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Better Know an Opponent: Detroit Pistons Edition

A Question & Answer Session with Detroit Bad Boys


In the odd hours of the morning I exchanged emails with Detroit Bad Boys writer Ben Gulker about his team the Detroit Pistons. Given that Dallas only sees the Pistons twice a year, I'm generally less informed about the team than other squads, and I found his answers to my questions fantastic. I also answered some of his questions and I'll link here as soon as its up.

Please take the time to visit Detroit Bad Boys to learn more about the Pistons prior to tip off.

1. Andre Drummond fell to Detroit at number nine in the draft this summer. By all accounts, he seems to have surprised nay Sayers with his early play, posting good numbers in limited playing time. Why isn't he seeing the floor more and what sort of ceiling do you think he has?

I was a pretty harsh critic of the Drummond pick on draft night, but thus far, Drummond has made the crow I've had to eat taste pretty good. Yes, he makes his fair share of rookie mistakes, and yes, he is very, very raw on the offensive end, but in my book, he more than makes up for it with his tenacity on the glass and his ability to alter and block shots.

Coach Lawrence Frank has stated multiple times that he's committed to bringing Dre along slowly, and he's sticking to his guns. Frank has always been pretty consistent with his coaching in that if people make mistakes on D - especially by missing rotations on help side D - they don't get big minutes. I don't agree with either of those lines of thought, but they're the only explanation any of us can piece together.

2. After a rough start, Detroit is 5-4 over its last nine. What were the reasons for the early season struggles and what's changed?

Detroit's opening schedule was brutal. Their opening game of the season was at home against the Houston Rockets, and they ran into a James Harden buzzsaw out to prove OKC made the wrong move. That was followed up by a six game West Coast road trip, where the Pistons lost every game, and was followed up by a very close loss to OKC at home. We Pistons fans knew going into this year that it was going to be a rocky start.

However, Coach Frank has also done some tinkering with the lineup that seems to be working. Rookie Kyle Singler has been moved to the starting lineup, and Rodney Stuckey has been moved to the bench to play the super sub sixth man role - something many of us have been hoping for since he was moved into the starting lineup prematurely following the trade of Chauncey Billups.

Also, as an advocate of advanced stats, I'd be remise if I didn't point out that the Pistons efficiency differential projects them as a 7-10 team, which is better than their W-L record suggests.

3. Brandon Knight seems to be having an up and down year at point guard. Is he the long term answer there or does he just need time to grow?

Up and down is a friendly way to describe it. I'd say it's more like being on a roller coaster after just having stuffed your face with elephant ears and cotton candy.

Brandon Knight is not a PG. He's done a better job racking up assists this year, but that's been accompanied by an increase in turnovers. Yes, he's only 21. Yes, he only played one year in college. So yes, he's not a finished product yet.

But realistically, Brandon Knight is not a starting NBA point guard. Instead, his best case scenario appears to be as a Jason Terry type player, who can come off the bench and fill either guard position depending on match ups. Knight's greatest strengths are that he can flat out shoot the ball from deep, and he can make the defense pay in transition - but more often than not, those strengths get lost in his struggles while attempting to run a half-court offense.

4. Kyle Singler is looking like a steal (picked 33 in last years draft). Have you been surprised by his play?

Absolutely. Again, as an advanced stats guy, Singler's college production wasn't all that remarkable, in spite of a highly decorated career at Duke. However, he was playing a lot of 3 and 4 in college, which may explain that productivity.

Frank has chosen to play Singler at SG, and it's paid off in a big way. I can't say it any better than our own Mike Payne, so go check his piece out. Kyle Singler's rise appears to be the real deal.

5. What are the goals for the Pistons this season?

Your guess is as good as mine.

As a franchise, Detroit appears largely directionless. On the one hand, there's clearly an effort to get younger. Young guys like Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler, Rodney Stuckey, and Greg Monroe are all playing big roles and appear to be part of a future core of players Dumars wants to continue with.

On the other hand, aging veterans like Corey Maggette, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum, and (recently) Charlie Villanueva continue to play very large roles in favor of younger developing players like Kim English, Jonas Jerebko, and Andre Drummond.

As has been the case since Joe Dumars traded Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson that fateful day in 2008, Dumars doesn't appear to be committed to a complete and total rebuild around a young core of guys.

If it were up to me, things would look very different. In particular, I'd be looking to develop Kim English, Jonas Jerebko, and Andre Drummond with significant playing time and not worry about my record in the short term.

Thanks for your time!