We are officially in the month of December and while the 2013-14 NBA season is still in the early stages, plenty of fans are already taking notice of the Detroit Pistons who are currently 6-10 in the Eastern Conference. Center Andre Drummond is growing to be a fan favorite and is already receiving votes for the 2014 All-Star game. Not to mention all the fans who believe the Pistons will be able to earn a nice playoff seed this season and give a few teams a challenge this year.
While no one can deny that the Pistons have improved, keep in mind that there is still plenty of work to be done with the Pistons varying from the starting line-up to the defense.
However, I am really happy with the play of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and I must say that I am not surprised. I said during the off-season that these two would play well together in the post and could be the future of the Pistons together and so far they are doing that. Monroe is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds a game which means he is nearly a walking double-double. He is still working on his defense seeing that it is difficult to defend the power forward position these days but I have no doubt his defensive play will improve. When it comes to Drummond, I can’t say enough about this young man. He is clearly a walking double-double averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds so far this season and the scary thing is, he hasn’t even learned to play the game yet. Basically meaning that he has yet to developed a full on post game, so most of his points come from hustle and rebounds, so think about how great he will be once he develops his offensive game and the Pistons run more plays for him. The possibilities are endless.
Which leads me to Josh Smith, who I am not happy with yet this despite the fact that he is averaging 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. I just don’t feel that this three big-man experiment is working. As I said before the season, Smith is not a true small forward, I feel he is more of a power forward. He isn’t a consistent shooter and is currently shooting 27% from three while averaging around four three-points attempts a game. Then on top of that, he isn’t able to drive to the basket and finish at the rim due to the paint being clogged up at times. Now it’s not all bad with Smith, he is an underrated passer and does a good job of setting his teammates up at times but again he isn’t giving the full “Josh Smith experience” because he isn’t consistently doing what he does best which is posting up and taking it to the rack.
With that being said, some fans are starting to say they would like to see Smith be put on the bench and come off the bench as a sixth man. Then you have those who want Monroe to be benched so he can come off the bench and be the sixth man and Smith can be the starting power forward. Now both are fine scenarios, with Monroe and Drummond together, you get athleticism, length and overall great play on both sides of the ball. With a Smith and Drummond paring you have athleticism and explosiveness. Regardless of what head coach Mo Cheeks decides to do with the line-up there is a possibility that one of the three players won’t produce the way they need to or one of the three players could have a problem with being benched.
Now keep in mind that I never like the signing of Josh Smith, because I felt we didn’t need him, I said from the beginning we had a great post duo in Monroe and Drummond. I felt the Pistons needed a true small forward such as Andre Iguodala who is now playing with the Golden State Warriors. Now to be fair the Pistons did make him an offer but he decided to sign with the Warriors which is understandable because his career is winding down and he wants to compete for a championship. Nonetheless, my point is I wanted the Pistons to sign a true small forward this off-season and if that wasn’t available, I would have encouraged them to be patient and wait for 2014 free agency and 2014 NBA Draft to go grab a true small forward.
Plus financially, the Pistons can’t afford to keep Drummond, Monroe and Smith. They signed Smith to a lucrative contract then you have to remember they signed point guard Brandon Jennings to a nice contract this off-season as well. With the way Monroe is playing, he will have earned the right to want a lucrative contract and the same could be said about Drummond when his time comes for a contract extension. So again I don’t think the Pistons will be keeping all three big men mainly because they can’t afford it.
Which leads to a lot of fans wondering who the Pistons will trade because most feel it is unlikely to be Drummond, so that leaves Smith and Monroe. Since Monroe’s contract is expiring he is the more logical choice and now it has you wondering how the Pistons will handle this. They could attempt to trade Monroe for draft picks obviously but they could also go for a shooting guard or small forward. Options are there, it’s just a matter of seeing what the Pistons do.
So as you can see the Pistons have some big questions to answer despite the fact they are playing solid basketball. Before I move on to the next thing, let me re-iterate that I would like to see this Smith, Monroe, Drummond line-up work, I just don’t think that it will in the long-run.
The other complaint I have right now is the Piston defense. While they rack up plenty of steals each game because of their great length, I encourage you to not buy into the hype. Mainly because they allow their opponents to score 100 points a game and shoot 48% from the field which is why the Pistons rank last in the NBA defensively. Now it all starts with the perimeter defense, Jennings may be quick but he isn’t the best defender and tends to reach too much allowing too much penetration. Then you have Smith, who struggles to check the quicker small forwards and he tends to take plays off. As I mentioned earlier, Monroe has his moments of inefficient defense against power forwards because he isn’t the most mobile depending on the match-up. Now obviously it is still early, so there is plenty of time to fix these issues but it starts with the perimeter defense improving because they can’t count on the Andre Drummond to stop everyone.
My final complaint has to be the amount of jump shots I am seeing and you can trust that I am seeing a lot since they are averaging around 20 three-point attempts a game. Why? I have no idea, especially since they lack any true shooters that they can count on, seeing that they are currently shooting 28% from three. So hopefully those numbers will change as the season goes. I really would like to see the Pistons do a better job of spreading the floor and actually run some plays. At times I still see too much isolation or jump shots, when you have a roster like the Pistons have, it’s all about movement and putting each player in the best position to score.
The Pistons must also do a better job of finishing games. There is no doubt that they are competitive team but they lose a lot of their games in the fourth quarter. Sometimes it’s a lack of execution by the players but other times I have to blame head coach Mo Cheeks because of the non-play calling or questionable lineups I see at times.
All this is to say that the Pistons have improved and are playing steady basketball so far this season but if the defense doesn’t improve and some changes aren’t made to the line-up, they may continue to play steady but may not expand to playing great. Now that isn’t to say that I think the Pistons have to be a championship-caliber team right now because that’s unrealistic but I don’t want to see them stay at “steady” all season long, I want to see them get better every game and I haven’t seen that yet but again it is still early. I am proud of the improvements I am seeing so far, I just want to see more and hopefully I will as the season goes on.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com