PISTONS PREVIEW: From the mind of a bad boy blogger

Nuggets Pistons Basketball

After using the hapless Toronto Raptors to snap their five-game losing streak, the Nets return to the Barclays Center (tonight, 7:30pm) to face another team that, on paper, the Nets should beat with relative ease, the Detroit Pistons. However, long-endured fans of the Nets know that no matter how clear the talent discrepancy may be, usually nothing comes easy.

The Pistons could present the Nets with some challenges in the front-court where Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond may feast on the Nets, especially if Brook Lopez misses tonight’s game (Listed as PROBABLE).

Joining me to share some insight on the current state of the Pistons is Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered, the Detroit Pistons ESPN TrueHoop affiliate. For real time takes on tonight’s game from the Pistons point of view you can give him a follow. I asked him three questions about the Pistons and tonight’s game.

Away we go!

Patrick Hayes on the Detroit Pistons

Justin: Nets fans are certainly familiar with the coaching styling’s of Lawrence Frank, but now in his 2nd season with the Pistons, I’m wondering how those around the organization ultimately feel about the long-term vision and direction that Coach Frank has put in place in Detroit?

Patrick: I think Pistons fans are decidedly less enthused with Frank this season than they were last season. Detroit started this season with fans feeling pretty good. They finished .500 over the last 42 games last season and lucked out in the lottery again when Andre Drummond fell to them at No. 9. But the team got off to another slow start (I know, I know, we have no reason to complain about a slow start considering Frank’s slowest of starts his last season with the Nets), something that has become a bit of a Frank staple, which frustrated fans. Then compounding things, Drummond was even more ready to contribute than even those in the organization thought he’d be based on their preseason comments about expectations for him, and Frank has been glacially slow to account for that surprising production by increasing Drummond’s workload.

The biggest complaint about Frank has been his rotation. For a rebuilding team, he’s still pretty heavily reliant on veterans (even limited ones on expiring contracts who may not be here next season like Jason Maxiell and Corey Maggette). Drummond has played consistent minutes, but nowhere near the minutes he should be receiving considering his best attributes — rebounding and protecting the rim — are two of Detroit’s biggest deficiencies. And the one drastic change Frank did make, subbing Kyle Singler into the starting lineup for Rodney Stuckey, which added needed perimeter shooting to the first unit and let Stuckey begin to thrive as a playmaking combo guard leading the second unit, wasn’t even Frank’s idea. Stuckey actually had to beg his way out of the starting lineup, as weird as that sounds. The biggest issue with Frank’s rotation is simply his unwillingness to play Drummond and Greg Monroe together. They rarely see the court at the same time, and when Frank is asked about why he doesn’t play them, he gives evasive, vague answers.

I wouldn’t say that Frank’s tenure has been a disaster. After all, he’s following up awful coaching tenures by Michael Curry and John Kuester, so the bar for him has been pretty low. But for a coach that preaches defense, for a franchise that desperately needs its young players to develop rapidly, Frank has underwhelmed in both those areas. The defense, though (very) slightly better this season, is still bad and the team is not playing its young players enough.

Justin: With Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight the Pistons seemingly have a young, solid core to build around, at least on the surface. The question is, what types of pieces are needed now to fill out the roster so that those three can maximize their potential?

Patrick: With Drummond, if he maximizes his potential, he’s the type of game-changing defensive presence who can play with any type of lineup and make it better, so the pieces around him don’t matter all that much. For Monroe and Knight, there are definite types of players who can help.

Knight still has a ways to go learning the point guard position. His natural inclination is to score, and he’s actually doing that much more efficiently this season (he’s raised his field goal percentage to 43 percent from 41 percent, 3-point shooting from 38 percent to 43 percent and true shooting percentage to 55 percent from 51 percent). He’s made a noticeable effort to pass more, to create shots for others, to more mixed results. He’s had some great games in that regard, but in others he’s made sloppy or late passes that result in turnovers or he looks to pass so much that he forgets that the team needs his scoring as well. He hasn’t found that balance just yet, though he is making progress. As for the types of players to put around him, they should be in the Monroe mold. Monroe is a great, unselfish passers. If the Pistons surround Knight with more players in the lineup who are naturally good, willing passers who can set up shots for others, it would decrease the pressure on Knight to do that. Adding some more players capable of hitting perimeter shots is vital too. Detroit has been so in need of perimeter shooting that they’ve dusted off perennial amnesty candidate Charlie Villanueva, who is now firmly entrenched in the rotation (and, to his credit, playing much better than he has his previous three seasons in Detroit).

As for Monroe, they already added the biggest complementary piece he needed in Drummond. Monroe’s weaknesses are his athleticism and his defense. Adding a big, athletic, shot-blocking center like Drummond should help Monroe immensely on the defensive end. As far as offensively, he just needs players around him who can shoot. Monroe has taken on an increased role in Detroit’s offense this season, but because the Pistons have had trouble spacing the floor with their lack of great 3-point shooters, teams have thrown extra defenders at Monroe, forcing him into turnovers or rushed shots. To truly unleash his passing ability, the team needs a great shooter or two who can make teams pay for cheating inside on him.

Justin: Finish this sentence: For the Pistons to be competitive tonight they need to _______?

Patrick: Force Brooklyn’s guards to shoot a lot. Despite having a decent field goal percentage defense, the Pistons tend to give up a large number of open jumpers. That’s largely a product of their bigs needing significant help inside. Against the Nets, helping keep the ball out of the hands of Brook Lopez and letting Deron Williams and Joe Johnson become volume shooters isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That, of course, doesn’t guarantee a win for the Pistons either, but Lopez is precisely the type of talented big man who Detroit typically can’t handle defensively. If Lopez has a big game, the Pistons probably lose.