Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be on the road to play against the 76ers. Both teams are on one day of rest after the Pistons lost to the Heat and the Sixers beat the Spurs.
The Sixers have fallen off a bit after a good start, but they largely remain the same team that the Pistons have faced (and lost too) twice this year already. They sport the 16th best offense in the NBA by scoring 104.3 points per 100 possessions and the 7th best defense at 103.7 points per 100 possessions.
Ben Simmons is a rookie and has started to feel it a little bit as his turnovers have gone up (7.4 assists to 4 turnovers per game) and teams are starting to kind of figure out how to defend him and his non-jump-shooting game. That said he is still a terror in the open court and one of the most impressive talents I have ever seen. Joel Embiid is a clown but a clown who is very good at basketball. He scores in a variety of ways, draws tons of fouls, and is a pretty monstrous defender, that said he does have his weaknesses. He is not shooting the ball well from deep so far (below 30%) and turns the ball over at an almost comical rate with 4.2 turnovers per game. He is crazy skilled but still learning how to really play on offense. J.J. Reddick can still shoot like crazy and is an awesome role player but not much beyond that, as is Robert Covington but with a bit less lethal shooting and better defense. Dario Saric has started to find a comfort zone as of late and is a really nice and versatile player, it isn't abundantly clear what his long term fit is on this team but he is a good player. Jerryd Bayless is a prefectly acceptable backup point guard, T.J. McConnell can pass. New arrival Trevor Booker is a tough defender and rebounder, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is in theory a good shooting wing but he has not shot well. There are several other guys that often rotate in and out of the rotation as well.
This is a team that has some super talented young guys that are still figuring some things out, combined with some veterans who are not super talented but solid NBA players. The combination makes for a team that is competitive and scary on any given night but is also prone to losing games in creative ways while the young guys learn through mistakes. Essentially the Sixers are a real team that is on the whole going to be competitive more often than not, but are unlikely to get much higher than the back end of the playoff race, which is ok due to how young they are. A step in the process of building a team is this.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Playing: Allegedly it is just a pain thing with Drummond's ribs. A quote from SVG's postgame presser is that “There is no doctor telling him he can't play.” Given that Drummond has missed like 3 games over the past 4 years it is a good indication that he is in a ton of pain, but if there was a game for him to buck up and play this would be it. Contrary to what hot take types have said, Drummond has done a great job on Embiid in the other two games this year, and if he is out the Pistons could be toast.
Tobias Harris vs. Continuing his play: In the two games without Jackson, Harris has been exactly what the Pistons need him to be. There of course is the ever present desire for him to take a couple more shots but he has been an effective safety valve making tough plays when no one else can. He has struggled against the Sixers this year and the Pistons cannot afford that to happen again, especially if Drummond is out.
Bullock/Kennard vs. Proving it: It isn't really related to Jackson or Bradley's injury, but an understated reason why the Pistons fared just fine with Bradley out and looked alright in the two games with Jackson out is that Bullock and Kennard are giving GREAT minutes on the wing. Their shooting, passing, and movement has been a boon. If this turns out to be a mirage of hot shooting though and the cool off the Pistons could get ugly very fast.
Pistons vs. Ben Simmons: Stanley Johnson could miss his third game, and if he does I have no clue what the Pistons will do with Simmons. My guess is a heavy dosage of Anthony Tolliver, which could work out alright but I still don't like it. The good news is that with his lack of shooting he is a guy who can be defended with effective help defense as long as everyone is in sync.
Dwight Buycks vs. Winning a contract: Through two games Buycks has looked totally acceptable as a backup point guard. He doesn't need to be better than that, just keep that up.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond plays and Embiid has 5 turnovers by the end of the first quarter.
Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard continue to provide great minutes on the wing.
Regardless of Stanley Johnson, the Pistons are able to find a way to effectively defend Ben Simmons.
Run for the hills if:
Drummond is out again.
Tolly has to guard Simmons and looks slow.
The Pistons shoot the ball poorly again but minus Kennard and Bullock bailing them out.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond plays and plays really well but people will ignore all the turnovers and missed shots and tell us that Embiid dominated because he scored a lot.
If Johnson is out the Pistons don't have a good answer for Simmons.
Ish Smith bounces back to have a really nice game.
The Pistons find some shooting back from Bradley and Tolliver and ride a team effort to a close victory.
Pistons 105 – Sixers 100.
What do you think? Will Drummond play? Can Bullock and Kennard keep it up?