Teams: Detroit Pistons @ Houston Rockets
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Television: CSN Houston
Notes: In the first meeting between the Rockets and Pistons, Dwight Howard had easily his best game as a Rocket, putting up 35 points on 13-18 shooting, with 19 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Not to mention, he went 9-14 from the free throw stripe.
The Pistons have lost six of their last seven and are giving up almost 109 points during that stretch, six points higher than their season average.
Insider’s View – Q&A with Brady Fredericksen of Pistons Powered.
MF – In the first meeting between Houston and Detroit, Dwight Howard had his best game as a Rocket. For a player that relies so much on shots at the rim for his offense, even someone as talented as Howard, it was surprising that he was able to dominate the Pistons high-profile frontcourt so handily. Has this been a problem all year or are the Pistons normally better at defending big-men/protecting the rim?
BF – The Pistons have steadily improved when it comes to defending the rim, but as a whole, they’re still a poor defensive group. The main issue is that they’re so slow when it comes to rotations and basic foot speed on defense. They essentially start two centers in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond along with Josh Smith at small forward when he’s a natural power forward. You’d think that would be tough to penetrate, but the results are mixed. Monroe is a subpar defender who’s athletic limitations hurt him at power forward, while Drummond — for all of his amazing physical attributes — is still a pup when it comes to NBA-level defense. Smith is just stuck too far from the basket most of the time to be a factor in the paint defensively — it’s a bad mix all around.
Speaking of that frontcourt, the trade deadline came and went and Greg Monroe is still a Piston. The three-headed monster of Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond is clearly not working, so as far as you can gather, what are the Piston’s plans for the future regarding Monroe or even Josh Smith? And was management perhaps hesitant to let GM Joe Dumars make any more moves before re-evaluating his position with the team this summer, or were there trades on the table that just couldn’t get done?
I tend to think it was more along the lines of ownership wanting to stand pat. Once owner Tom Gores fired Maurice Cheeks after just 50 games, it sort of felt like that was a sign of Dumars’ end. Really, it was probably good that they didn’t make any moves. I doubt there was a truly major move out there that would improve the team dramatically. Any small trade would just be re-shuffling the deck, essentially. Josh Smith’s value can only go up, and Greg Monroe is going to be an asset this summer whether he’s returning to the Pistons or not.
After seeing how the addition of Josh Smith affected the Pistons spacing and shot selection, it’s not totally surprising that Detroit has struggled with their offensive efficiency. What is surprising, though, is that Detroit is 26th in points allowed and 23rd overall in Hollinger’s defensive efficiency metric despite all that size and talent. What has been the biggest issue with the Pistons’ defense?
They’re just slow. Smith isn’t built to be on the perimeter, and when you combine him and Kyle Singler (a small forward stuck playing shooting guard) you’ve got a definite lack of foot speed on the floor. Brandon Jennings is quick, but he’s a gambler and poor man-defender. When you combine all of that, you get a team that doesn’t rotate on shooters well, which leads to breakdowns — So. Many. Breakdowns.
Luigi Datome was the Italian League MVP just last year and from everything I read, was expected to at least be a rotation-quality player in the NBA. Is the Association just that big of a step up, or is it something else?
I’m mixed on Datome. On one side, he’s got a reputation as a great shooter and he plays for a team that has few, but in his appearances this season, he’s been a complete mess. Despite being a very athletic player in the European game, he’s been brutal defensively, and his shot has been non-existent. He’s 6-for-33 from 3-point range, and combined with his subpar defense, he’s not really worth playing if that’s how he’s going to produce. Honestly, with the position the Pistons are currently in, it can’t hurt to give Datome another run in the rotation. If he plays well and helps, good for the team. If he plays poorly and hurts the team, good for the team’s lottery chances.
True or False – Andre Drummond is the next great true-center.
Maybe? I really hate crowning players when they’ve never accomplished anything. Drummond has shown flashes of really great ability, but at the same time the only real improvement he’s made this season is, well, that he gets to actually play. His rookie year per-36 numbers are essentially what he’s doing now. As Drummond begins to learn to defend the post better — and he’s been torched by guys like Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson in the past few months — he’ll get better. I do feel comfortable saying he’s the best rebounder in the league, and much of his production is stemmed off hustling to get to offensive rebounds. Detroit has a tendency to take some pretty ugly shots in the halfcourt, but Drummond does a fantastic job of cleaning up a terrible trip by converting the miss into a putback.