Opponent Scouting: Charlotte Hornets. (preseason)

PISTON BASKETBALL IS BACK!!!!!

 

Intro Stuffs/shameless plugs: I'm going to put this group of stuff at the start of my posts here for the preseason and the first few regular season games for anyone new to the deal.

 

I'm Joe, and I am thrilled to have you along for the upcoming Pistons season! There will be a post like this before every game all season long, more or less, and there will also be a recap after games. Nothing I say here should be seen as a end-all truth, but rather a starting point for real conversation about the game beyond just people yelling “DEETROIT BASKETBAALLL”.

 

If you want to support me then you can read any of my Pistons stuff on Hashtag basketball, all of my non-pre and post game stuffs will be there and I get a direct cut of ad revenue from my posts.

 

If you like my writing you may like following me on twitter as well.

 

 

Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will play in their first preseason game of the year and their first time taking the floor in the LCA. They will be playing the Hornets, who have already played a game against the Celtics.

 

The Them:

The Hornets bring back largely the same sort of team they had last year, with the major change being the insertion of Dwight Howard into the team, although he shouldn't figure to change what they do in a major way. Kemba Walker is not a super elite point guard but he is very good in all areas of the game, Nic Batum is a swiss army knife, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a defensive menace who can so some stuff in the paint on offense but still hasn't learned to shoot at all. Marvin Williams is a solid stretch 4 who also plays decent defense, and Howard still brings rebounding, rim protection and general paint presence. The Hornets also sport a decent bench featuring Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky up front for a pair of hard working white dudes, Jeremy Lamb can play a little bit as well. It isn't clear if they will really have anyone who can run back up point though. They added Michael Carter-Williams this offseason but he is still hurt I think, and rookie Malik Monk is hurt as well.

Overall the Hornets are a really well coached team who has several good players on the roster. They are unlikely to be great, but they should be a tough team all season. I didn't bother to look up to see who all is playing or isn't playing for them tonight. Obviously there will be bench dudes who were not mentioned here.

 

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Andre vs. Dwight: Even in the preseason, and even with Dwight not his former self. Still two physically dominant centers who will bang down low.

  • Stanley Johnson vs. Putting the ball in the basket: Even if it isn't through 3 point shooting, Stanley must find a way to get buckets occasionally this season. He is going to get the chance to start at small forward it appears, and if it is going to work he must improve on offense. Start showing it now.

  • Luke Kennard vs Defense: Kennard is almost certainly going to get some run given that it is preseason, but watch him defensively. If he already looks lost then it may be trouble, but FWIW there have mostly been good things said about him.

  • SVG vs experimenting: It's only preseason, but once again there has been talk of the Pistons getting funky with some lineups, perhaps SVG will start to maybe try some of them.

  • US VS BASKETBALL: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

 

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Luke Kennard is actually looking closer to Devin Booker than Kyle Korver

  • Andre actually hits a few free throws (plz Andre)

  • BOBAN SMASH

 

Run for the hills if:

  • Andre misses every free throw

  • Anyone gets hurt for any reason at all

  • Kennard already looks lost defensively

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Bradley already begins winning over fans

  • Anthony Tolliver plays some small forward

  • Everyone overreacts to something.

 

What do you think? What are you watching closest for?

Notes From Synergy

So I am about to start on all the individual player previews for next season, and so I am going to do this bit here as a closing of the book on the previous season so to speak, as well as proof positive that I am not owned by the man and am fully capable of doing normal posts as before. I thought about doing this as a podcast but it didn't fit very well.

 

Regardless, one of the benefits of my gig with hashtag basketball is that I have access to synergy sports now, so this is just sort of a list of things that I've seen in synergy that may be of some interest to people looking back on last year. They are in no particular order. Also I am fairly new to synergy so if someone see's that I misread/interpreted a number then I apologize.

 

The Pistons gave up way too many spot up looks last year:

This is not really a huge revelation, but it was really eye opening. 21.9% of opponent possessions ended in a spot up look last year, which is a pretty large number. For instance the Lakers allowed fewer spot up looks last year, with 19.1% of possessions. Opponents also didn't shoot an incredible mark on those spot up looks, it was just the number of good looks the Pistons gave up.

Obviously Reggie Jackson gets a fair amount of blame here, and you didn't need synergy to tell you that if you watched the games. But more than anything else really, defending against spot up 3 pointers is a team effort, it starts with poor defense at the point of attack from really all the guards, (even the non-Reggie Jackson ones), continues with Andre often not doing a good enough job of containing ball handlers, and ends with poor close outs by the wings. The Pistons actually faired pretty well overall on defense last year, and they were anchored by Andre's rebounding on that end, but this should be a point of emphasis going into next year and is the most obvious place of improvement for next year. They were effective in other areas, with the only other problem being isolation scorers (which is more a matter of having better 1 on 1 defenders which isn't really a scheme/coaching thing) and were really effective at keeping ball handlers in the pick and roll from scoring. If they can clean it up around the arc, they could well make the jump from “Solid defense” to “Elite defense”. Hopefully a healthy Reggie Jackson, adding Avery Bradley and Galloway, and higher minutes for Stanley Johnson can help with that. Regardless, how many spot up looks they are allowing will be something to watch next year.

 

Shooting really was a huge problem for this team

Once again, you didn't really need synergy to know this, but Stan Van Gundy's blatant desire to add more shooting looks a lot more justified after seeing the numbers here. Last year there was a big part of me that figured that a big reason the Pistons shot so poorly from deep was largely because of their poor point guard play, and while shooters did fair a bit better when Ish Smith was passing the ball than Reggie Jackson, (largely because Jackson wasn't getting into the paint at all, but more on that in a bit) even there it was bad. And here is the thing, overall on spot up looks the Pistons got just .916 points per possession (ppp from here on), which was 29th in the NBA, but the real problem is that they averaged just 1.03ppp on unguarded catch and shoot opportunities, which was 28th in the NBA. So even when they were getting good looks, they were miserable. So guys simply shooting better from deep may well be huge for the Pistons regardless of point guard play. (as an interesting side note, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris where by far the best spot up guys on the team last year, and the only ones who clocked in at above average, and no one else was particularly close)

 

The point guard play may not have been as bad as we thought.

This ties in with the last point. But a lot of people (me especially) put a lot of emphasis on how poor the point guard play was from the Pistons last year, Reggie Jackson was gimpy and Ish Smith is one of the most inefficient scorers in the NBA so no one was afraid of them which caused issues for the entire offense. But upon further review, it actually may have been more the guys around them than those two. As stated above, even when good looks where created, guys couldn't hit them.

But one of the most interesting numbers synergy has given me is the Pistons ball handlers ability to score. Overall the Pistons got .894ppp from ball handlers shooting out of the pick and roll, goof for 14th in the NBA, which is obviously mediocre as a team. HOWEVA, Reggie Jackson scored .889ppp good for a solid 71st percentile, and actually a slight uptick from the previous season where he scored .876ppp out of the pick and roll. (although that was the 77th percentile that year, but both numbers were ranked as “very good” by synergy) Ish Smith also put up decent numbers with .851ppp good for 64th percentile and a “good” ranking from synergy. And do you want to have your mind blown even a little bit further? Reggie Jackson was still an awesome isolation scorer last year, scoring 1.027ppp and coming in the 87th percentile and an “excellent” rating from synergy, and was a HUGE increase from .863ppp the previous year. Even Ish Smith got a “Good” rating from synergy in isolations with .885ppp. (On a side note Marcus Morris was in the 90th percentile in isolation scoring, they will miss that)

Now this comes with a grain of salt of course, because anyone with a pair of eyes can tell you that Reggie Jackson looked off, and this doesn't even go into his defensive woes. But the previous point about the shooting combined with this one perhaps paints a slightly different picture of last year's offensive woes. The Pistons point guards and ball handlers actually did their jobs as far as getting the ball into the hoop, it was more often than not their spotting up comrades who were failing. And as much as it was clear that Jackson was a bit slower than previously and that hampered his ability to get into the lane, a clogged lane due to un-threatening shooters may have had more impact on it than previously thought.

Once again, point guard play was still a big problem last year and this is not me trying to get Jackson (and Ish) off the hook for the Pistons offensive woes, but the numbers would certainly suggest that there was plenty of blame to go around beyond just the ball handlers.

 

 

Tobias Harris needs more pick and roll touches

Harris scored .985ppp as a ball handler in the pick and roll, good for 87th percentile and an “Excellent” rating, but he was 6th(!!??!!) on the team in pick and roll touches on the season last year despite this efficiency. This does come with the caveat of course that Tobias' poor passing keeps him from being a viable heavy usage player in the pick and roll, but he can't come in 6th again. 4 of the guys in front of him are no longer on the team, and 2 of them (KCP and Marcus Morris) are guys he regularly shared the floor with. So I would really hope that most of those two's pick and roll chances go to Tobias, even with his passing problems, give him more touches in the pick and roll. Also while we are talking about Tobias, he is almost comically efficient as a scorer. Scrolling through the hundreds of categories that synergy tracks, there are very few that are not rated as “Very Good” or “Excellent”, there is still questions about whether he could hold up that efficiency with higher volume or not, but I'm game to find out.

 

Avery Bradley is not a ball handler.

Following my post on Bradley and appearing as a guest on a Celtics podcast I was told repeatedly by Celtics people that they thought I was overestimating Bradley's ball handling capabilities a bit. The combination of synergy and also just some good ole eye test of re-watching games from last year says that they were correct. Without getting into all of the numbers, Bradley handled the ball less than KCP did last year in pretty much every way, and was a little bit worse doing it in pretty much every way. The good news however is that Bradley was MUCH better in pretty much every off-ball category than KCP was. In theory this should be fine as KCP wasn't actually much good as a ball handler and hopefully means more touches for Tobias while Bradley is much better off ball. But this is either news that should make you hopeful or worried heading into next year depending on how you look at it, since the Pistons specifically cited Bradley's ability as a secondary/tertiary ball handler as something they liked about him. With that in mind, there are really two options: OPTION 1, Bradley is actually capable of doing a lot more ball handling duties than he took on in Boston and he could legitimately be in for a break out year this season. OPTION 2, The Pistons miscast him in their assessment and hopefully don't try to force him to do stuff he isn't capable of.

 

Jon Leuer can be a good player even if he shoots like crap.

This should be clear even without synergy. Even with the terrible outside shooting he had a TS% of 55.1 last year which is quite good. But from synergy, Jon Leuer was really good posting up people (which was often when he got switched onto smaller guys) where he averaged exactly 1ppp good for 83rd percentile and an “Excellent” rating. He also was an awesome cutter (93rd percentile), and on put backs (92nd percentile) which would suggest that in theory if the Pistons just stopped having him spot up beyond the 3 point line and brought him closer to the hoop more often he could still be a super effective offensive player. Obviously the best case scenario is that Leuer finds his shot back, but even if he doesn't, there is a very real role he can play. The biggest problem is that it becomes harder to play him at the 4 spot instead of the 5, especially with the Piston starters.

 


What do you think? Got any other things you wonder about that Synergy may be able to answer? Let me know!

;

Meet Avery Bradley (and goodbye Marcus and KCP)

So what is the trade?

The Pistons traded Marcus Morris to the Celtics for Avery Bradley and the Celtics 2019 2nd round pick. And even though this is not part of the trade, as a direct result of this trade the Pistons have renounced the rights to KCP which makes him an unrestricted free agent and more or less ensures that he is done with the Pistons.

 

First things first:

KCP and Morris were excellent players who played hard damn near every single game. There has been a lot said about that so I won't go too far with it, but they really will be missed even if this ends up being a good move (which it likely is).

 

So who is Avery Bradley?

Avery Bradley is a 6'2 (with a 6'7 wingspan) combo guard the age of 26 years. He will turn 27 in November. Bradley was born in Tacoma, Washington. He lived a couple of different parents as his father is/was a career military man but he lived in Tacoma for most of his childhood. Bradley was a highly touted high school player and had huge amounts of success. After high school Bradley attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he played one year and earned all Big 12 freshman honors and ass big 12 honorable mention. He was drafted 19th overall by the Celtics in the 2010 NBA draft, and has played with them ever since. He was sparingly used in his rookie season, but by his 3rd year he was playing 28 minutes per game and making his way as a defensive specialist. Bradley has improved every year in almost every aspect of his game, going from a 7 point, 1.4 assists, on almost no 3 point shots player in that 3rd year, to a 16.3 point, 2.2 assist, 6.1 rebounds per game with a 39% mark from 3 on 5 attempts per game, all while remaining an elite perimeter defender.

 

 

The Good:

Avery Bradley is really good in pretty much all the ways the Pistons need, he is a good outside shooter. We will see if he matches the lofty heights he set last year again, but his last 4 years he shot: 39.5%, 35.2%, 36.1%, and 39% from 3. So much like I mentioned with Langston Galloway, even if Bradley may not flirt with 40% on high volume again, he is very unlikely to flirt with 30% like so many Pistons players have over the last couple of years.

 

Bradley is also very good as a secondary ball handler, it is far from ideal to have him as the lead point guard on the floor for any extended stretches but he can manage a few possessions, but he will give the Pistons the true secondary ball handler that they have rather desperately needed the past couple of years. He will give some legitimate playmaking and ball handling alongside Reggie Jackson and in theory can take some pressure off of him and Tobias Harris to create everything on offense.

 

Lastly is his defense. Avery Bradley is legitimately one of THE best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He can guard point guards or shooting guards, although like KCP he has some trouble sticking with bigger wings. Bradley is a force on the defensive end.

 

Throw in a dash of shot creation and solid rebounding for a guard and you have yourself damn near the perfect role player in Avery Bradley. He is basically the absolute upside of what KCP could become, a very good shooter, elite defender, and capable ball handler. He also of course consistently plays hard every night.

 

The Bad:

There is not much wrong with Bradley as a player, the only real knock on him is that his size means that he has the same trouble defensively that plagued KCP a bit. When tasked with guarding bigger/physical wings he can sometimes have trouble. Bradley is strong, tough, and plays bigger than his size, but the Pistons are going to have issues when playing, say, the Wolves next year. Wiggins/Butler are both good enough that you are not going to hide Reggie Jackson there, and both of them are big and often bruising scorers that Bradley will have problems with. Other than that though, there is not really anything to complain about with Bradley as a player.

 

Beyond just him as a player, there are a couple of 100% legitimate bads, and a couple of potentially bad. The for sure bad thing is that, even if Bradley is an upgrade, the Pistons are now letting KCP walk for nothing, which is not ideal no matter how you slice it. I was in favor of letting this Summer come around and seeing how it played out, and was comfortable with the fact that it meant KCP could end up walking for nothing, but renouncing his rights is not an ideal situation. Throw in that the Pistons traded Marcus Morris, an important player who played a ton of minutes the last 2 years, and there is a cost to this move, even if Bradley is worth it.

 

The potentially bad goes hand in hand with KCP and Morris leaving. Bradley is only under contract for this one more season, after which he will be an unrestricted free agent. On top of that, with Morris' departure this means that Stanley Johnson is about to go back up to being a pretty high minutes player (even if SVG uses Tobais and Leuer as his starters. Which, please no. Start Stanley please SVG.) and even though he still has plenty of potential, he is far from a sure thing as being worthy of taking on those minutes, on top of that Leuer or potentially Ellenson is likely to get more minutes/a larger role. Essentially, Marcus was a known commodity who was soaking up a large number of minutes, and a lot of those minutes are likely to be taken over by people who are less known. If Stanley makes a leap and Leuer/Ellenson play well then this would be a good thing, but if Stanley and Leuer continue to struggle, the Pistons could end up missing Marcus a great deal.

 

Best case scenario:

KCP does end up getting some absurd contract that the Pistons never would've wanted to match anyways, Stanley Johnson makes the leap to being an all star caliber player, and Jon Leuer gets back to not sucking, and the Pistons suddenly find themselves with one of the deepest rotations in the NBA. Stanley Johnson becomes the man to end LeBron as the king, Avery Bradley shuts down Steph Curry, and the Pistons win multiple NBA titles. (This includes the Pistons retaining Bradley for a fairly reasonable price after this year)

 

Worst case scenario:

Stanley is not ready for major minutes and ends up busting, while Leuer never remembers to shoot and Ellenson can't defend Yi Jianlian's chair, Bradley is his solid self but struggles a bit outside the friendly confines of Boston's offensive system, Reggie Jackson isn't healthy again and is actually just broken, and Kennard does not impress either. Bradley leaves after one season after the Pistons miss the playoffs in a comically weak Eastern conference, leaving the Pistons in need of a new starting point guard, shooting guard, and small forward, with limited ways of getting them, and a blowup of the team is likely required. For good measure KCP ends up signing a very reasonable contract and continues to improve until he is a all star caliber player.

 

The Verdict:

I will miss Marcus and KCP immensely, but this is a good trade right now. The only way this really ends up being a really poor trade is if all 3 of the Pistons youngins (Stanley, Kennard, Ellenson) don't pan out and Bradley leaves next offseason. Even if Bradley leaves next offseason the Pistons are in the same situation they were potentially looking at if KCP got a huge offer they didn't want to match, except now they will have gotten another year to try and groom someone else (likely Kennard or Stanley) as being the starting 2 of the future. It is a bit of a gamble, but a very good one for the Pistons. It should also be noted, that heading into the offseason, the Pistons biggest needs were: Shooting, secondary ball-handling, and defense. 2 of the guys they have added check all 3 of those boxes, and Kennard (should) check the first 2. I still wouldn't be surprised if the Pistons were not totally done yet this offseason, but they are looking pretty good right now.

 

Upshot for the rest of the roster:

With KCP gone, Bradley will be the starting shooting guard without question. Marcus' departure will mean either Stanley moves into the starting lineup to take his place, or Tobias moves to SF and Leuer starts at the 4. Although regardless of who starts, it will mean big minutes for Stanley and more minutes for Tobias at the 3. This also clarifies Galloway's role a bit as he will no longer be competing with Stanley for minutes. And although they are undersized, both galloway and Bradley are capable of playing alongside 2 other guards in some matchups so Kennard could well still get plenty of run. Essentially this opens up more playing time on the wing for the Pistons pair of young wings. Also with the departure of Morris, Ellenson is closer to playing time than he was before. Since last year, if either Leuer or Tobias had gotten hurt, SVG would've almost certainly bumped guys down a spot by having Morris play more minutes at the 4, Stanley at the 3, and Bullock getting some run. With Morris gone, if either Tobias or Leuer goes out then Ellenson is the next guy up without question.

 

What do you think? Do you like the trade? Can Stanley step up? Will the Pistons make another move?

 

Programming note: I had to go where they had power to get this post up, but there will be a post on Eric Moreland (center who the Pistons just signed off their summer league team) whenever I have internet back at my house. Also, if you are waiting for a podcast on all of this, it will be coming hopefully Monday, and there will be a very special guest that I think everyone will really enjoy, even if it has some potential to end up basically being a first take episode lol.

Meet Langston Galloway

The Pistons have agreed to a deal with Langston Galloway for a 3 year $21 million deal. As of now it is believed that there are no options for either the team or the player. I had delayed making this post thinking that there would be another move to come, there still likely is, but I don't want to wait anymore.

 

So who is Langston Galloway?

Langston Galloway is a 25 year old pro who will turn 26 during the coming season. He has 3 years of experience in the NBA. He went to High School at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He won 2 district player of the year awards, and lead them to a state championship in his senior year. He went to school for 4 years at Saint Joseph's, where he won multiple awards for his play on the court as well as his efforts off of it, and finished as the 2nd all time leading scorer in school history and is school's all time leader in 3 pointers made. Galloway went undrafted in 2014, and was signed by the Knicks to their summer league team, after which he spent some time with their D-League team, before being signed to a pair of 10 day contracts and eventually was signed for the rest of the season even making 2nd team All Rookie. He spent one more year with the Knicks, before starting last year with the Pelicans before being traded to the Kings as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

 

What if there isn't some other big move and they just signed him?

There is a very good chance this is the case. I'll get into the reason why another move makes most sense later, but there could be nothing major coming, and this is part of the Pistons self stated plan to more or less run the team back again. In the most basic sense, Galloway checks several boxes that the Pistons wanted to hit this offseason.

  • Shooting: Galloway is a career 36.6% shooter from deep, and is coming off of a season where he shot 39% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game, it should also be noted that he isn't just a spot up guy and has some ability to hit off the dribble 3s as well. (which adds some amount of impressiveness to his 36.6% career mark.) He isn't a sniper that some people were hoping the Pistons would get, but when his NBA numbers are combined with his mark of 42.6% from 3 in college he is proven as a reliable shooter from deep.

  • Secondary Ball-Handling: Galloway is not a pure point guard in any sense of the word. He isn't a great penetrator or threat in the paint, and he also isn't a great facilitator or passer in general, but he is capable of doing basic stuff to run your offense like running a functional pick and roll and doing basic level creation with some ability. He is not someone you want to be running full time point guard with regularity, but he very nice if on the floor with a real point guard.

  • Defense: Depending on who you ask you get varying answers as to how good a defensive player Galloway is, but pretty much everyone agrees he is good, the only disagreement comes from whether he is elite level or just good. The Pistons definitely have had some need of more good defenders, and Galloway is one more on the roster.

So essentially, even if the Pistons don't make anymore major changes, he definitely makes sense. And the fact that the Pistons were able to get a guy who checks all 3 boxes in their price range is a good find. Galloway is a versatile player who is versatile in most of the ways the Pistons need. Right now, with the possibility of other moves or not other moves, Galloway can fill in as a “Break in case of emergency” point guard, a good shooter and a guy who is can provide some desperately needed secondary creation and ball handling. He also provides at least a small amount of insurance against the possibility of KCP walking, and they could possibly be a little more willing to move any one of their other guards.

 

So why would there be another move coming?

Galloway is 6'2, (with a 6'8 wingspan I believe), essentially making him a shooting guard in a point guard's body, which is why he is a combo guard. HOWEVA, he is definitely not a wing, in theory they certainly could play him alongside a point guard and another shooting guard like KCP, but then either KCP or Galloway is guarding small forwards and either one would be very undersized, and this is the reason why he doesn't necessarily make the most sense for the roster as it is. Galloway is set to make 7 million dollars per year, and that isn't some huge amount in the current NBA, it is a number that you would hope he is going to get real playing time, but there is a chance that he would not. Theoretically (a healthy) Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith will take all of the point guard minutes, and (assuming Reggie is healthy) there is no way Galloway is pushing either of those guys for minutes there. At shooting guard, (assuming he is resigned which appears to still be the general assumption) KCP will definitely be starting and playing the heavy minutes there, while the Pistons have a pair of young players who are likely to be pushing for the backup minutes in Kennard (who is clearly a 2) and Stanley Johnson. (who even though he is probably more of a SF he has played a lot of 2 guard in his young career) And if Galloway is taking all of those minutes, it means one of the two youngsters is likely out, and if SVG sticks to his precious 9 man rotation then both of the youngins will be nailed to the bench. This is possible that SVG doesn't actually think Kennard is ready to be an every night player out the gate (which is fair) and that Stanley is going to move away from playing the 2 (also fair) in which case all makes sense, it just doesn't make the most sense. The only thing I will say is that Galloway is not going to be a replacement for Reggie Jackson, Galloway isn't a starter, and especially as a point guard, and even more especially when this Pistons team (in its current form) is almost comically reliant on the point guard to create the offense.

Essentially as of now, Galloway would either push one (or both) of the young Pistons wings out of the rotation, or one (or both) of them could push him out of the rotation. And while under the current cap 7 million isn't horrible for a guy who is a bench warmer, but it certainly isn't ideal. That is why it seems like some other move may be likely.

 

So what moves could be coming?

The Pistons are (hopefully) not planning on having Galloway take the place of any starter, but this certainly isn't a precursor to a Reggie Jackson trade. Reggie Jackson could well be traded I suppose, but Langston Galloway is absolutely not starting at point guard. He provides some insurance against KCP walking away because he in theory could do a decent impression of what KCP does (given that KCP doesn't do as much offensively as either of the point guards on the Pistons roster) but even that would be a last resort kind of thing. In more likelyhood the Pistons may move around various bench players in some way shape or form. So for instance, maybe Ish is going to be included in some larger trade and Galloway is going to become the full time backup point guard, maybe the Pistons are going to trade one of Mobias and move Stanley into the starting lineup and SVG envisions a super small bench lineup with tons of shooting and playmaking. (Both Galloway and Kennard are capable as secondary ball handlers)

 

Upshot for the rest of the roster?

Obviously I covered this quite a bit earlier, but he figures to take any 3rd point guard duties that may arise, and will, in some form, compete for minutes on the wing as a fairly pure 3 and D type. He allows the Pistons to be a little bit more brave with KCP's negotiations as they have someone who could fill in with at least some respectability if he had to. This almost ensures that Kennard is not likely to get major minutes, at least out of the gate.

 

Worst case scenario:

The Pistons have too much faith in Galloway, let KCP walk for a contract that ends up being fairly reasonable, and Galloway underwhelms as a starter in a similar vein as Jon Leuer last year, except that Galloway isn't starting because SVG thinks it might work better, but Galloway is starting because the Pistons literally don't have another option. Neither Kennard or Stanley steps up in any big way to potentially take the starting spot and the Pistons enter next offseason in desperate need of a starting caliber shooting guard with no easy way of getting one.

 

Best case scenario:

Galloway ends up being a good buy as KCP receives a max offer sheet and walks, Galloway fills in as a starter admirably until Kennard takes over part way into this season or possibly next at which point Galloway becomes a 6th man of sorts including hitting some clutch 3s in the Pistons 3 straight NBA championship victories.

 

The verdict:

I like Galloway as a player, and I like him with the Pistons. I just do hope that this doesn't end with Stanley and Kennard rotting on the bench all year. But the reality is that if Stanley doesn't start to play better this year then it is officially time to worry about him long term, and Kennard is young enough that it may be absolutely correct that he can't be providing any significant minutes on a team trying to win games and having Galloway around should allow the Pistons to ease Kennard into playing time. I do worry a bit about the possibility of Galloway not getting any real minutes as well. The main thing I don't like about this signing is that it is a 3 year deal instead of 2, since so many of the Pistons contracts are up after 2 more years, it made sense for the Pistons to run this team back again one more year, and if it didn't work out then they will have a bunch of expirings and can easily start over at that point. Overall though I like the signing, but it is hard to say because we don't know how the rest of free agency will go. If KCP walks and Galloway ends up filling in well for him then this could end up being a home run signing, if KCP sticks around and Kennard/Johnson play really well and Langston is out of the rotation and 3rd on the depth chart at two different positions then it may end up being a big waste, the good news is that IF he ends up out of the rotation, I think this contract is fair enough that he would be easy to move. The other thing that I do appreciate in at least some small way is that it continues to show that the Pistons front office has a pretty clear plan in place, they knew which guy they wanted and went and got him. Now we have to see if it is a good plan or not.

 

 

What do you think? What role do you see Galloway playing? Do you like the signing?

Meek Luke Kennard.

The Pistons drafted Luke Kennard with the 12th overall pick in the draft last night. Despite some rumblings that the Pistons were involved in various talks for deals, they did not end up making any, although that can still change obviously. Also if you want to hear what me and Halbridious thought of him on our Draft prep podcast you can listen to that here. (It should be timestamped right into where we talk about Kennard. If it isn't it is right at 28 minutes in)

 

So who is Luke Kennard?

Luke Kennard is a 6'6 shooting guard out of Duke, who played high school ball in Franklin Ohio, where he famously scored more points than LeBron James in his high school career. In his freshmen season he played 26.7 minutes per game and put up a line of 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists all of which was on solid efficiency. In his sophomore year he made a big leap, playing 35.5 minutes per game, scoring 19.5 points, grabbing 5.1 rebounds, and dishing 2.5 assists per game. He did this while shooting 43.8% from 3 on 5.4 attempts per game, and a TS% of 63%(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) WHICH IS ABSURD FOR A GUARD. He was a 2nd team all american this past year.

 

WHAT ABOUT MITCHELL??

Lets just address this right at the start. A lot of people are pretty upset that the Pistons did not take Donovan Mitchell, the guard out of Kentucky. And while I admittedly am not a huge college basketball guy so I am not a great source for whether or not that is warranted or not, a lot of smart guys really like Mitchell. The main thing I will say is that the biggest complaint people have with Kennard is that they liked Mitchell better, and no one should dislike him much beyond that, because if you look at Kennard's game, there is a ton to like. So even if you wanted Mitchell instead, and even if Mitchell ends up being a better player, that doesn't mean that Kennard isn't going to be good too. On top of that is the obvious caveat of that neither of them have played a single NBA minute yet, remember how upset many people where (including me) when the Pistons passed on Trey Burke for KCP? Lets just give it some time. The main thing I hope is that people do not constantly bring down Kennard because he isn't Mitchell, lets judge Luke Kennard based on what he does, and look at all the stuff he has to offer, because holy smokes this kid has a lot to offer.

 

The Good:

Luke Kennard can freaking score the basketball. You have certainly heard the term “shooter” associated with him a bunch, and with good reason. Kennard was generally regarded as the best shooter in the draft and supposedly blew away people at his workouts with how well he shot the 3, and even just the raw stats in college of 43.8% on 5.4 attempts per game is pretty staggering without any context beyond that. But this guy can do a lot more than just shoot, he can legitimately handle the ball and has a fluidity to his game that you don't often see with college players. It is kind of hard to explain, but it is especially clear to someone like me who watches an unhealthy amount of NBA basketball, but most college players, even really good ones, have a certain herky-jerky aspect of their games that suggests the fact that they are still babies who are not really comfortable in their super long bodies. But Kennard is not that, this is kind of silly, but all of his moves looked like NBA moves. Obviously shooting is a central part of his game and is his most attractive quality to the Pistons, but he is not a shooter who happens to be 6'6 so he is a shooting guard in the same vein that Anthony Tolliver is a shooter who happens to be 6'9 so he is a 4. Kennard is a shooting guard who happens to be a really good shooter.

 

With the shooting though, just his 3 points shooting. Kid can stroke it. He checks all the right boxes for a lethal 3 point shooter, he has a really quick, and fairly high release. He is able to hit shots from every position, whether as a simple spot up guy, off the dribble, coming rocketing off a screen to stop on a dime and pull up Ray Allen style, off balance, and even just straight up rising over top of smaller dudes. But once again, it should be stated that he isn't just a 3 point shooter, he can shoot inside from a lot of angles as well.

 

Kennard is also not unathletic, which continues to theoretically break his “Typical white guy” mold. I'm not saying that he is going to be posterizing people all over the place, but the comparisons to Reddick or Kyle Korver that have been thrown around a bunch are the most wrong in this area. Neither of those guys were good athletes even by college standards. Kennard can get up, has real speed and real quickness. We will see how he looks on an NBA court, but he has some real tools in the athletic department. He is able to use those tools together with an nice array of nifty finishes to be an effective scorer at the hoop and in the paint as well. He really is a very complete offensive player and scorer.

 

Lastly, he also has some signs of nice peripherals beyond just scoring. While not a high assist guy, he showed and ability and willingness to make good passes with some regularity, occasionally dipping beyond just the obvious ones and getting into some really nice ones. Essentially he looks like he won't have to make the progression from “does he know he can pass to open guys?” to “generally makes the right pass and even occasionally nice ones” that KCP has made, as Kennard pretty much sits at that second point right now. On top of that, he showed pretty decent rebounding ability for a guard, which also backs up the idea that he is not a bum athletically by any stretch.

 

The last thing that is great about Kennard, and is something that a lot of people have missed I think, is that he is 20 years old, and he only turned 20 like last week. You just don't very often see guys who are that young and that polished, and that sort of thing does absolutely matter when you think about the ceiling of a player. So many people overly focus on athletic ability when talking about a players ceiling, but skill plays a major part as well. So for instance, most people would've said Stanley Johnson had much higher potential when he was drafted than Kennard does, and many would likely still agree with this sentiment now. But Stanley Johnson is still learning how to do some basic NBA things on offense, Kennard should have that stuff down already, and can work on more complex things. Think of Andre Drummond, he has improved every area of his game from when he came into the league, but his starting point was so low that he is still lacking in a lot of areas, if he had started at a higher point and made the same improvements he would be a much better player today.

 

All in all, Kennard is not JJ Reddick, or Kyle Korver, or any other stereotypical white guy who just shoots 3s. There is a chance that his best version of an NBA player looks similar in the end, but out of college, he is able to do a lot more, in a lot more variety, at a younger age, than most guys who end up being just shooters.

 

The Bad:

He's a white guy from Duke. This cannot be ignored. I hate Duke, you hate Duke, everyone hates Duke. On top of that, white guys from Duke have a long history of being somewhere between mediocre to just pretty good in the NBA despite awesome college careers, and there is no amount of off the dribble 3s, drives to the basket, and athletic dunks that can scrub that from my mind when thinking of Kennard.

 

As far as things that have nothing to do with stereo types, there is legitimate worry about his defensive abilities, and SVG was wonderfully blunt about it in his presser, saying that Kennard's entire mentality had to be different on that end. But he added that of the top 20 guys on their draft board, 2 of them played defense in college, and they seem to think that Kennard has as good a shot of becoming a decent defender as any of them. But the fact still stands, he will have his work cut out for him on that end. He has enough athleticism that he could become something, but he isn't big or long for a shooting guard. Essentially the main worry defensively is that in college he didn't exactly come off as a real grinder who is at least in the right spot and always playing hard defensively, and even though he isn't a bad athlete, he certainly isn't a good enough one to survive without working his tail off on that end. FWIW though, SVG has been part of a lot of players making improvements on the defensive end in his coaching career so there is reason for optimism there. Essentially Kennard, at best, is going to be a serviceable defender.

 

In the end though, the defense isn't my main worry with him. SVG will get him to not be a total bum on that end in all likelihood. I'm worried about his bust potential with his scoring. This probably sounds odd after I just spent the entire good section talking about what a great and versatile scorer he is, but here is the thing. For him to really be good, the Pistons will probably need him to be able to do some of that ball handling and shot creating, and it is always a bit worrying when you get a guy who isn't a great athlete, but is a great scorer in college. Because there are guys for whom the difference in speed, length, and size, is enough that they no longer can create enough space to score or pass well in the NBA. And the reason this worries me is because there isn't really anything to be done about it, it is a problem Darrun Hilliard has, when he plays in the G-League he literally is James Harden esque, but in the NBA he has been mostly terrible, and there is probably nothing that Hilliard can try and do to change his game to change that other than hope it is still just small sample size and bad luck. Essentially with these types, sometimes you end up being James Harden, and sometimes you end up being Trey Burke. And if you end up being Trey Burke, there is really nothing you can do to change it, the thing that makes you special as a basketball player is something you literally cannot do effectively on the NBA stage. Obviously the benefit is that Kennard is a good enough shooter that even if he can't create looks for himself consistently he can still have a chance to go the Korver/Reddick route and still be a useful player, but that is a hard route to take and most guys fail.

 

Where does he fit with the Pistons?

He figures to slot right into the rotation as the backup SG. Assuming the Pistons do retain KCP this means Bullock is very likely to be gone, and depending on how things go I wouldn't even be shocked to see Hilliard be let go. (Though I'd still bet on Hilliard being on the team) His minutes are likely to depend heavily on how much SVG ends up trusting his defense, which means there is a good chance that SVG will drive everyone crazy the entire year (again) by constantly talking about how they need to shoot the ball better from 3 (again) while at the same time leaving the teams best shooter on the bench. (again) HOWEVA, based on what the team has said, they seem to think Kennard can make some contributions right away, and even if it isn't a major role, I would expect him to get some real run. He will likely join the bench mob to make it Ish/Kennard/Stanley/Leuer/Boban and unless Stanley or Leuer make big improvements shooting the ball, it may be close to a requirement to have Kennard with those lineups so that they can score at all, because even with Kennard that is some ugly spacing. Regardless of how much he ends up playing, the Pistons should be hoping for him to be a guy who can come off the bench and provide some offensive spark when on the floor, both in terms of his shooting and the spacing he should provide, and also with him creating looks for himself.

 

Upshot for the rest of the roster:

Once again, Bullock is very likely gone, but the big question mark remains KCP at this point. The Pistons really like Kennard, and the fact that they did draft a shooting guard (so even if they had taken Mitchell instead this would likely still be true) they will probably be able to be a bit more brave in playing hardball with KCP in contract talks, but I don't think they see him as a guy who is good enough that they will get too brave. Letting KCP walk and pushing Kennard into very major minutes (whether as a starter or off the bench if they started Stanley at the 2) is most likely a “break in case of emergency” in the grand scheme of things, but had they not taken a shooting guard they wouldn't even have anything to break in an emergency. This also likely knocks Hilliard down another peg and likely ensures him to never end up getting any real minutes. Lastly, Stanley will have some real pressure on him heading into this season, if SVG sticks with his beloved 9 man rotation and Kennard outplays Stanley in camp, he could be in very real danger. Hopefully though SVG is able to pull his head out of his own ass long enough to just do a 10 man rotation and play Kennard at the 2 and Stanley at the 3 as God intended.

 

Most realistic (if a bit optimistic perhaps) NBA comparison:

Evan Fournier. I was feeling particularly brave and nearly said CJ McCollum, but decided to tone it down a bit and go for a poor mans CJ McCollum, which is Evan Fournier. Not an elite scorer, but a guy who can get you buckets in a variety of ways and is a really good outside shooter, not a great defender but serviceable. The one caveat here is that Fournier is a bit bigger than Kennard but not by too wide a margin. But watching Kennard I really came away thinking that this guy is going to be more than a shooter, he is a scorer who is a good shooter. And FWIW, if he ends up being as good as Fournier that would be awesome value for the 12th pick.

 

Absolute Upside:

The Pistons keep KCP at a decent rate which allows Kennard to ease into the NBA playing about 20 minutes per game from the bench. He immediately is a knockdown shooter and shows early flashes of being able to get buckets for himself, but mostly is a mess (but a hardworking one) on defense. After a year or two he really starts to come into his own as a scorer and smooths out his defensive problems and the Pistons trade away whoever is the starting SG at that point at which point Kennard gets the starting spot and given major reigns in the offense and become a 26 point scorer and Ellenson ascends at the same time and they become the Caucasian splash brothers leading the Pistons to 5 straight titles, meanwhile Donovan Mitchell washes out of the league for good measure.

 

The Downside:

SVG doesn't trust his defense and he rots on the bench, and when he does get into games he can't create his own looks and doesn't even shoot the 3 all that well. Essentially he does what Hilliard had done so far. Meanwhile Donovan Mitchell is leading the Utah Jazz to their 8th straight NBA championship.

 

The Verdict:

There is definitely a good chance that passing on Mitchell comes back to haunt the Pistons down the line, but when I put that and the stigma of him being a white guy from Duke aside, I am incredibly excited to see what this guy can do. His combination of youth and skill give him some real star potential, and his shooting and polish means that he is likely to be fairly useful right away. This is a good pick, and Pistons fans should be thrilled to have this guy.

 

Also, he is the sort of guy that will probably tear up the Summer league which is nice for all 10 of us who pay the 15 bucks for the Summer league pass lol.

 

 

What do you think? What is your NBA comparison? Do you like Kennard enough to let KCP walk? Or do you think so little of him that the Pistons should probably actually hold onto Bullock as well?

Finals, Game 1 recap and what changes for game 2. (Featuring waaay too many pictures)

A lot has been made already, but with game 2 coming down the pipe tonight, lets look back on game 1 and see where it may lead us in game 2. This is mostly going to focus on the Cavs because the Warriors don't have a lot they need to fix.

 

The Biggest Cavs problem:

They turned the ball over way too much, and a lot of them were not even ones that were just nice plays by the Warriors, some of them were just dumb passes and dumb losing of the ball. Like this from Kyrie.

 

Kyrie just straight up loses the ball on a spin move. A Kyrie isolation against Green is generally a matchup that the Cavs like, and Kyrie just blew it. There are plenty of other plays like this where guys just lost the ball, or passed the ball right to Warriors defenders. The Warriors will create plenty of turnovers on their own with their incredible length and athleticism, you don't need to help them at all. 

The Cavs also had a bad tendency to take early shots when there wasn't really a need to. 

On both of those shots, they essentially walked up the court, saw they were pretty open so they just shot a pull up two. Obviously those are not terrible shots, but if you are going to take shots that early in the clock, you would just assume they be better. FWIW, the whole concept of the Cavs playing offense too fast and turning it over was covered very well in this article.

 

What about the defense then?

Yeah, it was not pretty for the Cavs. Even if you make the argument that the Cavs biggest defensive issue is that their offense kept gifting transition opportunities to the Warriors, the Cavs still need to do better than this.

In this transition play, the Cavs are in fine defensive position when the ball is first coming up the court, guys are more or less where they should be and guarding who they should be. The LeBron just sort of decides to stand there and not guard anyone and the Warriors get a 2 on 1 with Dray and Zaza down low. Zaza missed this layup, but this is a really basic mistake that the Cavs have to avoid. Once again, the Warriors do enough damage in open court when you do everything right, they will force you into bad matchups and whip the ball around a scrambled defense, but you can't make it this easy for them.

And this brings us to the larger problem with the Cavs defense in game 1: General laziness, and a lot of it was LeBron.

Everything is going fine at the start of the possession, and then LeBron jus straight up forgets about Durant who gets an easy alley oop dunk. 

On this play, JaVale gets an offense rebound (which is another big problem, the Cavs can't allow so many second chances) and ends up tapping it outside to Curry, and all the Cavs defenders just stand. Obviously even if they had made an instant reaction and sprinted to the line Curry probably still gets the shot off, but once again, Steph does enough damage when there is defense, you can't make it this easy.

Here the Warriors run a really simple off ball screen for Curry, and Kyrie dies on the screen and even though it is kind of hard to tell in the picture, he has given up on the play when Steph is pulling up. While Love is holding back, for some reason. Obviously it isn't realistic to expect Kyrie to suddenly be dodging screens all over the place, he just isn't that good a defender even when he is trying, but he has to make better effort than this. 

Here is basically the same thing except for Klay Thompson. Just a basic off ball screen that Thompson can either try and cut to the hoop or pop back to the line with. Korver gets hung up on the screen, Love stays back for some reason, and in the last shot you can see both of them standing up straight, having given up on the play. Thompson is slumping, and would miss this shot (I think), but you can't do this. Korver either has to suck it up and jump out, or Love has to. 

 

What stuff did the Warriors mess up?

Honestly, close to nothing. IF the Cavs play better then they will likely expose a few more holes, but they made it so easy on the Warriors that there isn't much to complain about other than some missed layups, which the Cavs were also afflicted with.

Well I'm a Warriors fan, so I should feel great about my team?

Honestly yeah. The only thing that is really worrying for the Warriors is Klay's slump. I don't know for sure, but I would guess he hasn't had many slumps this long and hard. Obviously he could bust out at any moment, but the Finals are small sample size theatre, it is entirely possible he just shoots poorly the whole series. The plus side is that unless he starts to look totally broken (like passing up wide open 3s broken) there is no way the Cavs are going to start to really help off of him in any way. Essentially, even if he shoots poorly the whole series, the Cavs will continue to treat him as a good shooter.

 

Is there anything specifically that Warriors fans should be pleased with? And Cavs fans afraid of?

Yeah. This.

 

You can make arguments for why or why not, and I generally think Steph's "struggles" in the Finals the last couple years are kind of overstated. But there is no denying that he just had not really been himself in the Finals against the Cavs. For whatever reason, they knew how to get him a bit uncomfortable. That appears to be very far from the case after game 1, and dare I say that I think this was the best game Curry has played in the Finals. He hit a couple of these way out pull up 3s in game one, and if he is on and doing his thing, then the Cavs are in serious trouble. Getting Curry off his game is one of the less talked about and most important part of the Cavs having success agains the Warriors. Because shots like this break your defense, there is no other way to put it.

 

What about the Cavs? Is there anything that Cavs fans should take as a positive?

Well the one thing is that the Cavs played like crap, and are not likely to play that poorly again. So regardless of any changes, it is likely to get better for them. But once again, small sample size theater, if they play like crap one more game the whole may be too deep to climb out of.

 

What about a real positive thing that happened in game 1?

The biggest thing is probably Kevin Love honestly. He looked mostly viable on the defensive end, and caused some problems for the Warriors on the other end, and I think that Lue did a good job of trying to use him in situations where he can succeed. Take this defensive sequence.

 

This is just a really nice defensive play from Love (and the Cavs unit as a whole) Thompson gets a switch onto Irving and posts, Love comes to help, and when Klay passes out Love knows his guy is David West and stays in the paint since West is not likely to jack a 3. When the ball swings around to Green in the post and Thompson cuts to the hoop is the impressive part. Love had to be dead on with his rotation to the hoop, and he was, and ends up blocking Klay at the rim. There were quite a few plays like this from Love, where he made the right plays and stayed in his lane, along with the fact that he actually played hard on most defensive possessions. Obviously he has limitations and makes some mistakes, he is too hesitant to go out to shooters sometimes (seen earlier in this post) and also he can't just switch onto people, when he ended up one on one with Durant it went about as well as you would expect. When you consider that last year people basically decided that Love couldn't hardly be on the floor against the Warriors because he was so bad defensively, it is major progress for him. And he did some good stuff on offense as well, mostly being aggressive in forcing the issue when he found smaller guys on him.

Coming down the floor, Love finds Livingston guarding him (after guarding Livingston on the other end, a nice matchup the Cavs found for a few possessions) and forces the issue straight into the paint and Livingston has to foul him immediately to avoid an easy bucket. Things change fast in the Finals, but after game 1, Kevin Love's defense is far from being the Cavs biggest worry.

The other thing that should give Cavs fans some peace is that, despite all of the lazy possessions, and miscommunications. When the Cavs locked in they defended the Warriors quite well in the half court, so they do have the goods to do it and are not hopeless, the question is whether or not they can do it enough.

 

Biggest Question the Cavs have to answer for game 2?

Well the actual biggest one is whether they want to try hard or not. But beyond that, is they probably have to decide what they want LeBron to do. He clearly got a bit gassed in this game, and for all the memes about how he is only just hitting his prime, he is 32. He can't guard Durant, initiate damn near every offensive possession, and do it at a high pace, for 40+ minutes per game. They need to change something (or multiple things) whether that is slowing down the pace, (which would be a good idea regardless) having him guard someone else, or having others initiate more offensive possessions, or possibly even playing him less minutes. The Cavs need to have him do a bit less most of the game so that he can go all out at the things he is doing, and then when crunch time comes around you can let him be super man for a couple of minutes. Obviously this is easier said than done of course, this Cavs team still has not really proved they can consistently create good offense without LeBron unless Kyrie is hot, and they really have no other good options to guard Durant. 

 

Biggest Question the Warriors have to answer for game 2?

Can they stay ready for a good punch? This Warriors team has hardly been pushed at all then entire playoffs. Like they have barely even played any close games. IF the Cavs make the adjustments they need too and come out ready to play, they can hang with them, and the Warriors will likely find themselves in the first real dog fight of these playoffs. If they do, can they dig deep and get the tough buckets and tough defensive stops? 

 

Other random observations:

- It's so crazy that Kevin Durant is on this team. That guy is so freaking good. As far as I'm concerned, there are like 3 or 4 guys in the NBA who can go toe to toe with LeBron on a good day. But Durant is the only guy who could legitimately outplay LeBron over a 7 game series and it wouldn't be a fluke in the slightest. The fact that LeBron was so clearly the best player was the best thing the Cavs had the past two years, but now the Warriors have the one guy in the world who can truly close that gap.

- Draymond Green is absurdly good defensively. People talk about it all the time, but I'm saying it again. Some plays he made were just crazy good that I didn't see until a second and closer viewing.

- The Warriors are all bastards, in a good way. Even though Bogut is gone, his fingerprints are still all over this team. They grab every jersey, do every tug, give every extra little push on a screen. All of the things that are illegal but everyone knows won't get called. And it is especially funny since people still have this perception of them being a soft team. They are one of the canniest and bastard filled great teams ever.

- Deron Williams played like absolute crap in every way. He has low key been really good for the Cavs since his arrival as it allowed them to have another guy who can actually play both ways. Him playing better would go a long ways for the Cavs.

 

 

What do you think? What adjustments should the teams make for tonight?