Hello good and beautiful people! There was Pistons basketball last night!! Even if it was not a resounding success, there was a lot of good there and it was great to see the team back on the floor.
In case you're new:
Hello again, I will be doing these recaps all year long. The way it works is I go through every player and basically rant about their play on that night for like a paragraph or so. I do not give grades though because basketball is fa too complex to just give a simple grade score.
Disclaimer: Literally everything said should be assumed to come with the disclaimer of “its the preseason so this might not actually mean anything.” Also, SVG has a much clearer message and goal for this year's preseason. He is not really evaluating players as much as last year, he has said as much, as such he is truly using the preseason games as practice where they are against another team. He made it clear that they knew how much everyone was going to play before hand regardless of score, that sort of thing. So they clearly were working on specific things within the offense and defense, if this was the regular season they would've played some things differently. (I hope at least lol)
In his first game in a Pistons uniform and getting the start in place of Reggie Jackson, Ish did not look that great. He looked a bit like a fellow that had spent his camp playing with a different group of guys (the bench mob) for the most part. He just was a little bit out of sync in that his passes were not quite as crisp as they are expected to be, and a couple of possessions ended with him throwing up pretty piss poor shots. There is reason to not read much into this for reasons other than “is preseason”. One of the big areas where you could see SVG wanted them to work on specifics is that Ish ran very few pick and rolls with Andre Drummond. The Pistons literally ran more pick and rolls last season than any other team, Andre is still around, and Ish is a wonderful pick and roll ball handler (it is actually his best skill) and they only ran a couple of them. Instead they ran a bunch of dribble handoff action, had Tobias handle a lot, and other goofy stuff. Some of it was super great (more on this later), but it wasn't playing to the strengths. In all likelihood SVG knows that Ish can run an effective pick and roll with Andre, so why bother doing it in the preseason? Work on the things you need to work on. That said, Ish still didn't look great, but he did hit a few jumpers and didn't mess anything up too badly. He did just fine in his limited minutes. (I would like to point out that he had the Pistons best +/- at +8. Tobias was the only other plus on the team)
Strange and not terribly effective game for KCP, he went 0-4 from the field, and generally was not a significant part of the offense. (Which is not a bad thing) But on defense he was kept on Randy Foye for most of his time, not that Foye is a bad player, but I have to imagine that in the regular season KCP would've been slotted onto Lin right away. As it was, Foye didn't do much because he wasn't going to do much regardless, KCP did defend him very well when he got the chance. But for the most part he didn't do a whole lot to impact the game. He did however show better passing awareness on one play, even if still a little slow. (more on that later.)
Another day, another undersized defender getting roasted by Marcus Morris. Finishing with 17 points on just 9(!) equivalents, it was a very efficient scoring night for Morris. I didn't like letting him go iso against RHJ, (which he only did once, and missed badly) but once Sean Kilpatrick was slotted onto him, the Pistons were more than willing to just dump it to him on several possessions, and Morris delivered while RHJ watched from the other side of the court. He also was the primary beneficiary of several open 3s created by nice actions elsewhere on the floor. He didn't quite bring the heat on defense that he needs to in order to be the solid defender he was last year, but as much as SVG can complain, he knows its preseason too so he isn't worried either. Until he is getting beat for loose balls in the regular season I don't really care, I'd actually rather guys let the other team dive for the loose balls and not get hurt in the preseason. Good game for Morris, and he largely looks as though nothing has changed, although hopefully this was a sign that he will not start the season ice cold from deep.
On one hand he had a pretty nice game, 15 points on 13 shots is plenty efficient, he handled the ball a lot more in this game and particularly for as long as Jackson is out he is likely to continue to handle the ball more. And it looks as though SVG was not kidding about Harris making a real commitment to playing good defense, although he still had a few gaffs, he looked much more locked in than he usually has in his career, and was not constantly getting blown by while he stood straight up.
On the other hand, he definitely did force some shots that were not good, and had a couple of bad passes. This will be an interesting thing to watch for the rest of the preseason, as the fact that Tobias had so much of the offense run through him, it is a good sign that SVG really wants him to work on it. If Tobias looks truly comfortable as the de-facto 1st option by the end of the preseason I would consider it a major win, and FWIW, he still did fine in this game. He forced some things, but if Jackson is out they will need other guys to force things a bit more, that is just the reality. Good game for Tobias and it looks like it was not just talk that he put in a ton of work this offseason.
Ho hum, 21 rebounds and 17 points (on 21 equivalents, which isn't that great, but hush) in just 24 minutes. Nothing to see here, just another day at the office. Really though, he looked like the best player on the floor tonight other than a stretch of like 3 minutes where he started flinging bad shots and collected like 4 misses. On defense he still looked too afraid to foul, which is not totally fair because it was just 2 possessions where I saw that, but still, contest the shot Andre.
On the actual plus side, Andre may have only finished with 1 assist, but he passed the ball very well tonight and is definitely making good progress on his potential to be one of the best passing big men in the game. If he keeps this up, I almost guarantee that at some point in the year Zach Lowe will start to bring up Andre's passing as one of the little things that makes games fun. (more on this later.)
Getting the night at backup point guard, next game Lorenzo Brown will get a chance. McCallum didn't look bad per say, 5 points on 4 equivalents, 4 assists to 2 turnovers and a couple of nice defensive plays is not bad for 21 minutes of play. But there was definitely something to his (by far) team worst -15 on the night. He looked largely what the bill of him was when he arrived, he is capable of making some nice moves to score, and will generally make good, smart passes. But he just can't make enough plays to really help your offense in a significant way. I still wouldn't feel bad at all about McCallum as the 3rd PG, but he certainly did not make any sort of big statement in this game and I am excited to see if Lorenzo Brown can do better. Once again, not bad, but Brown will absolutely have a chance to make a better impression.
I think it is safe to assume that those claiming that Bullock was still fighting for a rotation spot were largely just being silly. Bullock played 26 minutes (tying Smith and Harris for team high) and was featured pretty heavily in the offense, SVG clearly has put some faith in Bullock's abilities, and why not. As long as his shooting touch doesn't abandon him (which has been an issue in his career) he does all the stuff that any coach would love. He is always active, makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands, makes great backdoor cuts and is generally great moving without the ball, and although not a great defender he is active and plays very hard. He did not hit enough of his shots tonight, scoring 6 points on 8 shots, although he actually hit a 3 that was waved off because of an off ball foul, so it could've easily been 9 points on 9 shots FWIW. But unless he lets Hilliard play like 20 some minutes instead of Bullock in the next game (which would be an indication he is doing the same thing for backup SG as 3rd PG) Bullock would appear to be in SVG's rotation. Perfectly good game for Bullock, and as long as he hits his 3s at a high rate it will be very hard to deny him minutes.
A little bit of a strange game because he scored 6 points on 8 equivalents and generally was not all that involved in the offense, and yet I still think he played brilliantly, and it mostly was on the defensive end of the court. Johnson is the sort of physical specimen that you would like to see him play like a maniac that is all over the place blocking shots, getting steals, grabbing boards, everything. And truthfully, the lack of this was my biggest disappointment with him last year, is that he had no ability to let loose while still staying in some control. He looked every bit the part of super athlete defender tonight, he was hugely disruptive on the defensive end and was able to do it while playing not gambling too much to make the disruptive plays. I want to see more from him on offense, especially if Reggie misses time, but if he brings the defense like that this year it would be a huge improvement for him.
Most impressive guy on the floor for me at least. (Obviously Andre was better, but that is expected) First off, Leuer absolutely has added some serious muscle to himself which is always nice. But he scored 12 points on 10 equivalents in a variety of ways, including posting up smaller guys and hitting a fadeaway shot that I have literally never seen him use before, which if that is for real it would be a huge boon for him. Because one of the main knocks on him (including by me) is that he has a largely non-existent post up game, which is why I thought he was actually a better fit as a smaller center, because he can blow by slower guys off the dribble, but couldn't really punish smaller guys by posting them up. If Leuer suddenly is punking guys with hideaways though, it is a totally different story. He also showed great poise and vision with the ball in his hands, making really nice passes several times, even running a picture perfect fast break at one point. On defense he wasn't great but he showed some real presence at the rim and of course he played hard. (Him and Johnson are likely to be the 2 picked out by SVG as the guys who actually put forth the effort he wants to see) Excellent first game for Leuer, and watch that post up game, because if it is for real he is going to be really good.
He played 9 minutes, did Aron Baynes things. He had a ball bounce off his stone hands, he bullied people a few times, he missed a hook shot. He did fine, but there was certainly nothing to stand out either way.
In a surprise appearance, Boban got 9 minutes of playing time as well, and while he travled once and committed a foul on another, you absolutely saw the unstoppable nature of him once he gets inside. On defense he showed that he is in fact still slow, but he also made a couple nice plays too. SVG has raved all of camp about Boban's offensive skills, he says that they literally have not figured out any way to stop him when he gets the ball down low. Given all of the high praise he received, and that he got time tonight, I would say that we can expect to see Boban get minutes this season. SVG is certainly thinking about it, and I am totally ok with that. (more on this in juuust a moment)
Ellenson played 6 minutes in a even more surprising appearance than Boban. Although like Boban, Ellenson has also gotten some rave reviews in camp, with SVG even saying that he would be totally fine playing Ellenson in the rotation right now. Which is much different from what he was saying before camp, where even SVG was pretty much like “Yeah we don't really have space to play him but that's cool.” He did not look particularly good in this game, missing 4 jump shots, but he did get his first bucket on a fast break layup which is always nice for a young dude. On defense he was very alert if too jumpy, but like Tobias, it is clear that SVG wasn't kidding about the extra commitment he is making to the defensive end. Ellenson may not be any good on defense this year, but it won't be for lack of effort. I'm just impressed he got on the floor.
So SVG said he was going to play guys in a similar rotation to what he wants in the regular season, the starters all obviously played fewer minutes than normal but it was a mostly normal rotation other than that. SVG also made it abundantly clear that he is not going to give guys time in the preseason just to let them play a little. If a guy is playing now it is because SVG thinks they can play when they count too, which makes the minutes for Ellenson and Boban interesting because it shows that they have impressed enough in camp that SVG is going to legitimately give them both looks at getting real minutes this year. Other than Bullock, there is nothing else that is strange here, and I would lean towards Bullock's high minutes being more coincidence than anything. Although if Bullock plays really well, he could definitely push KCP for a few minutes, but until it is happening in the regular season there is nothing behind the minutes other than that Bullock has cemented himself into the rotation.
The Pistons looked very sloppy and did not play good defense, and bless SVG's heart for saying that he may have to bench some of the starters for their lack of effort in a preseason game. He is right that they have to play better defense, but he knows that it is preseason, I'm just glad the Pistons have a coach that is never satisfied with where he is. Overall there was some very good stuff and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I hope that they run more pick and rolls with Ish and Andre next game though because I want to see what the actual offense will look like with Ish as the starter. Also on that note, Reggie is supposed to make a decision today as to how long he will be gone.
Keep an eye out today/tomorrow. Because I watched the game on my computer I took a few pictures of stuff and will be doing a short little post highlighting some things that I saw.
What do you think? Will Boban or Ellenson actually crack the rotation this year? Let me know! We all get smarter!