NBA Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

10 Comments

Thumbnail image for stuckey_dunk.jpgLast season: 27-55 in a season where a tidal wave of injuries washed over the squad (Ben Gordon missed 20 games, Tayshaun Prince 33, Richard Hamilton 36, and the list goes on and on). That can’t happen again, right? RIGHT?!

Head Coach: John Kuester who may or may not be good, we can’t judge based on last year. We do know he has gained experience juggling injury lineups.

Key Departures: Kwame Brown (consider that addition by subtraction)

Key Additions: Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe, the amazingly athletic Terrico White

Best case scenario: A new owner that comes in just a few weeks into the season, then rather than make a ultimately needless push for one of the last couple playoff spots in the East they just start to blow it up and rebuild.

For that to happen: Piston fans are ticked at that last sentence. They see the enormous amount of injuries this squad had last season, it’s history of making the playoffs not far in the rearview mirror, and they think they can get back there.

And they really could if everything goes their way. If everyone can stay healthy. If they can defend. If Ben Wallace can keep up his resurgence in the paint (which means just be solid). If Greg Monroe can give them some offense down low. If Rodney Stuckey can not only score but also set up teammates. If the backcourt can drive the offense (because it has to) with Ben Gordon returning to his Chicago shooting form. If Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince can have good bounce back seasons. If Tracy McGrady has to give them something of quality.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” but if by some miracle all of that happens what do the Pistons get? A seven or eight seed, so they can be wiped out in five games by Miami/Orlando/Boston.

That is a fine outcome for a team building itself back up from the cellar (your Knicks, Pacers, Wizards of the world). For the Pistons, a team whose key parts are aging, that is not enough.

That’s why I say it is time to move Prince and start to rebuild. (I’d want to move Hamilton, and maybe Charlie Villanueva too, but with their deals that will be more challenging.) Like the car companies around them, it is time to reinvent the Pistons. There is no reason to wait. Start playing Monroe a lot, have Stuckey as your star — play him at the point but he may really be a two because he’s not a passer — and start to build this proud franchise back up.

More likely the Pistons will: Idle in place until a new owner gets in, then start the rebuilding process a little too late. But at least they start it.

These Pistons should be a little better than last year, only in that they can’t have that many injuries again. They have some nice players on the perimeter. But this is a flawed team.

Kuester has to get this team to defend. If they play defense as poorly as they did last season — fifth worst in the NBA — this season will be worse than Pistons fans imagine.

Tracy McGrady will not be as big a distraction as expected, but he doesn’t have much in the tank.

It’s just hard to get inspired looking at this Pistons roster right now — it is below average and not young. You want more for a proud franchise and fans that deserve better, but there is just not much here to see as a good future.

Prediction: 30 wins. This team has more talent on it than it showed in the injury plagued last year, but it is fatally flawed. This team could win more games if this roster stays together, plays some defense and stays healthy. But 30 seems about where they land.

Phil Jackson goes on vacation, reportedly puts Knicks’ coaching search on hold

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
2 Comments

Phil Jackson has stumped for Kurt Rambis, interviewed David Blatt, talked with Luke Walton and ignored Carmelo Anthony.

It must be exhausting.

So, it appears the Knicks president took off on a tour the American West:

No big deal. Everyone has cell phones. Jackson can still run the coaching search from afar.

Except….

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Jackson is on vacation at the moment. The interesting thing here is that league sources say that some involved in the Knicks’ coaching search have been informed that Phil is away at the moment, meaning the search is on hold.

This matters only if Jackson isn’t just going to hire Rambis anyway. But if the Knicks are interested in exploring candidates other teams – Rockets, Pacers and Kings – might want, Jackson is missing a valuable opportunity.

Reminder: The Knicks are paying him $12 million per year – money that could have lured someone with a record of front-office success or even just the commitment to delay a vacation until after hiring a coach.

Three Things to Watch in Heat/Raptors Game 2: Will Kyle Lowry’s jump shot return?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors attempts to help DeMar DeRozan #10 up off the floor late in the second half of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The first game went to overtime, and we should see a desperate Raptors team in Game 2, one that knows it can’t go down 2-0 and win this series. Here are three things to watch.

1) Did Kyle Lowry’s late-night shooting work pay off? To put it bluntly (as I did in the series preview): If Lowry isn’t playing at an All-Star level the Raptors are not winning this series. He was 3-of-13 shooting in Game 1. It wasn’t just that game, and it wasn’t just the first playoff series with George Hill draped on him, Lowry was not shooting well as the campaign wound down — his 57.8 true shooting percentage for the season dropped to 51.1 (below the league average) in April. That has to change fast.

It wasn’t just Lowry, however, a lot of Raptors players were missing wide open looks — as a team they were 4-of-17 on uncontested threes. Those shots need to fall.

2) Can Toronto defenders stay in front of Goran Dragic? The Miami point guard has felt more and more comfortable in recent months — since the All-Star break when Miami was pushed to small ball — and the Raptors did nothing to make him feel uncomfortable. Well, one Heat player did, Hassan Whiteside (Dragic was 3-of-9 finishing in the paint in Game 1), but if he keeps getting into the paint at will — both in secondary transition actions and in the half court — breaking down the Raptor defense this is going to be a rough series in Toronto. I expect a lot more effort and a better performance from the Raptors defensively, with Dragic as a focal point.

3) “We need more Jonas Valanciunas” — the Raptors must attack Hassan Whiteside and draw some fouls. Whiteside intimidated a lot of Raptors shooters in Game 1 — not only did Raptors guard struggle to finish inside, but they also pulled up and didn’t take shots in the paint at times just to avoid Whiteside. However, Toronto’s Valanciunas has the size advantage inside and put it to good use with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. The Raptors need to feed him early and try to get Whiteside in foul trouble — that also means attacking guards like DeMar DeRozan can’t pull up, he has to risk some blocked shots to go into the body of Whiteside and draw fouls. If Whiteside is allowed to dominate the paint, the Heat will take the series, the Raptors need to go at him.

Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was excellent. THEN, they made 25 in a game

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) reacts after the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. Smith hit seven 3-pointers in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Leave a comment

The Cavaliers set a record for 3-pointers in a team’s first six playoff games on this Kyrie Irving shot:

Did you notice anything strange about that clip?

It came in Game 1 against the Hawks – Cleveland’s fifth playoff game.

That’s right, the Cavs needed just five games to set a record for 3s through six playoff games. Then, they piled on 25 3-pointers – a record for any NBA game – in their Game 2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s 97 3-pointers through six postseason games absolutely crushes the previous record:

image

The difference between the Cavs and second place equals difference between second and 88th.

In fact, Cleveland has already demolished the record for 3s through EIGHT playoff games (previously 90 by the 2014-15 Hawks). Again, the Cavaliers have played just six games this postseason.

Where is all this outside output coming from? The key long-distance shot makers:

Add it all up, and the Cavs are making 16.2 3-pointers per game – which would easily set a playoff record:

image

Cleveland could make no 3-pointers in its next two games – and still rank first for 3s per game in a postseason.

Not that the Cavs appear likely to go cold from distance anytime soon.

Their stars generate open looks and make 3s themselves. Smith is an unrepentant gunner, and he’s feeling it.

These are the Cavaliers as scary as they get.

John Wall undergoes surgery on both knees, expected to be ready for start of next season

Washington Wizards guard John Wall speaks during a media availability before an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
1 Comment

John Wall tried putting the Wizards on his back and carrying them into the playoffs.

Washington fell short, but the process still took a toll.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced that guard John Wall underwent a successful procedure today to excise calcific deposits in his left patella tendon in order to eliminate pain and assist healing.  He will begin the rehabilitation process immediately and is expected to be available for the start of the 2016-17 season.  Wall also underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee in order to remove loose bodies.

If the Wizards are just using the next date most fans care about, this might not be such a big deal. That would open the door for Wall being healthy at any point over the summer.

But if the start of next season is his targeted return, that’s more troubling. Sitting an entire offseason is a big deal, and that means potential complications are more likely to cause him to miss games. It’s also a worse indicator for his long-term health.

As the Wizards enter free agency primed to spend, the last thing they need are questions about the length of their franchise player’s prime.