This is the final installment of this year’s Detroit Pistons Roundtable. Again, here’s the panel:
- Dave Pemberton, The Oakland Press
- Chris Iott, MLive.com/ Booth Newspapers
- Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press
- Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press
- Keith Langlois, True Blue Pistons
- Eli Zaret, Detroit Pistons
- Patrick Hayes, Full-Court Press
- Justin Rogers, Full-Court Press
- Natalie Sitto, Need4Sheed
- Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys
- Kevin Sawyer, Detroit Bad Boys
- Mike Payne, Detroit Bad Boys
- Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation
- Jon Young, Flagrant2
- Dan Feldman, PistonPowered
I want to thank everyone listed above for participating. I think this year’s roundtable has gone great and the bar is set very high for next year.
For the final question, I ask each roundtable participant a separate question. So, please give your thoughts on the questions that interest you in the comments.
Dave Pemberton, The Oakland Press
A lot of Pistons fans want to draft Keith Benson. How do you evaluate his NBA potential? (Pemberton used to cover the Oakland men’s basketball team for The Oakland Press.
The two big knacks on Benson are strength and defense. Benson has to add strength to his 6-foot-11, 225-pound frame to be affective at the NBA level. Defensively, he can come up with the highlight-reel block, but has trouble defending stronger players one-on-one. He averaged 10.5 rebounds per game, but will have trouble getting in good position against NBA talent unless he adds strength.
Benson’s offensive game showed a lot of improvement this past season. He has good footwork and a nice touch around the basket. He has a solid mid-range game and shot 72.4 percent from the free-throw line. The one knack again is strength and being able to get good position against NBA talent.
Head-to-head against likely lottery pick Cole Aldrich of Kansas, Benson had 20 points, six rebounds and four blocks, while Aldrich had four points, nine rebounds and three blocks. The two were roommates at the Amar’e Stoudemire skills camp last summer.
My guess is Benson will return for his senior season, but if he comes out and is available in the second round he might prove to be a good pick. I don’t see him as an early lottery pick this season, which is where Detroit will be picking.
Chris Iott, MLive.com/ Booth Newspapers
What has surprised you most about your first season covering the Pistons?
It is shocking how good the chocolate chip cookies that get delivered each game to Rick Mahorn are, but I have had only one, so further testing is needed. The Pistons’ locker room is substantially smaller than I expected, especially when compared with the Tigers’ clubhouse. The officials yell at the coaches a lot more than I thought they did. Ben Wallace had a much bigger impact on the team than I thought he would.
Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press
Which of the new Pistons is the best interview and why?
I actually like Ben Wallace. When he has something to say, he is very insightful and is a lot more gregarious than he lets on.
Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press
You’ve written that Pistons fans have become apathetic. Does it surprise you how disinterested they’ve been this year, and do you think their enthusiasm has room to go lower?
I’m not surprised. This was the convergence of a lot of different forces. The first and most obvious is the economy which has affected all of the local teams. The second is the long, sustained run of success that the team had. It was a terrific decade, but by the end, it had grown stale to the point where fans actually complained that the winning had gotten boring. Third was the wildly unpopular trade for Allen Iverson. Joe Dumars traded away the most popular player on the team (and maybe in the state) for a malcontent who submarined everything. And now we’re left with a bad team where the effort is easy to question on any given night. Can it go lower? I suppose anything is possible. What is there here to root for? There are no stars. There is no excitement. There is no trademark for the team. If ESPN were promoting a game, how would they do it? Come see Richard Hamilton and the Detroit Pistons? That won’t sell any seats.
Keith Langlois, Detroit Pistons
Who in the organization do you think has taken this season’s struggles the hardest?
Anybody who hates losing has absorbed the agony of this season, but John Kuester has to be the one who’s endured the most anguish. Veterans like Wallace, Prince and Hamilton haven’t experienced losing of this magnitude for years, if ever, but the success they’ve experienced has to mitigate this season’s disappointment to some degree. Joe Dumars knows the ebb and flow of the business. The rookies and young veterans have to focus as much on finding their niche as on the bigger picture of team success. But Kuester waited a long time for his shot at being a head coach and he knows this goes on his record. To have his shot undermined so thoroughly by injuries clearly has worn on him.
Eli Zaret, Detroit Pistons
Which current Piston do you think would make the best broadcaster after he retires and why?
Autin Daye wants to be a broadcaster and has a great grasp of the language; has an high basketball IQ and comes from a basketball family (Darren). He’s the obvious choice,seeing as he’s already doing man on the street interviews for the team website and in-arena show.
Patrick Hayes, Full-Court Press
As you’ve researched rookies for your Draft Dreams series, who has impressed you most compared to your initial impression and why?
Wall and Turner are obviously amazing and getting either of those guys could be potentially franchise-altering for Detroit. But there are a few less heralded players who I really like.
Feldman’s already made fun of me for this (I think it’s just the jilted UM fan inside him), so others will probably follow suit, but I love Ekpe Udoh. The knock on him as a prospect was the fact that his offensive game is not NBA ready. After watching about four Baylor games late in the season, including their tourney game against Duke, I think he’s much better offensively than people give him credit for. He’s a very good passer for a big man — Baylor was running their offense through him at times. He can turn and face up, put the ball on the floor a bit and he has range out to the college three-point line, something he didn’t have at Michigan. Udoh’s surged up draft projections as the season’s went on because of this.
Defensively, he’ll block shots. He needs to get stronger if he’s going to be the biggest player on a NBA team, but he’ll really help a team picking in the 10-15 range. The Big 12 was a good league for big men this year, and Udoh held his own.
I also love Georgetown’s Greg Monroe and Xavier Henry of Kansas. Monroe is one of the more polished bigs offensively in recent drafts and is a great passer. His defense is iffy, but he’s the most NBA-ready offensively of any college big.
Henry is raw, but he’s going to develop into an insanely good, physical and intense perimeter defender. He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s athletic and he’s competitive, all the traits in a lockdown defensive guy. I’m not as sold on his offense as his defense, but he’ll be a very good NBA player for a long time.
I like Patrick Patterson a lot as a late lottery/mid first round big who’s just solid in several facets of the game. Basically, I love everyone except Cole Aldrich.
Justin Rogers, Full-Court Press
Who will be a better defender with the Pistons, Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva?
This is a tough question to answer, but I’m leaning toward Gordon. He’s fairly strong for his size and he’s quick. If the Pistons offer solid help defense, Gordon’s deficiencies can be covered up. For his size and skill set it always surprises me how painfully slow Villanueva moves. His only serviceable defensive skill is the occasional blocked shot.
The number one thing I’d like to see both players work on is their pick-and-roll defense. Gordon has to be more physical working through screens and Villanueva has to be more efficient at both showing on the ball handler and recovering to his man.
Natalie Sitto, Need4Sheed
If you were going to reconstruct Sheed using elements of current Pistons, what traits would you take from whom?
I would rather focus on the Swede than Sheed right now, but here goes.
The new and improved Sheed would have:
- Jonas Jerebko’s heart and hustle.
- Ben Wallace’s shot blocking.
- Jason Maxiell’s ability to take on anyone and go after every board.
- Tayshaun’s wingspan.
- Will Bynum’s speed.
- Ben Gordon’s shot (from last season).
- Rip Hamilton’s training techniques.
- Austin Daye’s temperament.
- And nothing from Charlie Villanueva.
Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys
Your bio (on the left sidebar) says you took a charge from Shane Battier. What’s the story there?
There is no story – it’s just a joke. Battier went to my high school and was friends with my older brothers (he was a baseball teammate of one of my brothers). I played AAU basketball through ninth grade and attended the Duke basketball camp in 8th grade because Battier went there. We talked a lot and played one-on-one, but I never took a charge from him. In fact, I was terrified of him (6’8" vs. 5’10") and he blocked A LOT of my shots. I think I lost like 21-1. I know some people don’t like Duke very much, but there’s nothing to dislike about Battier – he’s an all-around class-act, a smart basketball player, and an even smarter person.
Kevin Sawyer, Detroit Bad Boys
You wrote at midseason, "I don’t think the Pistons are a playoff team with Jerebko playing 30 mpg." Do you still think that’s the case and why?
I do. First, I think he needs to grow into his role as a sort of enforcer on the defensive end. Second, I think he’s going to need those three fouls a game in order to maintain his effectiveness. He’s new to the league, so his profile could change, but I think he’s going to bring the bulk of his value at the defensive end. Again, I’ll cite Varejao as a comparison point.
Mike Payne, Detroit Bad Boys
Do you think Charlie Villanueva realizes how good he is inside? After writing that post, is it even more infuriating watching how he plays?
I think Charlie’s confidence has taken quite a hit, but I’m sure he realizes how good his inside game is (hey, he shared my article on Facebook). Personally, I’m not bothered by Charlie’s offense. Some may complain about his three point attempts, but this is as much a result of coaching as it is about Charlie’s preference on offense. Pistons fans are still scarred from the Ways of Rasheed, and Charlie’s three point shots are not as welcome as a result. If Kuester didn’t want Charlie taking perimeter shots, he’d draft plays accordingly.
The infuriating part about Charlie’s play is obviously his defense. It’s absolutely painful to watch. His non-existent D and bad fouls have led John Kuester to pull him out of the starting lineup and then limit him to less than 18 minutes a game. Kuester’s philosophy with Charlie is that you can earn minutes and shot attempts by playing solid defense. What’s ironic, however, is that Villanueva earned solid minutes under stern, defensive stalwart Scott Skiles. Now, Villanueva has begun earning DNP-CDs and no one really notices.
I’m hoping, as he likely is as well, that Charlie can turn it around next year. In a perfect world, Villanueva would spend the summer in Ben Wallace’s weight room, drinking Myoplex and guarding pick-and-rolls. With our luck, he’ll likely end up in Sean May’s kitchen drinking mayo and eating dinner rolls.
Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation
You always seem to enjoy highlighting former fringe Pistons. Who is your favorite and why?
Never thought about it that way. I guess more than anything I enjoy being a fan of Pistons basketball and the team’s history. It’s easy to root for players like Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, etc., but real fans know that the stars need guys to fill roles to help the team excel.
I don’t know if I can point to a clear favorite but one guy I feel that was pretty underrated that I enjoyed was Zeljko Rebraca. Zelly was a rugged low post player who had a nice touch down low. Plus he had that cool Silver Surfer tatt on his left arm.
Jon Young, Flagrant2
With a relatively new blog, what do you add to the Pistons blogosphere?
I do a weekly top-5 countdown on Mondays. It can range from anywhere to top 5 ugliest players to top-5 dunks, blocks etc. I mix it up and do something different every week. I try to have a recap of each game before the morning, and give insight to every game.
- How good would the Pistons have been this season if they weren’t hit with so many injuries?
- If you had to build a team around a current Piston besides Rodney Stuckey or Jonas Jerebko, whom would it be and why? (Please note if you’d rather build around this player than Stuckey or Jerebko.)
- Rodney Stuckey has been a key part of the Pistons’ long-term plans. Should that status change?
- If you were Joe Dumars, would you be on a one-year plan, two-year plan, three-year plan, etc.? What does your answer mean for this offseason?
Like with the other questions, please post your answers in the comments. I’d like this roundtable to involve everyone reading, too.