Looking Ahead: Detroit Pistons

This past season for the Pistons seemed so promising, picking up a fringe all star with a huge contract in Josh Smith, then trading their starting point guard and two prospects for the flashy young gun in Brandon Jennings, this coupled with 2 already developing towers down low in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, what could possibly go wrong? Their goal was set on the premise that adding talent is the best way for success, neglecting to evaluate whether the players fitting would be a factor, this was the start of a disaster.

Start of the Season

The hype train had already started chugging, multiple sources had already begun declaring Detroit bound for the playoffs, some even saying as high as 4th seed, the big 3 down low were set to dominate, and out-muscle any team that stood in their way, but the flaws were shown the minute they walked onto the court. With Josh Smith away from his natural position in PF to SF make room for out Greg Monroe, who was out of position playing PF instead of C to play Andre at his correct position, the history book should have already been written that doom was set upon this team. Tom Gores had spoke before the season  saying this is a boom or bust season, and many speculated Joe Dumars needed the playoffs to bail him out. The first game pushed the fans to their feet as, it would seem that the Pistons may have done something right, a 113-102 win over a solid Wizards team was just what the doctors ordered, but the game told a different story. Josh Smith started out with an obscene 7 three pointers for a man who at his peak attempted 0.1 per game, and had a career of 27%. The problem was nobody cares when you’re making them and 3/7 is completely acceptable. Over the next month he averaged 4.5 attempts per game with a percentage of 25.4%, this is almost a comedic stat. While Brandon Jennings was injured, the newly (yet old) acquired Chauncey Billups had the chance to come and lead the team like the good old days. This lasted 5 games. Billups shot an abysmal 28.6% from the field and 18.8% from beyond the arc in the first 7 games and was benched and only played sporadically for the rest of the season, it was a good thing Jennings was back, right? Wrong, looking back at the first month, if you can get past the ‘Wow, 15.6 ppg and 8.1 asts with only 2 turnovers” you can see the real story, this is where we find what went wrong.

What Went Wrong

Well let’s look at the main issue, the Pistons had tried to fit 1 Power Forward and 2 Centers in the 3 spots limiting not only the way they play, but at how well they play in their respective positions. One of the biggest repercussions of was Josh Smith resorting to long twos, which are the worst efficient shot in the game,  to try to space out their offense. Let’s look at this play for example:

As you can see the spacing is already looking the spacing doesn’t look good, they have 2 PF’s and 1 C’s on the court all shooting 26% or lower from beyond the arc, only 1 real 3 point threat would be Kyle Singler who was shooting 34% at the time. With only 27 seconds left and only down one the Pistons had a chance to take the lead and maybe pull out with the win, all they needed was a well run play. After the pass in they start to set up their offense having Charlie Villanueva and Kyle Singler set up in the corners, Brandon Jennings takes it right with a weak brush pick by Smith as Kyle Singler does  a backdoor cut, but there is not enough room for a safe pass. This limits the moves they can make, Charlie V makes his way up to the top,as Smith gives Jennings another pick coming back to the center of the arc. This is a better pick, but Felton goes under the screen knowing Jennings isn’t getting off a efficient 3 or fade away long 2 and stays in front of him to stop his drive. Now you have 4 players standing around, and the only option is to chuck a contested 3 or pass to Josh Smith. Josh Smith gets the pass and tries to get a little space, but Carmello is too physical to gain even a slight bit. With 4 ball watchers, Josh Smith takes an awful shot and air balls it by a few feet.

This is just an example of how the spacing issues have effected the Pistons throughout this season, with only 1 player shooting over 40% for 3 (Kyle Singler) it forced Josh Smith to take too many shots outside his range. Looking at his 13′-14′ shot chart every thing outside of the 3ft area outside of the hoope was below average, but we can’t put all the blame on Josh Smith. Brandon Jennings also had a poor shooting year shooting one of the lowest percentages of all time for the usg% he had. These two shot charts show a little bit of the seasons results via Kirk Goldsberry:

i3DxqcUrVxaMUbrandonjennings1152

 

Outside of the right side of the 3 point line, Brandon Jennings shot awful every where else, his slender small body made it too hard to take it to the hole and shot well below average for guards, only 45% near the basket. The 3 main lineups the Pistons used in a per-game basis were also all in the bottom 5 in ts% this season shown here:

TS-Lineups

 

The offense was bad, but the depression of this years team doesn’t end at the spaceless, vomit inducing efficiency the Pistons experienced, but the defense also played a big part in their downfall. One of the big problems the Detroit Pistons had on defense was defending the P&R. With Greg Monroe at PF, his feet are too slow to guard a natural PF, and has a hard time communicating whether he wants to switch off or have the guard stay with the guy he’s defending. The problem is, it isn’t just Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond has yet to find his groove on D, and Josh Smith is always at his peak energy while playing defense on any play. This has led to them allow the highest percentage in the NBA in 48.5%. The Pistons lack of defense have landed them in at least the bottom 8 in Opponents PPg, fast break ppg, points in the paint, assist/game, rebounds/game, and assists to turnover ratio. Their players out of position were a big indicator of this and could be looked at as the cause for big part of this.

What The Pistons Do Next

Well, most would look at the draft to improve, signing a young player with a relatively cheap contract that can develop and fill your teams needs. The Pistons had the 8th pick going into a extremely deep draft, the only thing stopping them would be if they drop back and lose their pick to Charlotte due to the Maggette/Gordon trade in 2012. The 17.6% chance of the Pistons losing their pick came to fruition on the 20th when none other than the Cavaliers did the near impossible and jumped to #1, their third #1 in the last 4 years, moving the Pistons out of their protected top 8. So now with only a  second pick, what are their options?

 

We will find out in part 2!

 

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Western Conference Playoffs Preview

THE PREVIEW

With how bad the East was this season, it’s refreshing watch how close the Western Conference playoffs have been so far. With today so high on bringing the best duos and trios to the court, and this series has two of the best in the league. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may be the best tandem in the NBA, outside of maybe the Heats Trio, and have shown it throughout the playoffs. With 2 rounds already completed we can see why Kevin Durant was the MVP, but maybe even better than him has been Russell Westbrook. Sure his shooting percentage isn’t elite, but in the moments of the game Kevin just goes cold, Westbrook has completely carried the team. I can see him being a big factor, but up against an incredible player himself, in Tony Parker.

Looking at the Spurs, its no wonder their back to the Western Conference Finals, I mean, how much have they changed? And by now everyone knows that Tim Duncan gets better with age. Tony Parker has been phenomenal this playoffs, who’s averaging 19 on 48.5% and 5 assists.

 

HOW IT PLAYS OUT – OKC

One of the huge announcements this week was that Serge Ibaka will be out for the rest of the playoffs. Ibaka being the defensive anchor for OKC makes this a huge hit to their defense. Kendrick Perkins told JA Adande of ESPN

“I think you need all the guys to be tied on one string,” Perkins said. “It only takes one guy to mess up the position, or to break the trust of the defense. And I think that’s what happens. I think more so, with our team, if we miss shots and things are not going well on the offensive end in some games, we tend to let that have an effect on what we do on the defensive end. We’ve got to do a better job of just staying with it. Even if we come out and we’re shooting 15 percent for the quarter, we’ve got to do a better job of just locking in.”

The way that OKC can win this is looking past maybe one or two bad possessions and playing like they did last series. Like Perkins said play as one string, almost like the Spurs play, build momentum, but only in the positive. The player they need to watch out for has changed though, as the season indicates, the Spurs are 11-3 without Parker, meaning he isn’t their sole offensive weapon now. The Thunder must be completely secure with their defense in order to stop this systematically perfect team Gregg Popovich is coaching.

SPURS

With Gregg Popovich as your coach, you are bound to win. He has solidified himself as one of the best ever. Now he just wants to win more titles. How does he do that you may ask? Firstly, they must get past the daunting Thunder, riding on the prowess of newly awarded MVP winner Kevin Durant. To win this series, first things first, with Ibaka out, it already tips the favor to the Spurs, Perkins has much slower feet and it will be harder to contain the driving from the Spurs. This is their first attack point, drive the lane and pressure the big men to foul. With initially doing this, it will force OKC to bunch up down low, creating too much room on the perimeter for the like of Danny Green, Kawai Leonard, and Marco Belinelli. Let’s look at this gif for example to illustrate how Tony Parker drives the ball, OKC collapses on him, but leaves Leonard open in the corner for a high percentage 3 ball.  i6OOfUpHKgpPc

 

 

PREDICTION

This series will be close, but like I said, Ibaka really takes away the defense that OKC needs down low, and the Spurs are far too good at three pointers to exploit the Thunder. The only way I see OKC winning is if Russell and Durant go bananas and drop 60 combined a game efficiently, and simply play ridiculous offense. I don’t see this happening, therefore:

SPURS IN 7

NEXT WE’LL HAVE FINAL’S PREVIEW

 

 

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Unveiling the Grizzlies Front Office Situation

Today marks an unusual day as the Grizzlies GM and Asst. GM were outcast after discussions with management. Marc Stein from ESPN puts it:

The departures earlier Monday, with sources close to the situation saying that a breakdown in the relationship between Pera and Levien — who helped broker Pera’s purchase of the franchise from the late Michael Heisley in June 2012 — led to a major shakeup in Memphis for the second successive spring.

Tony Allen had this to say about the incredulous decision.

Grizzlies General Counsel Dave Mincberg:

“Our franchise has made tremendous strides over the last few seasons and we thank Jason for his hard work and dedication and wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors,” Pera said in a statement. “Rest assured that we remain as committed as ever to bringing a championship to this great city and we are confident that when the new season begins our fans will be excited about both our roster and the direction of our organization.”

Follow me on Twitter for more up-to-date info @BrendonCrewNBA

NBA Off season Edition

This upcoming off season is an interesting one, as there aren’t too many free agents outside of a couple that can be franchise changers. Carmelo Anthony, as well as Kevin Love could be making their introduction to different teams come November, but only a couple potential starters are rumored to possibly be leaving their teams. Teams looking to turn their franchise around are more likely to wait for the 2016 free agent class, or hope their draft dreams of a top 3 pick pan out. Here is my take on this coming off season highlighting the major moves I see happening.

May 20th is the day where dreams could come true, or GM’s may be crying their way back to the lottery next year, as this is where the lottery is going to take place. Teams like the Detroit Pistons have a lot riding on whether they stay in their spot or move, as the Pistons lose their pick to the Hornets if they fall only 1 spot due to a trade in 2012. The most coveted to be drafted, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, could be potential franchise changers with Wiggins explosive athleticism and elite perimeter defense, Parker with an incredible basketball IQ, physical and offensive diversity, these players I could write books on, but for such an off season we must move on. One of these players will most likely go to the Bucks as they have a 46.5% of going 1-2, the other will most likely go to the Magic or 76ers. Outside of these a few others have the potential to be all-star, such as the unknown Exum, the injured Embiid, the rising Vonleh, and the tank Randle. Each of these players have outstanding upside, and any team would be happy to draft, but a few I would be weary to draft. Embiid coming off of a back injury as a big man is never reassuring. Whether he is in shape, something even Parker has had problems with, or even at peak level to compete at the NBA level right away is in question. While Exum is really a wild card. He reminds me of Michael Carter-Williams, but with less vision and passing prowess. He’s athletic and can drive with ease, but lacks a shot, that could do some major harm in the NBA. The biggest worry is how he translates coming from Australia. Many of the foreign players drafted in the top 10 in recent years have been busts (don’t remind me about Darko). If you are drafting in the top 10, you are looking for all-star caliber players, the only one potentially at that level in the last 5 years are Ricky Rubio and Jonas Valančiūnas, both who have yet to make it. Dante Exum could easily be the exception, but with a draft board like this, I would be looking at other options.

Now let’s move to off season moves that I could see happening. Carmelo Anthony is the highlight of this years free agent class, and rightfully so. He brings electric offense right away to whatever team he lands on, while improving in his defense and rebounding skills over this last season with the Knicks. With Phil Jackson signing a $10 million dollar deal to become the GM, is it more likely that he stays with the Knicks? I would be hesitant to say yes, as even the Zen is having trouble finding a coach to guide this over-paid injury ridden team. I think the Phil Jackson move was the first step, and the right step to keep him there, but other teams have just as promising of a chance in my opinion. Chicago has been long rumored at pursuing Anthony, and could use his offense with the loss of Deng last year in a trade with the Cavaliers. Anthony and Noah could combine to make a deadly duo of offense and defense, with a return of Rose from injury could mark a very solid team. My prediction is he leaves the Knicks for the Bulls, to try and make a run at the Heat’s big three with their own big three.

Another big move that I see happening this of season is the moving of Kevin Love. Kevin Love has made known his displeasure of the running of the Timberwolves by the front office, and says that he will not resign after the 2015 season. The T’Wolves have several options they can take, one is they decline to trade him and try to bring assets to the T’Wolves similar to bringing Pau Gasol to the Lakers after Kobe insisted on being traded from the Lakers. The second option would be to simply find the best trade available for rebuilding, this is similar to the Dwight Howard trade to the Lakers, Magic grabbed many young players that can grow and develop in a system that gives them a lot of playing time. Last option is to trade for someone they view can make them contenders or at least stay consistent to where they are now. This could mean trading to a long rumored team pursuing Love like the Warriors. Here is a sample trade of how it could happen with the Warriors:

Warriors get:

Kevin Love

T’Wolves get:

David Lee

Harrison Barnes

1st round pick

This works out for both teams as Warriors get a big man to replace an injury ridden front line, while T’wolves get a young SF that can grow in their system, while also getting Lee who I think would work great with Rubio, plus a late first round to add some encouragement.

Finally we look at some of the last moves being thrown around the NBA with less enthusiasm. Some of these players are underrated and/or decent players that can impact a playoff team. Greg Monroe, a rare big man with low-post offense and finesse,  may not resign with the Pistons as his agent David Falk is looking for a max deal with his client. Some teams interested in him are Atlanta and the Wizards. I see him eventually resigning with the Pistons, especially after Van Gundy telling the press he is very high on Monroe. Two other players that may be on the move are Luol Deng and Gordon Hayward. These two players are on their way to a big payday and I think they will get them. Luol Deng is rumored to be being pursued by the Phoenix Suns, as well as Hayward being pursued by the Celtics.

The off season is a good time to get hyped up on the game of basketball, watching the draft, and coveting players you want your team to go after. This season will be no different as major rookies are going to be drafted and impactful players will be leaving their teams for others, I just hope you’re ready for the next season!

Rookie Report 1.0 and 2013 Re-Draft

We’re heading straight toward the middle of the NBA season, and it’s time to look back and review how the rookies have been performing and making a push towards Rookie of the Year (ROY). We’ll also re-draft for the lottery and determine a better fit for each team in the next article.

First, let’s look at the top ten rookies so far in the race for ROY.

The top 4 players on the list are actually becoming closer since Carter-Williams fiery start. Oladipo has been starting to play like most people pinned he would, though he is still coming off the bench for the high scoring Arron Afflalo. In January this what Oladipo averaged (Via ESPN):

As you can see Oladipo has benefited off the huge amount of time off the bench, almost all of his stats have increased last month.

Trey Burke and Carter-Williams showed exactly what teams look for in drafting a rookie point guard, good floor vision, leader, and someone that when looked at to make a basket doesn’t hesitate to do so. While Carter-Williams doesn’t have the same skill set Burke’s style of play requires, he makes it up with his huge positional height and driving ability. Burke tends to lean on his shooting ability, which hasn’t quite gotten to that NBA level, but will certainly come as his experience continues to come as he plays more. If Burke had a more consistent shot now, he might be closer to number one, but he has the natural ability to pass and help his team become a better offense as his assist numbers have continued to increase as the year goes on. Before Burke made his NBA debut, the Jazz were 1-10 record wise, but since joining the team has  15-23 record, which would almost put them in playoff contention in the East. They will most likely tank the season away, but the stat alone shows the promise Burke has in this league.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is the wild card. He wasn’t seen as someone who could make a huge impact in the league more than just a role player off the bench, which is why he wasn’t drafted till the 24th pick in last years draft. Though he has only started one game this season, his minutes are starting to increase, and who doesn’t like a young shooting guard who shoots 46% field goal and 40% 3p field goal percentage respectively. The other darkhorse in this list in Pero Antic, who, with Al Horford’s injury, has been looked to step in his role as starting Center, and boy has he! He isn’t the next Dwight Howard or even Al Horford, his offense isn’t developed, and most likely won’t seeing as he is 31, but he is easily growing to be an elite defender. He understands how Atlanta wants to strategize on defense, and with his 6’11″ 260 lbs. body frame, he can muscle most offensive attempts null. That rounds up the first rookie report , be sure to tune in for 2.0 and so on throughout the second part of the NBA season.

NBA Trade Rumors and Where Stars Should End Up

The trade deadline is only a couple a weeks away and that can only mean one thing, the underachieving and the fringe contenders to make a move. Teams like the New York Knicks, who have dropped all the way from 2nd in the East to 10th in only a year with minimal moves, Detroit Pistons, who risked a boom or bust free agent signing by going for the second biggest player in free agency and failing, or Charlotte, who realizes that 8th place in the East would be a poor place to be for team stuck in the rebuilding process. Still other teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers have assets that they would love to trade for 1st round draft picks to boost their rebuilding phase. Lets start with the players that have been included in most of the trade discussion, starting with the highest trade value.

Carmelo Anthony, the star New York Knickerbocker, has recently had rumors of testing free agency and maybe finding a new home with the Bulls. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, after talking to a couple GMs, has found that Chicago will be a big contender at the all star forward(http://espn.go.com/blog/new york/knicks/post/_/id/53242/trade-rumors-melo-to-chicago?ex_cid=espnapi_public). Though this a rumor, I don’t think Chicago will try to make a trade offer when they can go for him during the off season, which doesn’t leave much for trade offers, especially when New York is looking for a huge haul in return.

What about the Pistons? Well, this season has been a huge disappointment, as Tom Gores was looking for a playoff spot or he may think of flipping the organization and cleaning house. Josh Smith, signed for 4 years $56 million in the offvseason, is having one of the worst shooting season of all-time, and yet shoots on average 15.1 shots per game (via Basketball-reference.com), and it does not look like he will stop as his only shooting a couple shots over his career average. What does that mean for the trade deadline for the ho-hum Pistons? They can try to trade Smith, but would most likely include trading a pick just to ship him out, or getting a very marginal return. There is Greg Monroe, who at 23 years old, could become a all star caliber player, and averages 14 points per game and 9 rebounds, one of the premier young big men. This is a very foolish move in my opinion, trading a young piece on a rebuilding team is basically admitting defeat, and then they must keep a low efficiency player for 3 more years, slowing their process down much more. The key to the Pistons success is patience. Wait for a trade offer where you can get a expiring contract or a true small forward for Smith and jump on it. There is no need to be desperate.

Charlotte has been such a menial team since their birth it is hard to find a good place to start. They have reached the playoffs once in their 9 years since they changed their name to the Bobcats, and unless something happens, it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. Management has been a weak point, which has caused 6 coaching changes. Charlotte must look to the future and not make the same mistakes as they have in the past. I like the current coach in Steve Clifford as he has made a team that should be bottom 3 and has given the fans hope for the playoffs this year, though New York is looking to push them out. The biggest assets the Bobcats have as trade bait is Ben Gordon’s expiring contract as well as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Now Ben Gordon is a pretty straight forward trade piece in which they may be able to receive a young piece from a fringe contender looking for some added range, and extra cash in the off season. The next piece is a little more complicated, Kidd-Gilchrist is only 20 years old and on a team that is looking towards the future, this is what you want, but he’s been somewhat disappointing as a Bobcat so far, and a team with a lack of depth and needed talent to contend such as Chicago, might see that as an opportunity to acquire a young player they can develop as an upgrade.

Bunching the last 3 teams together Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland are all looking to capitalize on some young talent and picks this trade deadline. Philadelphia has tons of assets that they could use to get some 1st round picks out of, such as Evan Turner, Thadeus Young, and Spencer Hawes. A team I see likely going for one of these players is the Suns, who may have as many as 4 1st round picks in the upcoming draft. Boston who will most likely hold onto Rondo, unless a trade they can’t decline comes along, also have young players they can ship out to try to dump the cap from Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries. Jeff Green has also had some trade talk ranging from trades for Greg Monroe or one of the 76ers 3 main targets. I see the Celtics holding on to Green atleast until the offseason before making a move unless tagged with Wallace/Humphries contract. Cleveland has a tough task of handling an unhappy Luol Deng, who may or may not get dealt, but signs point to the Cavs trying to make a move that might land them a 1st round pick.

While this trade deadline should be very exciting and a lot of moves should happen, don’t be surprised if some teams look to trade only their small pieces and keep pat with what they have until the off season, I see the Pistons and Knicks taking this route. Updates will come as they are found, but until then there is still plenty of Basketball to be played.