The Brooklyn Nets embark on an eight-game, 17-day road trip that's bound to either catapult them into the lead in the Atlantic Division or help them crash and burn on their way to a disappointing playoff seed and a terrifying first-round exit. Luckily for them, it couldn't start against a much better opponent, in that they're playing a terrible opponent: the 23-45 Detroit Pistons in Detroit. The Pistons, playing without Andre Drummond and possibly without Brandon Knight, are well out of the playoff hunt and look primed to make a race towards the bottom for a potential top-5 pick.
Joining me to answer three questions about tonight's game and matchup is the incomparable Dan Feldman, showrunner over at expert Detroit Pistons blog PistonPowered. There's nowhere better to get expertise on the Pistons, so anything you're curious about that you don't read here, go there and I'm sure Dan's got 15 posts on it.
And, as always: The BK Game Streak is up. Good luck, you cranks.
Devin: The Pistons have lost eight in a row and they seem like they're cruising into "tank for a high draft pick" territory. Do you think that's the case? Do you expect them to be competitive tonight?
Dan: I don't think they set out to tank, but somewhere during this skid, it seems like they realized they might as well. Lawrence Frank was home tending to his sick wife, and Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight are hurt. The remaining Pistons aren't that capable of winning games, even when they're giving full effort. Detroit hasn't played a team other than the Wizards or Bobcats closer than eight points in 37 days. Why should that change tonight?
Devin: It's been 20 games now since the Pistons traded for Jose Calderon and have gone with that two-PG backcourt. How's it working out? Can they be successful with it?
Dan: Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum need the ball in their hands, but Jose Calderon is better than them running the point. Fortunately, Calderon has also shown an ability to score in transition when either guard is capable at pushing the ball. Brandon Knight is still confounding as far as which backcourt position best suits him. Has a backcourt rotation of four point guards work? Hard to say, because each combination is still feeling itself out. But there is one clear negative: Rodney Stuckey has played more at small forward because the backcourt is crowded, and that has been a total disaster.
Devin: If Calderon can score pushing the ball, that's a huge problem for Brooklyn -- that's one of their biggest weaknesses. Uh-oh.
Just looking at the numbers, Greg Monroe looks like he's taken a step back after two increasingly successful years. Is this a "junior" slump or is there concern in Detroit?
Dan: Monroe has taken a small step back, and of course, there is some concern for a player who will probably receive a max contract in a year. Monroe's defense is underwhelming to say the least, but that's not new. The Pistons are asking him to handle the ball more and increase his usage, and that has come with a drop in shooting percentage and an increase in turnovers. It doesn't help that the Pistons struggle to throw entry passes and space the floor for Monroe, so hopefully, he can work past these issues as his teammates improve.