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.
Well that's how the preseason goes. Some good things, some not so good things. Mostly good things though, and most importantly basketball is back and I couldn't be more happy.
It is the preseason. You cannot take much away from the preseason. The actual rotation players are not playing very hard, and the guys who are playing hard are not usually good enough to be rotation players. Lineups and strategies are goofy/vanilla and everyone is just kind of working stuff out. So just assume that every observation comes with the asterisk of “is preseason.”
Playing for Reggie Jackson who tweaked his groin the other day, (It is supposedly fine and totally unconnected with his knee issues from last year and it is fully procautionary) and he largely picked up right were he left off last year. He passed the ball pretty well on his way to 7 assists, hustled on defense to 3 steals and a block while managing to usually turn those defensive efforts into fast break points for him or his teammates. All the while he was very inefficient scoring the ball, which again is mostly par for the course, scoring 10 points on 14 shots, including 0-5 from deep. The one area where he wasn't himself was in putting up 5 turnovers in what was really a big difference in the game. In the second half the Pistons turned it over, often of the very dumb variety, and Ish was as culpable as anyone. It is probably fair to chalk it up to a little bit of rust since he has always been an excellent caretaker of the ball in his career. Overall though, nothing really to glean from this game for Ish, he should remain a rock solid backup point guard if Reggie ends up being healthy, and a serviceable but still pretty bad starter if needed.
Bradley was also hit by the turnover bug, especially in the second half, as he too coughed up 5 of them. But if that can be taken away, he really had a nice debut in a Piston jersey. 14 points on 14 shots isn't great but we will take it, he tacked on 3 assists, a steal, and a block. He seemed to fit in very comfortably on both sides of the ball, he showed off his defensive abilities from the very start, making some really nice plays and taking advantage of some lazy passes by the Hornets.
Heading into this year I was a little worried that the Pistons would expect more ball handling out of him than he was capable of, as they regularly brought up his ball handling as a plus when he wasn't really any better than KCP in that area last year. HOWEVA, if one game is any evidence, my worries were unfounded. They kept him playing to his strengths by keeping him largely off ball other than the occasional small action he would run, and he did have one great alley oop pass to Drummond.
Bradley should fit right in with Detroit, and it looks like the are not going to ask him to do too much ball handling, as I Reggie's eventual return will cause Bradley to handle the ball even less if anything.
After quite a bit of talk that it wasn't clear cut to be Johnson's starting spot, it looks like he has it largely in lock down and he mostly looked good tonight. Defensively he was everywhere making life difficult for the Hornets and he got a couple of very nice rebounds as well. Offensively he did manage to hit a couple of different very nice shots that he created for himself, and even though he only ended up with one assist he had a number of very nice passes in the game.
Essentially the story of this game for Stanley is likely to be the same one that it will be for most of the year, he can do everything right on the floor, his defense, strength, hustle, grit, and athleticism just make him a winning player, but he will have to find ways to get the ball in the hoop with at least some consistency on offense. Tonight he finished with 8 points on 7 shots, and even though he was 1 of 5 from deep, he was not trigger shy which is good. In the end, this is going to be a topic brought up with him all year, and we will just have to wait and see, but it was a decent start. It should be noted that he was tied for a game high +9 on the night, which was often the case for him by the end of last year.
Tobias started the game very strong, but finished less so. He scored 13 points on 11 equivalents with 9 boards, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. He also got a technical foul in a preseason game which I love, angry Tobias is my favorite Tobias, and with Marcus Morris gone someone is going to have to step up as a trash talking complainer on the floor. He got matched up with Frank Kamisky a few times and roasted him, but he unfortunately failed to get it done on the last possession as he lost control of the ball and turned it over. I'm glad that SVG appears to want to keep Tobias a starter. Despite some struggles Tobias did end up tied with Stanley Johnson for a game high +9. It would be nice to see him really pour it on at some point in the preseason, but other than that Tobias is probably the guy who I care least about right now. I have absolute confidence he will perform at a (mostly) satisfactory level once the season starts, just don't get hurt or lose too much money on technical fouls when it doesn't count lol.
These are the rules, it is known. If Andre shoots over 50% from the line he gets the honors of the night, and that is not changing any time soon. He has a very noticeable difference in his form at the line and based on some very quick looking at shot doctor types I think it is good. They clearly are having him focus on keeping his arms straight out in front of him and fairly extended when he shoots. It is obviously way too soon to declare his free throws fixed, but when you have been as freaking bad as he has been, any progress like this has to be taken notice of.
Other than the free throws he generally looked pretty good. There hasn't been a single piece about the Pistons camp that hasn't mentioned how active and good he has been in practice and that mostly held up here other than a short stretch in the 3rd quarter where the entire team fell apart. (and Andre with them) It is hard to complain much about 16 points on 13 equivalents (once again, 6 of 8 at the line!!!) with 15 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block in just 25 minutes. That short stretch were the Pistons really lost the game was not good from Andre as he committed a couple of dumb fouls and took a real ugly post up, but despite this he still finished the game with 3rd on the team in +/- with a +6 and was one of just 4 guys of the 10 who played who went positive at all. He looked pretty good, and cross your fingers about the free throws.
On the bad side, I doubt that this is an indication that SVG plans on Kennard being an immediate rotation member even though he said before hand that he mostly wanted to play guys in something like what the regular rotation would be. With Jackson out of the game Galloway took all of his minutes at point guard when normally he would take the minutes at shooting guard that Kennard got.
The good news is that Kennard looked really solid in his first time against actual NBA players. He only shot 1 of 5 from 3 in the end (I thought he had hit a second one but must've been wrong I guess) but still scored 10 points on 9 equivalents, and it was clear that his shot had the respect of the Hornets defense as there were a couple of plays where an opening was made by a defender overplaying Kennard's deep ball. He mostly looked ok defensively but it is hard to say because the cameras often took crappy viewings that were along the baseline that made it all but impossible to see anything off ball, and there were also a few possessions down the stretch where the “D-FENSE” chant filled the screen instead of the game resulting in not being able to see any of the possession. But, he certainly looked like he belonged on the floor which I will take for now.
Leuer ended up with a solid line of 12 points on 12 shots, including 2 for 2 from deep along with 5 boards and a block in 23 minutes. He spent a decent amount of time playing center which was nice to seem and he generally played pretty well. He did particularly well for a stretch in the 4th quarter where Frank Kaminsky was matched up with him and Leuer did him pretty dirty. Over all though everything for Leuer really depends on if he can find any consistency and/or confidence in his deep ball so the jury is still very much out on him.
His overall line ended up being pretty poor. 8 points on 9 shots with 2 boards, 1 assist, 2 turnovers and went -8 in 23 minutes. But I came away thrilled with his play anyways. Mainly because he was fearless in pulling the trigger from deep. He went 2 of 5 from deep which is not overly notable, but they were mostly (if not all) off the dribble. The Pistons still seemed to be stuck in their midrange ways in this game (more on this later) but there was one guy who was pretty set on firing away into the modern age of basketball and that was Galloway. Combine that with a few really nice defensive plays and I was very pleased with the game he played, dude knows why he is on the team.
In interesting news, Ellenson was the first guy off the bench in this game. I have no idea if that is a sign of things to come or not, but it is nice to see that for now at least, SVG is at least giving him a real look at being in the rotation. He had a couple of defensive mistakes that were truthfully comical, and are sure to hurt his chances for playing time going forwards (and certainly did in this game as he finished with just 20 minutes played) but he made a few decent plays on that end.
Offensively however he continued where he left off in summer league where he showed a tantalizing ball handling ability for a guy of his size. Even though he only got 1 assist to show for it, there were 3 times where he straight took a dude off the dribble and made really nice passes to open teammates. He also hit both 3s he took and a touch leaning jumper to finish with 10 points on 7 equivalents with 2 boards in 20 minutes. I don't know how much he can realistically be played if he makes the sort of defensive screw ups he made tonight, but I sure hope SVG lets him get some run because he really has some great offensive skill.
Ended up being an uneven night for Boban. He played just 12 minutes, scoring 5 points on 4 equivalents with 7 rebounds and 3 fouls. He gave the Hornets fits in the post as they just kept fouling him, but he only hit 3 of his 6 free throws which is very low for him. He also did commit a couple of bad fouls en route to a game low -11 on the night in just 12 minutes. I still think Boban is going to have a great year off the bench and get real 6th man of the year consideration, but this wasn't a great start for him.
It is very disappointing that Jackson didn't play since seeing how he looked was/is by far the main thing I am interested in seeing this preseason as the Pistons chances at success this year hinge quite heavily on him getting back into form. If Andre can hit free throws like that in the next couple of games I am going to overreact and I don't even care, and I love the potential for the Caucasian Splash Brothers on offense.
The main worry I have from this game is that the Pistons still took a whole bunch of long twos. Last year they took more than any team in the NBA and it was a big reason their offense sucked so much. Reggie coming back will help that a lot, but I don't get why they are running plays for Kennard or Bradley where the end goal is trying to get an open long two. Both of those guys were brought in largely because the Pistons needed better shooting, so run them off of screens/give them hand offs beyond the 3 point line.
In the end it was a mostly positive preseason opener though. Until I see Reggie look good and healthy though it will be a bit stressful.
What do you think? Did anything pop out to you? Anything that may actually be worth putting some weight behind?