Taking stab at Pistons starters… Caldwell-Pope in mix?

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Maurice Cheeks has one of the tougher coaching jobs in the NBA this season.

While the NBA zigged toward efficiency and advanced stats, Joe Dumars zagged and built a roster with players other teams were hesitant on — Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings mainly. The Pistons got better but the question is how much better? Playoff better? Their defense will be good, but on offense they will face defenses that pack the paint and dare them to shoot jumpers.

So who does Cheeks start on these new-look Pistons? Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press took a stab at it.

STARTERS
C: Andre Drummond: Probably works better with Jennings.
PF: Greg Monroe: Team hopes he fits with Drummond.
SF: Josh Smith: Crowded paint still a concern.
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Skill set better with the starters.
PG: Brandon Jennings: Make no mistake — he will be the starter.
SECOND UNIT
C: Monroe: Could be his best position.
PF: Smith: Could lessen spacing issues here.
SF: Luigi Datome: Shooting desperately needed.
SG: Rodney Stuckey: Probably more effective off bench.
PG: Chauncey Billups: Will probably get 20 minutes per game.

Caldwell-Pope becomes a key linchpin as a rookie in this scenario — the problem is that Drummond and Monroe can’t really score much outside eight feet, and frankly neither does Josh Smith but he’ll happily shoot from there despite hitting 30.5 percent from the midrange and 30.3 percent from three last season. The Pistons need floor spacing and Jennings isn’t going to bring it with his 38.4 percent from the midrange or his step-back three.

Caldwell-Pope and Datome have to provide shooting to make this work. They become key to the team’s success. So the rookie starts and on a team of bigger stars he will be important.

Patty Mills hits game-winner in Spurs’ NBA-record fourth straight OT game (video)

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pioneered resting players.

But San Antonio has played an NBA-record four straight overtime games, meaning the Spurs have had to play an extra 25 minutes.

Popovich, via ESPN:

“It’s awful,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

At least Patty Mills spared San Antonio a sixth overtime period in these four games. After DeMar DeRozan missed a free throw, Mills hit the game-winner in a 121-119 victory over the Suns yesterday.

And at least the Spurs are mostly winning these longer games. In this span, San Antonio beat the Rockets in double overtime, beat the Kings, lost to the Cavaliers and now beat the Suns. I’d also argue the Cleveland result was worth it.

 

Report: Luka Doncic might return to Mavericks within a couple weeks

Luka Doncic
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Luka Doncic sprained his ankle during the Mavericks’ loss to the Heat yesterday.

Whether this timeline constitutes good news or bad news depends on your perspective.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Doncic’s injury is a blow not just to Dallas, but the NBA. He’s one of the league’s brightest stars. In the next eight days, the Mavericks make their only appearances of the season in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Though Doncic has played like an MVP candidate, the Mavericks also boast considerable depth. They’ve outscored opponents by 8.0 points per 100 possessions without Doncic.

Those non-Doncic lineups will be thrust into more difficult situations now. That net rating will likely drop, especially against a tough upcoming schedule. Dallas might have been in line for some losses, even with Doncic. So, don’t overreact to that.

But the Mavericks can remain at least competitive without their best player.

Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe out two weeks due to right fibula avulsion fracture

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The Milwaukee Bucks keep right on rolling, they won their 18th straight on Saturday night, cruising past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now they’re going to have to keep this winning streak going without point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe will miss at least two weeks with a right fibula avulsion fracture, the team announced Saturday. The injury happened Friday night in a win against Memphis.

An avulsion fracture is where a strain to ligament pulls a little bit of bone off where the two connect. It sounds worse than it is medically, and while it hurts rest is usually the only treatment needed.

Bledsoe is averaging 15 points and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks, shooting 34.4 percent from three, playing solid defense, and providing another ball handler and shot creator next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has been +4.1 points per 100 possessions this season with Bledsoe on the court.

George Hill, who has had a strong season for Milwaukee off the bench, will step into the starting role for now.

The injury comes at a rough time as the Buck hit a tougher part of the schedule this week, facing Dallas (which may be without Luka Doncic) and the Lakers on Thursday.

Hornets’ rookie P.J. Washington out weeks with fractured little finger

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In what has been a disappointing rookie class so far, Charlotte appears to have a steal drafting P.J. Washington at No. 12. The power forward out of Kentucky has started every game for the Hornets this season and is loving the spacing in the NBA game, scoring efficiently in the paint while shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, plus is averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Now the Hornets are going to be without him, likely for a couple of weeks, due to a fractured fifth finger on his right hand (pinkie). He suffered it in the fourth quarter against Chicago Friday night.

While the Hornets officially only list him as out for Sunday against the Pacers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he’s going to be out through Christmas, which would mean at least five games.

Usually this would mean more minutes for Marvin Williams, but he is out with a sore right knee. Most likely, coach James Borego slides an undersized Miles Bridges over to the four — which had been the preseason plan until Washington surprised everyone — but he has a variety of small-ball players who likely will get a little run there.

The 12-16 Hornets are hanging around the playoff picture, just 1.5 games out of the eight seed (Orlando).