Nets look to get back on track against Andre Drummond and the Pistons
Opponent: Detroit Pistons
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network
If the Brooklyn Nets want an early measuring stick/divining rod for what the rest of this season is going to look like, Wednesday night’s tilt against the Detroit Pistons should serve as a pretty accurate telltale.
This season’s Pistons are precisely the team the Nets hope to be in a year or two, so this early season matchup will likely show fans just how far the team has to go in their rebuilding process. No one expects the Pistons to compete for the Eastern Conference Championship this year, heck, they might not even make the playoffs in a suddenly crowded race, but they are also squarely within the ranks of the up-and-coming. Current darlings of the internet hoopster scene, expectations for the Pistons are neither overhyped nor played out.
Comparatively, the Nets possess a few interesting parts and are just in the beginning stages of curating a style of play, but the Pistons have a true identity and are just a piece or two away from becoming genuine players in the conference. Andre Drummond is coming off a beastly 20-point, 23-rebound double-double, his second 20+ performance on the glass only three games into the season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is blossoming into a legitimate lottery performer, having just lit up the Milwaukee Bucks for 21 points in the Pistons’ most recent tilt. Add in sold performances from Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris, and the Pistons look like a team capable of playing, if not exceeding, .500 basketball for the season under head coach Stan Van Gundy.
While common opponents often make for misleading comparisons, there’s little else to examine so far in this young season — so take a look at the contrast between the Nets and Pistons’ contests with the Bucks. The Nets lost a heartbreaker on the road via a last second John Henson buzzer-beating tip-in, whereas the Pistons flattened the Bucks at home, holding the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Greg Monroe to only 83 points (the Nets allowed 110).
The Nets are not yet the Pistons, but they’re playing at home with a semi-rested Brook Lopez, so this early November showdown will likely tell us a lot about how far the Nets have come, and how far they have yet to go.
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Pistons:
1. Can anyone stop, or at least contain, Andre Drummond?
As expected, coming into the season, the only reliable rebounder for the Nets has been Trevor Booker. Booker has proven himself to be a solid option at power forward, and has already notched a pair of double-doubles. However, he gives up nearly 3 inches and 50 pounds to Drummond, who will likely be a menace against the Nets on both ends of the court. Atkinson has been cautious with his use of Lopez so far this season, who has been topping off around 20 MPG thus far. The Nets can also throw Luis Scola and Justin Hamilton down low, but between Drummond and Morris, the play in the paint appears to decidedly favor the Pistons.
2. Can the Nets Get to 100 (or even 90)?
Jeremy Lin, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Sean Kilpatrick have all been fairly reliable scoring options through four games, but scoring tends to come and go in streaks. The Nets’ wildly vacillating individual +/- numbers bespeak a young team still learning to play together. On Monday, the Chicago Bulls were able to clamp down on the Nets and held them to only 88 points.
The Pistons have held their last two opponents to totals in the 80s — so here’s to hoping that trend does not continue. In order to do so, they’ll need Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris, and Lopez to improve on their disappointing outings in Chicago.
3. Are the Nets in trouble without Randy Foye and Greivis Vasquez?
The Nets are 1-3 without Randy Foye, who has missed every game thus far with a lingering hamstring issue. On the flipside, the Nets are 0-1 — and in their ugliest showing yet — without Vasquez. Although the Nets’ big signing this summer was Lin, they needed a guard overhaul in its entirity. Without the Venezuelan, the Nets were forced to play the antsy Isaiah Whitehead at point guard, which didn’t end up so well against established veterans like Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade.
At times, instead, we saw Kilpatrick handling the ball — which is fine, but not ideal, obviously. With Vasquez missing tonight’s game and Foye still lingering on the doubtful side of things, the Nets will need to find a quick solution to their backup point guard spot and fast.
Bonus: Will Stan Van Gundy give us any memorable sound bites?
This isn’t so much a question as it is an excuse to play this classic video. The brothers, Jeff and Stan, are the gift that just keeps on giving.