After squandering their cap space in the summer of ‘09 on two of the worst contracts of the past decade, Joe Dumars has begun to embrace the tried and true approach to rebuilding a team in the NBA – keep payroll flexibility, acquire lottery picks, don’t miss on those picks. But Dumars must also properly and proactively evaluate the talent on his own roster. His most important evaluation this season, is Brandon Knight.
Knight won’t turn 21 for another month. Although he showed flashes last year, he raised many doubts as to what his future ceiling may actually be. Certainly rushing to judgement on a young point guard is senseless. But this is precisely why Dumars must soon identify whether Knight will ever be capable of dominating games. If Knight is not destined to be a difference maker, then his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. He has the perfect combination of an appealing trade piece: a cheap contract, talent, and youth.
To win in this league today, you need a core unit of 3 elite level players. Greg Monroe looks close to getting there. Andre Drummond is capable of getting there. Beyond that, no one on this roster projects to coming close, meaning they should all be expendable with the ultimate goal of finding that 3rd piece. The 1st round pick sent to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon trade leaves the Pistons with one fewer coveted asset to build with. But it also gave them the cap flexibility to facilitate trades. Detroit may not be able to attract a high level free agent on the open market. But they can trade for one looking for a new deal like the 76ers did with Andrew Bynum and the Rockets with James Harden.
Dumars will likely be patient with Knight and hold onto him at least until his rookie deal expires. Patience is defensible. Though it’s fair to wonder how much of it Tom Gores will have. Brandon Knight is most likely destined to be a solid scoring guard who will have a long and productive career. That’s not a bad outcome for the 8th pick in the draft, but it won’t be enough to get Detroit back in The Finals. And really, isn’t that all that matters?
Almost. For most of the game, the script looked to be playing out as expected. The Spurs were methodically beating the Pistons and imposing their veteran prowess on them. The Palace was quiet. But then, on a night where Ben Wallace broke the record for most games played by an undrafted player, he hit just his 7th career 3-pointer to spark a 20-5 Detroit run. In the end, the savvy Spurs executed better in crunch time and emerged victorious 99-95. But make no mistake; this was Ben Wallace’s night.
- In addition to the big 3-pointer, Ben played great defense and had a couple big offensive rebounds in the last few minutes.
- Rodney Stuckey finished with 23 points on 8-12 shooting. Greg Kelser made a great point that Stuckey’s points came within the flow of the offense tonight. He didn’t force things and was efficient because of it.
- Tayshaun shot the ball well, especially in the 1st half. Maxiell set some nice screens to free up Prince and Tay knocked down the open shots.
- Speaking of Maxiell, his box score doesn’t show much, but he did a nice job starting at power forward. He had 2 highlight worthy blocks and is definitely still capable of “baby-eating” when given the chance.
- Greg Monroe was off tonight. 4 points, (2 for 11 shooting), and 6 rebounds is not going to cut it for the Pistons best player. But he has taken a huge leap this year and one off night is certainly forgivable for the young forward.
- Manu Ginobili had just one point in 25 minutes. That one point came when he was intentionally fouled with less than 20 seconds left. In fact, he didn’t do much of anything all night except flop and flail when presented with any contact.
- Matt Bonner made his first three shots (all 3’s). I don’t understand why teams ever leave him open. I also don’t understand how Bonner is able to be such a great jump shooter with a jump shot uglier than mine.
- The Pistons had 22 assists and more importantly, just 13 turnovers, a low number for them.
For the fans that continue to stick with this team and invest free time and/or entertainment dollars, nights like tonight are rewarding. Sure, the final few minutes were a reminder of the long and difficult road ahead. But Ben Wallace had a few tricks up his sleeve and provided fans a reason to get off their seats and couches and cheer. And on this night, where he was honored for his consistency and longevity, Ben gave us all a reminder of why we love the Pistons, and why we love him. I’ll never forget watching Ben Wallace in a Pistons uniform this past decade. Tonight, he gave us all one more memory to enjoy.
The Bucks beat the Pistons 102-93. In a bottom line business, it’s tough to look past a scoreboard. But considering the previous 5 games Piston fans witnessed, this was a welcomed return to exciting, competitive basketball. For the Pistons, the night belonged to Greg Monroe. “Moose” finished with a career-high 32 points to go with 16 rebounds.
- Monroe continues to bring it every night. He was extremely efficient and made plays all night long. He contributes in so many ways and seems to be improving in some area each game.
- Rodney Stuckey returned from injury after missing the past 4 games. He took Will Bynum’s spot off the bench and played a solid all around game.
- Brandon Knight played a great first half with 15 points. He finished the game with 20 and was much more assertive than Tuesday night.
- The teams combined to make all 41 free throws attempted, (24 for Detroit, 17 for Milwaukee).
- Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee in scoring with 27. Stephen Jackson made a number of big shots in the 4th quarter to seal the win. Jackson had 25.
- Jon Leuer (Wisonsin) started for the Bucks and outplayed Jonas Jerebko. The Pistons passed on Leuer in the draft, opting for Duke’s Kyle Singler who is playing overseas this season.
- The Bucks shot 11 for 22 from long range, a thorn in the Pistons side all night.
- Ben Gordon continued his poor shooting. He was largely invisible for a guy that played 40 minutes. The Pistons highest paid player finished with 9 points.
- Detroit fell behind by double digits early, but fought back to briefly take the lead in the 2nd quarter.
- The Pistons made a late 9-0 run to get within 3, but Milwaukee’s lead was too much to overcome.
- This is the first single digit loss of the season for Detroit, who is now 2-9.
For the past few days Piston players and coaches discussed their desire to find a rhythm and flow on offense. For a large majority of this game, they had it. Detroit’s guards looked to penetrate at every opportunity. The number of bad possessions was minimal, save for the requisite number of turnovers a rookie point guard will get you. Still, the team outscored its season average by 10. There were a number of breakdowns defensively that ultimately was the Piston’s downfall. But for a young team still finding its way under a new coach, tonight’s improvements should be something to build on. They will get their chance tomorrow night in Charlotte.