Andre Drummond was a force early in the paint, scoring seven points and grabbing six boards to lead the Pistons.

But the Bucks charged back, opening the second quarter on a 19-5 run to take a 38-31 lead midway through the frame. Ersan Ilyasova was a key part of the Milwaukee comeback, scoring 12 points and adding five rebounds in the second. The Pistons made up a little ground and went into halftime trailing 50-45.

Detroit came out firing in the second half, going on a 16-0 run to take a 64-54 lead with six minutes left in the third. The Pistons were able to maintain their lead through the third quarter thanks to the continued strong play of Drummond. He scored seven and added four rebounds.

The Bucks had no answer for the Pistons frontcourt, as Detroit had their way on the glass throughout the game. Milwaukee could never make a sizeable dent in the Pistons lead, and Detroit came away with the road win 105-98.

Drummond has had an All-Star caliber season in his sophomore campaign, and he continued his hot streak in Milwaukee. The former Huskie finished with 24 points and 19 rebounds to go along with three blocks.

Monroe had an equally impressive night, scoring 18 and adding 17 rebounds. The frontcourt trio of Josh Smith, Drummond and Monroe had 43 out of the 55 rebounds for the Pistons.

The Pistons headed to Chicago for the last game of their road trip on the seventh to face the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. Whenever these two teams get together, it’s always a knockdown, drag-out battle. A rash of injuries have plagued the Bulls and made them offensively challenged. With Rose and Luol Deng missing the game, Chicago struggled at times to fill the cylinder.

The game was tied 47-47 at halftime, but then the Pistons defense tightened up and brought the Chicago offense to a screeching halt. The Bulls could only muster nine third quarter points while shooting under 25 percent from the field. The Pistons were able to open up a commanding 15-point lead going into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was slightly better for the Bulls, but they could not close the gap on the Pistons and ended up losing 92-75.

Brandon Jennings exploded in Chicago, scoring 33 points including five three-pointers. He also added five dimes on the night, while being the only starter to score in double digits. Kyle Singler was effective off the bench with 12 points.

The Pistons rode their four-game win streak back to the Palace to square off against the defending champion Miami Heat. Lebron and company were looking for revenge after a disappointing loss in South Beach just five days earlier. Dwayne Wade was again held out of the game; he also missed the last matchup against the Pistons.

Miami started off red hot, taking a 16-5 lead midway through the first. The Pistons struggled to keep up with the high-powered Heat offense and ended the first quarter trailing by seven.

Within the first two minutes of the second quarter, the Pistons scored eight straight points before Miami was forced to call timeout. The Heat opened the lead back up to seven, where it hovered around for much of the second quarter. Miami led Detroit 59-53 after two.

It was all Miami in the third quarter. They outscored the Pistons by fifteen in the frame and left the Pistons no chance to make a comeback. The Heat went on to win the game 110-95 and evened up the season series. Drummond was once again dominant for the Pistons, scoring 19 to go along with 14 rebounds. Jennings added 19 with six assists.

On Tuesday, the Pistons hosted the high-scoring Minnesota Timberwolves. This game promised to be a shootout, and the Pistons were able to keep up through the first quarter. Twelve second quarter points from Kevin Martin helped Minnesota pull away to a 13-point lead at halftime. Kevin Love was on fire for the T-Wolves, scoring 19 of his 26 points in the first half.

The Pistons had no answer for Minnesota’s high-powered assault. The second half was much of the same, with Minnesota outscoring the Pistons in both the third and fourth quarters. Detroit eventually lost 121-94. This was the most points the Pistons gave up in a game so far this season.

Minnesota was able to match the Pistons in the paint, with both teams scoring 44 points down low. The Timberwolves shot an impressive 48 percent from beyond the arc, while the Pistons shot a paltry 28.6 percent. Brandon Jennings led the Pistons with 20 points and seven assists. Smith finally bounced back with 17 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 16.

The Pistons then traveled down to New Orleans to square off with the Pelicans. Detroit was down nine points to begin the fourth quarter, but a 9-0 run within the first few minutes quickly erased the deficit. A Ryan Anderson three-pointer with 2:14 remaining put the Pelicans up by four. But back-to-back baskets by J-Smoove tied the game with just over a minute remaining. Jennings missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the fans in New Orleans were treated to free basketball.

Anderson caught fire in the overtime, scoring eight points for the Pelicans to keep them ahead during the extra frame. The Pistons were forced to foul near the end, and New Orleans was hitting their free throws. They went on to win 111-106.

Greg Monroe was money all night, stuffing the stat sheet with 28 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Brandon Jennings was feeling it once again, putting up 25 and swiping the ball six times. Rodney Stuckey added 20 coming off the bench.

This loss dropped their record to 10-13. While they continue to be inconsistent, Detroit is starting to improve their chemistry. With a weak Eastern Conference, Detroit should have no problem making the playoffs.

– See more at: http://impact89fm.org/sports/2013/12/15/pistons-recap-december-4-13/#sthash.0lEd8t2P.dpuf

Week in Review: Pistons Drop Three in a Row in Preseason Action

OCT 22, 2013 – MSU Impact Sports

The Detroit Pistons played three preseason games this week, all on the road. They haven’t had much success thus far, but don’t panic. Put down the “Fire Dumars” signs (for now) and remember that it is only preseason. A 2-4 record doesn’t mean the Pistons are lottery bound. A rash of injuries to the backcourt and spacing problems have contributed to this stumble out of the gate, but that’s what the preseason is for: finding problems and (hopefully) fixing them.

On Wednesday, the Pistons packed their bags and headed to the United Center in Chicago. This game marked the return of Derrick Rose, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

With the home crowd fired up and Rose looking to prove himself, the Pistons were doomed from the start. The Bulls, known for their tight defense, limited the Pistons to a dismal 32% shooting from the field, en route to a 96-81 loss.

Rose hadn’t played in nearly 18 months, but he appeared to be in midseason form. He went off for 22 points in 22 minutes and looked like he hadn’t missed a game. Rose missed the first game of the preseason due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee.

Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the charge for the Pistons with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds in 40 minutes off the bench. Pope’s cold hand has been a subject of concern for the Pistons, as he only shot 6-17 from the field.

Greg Monroe led all Pistons starters with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but shot 3-11 from the field. Monroe is starting to develop a mid-range game, as two out of his three made shots came outside of the paint.

Brandon Jennings (tooth), Rodney Stuckey (hand) and Chauncey Billups (Coach’s decision) all did not see action. Jennings and Stuckey will most likely be out for the first few games of the regular season, which will open the door for Billups and Bynum to get more minutes.

The next night, Detroit traveled to Cleveland to face Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. The Pistons had a seven-point lead going into halftime, only to be outscored by fifteen in the second half and lose 96-84.

Irving led a balanced Cleveland attack with 15 points and six assists. If Irving can stay healthy, he could become one of the elite point guards in the NBA. Number one overall pick Anthony Bennett added 12 points on 4-7 shooting. The Cavs are the league’s youngest team and look to be much improved from last season’s train wreck.

On the Pistons’ side of the ball, Stuckey and Jennings did not play once again. Bynum got the start for the Pistons, contributing 12 points on an efficient 5-6 from the field. Greg Monroe led all Pistons with 16 points and added eight rebounds.

Caldwell-Pope continued his shooting woes, going 1-7 from the field and 0-1 behind the arc. Fellow rookie Peyton Siva saw 18 minutes of action and dished out five assists. Once Jennings and Stuckey return to the lineup, Siva will find himself at the end of a very deep Pistons bench.

The final preseason game of the week for the Pistons came on Sunday in Orlando. Detroit came in with a thin backcourt, as Billups (rest), Bynum (food poisoning), Stuckey (hand), and Jennings (tooth) all were unavailable.

Down 23 late in the third quarter, the Pistons made a furious comeback. Josh Smith made a three pointer to cut the deficit to four with 3:41 to go in the game. With just under a minute to play, Monroe put in a layup off the assist from Smith to take a one-point lead. 18 seconds later, Cleveland responded with the eventual game-winning layup to go back up one point. Smith missed a three pointer with 30 seconds to go and the Pistons never got the ball back, losing 87-86.

Siva and KCP started in the backcourt and made the most of their expanded minutes. Peyton only sat out for one minute in the game, scoring 12 points and dishing seven assists. KCP improved his shooting, going 4-9 from the field to add 11 points.

Greg Monroe had another huge game, exploding for 19 points and going 5-6 from the charity stripe. He is averaging over 15 points per game in the last three games and is coming into midseason form. Drummond posted a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds.

The Pistons (2-4) have two more preseason games remaining before the regular season starts. Expect the Pistons to start slow out of the gate until Stuckey and Jennings return from injury. Head coach Maurice Cheeks will be thrown into the fire right away, and will have to get creative with his lineups for the first few weeks of the regular season. The Wizards will come to the Palace on October 30 for the home opener.

Photo from Detroit Pistons Facebook page

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