Tag Archives: Detroit Pistons

Layups, Oct. 14

Sign we’re at the beginning of the season: Larry Brown is upset! He hates how his bigs are playing. Giving that he’s talking about Nazr Mohammed, DeSagana Diop, and Alexis Ajinca, I don’t know why he’s surprised. Anyway, watch him continue to complain about his bunch in Charlotte for the next little while until they start consistently playing good D, at which point he will gush about them.

Milwaukee is trying to decide whether to pick up Joe Alexander’s first option year. As Sham reminded me this morning, Milwaukee picked this guy over Brook Lopez and Anthony Randolph. This is a sad story. The guy is athletic (and damn well should have been in the dunk contest last season) and, I guess, he has some potential in him. Still, how is he going to realize it in Milwaukee? They’re not a great team, but I don’t see minutes for him. He’s a 3/4, just like Skiles’s defensive darling Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. Carlos Delfino is going to get minutes at the 3, too, and Michael Redd could as well if Skiles decides to go small. At the 4 spot, I find it hard to believe he’s going to get minutes unless one or two of Hakim Warrick, Kurt Thomas, and Ersan Ilyasova get injured. I’d say they should trade Jumpin’ Joe, but he has next to no value right now.

Finally! It looks like, after a summer of bickering to my friends and to random message-board people, I’ve found people (besides Kelly Dwyer) who actually agree with me about Marco Belinelli. Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail isn’t sold on him, as he thinks using possessions on Belinelli rather than other, more effective players is a bad idea. Mark Ginocchio of Nets Are Scorching points out that just about the only statistical thing he does well is shooting. This is what I’ve been saying for a while now. He’s a pretty damn good shooter, and he actually has a well above-average feel for the game. The problem is that he can’t guard anybody, he doesn’t take care of the ball, and he lacks athleticism. He’s skilled, but he’s quite a bit overmatched in the NBA. Point guard might actually be the best position for him, but then again, imagine him trying to stick Chris Paul or Rondo. Oof.

Den Feldman of Pistons Powered has a warning for people around the league buying into the new-coach hoopla. Very nicely done, that, although I think Pistons fans have reason to be excited about Kuester. While Curry had just a few years of assistant coaching experience since his playing days ended, Kuester has been in the coaching game since 1980 and in the NBA coaching game since 1995. This man served as Cleveland’s offensive co-ordinator last year, where he turned the NBA’s 20th-best offensive team into its 4th-best. I think Dumars chose the right guy this time.

Sekou Smith is talking about Marvin Williams’s aggressiveness in Atlanta. Here’s what I said about young Marv back in August: “Marvin Williams needs to get the ball more and he needs to be more aggressive. He’s an efficient young player, but he doesn’t assert his will on the game often enough.” It seems they’re recognizing this in Atlanta, and I really hope what they’re saying now translates into how they play in the regular season. Colour me skeptical, though, ‘cause with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Al Horford, and now Jamal Crawford, that’s a lot of mouths to feed. If Williams is going become a bigger part of their attack, both Marvin and coach Woodson are going to have to do their parts.

Finally, if you haven’t read Adrian Wojnarowski’s excellent piece on the Warriors, you absolutely have to. This is normally where I try to add something, be it an extra piece of evidence or some criticism, but I’ve got nothin’ on this one. Just read it, he nailed it. Can’t stand seeing young talent continually wasted in Golden State.

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Filed under Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Coaching, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Layups, League-Wide Stuff, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors

Looking Forward: Detroit Pistons

Old Huskies, New Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are in transition. We all know this. This is why they made the Chauncey Billups/Allen Iverson trade. This is why Rip Hamilton’s contract extension made no sense. This is why they signed two ex-UConn Huskies (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva) who don’t quite fit the traditional Piston mold. Finally, this is why they probably should have grabbed Rajon Rondo from Boston earlier this summer.

You’re aware that mainstays Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Antonio McDyess are gone. Amazingly, Ben Wallace is back, along with the aforementioned marquee free agent Huskies, big man Chris Wilcox, and rookies Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers. In addition to this, maligned head coach Michael Curry is gone, replaced by long-time assistant John Kuester, who was on Larry Brown’s staff when Detroit for their 2003-2004 championship season.

Kuester, the architect of Cleveland’s much-improved offense last season, will be charged with improving what was the league’s 21st-best offense in 2008-2009. He’s got the tools to do it, I tell ya. Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Chris Wilcox all have their faults, but they can score. Despite appearing to be a chucker, Gordon is quietly one of the most efficient scorers in the league, and Charlie V. turned in an impressive 21.7 points per 36 minutes last season in Milwaukee. Wilcox, in the East, will be serviceable at both the 4 and 5 spots. His inconsistency, especially on defense, will likely remain, but so will his excellence in pick-and-roll situations. Point guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum can put the ball in the basket, too, and you don’t need me to tell you what Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton can do.

Does this mean they’ll be better this season?

Probably. They should be far better on the offensive end, but questions remain. What will happen to Rip Hamilton? He obviously shouldn’t have had his contract extended, and it’s probably going to be tough to move him in this economic environment. We know Gordon is the future of the Pistons’ 2-spot, but Kuester has already committed to bringing him off the bench while Rip is around. A big challenge for this new coach is going to be to allocate minutes in a way that keeps everyone happy and doesn’t leave guys playing out of position for so long that it puts the team at a disadvantage.

Kuester’s also going to have to put some thought into how to get these guys to play D. This squad was average on that front under Michael Curry last year, finishing 16th in the league (down from 4th the previous year). With a bit of luck, they’ll sustain something close to that mark this coming season – Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva are certainly not defensive-minded players, but I don’t think their efforts will be significantly worse than what we saw from Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace last season.

If all goes right, then, we’ll see an elite offensive team and an average defensive team. This is the opposite of what we saw from Larry Brown’s championship-winning team (it should be noted that the great Flip Saunders had them playing elite-level ball on both ends) and it’s why I must stress again that this team is in transition. There is some serious talent in Detroit, some of it young and some of it old. Pieces remain from the perennial Eastern Conference Finals teams earlier in the decade, but they don’t represent the majority of this roster anymore. It’ll be interesting to see how this franchise negotiates this tricky terrain of trying to rebuild while staying in the playoff hunt, rather then tearing everything down and starting again. Grabbing at least one post-season victory this time would be a good start.

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Filed under Detroit Pistons, Free Agency, Looking Forward, Trades

Looking Foward: Allen Iverson

So far, I’ve only covered teams in my “Looking Forward” series. Today, I’m going to make an exception and talk about a player: Allen Iverson. Why? Well, he’s an important guy. Or, at least, he was an important guy. And I’m not sure he’ll end up playing in the NBA next season.

Let’s be clear: I don’t want to see Iverson out of the league. I’ve loved watching him play for over a decade. When the Sixers traded him, I was mad at them. When the Nuggets traded him last season, I immediately bought tickets to what I thought would be his Pistons debut in Toronto (he debuted two nights later in a loss to the Nets). However, when the Pistons shut him down in April due to a shady “back injury”, I completely understood. The Pistons needed him to be a complementary player rather than the focal point of their offense, and he couldn’t do it.

When Allen Iverson was in his prime, in Philadelphia, he was surrounded by guys like Theo Ratliff, Dikembe Mutombo, Raja Bell, Matt Harpring, Keith Van Horn, Tyrone Hill, Todd MacCulloch, Eric Snow, and Aaron McKie. These guys range from shot-blockers to defensive stoppers to distributors to rebounders to spot-up shooters. Guys like Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes, who wanted the ball in their hands to score, did not fit in well with Iverson, so they were shipped out. Those Philly teams were built this way because of Iverson’s style – with the ball in his hands, he was a threat from anywhere on the court. He attracted so much attention from opposing defenses that some of his bad shots functioned as assists. We all loved the way he hit seemingly impossible shots over guys far bigger and stronger than him, with a swagger that said he would make the next shot no matter how many of them rimmed out. Sixer fans appreciated the way those teams played tough defense, making life a pain for opposing teams every night. Sure, those teams never won a title, but they were a fixture in the playoffs and even got to the finals one year. Iverson was a legitimate megastar.

The problem, now, is that Iverson isn’t really a star anymore. At 34 years of age, he’s past his prime. Sure, he can still score. In fact, his shooting percentages haven’t slipped as much as you might think (they were never that good to begin with). However, anyone who’s watched him recently can tell that he’s lost a step. He can’t out-quick every opposing defender in the league anymore. He can’t stay with guys on the defensive end anymore. He doesn’t make the same seemingly impossible plays in the paint that he used to. His strengths now are being able to create his shot, his still-above-average speed, his ability to occasionally make a nice pass, and his ability to play the passing lanes. That’s about it.

Still, these are good things for an NBA player to have, at any age. The problem lies in the fact that his flaws might outweigh his strengths at this point. The swagger that I talked about, the attitude that makes him always think he can always get a shot off and the next one is going in? He needed that on teams that lacked other creators. He needed that when he was counted on to score. At this point, though, all the swagger does is ensure that he still takes a whole lot of jumpers. These are two-point jumpers, low percentage ones, often contested. In Detroit, when Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were perfectly capable of scoring efficiently, this hurt the team. Despite his steal totals, Iverson was never a very good defender, so, once they realized that he was no help offensively, it made perfect sense to shut him down and admit the experiment was a failure.

Iverson is cursed, now, by the habits he’s developed over the years. He’s still got NBA-level skills but his possession-killing ways mean that he doesn’t fit into most systems. Guys his age generally sign with good teams, with the hope that they can put them over the hump. Take Antonio McDyess, for example. He signed with San Antonio this summer and will presumably start at the 4. He’s not going to put up great numbers or take a ton of shots, but he will fit into their system and help them win. If I was playing a pickup game, I’d still take Iverson over McDyess, but it’s perfectly understandable why McDyess got the full mid-level exception from San Antonio for 2 guaranteed years and Iverson is still waiting to find a team. Sadly, I’m really not sure if there are ANY teams in the league that can use him. The Rockets, without Yao and McGrady, remind me a lot of his Sixer teams, but they have not been linked to Iverson at all. The Heat are kind of similar, but they already have a much more efficient version in Dwyane Wade and I’m not sure they need AI there to take possessions away from him. Still, the rumours persist.

What does this all mean? Well, it means I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ended up playing somewhere in Europe next season. The thought of it actually kind of depresses me, as I hate seeing players I loved sinking lower than I thought they ever would. This is where we are, though, and, to steal an overused NBA cliché, it is what it is.

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Filed under Free Agency, Looking Forward