Season Recap/Notes: Reggie Jackson

This is the first player recap posts, I will be doing one for each player on the team, working my way through the starters and then to the bench. Since this is the first one there is no catching up for you to do.

 

 

You can follow along with all the stats on basketball reference. Any numbers that are not taken directly from that page will be linked separately.

 

Unique:

Reggie Jackson was hurt. He had a brief 2(ish) week stretch after the all star break where he started to look like himself, but then he re-tweaked his knee again and it effectively ended his season. The Pistons have publicly and clearly held the stance that Reggie is still their guy and they have absolute faith in him returning to form because he was just hurt this year. They could be bullshitting to some extent, they claimed Brandon Jennings could be a long term piece up until the moment they traded him when they admitted there was no way he was coming back, but I don’t think they would be as clear as they have been if they didn’t at least mostly think it was true. Either way, I can only operate with the information available to me, as such, for the most part this post will operate with the assumption that Reggie was hurt this year and that it is not a career altering injury that he will be fully recovered from by next season.

 

The Good:

Well, on the surface this section would be very short, but if you go with the approach of that he was just hurt all year then it is easier to find some positives. First off, is his 3 point shooting. He finished the season shooting 35.9% from 3 on 3.5 attempts per game, after shooting 35.3% from deep last year. Before arriving in Detroit his previous career best had been 33.7% and it was cited as one of the biggest concerns about his game, and while he isn’t exactly Dame Lillard, when you consider the fact that a good number of his 3s are tough pullups out of the pick and roll his percentages are pretty respectable. Time will tell if he ever gets a quick enough trigger (he is often hesitant to pull up and also does not have the quickest release) to become a true threat on pullup threes, but I won’t be worried about a lack of shooting from him going forwards. Beyond that though, these are mostly just silver linings.

 

One silver lining is the idea that since he was robbed of a lot of the burst and explosion that he’s relied on so much in his career, he was forced to play offense with a bit more nuance and trust his jumper more. A similar thing happened with his passing, he couldn’t do as much on his own, and he was forced to pass the ball more and try and find smarter passes that were not just “I’m going to draw extra guys by driving to the basket and find the open guy.” Both of these things, in theory, will combine to make him a better player once he is all the way healthy again.

 

The only other thing that could be taken as good, is that despite clearly not being 100%, by goodness he tried. I couldn’t find a clip of it anywhere unfourtunately, but I remember last year when the Pistons were playing at Oracle and Reggie hurt his knee, he was limping and visibly struggling, but he refused a timeout, hobbled his ass up the court and into a pick and roll, and hit a layup as time expired at the end of the half. He regularly played through various tweaks and boo boos that would visibly bother him. Dude is a warrior and wants to play, and even if it turned out that he wasn’t really ready to play, I still give him credit for trying.

 

The Bad:

Reggie Jackson was pretty bad all season. Mostly he fluctuated somewhere between mediocre and straight up bad with the occasional good game. Other than the month of February in which he put up very impressive numbers, his offensive output was pretty poor, and he looked off as well. He just wasn’t scaring defenses like he usually does and so the lanes, both driving and passing, were not open to him.

 

The biggest issue though, was his defense. Jackson has never been all that good of a defender, and even at his healthiest he doesn’t have the speed/quickness to be a top flight defender. But he has excellent length, size, and strength for a point guard which allowed him to guard wings with some respectability and at the end of games he was capable of really locking in and being an absolute pest for a few minutes. Even though it has always been somewhat a point of frustration in his career that he can’t lock in defensively all the time, it generally worked out ok for him to be a positive overall, even if not much of a positive. This year, he was too slow, to the point that his kind of trying form of defense no longer cut it at any level, and he couldn’t turn it up for stretches either. He was a wreck on the defensive end, and that is really where he fell apart in the biggest way this year. Offensively he struggled, but he still did enough that he was worthwhile, defensively he was so bad that it was painful to watch at times.

 

Biggest Answer:

His outside shooting is probably not going to be a problem going forwards. That is really the only one, because this season created a bunch of questions about Reggie that hadn’t been there before. But once again, 2 seasons of 35%+ which include a fair amount of difficult off the dribble looks from deep is a decent enough sample size to start to put some amount of trust into it for the future.

 

Biggest Question:

This post is assuming he will come back healthy, but whether or not that is true is THE question the Pistons have to answer. If they are actually as confident in him as they have made it sound then there is no way you trade him this offseason, he is an excellent player in his prime on a good contract and his value will be super low. But if they are not so sure, then his future with the team is in serious jeopardy. This question is right there with “How much are we comfortable with overpaying KCP?” in terms of importance, and given that KCP is a role player whereas the team is currently built 40% around Reggie Jackson (with 60% being Drummond) this is probably more important than KCP. This is a particularly painful question for fans because there is no way for us to know since we can’t see the workouts, practices, medical reports, and meetings. It is purely something we will have to wait and find out about.

 

The verdict for this year and beyond?

Essentially a lost season for Reggie, and that made it a mostly lost season for the Pistons. When one of the two guys you’ve built your team around is hurt all year, that is what happens. The outlook for the future all depends on his health. As far as I understand, there shouldn’t be any lingering effects for Reggie, he had the exact same thing done earlier in his career, but it wasn’t supposed to have lasting impacts even into this past season and that clearly wasn’t the case. If he is going to be healthy, he should and will be back in full force, ready to run pick and rolls all game again. If he isn’t healthy to the point he was this year, then the Pistons need to find a new starting point guard somehow, and that might mean a total teardown of the current team. Lets hope he is healthy.

 

What do you think? Do you have faith in his jumper going forwards? Will he be healthy?

 

 

 

Where to place the blame.

So the Pistons’ season is over, and it was disappointing by anyone’s measurement. As the first order of offseason business, lets go, player by player, and decide how much blame they deserve for the disappointment.

 

The problems in general:

Before diving into each player, a quick overview of the things that the Pistons did poorly, as well as a few things they did well. The biggest problem the Pistons had was their offense, as it finished the season at #25 in the NBA in efficiency by scoring 103.3 per 100 possessions, which I hardly need to remind anyone is very bad. The source of the offensive struggles came from a lack of being able to find good shots, especially 3 pointers, and generally an inability to put the ball in the hoop. The Pistons finished 26th in 3 pointers attempted, and 28th in percentage, and DEAD LAST in TS%, and drew the 2nd least (29th in the NBA) fouls while having the lowest percentage of their points come from the line of any team. They took more mid range jumpers than any team in the NBA as well. Simply put, they couldn’t get good shots or hit the tough ones at a high rate. The fact that they were pretty average (12th) in offensive rebounding only exasperated this problem.  Defensively they ended up being ok, with the 11th most efficient defense in the NBA by allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions, but they had trouble keeping that up against starters, as their backups generally swallowed opponents.

 

Some general good:

The Pistons fared almost a point better in their per game totals than they did in the per 100 possessions, and they currently are a perfect example of why you can’t just look at those numbers to get the whole story for a team. The Pistons were able to stay in the playoff race most of the year despite terrible shooting and only a pretty good defense because they freaking took care of the ball. Offensively the Pistons posted the 4th best assist to turnover ratio with 1.78, and the 2nd lowest turnover percentage at 12.1%. Simply put, the Pistons took really good care of the ball on offense. This combined with the Pistons being, by a pretty wide margin, the best defensive rebounding team in basketball with a defensive rebounding percentage of 81.2% (Just because I’ve seen a few people be confused by it, rebounding percentage, whether offensive, defensive, or total, is the percentage of misses that a player or team gets. As such, it is the best way to account for how good a rebounder a player or team is because it accounts for both pace and how many misses were available.) meaning that opponents very rarely got extra looks against the Pistons. (which is almost entirely thanks to Andre Drummond) The low turnovers, and excellent rebounding meant that the Pistons averaged 5.5 extra shot attempts per game than their opponents. So even if their offense wasn’t as efficient, they usually got more chances. That ability to take care of the ball and clean the glass also helped them a great deal in having a respectable defense, as their half court offense was nothing special, but their ability to avoid giving up easy looks off 2nd chances and on the fast break (they allowed the fewest in the NBA in both categories) allowed their overall defense to end up being pretty good. So that is the general overview, now for the individuals.

 

Reggie Jackson: The lion’s share of the blame.

It is entirely possible that it will end up being, perhaps, unfair to truly “blame” Reggie. SVG seems to believe that Reggie will be back next year and be “better than he was two years ago”. If that is the case, and it truly was just that he was hurt and for whatever reason it didn’t heal as fast as it was supposed to, then that isn’t his fault as he certainly tried to play. Regardless of whether it is really anything within his control or not, Reggie Jackson missing a lot of time and fluctuating between mediocre and straight up bad (with the occasional good game spattered around) when he did play is definitely the main reason why the Pistons disappointed this year. Last year the Pistons did not hit a very good percentage of 3 pointers coming in 22nd in percentage, but they were able to generate a high number of them to come in 10th in attempts, while also getting more points at the line on their way to being dead average (15th) in the NBA in offensive efficiency. In a lot of areas, Ish Smith is not a huge drop off from Reggie. But the place where it was most painfully obvious is his ability to get into the lane and score there, and more importantly, drawing extra defenders. The Pistons really lacked anyone who collapsed the defense beyond Andre rolling to the hoop, and Ish is such a bad shooter that teams were happy to leave him wide open in order to keep Andre from the hoop. When Reggie played, he did little better than Ish, while providing some semblance of a threat shooting the ball in the midrange and from 3, but he was even less threatening going to the hoop than Ish, meaning that once again, defenses were not collapsing extra guys onto him very often. It meant that the Pistons could not generate good looks from deep. Throw in his miserable defensive campaign (once again, possible it was beyond his control) and the guy who was the Pistons 2nd best player last year (with a big gap to 3rd) was either out or playing poorly. If you want the TL;DR of why the Pistons disappointed this year, it is because of Reggie, and this comes from someone who has defended him all year. (And I will continue to do so btw)

 

KCP: Not a lot, but enough to matter.

In the end, it is hard to say that it was a disappointing year for KCP, but it was not as triumphant as his agent is about to tell everyone it was. He did improve significantly in all areas of his offensive game by learning how to make basic passes and that he is in fact allowed to occasionally hit layups in traffic. He cooled off from deep after a very hot start to finish the year at 35%, which is fine, but is nothing more than that and also further reinforces a trend that he will never be more than league average from deep as he has shot 31.9%, 34.5%, 30.9%, and 35% from 3 in his first 4 years for a career average of 33.4%. If he had remained at his early season heights of high 30s/low 40s then there would be an argument that he had “figured it out” and would be good from here on out. Finishing at 35% does the opposite. Once again though, he improved every area of his offensive game to go from a mediocre offensive player last year to a pretty decent one this year, and considering that he entered the year as being the 5th or 4th option in the offense (obviously before the year Reggie Jackson was assumed to be healthy) that is fine. The main spot where he gets blame is his defensive play, where he went from an All NBA caliber defender, to just ok. It is honestly one of the more bizarre things I’ve ever seen in a player, guys don’t usually get worse defensively in their 4th year, but it just happened. Considering that the Pistons probably saw a dominant inside/out defensive combination of KCP/Andre (we will get to Andre obviously…) was their best chance to be an elite defensive team, it was a problem that KCP suddenly was no longer elite, or even very noteworthy defensively.

 

 

Tobias Harris: Depending on your point of view, quite a bit or just a little.

This is a bit unfair, Tobias was very good this year, was often the Pistons best player, and a constant member in their best lineups all year. But it should be noted, that despite his efficiency, he only scored 16.7 points per game. Now some of that may be coaching, and that is where the “point of view” comes in, because you could say that it was SVG misusing him, which is something we will get into later, but the reality is that at least some of this has to be on Tobias. It has been a knock on him for almost his entire career, is that despite his skill and efficiency as a scorer, he is either lacking in ability or mentality to be a big time scorer. And the reality is, that if there was ever a season for him to take that step, this was it, and he remained the same old high efficiency but not high volume scorer. But I don’t want to say anything bad beyond that because Tobias was excellent overall for the Pistons this year.

 

Ish Smith: Not really blame, but still a reason.

Somewhat like Reggie if he was really just hurt all year and that was the only problem, in that it isn’t really Ish’s fault. But once again it should be noted that objectively, his lack of shooting was consistently a problem for the Pistons this year. But obviously no one expected him to suddenly become a good shooter, in fact he was better than he ever had been in his career before this. But it is just worth mentioning.Also like Tobias, I don’t want to rag on him much because he was very good all year.

 

Andre Drummond: Maybe a lot, maybe a little. Need more information.

A very weird season for Andre. He definitely receives some blame, because for all of the excuses I have made all year, and am going to bring up in just a moment, he is the Pistons’ cornerstone and best player in his first year in a huge new contract, and the team was disappointing. When you are the cornerstone you get lots of credit when things go well, and get blame when things go poorly, regardless of any other peripherals. That said, an area that would’ve been disappointing no matter how the season went for the team overall would’ve been his defense, which was better than last year, and he was responsible for the about 1 and a half of the 2 things that helped the Pistons defense be pretty good, (cleaning the defensive glass is all him, and he is about half responsible for their ability to keep opponents out of transition since they have to box him out) but just as I said with KCP, the Pistons road map to elite defense was a dominant inside/out combination of KCP and Andre. Just as KCP didn’t hold up his end, Andre didn’t either. He cleans that glass at an incredible rate, gets tons of steals for a big man, and tons of deflections even without the “big man” caveat, can hold his own against almost any switch that might come his way, while still providing decent paint/rim protection, and the threat of him on the offensive glass helps your defense as well. He is good enough that he makes you a better defensive team, and he can be an important member of an elite defensive team, but he needs to be more than that for the Pistons unless they make some serious roster changes to bring in more high level defenders. Essentially for instance, if you put him on, say, the Spurs, alongside Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pop as the coach, they would be an even more elite defensive team than they are already. But he can’t single handedly make a good defense in the way Rudy Gobert can. He may not need to be quite Gobert, but he needs to be close.

 

The place where there is real question as to how much blame to give him is on the offensive end. Andre did not make any great leaps in his offensive game, he was a bit more comfortable handling the ball and passing which was good, but his post ups still didn’t draw double teams and his foul shooting made people totally unafraid to just foul him and he was afraid of contact to avoid getting fouled which resulted in a  post up game that ignored his best advantage of that he is freaking huge. And on top of all of it, the “Drummond effect” which had been pretty clear by any measure before this year was not so clear this year. Which is just his ability to suck in defenders in the pick and roll and create space for teammates and generally help you to have a functioning offense. I don’t know for sure how much of that is that I had maybe overestimated Andre’s effect on the pick and roll or how much is that Ish Smith is a bit of an anomaly as a heavy minutes point guard. Andre has made quite a few bad point guards look good in the past in his career, but Ish was so un threatening as a scorer that it kind of neutered his chances of impacting the game with rolls to the hoop since teams just ducked waaaay under every screen without fear, and other than the occasional spurts of Ish suddenly nailing midrange jumpers (which FWIW were some of the most fun moments of the season) the pick and roll was largely ineffective for the Pistons. So for instance, even though Beno is an objectively worse player than Ish Smith (at this point in his career at least), I feel almost as if Beno’s ability to actually shoot and a bit more finishing zest would’ve resulted in better numbers/generally positive impact by Andre in the pick and roll, even if the Pistons would’ve been worse off on the whole. Essentially, Andre’s rim running opens up holes in the defense, and he spent a lot of the season playing with one point guard who was not able to take advantage of those holes (Ish) and another who was not able to take very good advantage of it (hurt Reggie). Either way, regardless of who is running the point next year (assuming Andre returns) it will be something to watch very closely, because if we get very far into next season and the team offense returns with Andre are still poor, there might actually be a problem.

 

Regardless of it all, Andre didn’t regress like many have claimed, he improved in most areas, and his counting stats went down a bit mostly because he didn’t play as many minutes and the Pistons played at a pretty slow pace. Enough of the advanced numbers were better, and the unique point guard situation can combine for enough optimism that if the Pistons run back with him again I will be very optimistic heading into the season, but this season was certainly a season that even his biggest fans have to admit makes you a little wary going forwards.

 

Jon Leuer: A not insignificant amount.

I am of the opinion that some of this isn’t totally his fault. He is not good enough to be a regular starter/heavy minutes player and it isn’t his fault that they kept trying to make him one. That said, you have to admit that he was disappointing this year, and it is made even worse by the fact that they actually paid him pretty good money. I like Jon Leuer, I think he will end up being ok, but 29.3% from 3 is not going to cut it. He still managed to be an efficient overall scorer, but by the end of the year his outside shot was totally gone and opponents knew it, which only added more pain to the Pistons already cramped offense. I still have hope he will work out, but it was an unimpressive first year for Jon Leuer in a Pistons uniform.

 

Stanley Johnson: A very wee bit.

He’s still super young, it started to click defensively later in the year and that is the most important thing for him to get going forwards. He may end up being a good offensive player or he may not, but his first step is to dominate defensively. That said, he was terrible early in the year and it was a problem for the Pistons. It may not have made a big difference, but if Stanley had played early in the season the way he did later I have to think the Pistons may have gotten one or two more wins.

 

Darrun Hilliard: More than Stanley.

With Stanley’s early season struggles, Hilliard got his shot with a stretch of games where he was in the rotation, and he played absolutely horribly. I’ll talk more about him in his season recap post, but man, his play in that stretch was a problem.

 

SVG President of basketball operations: Very little.

I liked pretty much all of the moves they made at the time and I still do. Right now the only move that looks like a mistake is signing Jon Leuer instead of just keeping Anthony Tolliver who had a career year. But the reality is that with Tolly’s age and the length of Leuer contract, it is too early to pile on that move yet. Other than that, it wasn’t his fault that Reggie was hurt. I think that the Pistons probably got the best talent that was available to them, Ish Smith looks like a home run move, Boban looks super promising in his limited minutes this year, Jon Leuer was still often a positive despite his horrid shooting, picking up Beno on short notice ended up being a really great move as well. Not going to pin much of that blame on the front office.

 

SVG: Coach. A lot and none.

Two side here. On one side, the Pistons showed all of the peripherals of a very well coached team. The low turnovers, excellent fast break defense, cleaning the defensive glass, finishing the season as a pretty good defense despite a lack of good defenders on the roster. And he should get a lot of credit for all of that, and there is an argument that without SVG’s excellent coaching the Pistons may well have been a truly horrible team instead of just mediocre. That said, there are some things that I have gripes with in no particular order. First off, every game that Boban got real minutes in made it more and more frustrating that he didn’t play the rest of the time. Aron Baynes is good, but Boban might be awesome, he should’ve gotten playing time. Secondly, I don’t know how I feel about his “motion offense” that he wanted the Pistons to do more of this year, once again, Reggie Jackson being healthy would’ve been a big help, but the offense was miserable this year, and yet he seemed hesitant to make any major changes. Some of the changes he did make were not ones I was a fan of either, whether that was cutting KCP out of the offense after the all star break, giving more shots to Marcus Morris that didn’t come out of the pick and roll, not just giving the ball to Tobias more often, letting their best 3 point shooter (Reggie Bullock) rot on the bench all year while always talking about how their bad 3 point shooting was a big problem, all the stuff they did with Jon Leuer as Leuer slowly fell apart as the season went on. So I don’t know for sure, I do think that SVG’s unwillingness to get creative was a major hindrance to the offense, but the more I think about the state of the roster this year, the more I think he did a really nice job this year. Like a lot of the rest of the team, next year will be really important for SVG the coach. The only difference being that we know for a fact that SVG will be there next year.

 

All in all:

There is plenty of blame to go around. But there is still reason to think it will improve. The Pistons biggest problem was easily the ability to create 3s and other good looks, and that is clearly the area Reggie being out/hurt made the biggest difference. In the end though, the reality is that the Pistons were not that good this year for exactly that reason. They just were not that good. They were theoretically on the very lower end of talent level where they could still be a really good team if they played the right way. With Reggie's injury they just didn't have enough talent to stay with it.

 

 

 

 

 

Game Recap/Notes: Game #75. Pistons 96 - Heat 97. (Eternal sadness)

            That’s a rough one. The Pistons playoff chances likely died last night with that Hassan Whiteside tip in. Technically they still have a chance, but it is now a very slim one. The reality is though, they didn’t lose their playoff chances last night, they lost it by losing to 3 straight bad teams.

 

Box score,

 

Ish Smith:

            Ish had himself a game, finding some hot shooting to score 19 points on 16 equivalents along with 6 assists against just 2 turnovers. His lack of size was a problem on the other end however as Dragic was able to take full advantage at several opportunities. But even so, Ish scoring as efficiently as he did is more than you should usually hope from him, so it was a very good game for Ish. One thing that is fairly small but something that I noticed was that there were a couple of times that he just straight up forgot about his guy on a box out and allowed a Miami offensive rebound.

 

KCP:

            KCP ended up having a productive night on the offensive side of the ball with 25 points on 24 equivalents, although it is worth noting that all 6 of his free throws were after drawing fouls from 3. Even though his offense wasn’t terribly efficient, the reality is that the Pistons needed someone to get the ball in the basket, as such I’ll take his offensive production, throw in 5 rebounds as well. Defensively he also got the job of Dragic at various points, and he also failed to do much to keep Dragic in check, and like Ish, there were a couple of possessions where he straight up forgot about his guy leading to an offensive rebound which is very frustrating for both of them, given that when going against Whiteside you have to know that this is one of the rare guys who is going to actually be able to steal a few tips from Andre which will result in some loose balls like that. Either way, still a fine game for KCP.

 

Marcus Morris:

            After a very solid outing in his previous game, Marcus pretty much went in the crapper tonight, 7 points on 10 sots with 5 boards and 2 assists isn’t immediately awful, but when you throw in the fact that he fouled out in 28 minutes and had a tech called on him (they missed the tech free throw) and it is a very rough night for him. He also had his life ended by James Johnson which I’m sure was not pleasant. Dude has been a competitor all season and, by far, the guy who has played the most “winning basketball” of anyone on the team, so it is a real shame that in the pivotal game he had to play so poorly.

 

Jon Leuer:

            This is officially going to be in my complaints of SVG in the season’s epitaph. Why on earth he put Leuer back into the starting lineup tonight is beyond me. In just 17 minutes he had 2 points on 4 equivalents 4 rebounds and 2 assists and a game low -11. Leuer also is officially on the “this may have been a big mistake” list of guys. I’ll certainly give him a chance into next year (assuming he is still on the team, which is a good assumption I think) but it has been a very poor first year for him, and I think one of the main reasons why is because SVG seems to have it in his head that Leuer can start, and he pretty clearly just isn’t good enough.

 

Andre Drummond:

            9 points on 8 equivalents, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks in 34 minutes. Between him and Whiteside it was fairly even the whole way as neither had great games but both did some good stuff. It sucks that Whiteside beat him on the final play of the game like that for a tip, but the reality is that if you told me the Pistons season was going to come down to Andre Drummond beating Hassan Whiteside for a rebound I’d take it every day of the week. That is the only thing that makes me feel a little bit better about the way it ended. If you are going to go down, I’d at least like to know that you ended up with your best shot. The reality is that he played a very nice game and got beat on the last play by another guy who is really good. It’s not unlike last year when Kyrie hit that one crazy 3 over KCP in the playoffs last year to really sink the Pistons. The reality is, that if I’ve gotta go down, I’d rather have KCP playing defense, Andre rebounding, and Tobias/Marcus going iso (for the various situations.) and if it doesn’t work I can end up living with that. Still hugely disappointing.

 

Stanley Johnson:

            Statistically it was actually a fairly good game for Stanley. In 33 minutes he had 5 points on 5 shots with 7 rebounds, an assist and a steal to go along with some very nice defensive plays. Unfortunately his youth showed up in a big way. He had 5 fouls, and a charging foul at the very end of the game was a crucial one. The tech called on him for stepping on the line I don’t really care about because that never gets called, SVG even said that in the postgame, and the jump ball probably should’ve been a foul instead. Either way, it was kind of rough because he had like 3 screw ups in the final moments of the game, but that is what happens with young guys. All you can do is hope he learns from it and improves.

 

Tobias Harris:

            Tobias had a very good game, 19 points on 15 equivalents with 6 boards and a pair of assists with a team high +11 on the night. He was able to get some 3s to drop and got to his spots. His outside shooting in particular was a godsend, as the Pistons once again had a dismal outing from deep by everyone else. Like Andre, it is too bad he got beat on the final play, as Dragic straight up ripped the ball away from him to get up the last toss that ended up being tipped back in by Whiteside. The only difference being that you’d like to think that your PF should be able to corral rebounds against a point guard. Either way though, as much as it sucks how it ended, he still had a good game.

 

Beno Udrih:

            Managed to avoid the turnovers this game and finish with a perfectly acceptable 6 points on 7 equivalents with 4 assists against 2 turnovers in 17 minutes. Not all that good, but perfectly fine.

 

Aron Baynes:

            Only played 14 minutes as he got a wee bit hurt in his first run. Ended up with 4 points onshots and 5 rebounds. Fine I guess, but not much good.

 

 

General:

            It sucks man. There is no way around that. Last year the Pistons won a pivotal game over the Bucks with an Andre Drummond offensive rebound, this year they lose a pivotal game by having someone get a tip over Andre. That’s just kind of the way it breaks sometimes. The Pistons still technically can make it, but it is officially a very long shot, if they had won last night they would be right in it still. Either way, this game should’ve never been the deciding one. They played the Nets, Magic, and Knicks in 3 straight, the 3 teams who are literally the worst 3 in the Eastern Conference. They should’ve cleaned up with them and then this game would’ve been the Heat fighting for their playoff lives instead, and that tip in would’ve just meant that the Pistons still had some work to do to finish off the Heat.

 

 

What do you think? Should Leuer have ever started? How much of Stanley’s screw ups were really his fault?

Opponent Scouting: Miami Heat. (35-38)

            Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will essentially be making their last stand at a chance for the playoffs in a game against the Miami Heat. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back and the Heat are on one days rest.

 

The Them:

            The Heat were bad at the start of the year but then went on an absolute tear for about a month and now sit in the 8th spot for the Eastern conference. However they have started to fall back a wee bit lately with Dion Waiters out, having lost 3 of their last 4.

            The Heat are a mish mash of castoffs and young guns who have somehow managed to become a fairly good basketball team, and regardless of if they actually manage to hold on in the playoffs or not, the fact that they are even in the conversation is damn near a miracle. They sport solid but not remarkable team efficiencies, with an offensive efficiency of 104.9 and a defensive efficiency of 104.1, what is remarkable is that they have a positive net rating out of that, which would suggest that their record probably should be better than it currently is given that they sit several games below .500. They are still lead by Goran Dragic, the speedy point guard is averaging 20 points and 5.9 assists per game and doing it really efficiently and shooting a remarkable 41.3% from deep as he has pretty much fully recaptured his All-NBA form that he surprised everyone with in Phoenix a few years ago. Hassan Whiteside isn’t too crazy, but he is very good, 16.9 points, 14.2 boards, and 2.1 blocks per game is nothing to sneeze at, and he does it in a variety of ways. He anchors their defense and pairs with Dragic to be 2nd most important cog in the Miami offense. Dion Waiters is hurt for the rest of the regular season so he will not be playing tonight. Tyler Johnson will probably be overpaid once his salary hike kicks in, but for now he has certainly made good on a surprising season last year that got him the paycheck, as he remains a rock solid swiss army knife guy, who may not be good enough to be a jack of all trades, but is maybe like a 9 or a 10 of all trades. He averages 13.9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game and is a fairly reliable shooter. Just a really nice player to have on your team. James Johnson is kind of a maniac, he is out of control at times, but he is playing some point center for the Heat and is doing all sorts of good things for them. Wayne Ellington is a fairly capable guard who can shoot and do other guard type stuff, but is not terribly remarkable. Josh Richardson has kind of crashed hard this year after a very promising rookie year, but he has been hurt quite a bit so he could still recover. There are a variety of guys who I just don’t know enough about to really say much with authority, Rodney McGuder is a guard, Will McGruder is big.

            This team plays their tails off, and a anchored by a very capable pairing of Dragic and Whiteside, and everyone else goes in on a relentless drive and kick attack on offense and plays hard on defense.

 

Matchups to watch:

-          Pistons vs Playing for their lives: Technically a loss tonight would not put the Pistons out of the race, but it would put them very near to the “need to win out and have other people lose a bunch” category of it essentially being over. If this team has any desire to make the playoffs they need this one, and they will need to play hard because there is no way the Heat will slack off. And on the flip side, if the Pistons win this game then they are just 1.5 back from the 8th spot, which will put them right in the mix down the stretch.

-          Andre vs Whiteside: This is pretty obviously the premier matchup of this game, both guys are huge types who dominate the paint on both ends. Whiteside is a bit more refined and a better shot blocker, but Andre is quicker and a better rebounder. Andre has generally given it to Whiteside in previous meetings, and Andre will need to do that again.

-          Pistons vs Bad turnovers: Turnovers really hurt the Pistons last night against the Knicks, and given how much the Heat love to run in transition, the Pistons will have to really take good care of the ball. Because if you let the Heat get turnovers they will turn them into transition buckets at a very high rate.

-          Pistons vs Hitting some freaking shots: Even before the season began, I was worried about the Pistons outside shooting, but it almost has to improve from where it has been the past few games. If the Pistons shoot as miserably as they have lately, nothing else is really going to matter, they will lose.

-          The running teams: If you are able to put aside the general sadness around the team right now, this should be a very fun game. With Ish at the helm of the Pistons and Dragic for the Heat there should be lots of running in this game. I don’t know if that will end up being good or bad for the Pistons, but it should be a high pace.

 

So in conclusion…

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

-          Andre is beating up Whiteside.

-          Ish is outrunning Dragic.

-          The Pistons shooting regresses to the mean and they rain fire from deep.

 

Run for the hills if:

-          The Pistons continue to build a wall with their bricks

-          Beno forgets which team he plays for again

-          The Pistons look tired

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

-          Andre>Hassan

-          The Pistons finally get some shots to go down

-          Tobias Harris finds his form back and has a big game

-          The Pistons ride hot shooting and good games from Tobias and Andre to a victory to re-enter the playoff picture.

-          Pistons 113 – Heat 105

 

What do you think? Can the Pistons pull out a comeback and sneak in the playoffs? Will they get some shots to fall?

Game Recap/Notes: Eternal Sadness.

            The Pistons’ season is officially on life support. These last few games where their best chance to secure a playoff spot against some bad teams, and they lost them all. They are not totally out of it, but very close.

 

Box score.

 

Ish Smith:

            Ish played a pretty solid game, 15 points on 15 equivalents along with 5 assists with 1 turnover and 6 rebounds for good measure. He was largely unable to do anything to slow down Derrick Rose on the other end which was disappointing, but Rose is capable of having good games still so it isn’t the worst thing in the world. It wasn’t his fault that the Pistons got killed, but he certainly didn’t do a lot to help. I don’t know man. He played fine.

 

KCP:

            KCP was fine, 12 points on 14 equivalents with 2 boards and an assist. Fairly typical non-impact but still fine game for KCP. He generally did his job, hit a few shots, played decent defense, but just didn’t really do anything of note.

 

Greater Morris:

            Marcus was one of the few Pistons who actually had a really nice game last night. He finished with 20 points on 15 equivalents with a pair of assists. The only downside was that he ended up fouling out of the game, but when you go against Carmelo that can happen. Defensively he got roasted pretty badly by Melo at various points, but Melo didn’t actually end up with too good of a game. Overall it was a pretty good game for Marcus, and he is one of the only people who can say that.

 

Tobias Harris:

            Tobias was pretty poor last night, 12 points on 16 equivalents is a far cry from his usual efficiency, and he didn’t make up for it with rebounding or passing, and he joined Morris in getting roasted by Melo a couple of times, and generally struggled to contain Kristaps who finished with a very efficient night scoring the ball. Tobias just didn’t really have it tonight. As a side note with him that is kind of a pet peeve, the Knicks got a breakaway and Tobias was the only guy for the Pistons who had any chance to catch him, and he ended up just walking back and allowed Holiday to get a totally free dunk. Tobias is a good enough athlete that he should be more than capable of getting some awesome chase down blocks, and yet he never even seems to try for them, I wish he would because he would probably be pretty good at it.

 

Andre Drummond:

            Andre started off the game really well, with 10 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. In the second half however he was totally shut off as he finished with just 10 points, although he did get to 15 rebounds and 3 assists which is still a fairly decent game on the whole for him. It was still very disappointing that he didn’t continue to dominate the paint in the way he did in the first half, as that was largely the thing that drove the Pistons in the first half. The Knicks adjusted and Andre couldn’t get past it. It is also worth noting that he only played 25 minutes. So, not a totally horrible game from Andre, but certainly not much good either.

 

Jon Leuer:

            Leuer did alright, 8 points on 8 shots, but he continues to brick away from deep going 0-2. He also had 3 rebounds and a pair of assists. If only he could start hitting some of his 3s then I would feel so much better about Leuer at this point, because he does a lot of stuff well and generally plays “winning basketball”, but teams have started to totally ignore him from beyond the line and it has really had a major negative impact on the Pistons offense.

 

Aron Baynes:

            Played a bit of an extra work load with 22 minutes, had 7 points on 6 equivalents with 8 boards, so a pretty nice game for Baynes. He just keeps on chugging away as being a fairly reliable backup center who does a little bit of everything.

 

Stanley Johnson:

            5 points on 7 shots and a block in 18 minutes, he played some good defense on Melo but it didn’t really matter too much as Melo hit some really tough shots over him. Stanley played fine, and mostly ran into some bad luck with Melo just hitting some real tough shots.

 

Beno Udrih:

            Beno had a bit of a rough game, he did manage 6 points on 4 shots, but he had 5 turnovers and 0 assists. He looked a bit like he hadn’t been on an NBA floor in a few months and looked out of sync with the offense, and he will have to do better than that if the Pistons have indeed shut Jackson down for the season.

 

Hilliard, BOBAN, Ellenson:

            They played for about a minute at the very end of the game, didn’t do anything of note.

 

 

General:

            Rough loss and a rough game to lose. The last 3 games should’ve been the Pistons time to rise back up into the playoffs, and instead they have put themselves into a hole that they will be hard pressed to pull themselves out of. Tonight’s game against the Heat is more or less their last chance to try and turn this around.

 

What do you think? Can someone on the Pistons remember how to shoot?

Opponent Scouting: Toronto Raptors. (39-29)

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will welcome the Toronto Raptors to the Palace. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Jazz on Wednesday. The Raptors are on the 2nd night of a back to back after getting beaten by the Thunder last night.

 

The Them:

The Raptors are real good, and even though their record has fallen back a bit in the midst of some injuries, especially without Kyle Lowry, but they continue to sport one of the best offenses in the NBA with an offensive efficiency of 109.9, and their defensive efficiency has not fallen too far as it stands at a just sort of mediocre 105.7.

Especially with Lowry out, DeMar DeRozan leads the way for the Raptors, averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He still doesn’t really shoot 3s, and when he does he usually misses, but he is a master of the midrange and getting to the hoop where he draws tons of fouls, but Pistons fans probably don’t need to be reminded of what DeRozan can do. After him, Serge Ibaka is one of the new guys in town, giving them a legitimate starting 4 and he is fitting in pretty well from the start, scoring 13.8 points and blocking 1.8 shots per game and scoring pretty efficiently, they have also had success flexing him to the center spot for stretches. Jonas Valanciunas can score and rebound, and has historically given Drummond fits, but he only plays 26 minutes per game because of his defensive woes, which are significant. DeMarre Carroll has never lived up to his contract, but he is still a scrappy player who can defend and mostly doesn’t kill your offense. Cory Joseph is starting in place of Lowry right now, and while he has not been quite as good as last year, he has mostly still been rock solid as a backup and a serviceable starter when needed (like now). Normal Powell is getting more minutes now that Terrence Ross is gone and he looks pretty good when he is on the floor as a guard who is a super athlete. Patrick Patterson is still a really good stretch 4 who can shoot and defend, P.J. Tucker doesn’t score much be he can defend like hell, Delon Wright is a guard who is decent I guess, but not really worth noting. Jakob Poeltl is big and super young, Fred VanVleet is not nearly as Dutch as his name would suggest.

 

Matchups to watch:

-       Andre vs JV: Jonas has given Andre all kinds of problems in the past, and while Andre can usually give it back just as well on the other end, Andre usually ends up losing out because he gets into foul trouble while JV doesn’t. Andre needs to avoid fouling at the very least, and at best actually stop JV occasionally.

-       The backcourt vs Bouncing back: Both of the Pistons starting backcourt have had a pair of really bad games, which is especially frustrating for Reggie after he had strung together several good ones, while KCP has generally been quiet since the all star break. The Pistons will need at least one of them (especially Reggie) to bounce back if they want to start winning again.

-       Pistons vs Guarding DeRozan: Dude is a problem for the Pistons. Too big for KCP, too good for Morris. Marcus has done decent at times in the past, but DeRozan has regularly been a problem for the Pistons, and they will need to contain him if they want to win.

-       Jon Leuer vs Not being terrible: Terrible is probably too strong a word, but he has really not played well lately. He is barely above 30% from 3, and he looks shook. He needs to get back to his early season form, and quick, because he is hurting the Pistons right now.

 

 

So in conclusion…

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

-       Andre is outplaying JV.

-       Reggie Jackson is back in form.

-       The Pistons are doing a good job of locking up DeRozan.

 

Run for the hills if:

-       Andre has 2 fouls 2 minutes into the game.

-       DeRozan starts hitting everything he takes.

-       The Raptors recently improved defense is stifling the Pistons.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

-       Andre doesn’t get crapped on again.

-       Reggie and KCP have nice games, not great but just nice.

-       DeRozan has a high volume scoring night, but is pretty inefficient.

-       The Pistons come out firing and the Raptors come out tired, and the Pistons lead semi-comfortably from start to finish.

-       Pistons 107 – Raptors 100.

 

 

What do you think? Can the backcourt bounce back? Can Andre avoid foul trouble?