Tonight at 8 o clock the Pistons will be in Chicago to take on the Bulls. The Pistons are on one days rest after losing to the Pacers on Saturday. The Bulls are on two days rest after losing to the Bucks on back to back days.
Overall the Bulls are fairly average on both the offensive and defensive end with a offensive efficiency of 103.6 and a defensive efficiency of 102.9. They are lead, first and foremost, by Jimmy Butler who has not slowed down at all and if he continues this way all year he will likely start to be considered the 2nd best player in the East behind LeBron, overtaking Paul George. (at least in the eyes of the general populace) He is scoring 24.8 points per game on an absurd 59.2 TS%, while also dishing out 4.2 assists. He has simply reached another level, and he is also still very good on defense. Dwyane Wade is still doing his old man thing, scoring 19.5 points and 3.6 assists per game and doing it with solid efficiency, although he does not play much defense anymore. Taj Gibson is a rough and tumble guy on both ends of the floor, and can do a little bit of everything. Rajon Rondo is probably bad now, he can't shoot or really score at all and his passing is not all that incredible now with 6.9 assists against 2.7 turnovers per game, he also is bad on defense. Robin Lopez is a good defender and rebounder who doesn't ever really get stuff run for him offensively but he has decent touch. Doug McDermott has returned and he is a good shooter and can score in other ways as well, but he doesn't defense so well. Nikola Mirotic is a stretch 4 who can't shoot, which is obviously a problem, he is actually a guy that could be nearing a breaking point as he is shooting just 28% from 3 and 38% overall as he continues to regress following his impressive rookie season. Isaiah Canaan is a little guy who is supposed to be able to shoot but has shot like crap so far this year. Denzel Valentine has started to get a little bit of run lately, and even though it is a very small sample size, he has been bad. Cristiano Felicio is a big and athletic big man who basketball hipsters love. Bobby Portis has good range for a big guy.
The Bulls are a decent team, but they are being carried heavily by Jimmy Butler and Wade and have several other guys who are really underperforming. Depending on which shoe drops will likely determine where this team goes from here, if Butler regresses down from the absurd level he has been at then the Bulls are likely headed for the Lottery, if he can actually keep it up and some other guys start to play up to better standards then they could suddenly find themselves towards the top of the conference.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. The dreaded players only meeting: It is never a good thing that a players only meeting has to be called, but there are instances of them helping. I am going to choose to be optimistic and hope that the meeting was called with good intentions of just trying to get their mojo back, because they clearly lost it the last 4 games. On the other hand though, it could mean the team in imploding.
Reggie Jackson vs. Big game: I said it would happen, for a bit after Jackson came back people would question if the team is better with Ish than him. I am as strong a believer in Reggie being a fairly far off number 2 behind Andre, but let me tell you something, this team isn't going anywhere fun with Ish Smith leading them. Reggie also has a thing for bouncing back with a big game, I have a feeling he will explode tonight. Regardless though, his play does lend legitimacy to worries about him, so he needs to turn it around quick.
Andre vs. Lopez: Lopez is very disciplined and very strong. Essentially, when told to do nothing but keep Andre off the glass, (which helps the Pistons in other areas) he is good enough to do it usually. Last game was not like this, but Lopez just has a knack for keeping Andre in check. A good game from Andre would be good to see because it would be the 2nd straight good game against Lopez.
Mobias vs. Being good again: Somewhat lost in the hating on Reggie Jackson the last 4 games, is that Mobias has been bad. Particularly Tobias, who is scoring just 11.8 on bad shooting over the last 4. A big reason the Pistons hit a good stride was because Mobias was playing at a high level, and they have both fallen hard from there. They need to pick it back up, badly.
Bench mob vs. Actually running offense: Last game the bench mob offense was miserable. I get that Leuer is good and he does good stuff to keep the offense humming with good movement and passing. But he is not that important. There is no reason to dump it to Aron Baynes in the post as a first option on back to back possessions. Run the offense and find some actual looks.
Stanley Johnson vs. Full speed: Stanley is at his best when he goes full speed and is not hesitant. He will make some mistakes, but the good plays he makes will be better plays. Attack, on both ends of the floor, and worry about the consequences later. If mistakes are made at full speed we can survive.
Pistons vs. Guarding Butler: He is the Pistons theoretical kryptonite. Too big for KCP, too small for Andre. Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and Stanley Johnson will likely get the majority of time on Butler. If they can hold him at least a little bit in check then the Pistons will be in good shape.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Reggie Jackson has 20 points and 10 assists at halftime.
Andre Drummond is not getting shut down by Lopez.
The bench mob is really good again.
Run for the hills if:
Mirotic decides this is the game to burst out of his shooting slump.
Jimmy Butler is unstoppable.
Aron Baynes gets a post up. Ever.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Reggie Jackson scores many points and generally plays awesome, including game winning/sealing buckets.
Andre doesn't have a huge game, but still a good one.
The defense and ball movement is better.
Pistons win a close game, with Reggie closing it out.
What do you think? Is the team imploding? Can Reggie bounce back? Can the Pistons hold Jimmy Butler in check?