Pistons roundtable: Wildcard questions

Dave Hogg, Associated Press freelancer

You mentioned you created your own player-rating system. What’s the philosophy behind it? Does it point to any current Pistons being undervalued or overvalued (in terms of perceived value, not just salary)?

The problem that I’ve had with ratings like John Hollinger’s PER is that they base 80% of a player’s rating on his offensive numbers. That’s how you end up with PER showing Bruce Bowen as one of the worst players of the last decade. You can use blocks, steals and defensive rebounds, but there is no way to reasonably weigh those stats enough to get a decent balance between offense and defense.

That problem has been dealt with already, but in a different sport. When Bill James created his Win Shares system, he adjusted defensive ratings for the overall defensive performance of the team. If you think about it, that makes even more sense in basketball. Teams aren’t going to play lock-down defense with a group of bad individual defenders.

So my system adjusts each player’s rating by his team’s overall performance on defense and, to a much lesser extent, on offense. I think it works – according to my system, the greatest defensive player
in NBA history is Hakeem Olajuwon, followed closely by Bill Russell. I don’t think too many people are going to scream too much about that. There are two types of players that my system rates differently than conventional wisdom – guys who grab a lot of offensive rebounds and high-quantity shooters. The two best examples play on the same team. I’d argue that Pau Gasol is the most underrated player in the NBA, and Kobe Bryant is the most overrated. Over his career, Ben Wallace has probably been the most overlooked star in basketball, and my stats still show him as a very effective player. You couldn’t win with five of him, but he still makes an impact with his rebounding and defensive skills. Ben’s not what he was in 2004, though.

At this point, I’d say the player my stats say is better than people realize – outside the Pistons twitter community, anyway – is Greg Monroe. The guy who couldn’t finish from six inches in November has become a reasonably effective scorer, he rebounds at both ends and he passes well. They do need him to block more shots, but that may come with time.

Overrated? Well, the last time I checked, Hollinger thinks Rodney Stuckey is Detroit’s best player. I’ve already made it clear that I don’t agree, and neither do my stats. Austin Daye probably doesn’t deserve quite as much love as gets, and that’s coming from the guy who helped popularize the #freeaustindaye hashtag. He just doesn’t rate highly in any statistical category.

Dave Pemberton, The Oakland Press

Oakland men’s basketball team against the six Pistons who played in Philadelphia. Who wins?

As good as Oakland has been this season they can not beat an NBA team, even one with six players.

On the Pistons DaJuan Summers may be regulated to wearing suits or playing in mop up time if he’s lucky, but you could argue he would be Oakland’s best player if he suited up in the black and gold. Keith Benson will be an NBA draft pick, maybe even a first rounder, but beyond that only Reggie Hamilton has a chance at sniffing the league.

The Grizzlies could try to keep the pace up and get Detroit tired, but in the end Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Greg Monroe, Summers and Charlie Villanueva would have their way with the likes of Hamilton, Benson Drew Valentine, Travis Bader and Will Hudson.

Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press

You recently wrote about the need to shed Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, but is there a contract the Pistons could offer Prince this summer that would justify his return,or should they part with him at all costs?

It’s just time.

My point in the Freep was that from a purely basketball standpoint, it makes sense to bring Prince back. He’s still a very good all-around player. He’s a good glue guy. He’ll never be a superstar, but he plays hard and makes other players better. But Prince and Hamilton both represent the Pistons past and it’s time to turn the page. Hamilton has done most of the damage to the team with his petulant behavior in regards to John Kuester. But Prince hasn’t helped. He’s supposed to be one of the leaders and he got into it with Kuester on the floor in Oakland. And then he defended Hamilton’s immature actions by calling the coaching moves “buffoonery”.

You can’t make roster decisions based solely on fans. But you have to be influenced by how the fans are reacting to a certain team. The fans have grown tired of this team and some of their grumbling and whining. It’s time for a fresh start for all parties involved – including Prince.

Justin Rogers, MLive.com

Although you’ve advocated they play more up-tempo, the Pistons have been one of the NBA’s slowest team’s this season. How much better do you think they could have been this year had they committed to a fast-paced philosophy in training camp?

Actually, I don’t think they could have been much better playing a faster tempo.  I think certain player would flourish, particularly Stuckey, Gordon and Bynum, but it wouldn’t propel the Pistons to a better record.  What it could have done was make them more fun to watch, because let’s face it, nothing is harder to watch than a bad basketball team that plays at a methodical pace.

Mike Payne, Detroit Bad Boys

I know you have haven’t been the biggest fan of what Tayshaun Prince brings to the table. In a world where he magically vanished before training camp, how different would the Pistons look?

You mean Isolayshaun Prince?  DBB reader Kriz coined that name and I adore it.  I’m bothered more by Detroit’s usage of Tayshaun than I am of Tayshaun himself.  Tay was great as a fourth option back in the Going to Work days.  On this team, he’s sporting the highest usage rate of his career and dominating the ball to the detriment of the Pistons offense.  It’s painful to watch.  Our point guard (I use that term loosely) dribbles the ball up the court, passes it to Tayshaun who immediately burns a good six seconds of shot clock while players kinda move without the ball.  He’ll then either a) pass it to a veteran or b) attempt an isolation move against one, two or sometimes three defenders.  Fortunately for him, he’s pretty good at it.  Unfortunately, it’s one of the main causes of this team’s sluggish pace and its inability to properly move the ball.

If anything, I blame John Kuester.  I understand that he excelled at designing an offense around LeBron James, but Tayshaun Prince is not LeBron James.  I think somebody needs to explain that to him.

How would this team’s offense look without Tayshaun?  Well, different, that’s for sure.  Think of half of those Isolayshauns winding up in the hands of Greg Monroe in the post instead.  McGrady worked out pretty well at the point this season, and I would have loved to see McGrady as distributor, Daye and Gordon off-the-ball on the wings, Wilcox at the pivot and Monroe as a secondary distributor.  I’m not talking about the “number one option and primary distributor” Greg Monroe as he was in Georgetown, but the second point of ball movement for an inside-out offense.  I would at least have liked to watch that instead of what we saw this year using Prince in that role.  This was his thought bubble on every possession:  “Gonna just hold the ball now, lank it out of reach of my defender.  Four seconds, five seconds, six seconds…  Okay, is Rip open?  Damn, he’s not.  Buffoonery.  Austin is open on the wing, and there are two defenders on me in front of the basket.  I think I’ll just drive for a hook now.”

Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys

Another year, another bio-related question. Your Awful Announcing bio says you have “a knack for creatively integrating famous calls into every day conversation.” For those of us who don’t already have that skill, what’s the best way to integrate George Blaha’s catchphrases into our everyday conversation?

Another year, another (not that funny of a) bio joke. I love famous calls from announcers, which is what attracted me to AA back when it started several years ago and again back in August when Bloguin asked me to help resuscitate it as an editor, but I don’t actually go around imitating Marv Albert when my wife asks me if I want steak for dinner (although the answer is always, YES!).

Here’s a couple Blaha patents to try though: after introducing yourself to somebody you’ve just met, introduce your friend to your side, no matter who it is, as “K.T., Kelly Tripucka.” I used to do this all the time, it was never actually Kelly Tripucka, and it was always good for a laugh (or a WTF!?). If that’s too weird and outdated, “don’t look now, [the Pistons are down just ... ]” is an easy one to implement into everyday conversation. For example, “don’t look now, I just made you a dentist appointment,” or “don’t look now, I did the laundry and turned your favorite shirt pink.”

Kevin Sawyer, Detroit Bad Boys

You’ve compared the Pistons to a Cormac McCarthy novel and Iran, but I’d like to believe we’re only scratching the surface of your talents for metaphors. If the Pistons were a food, which food would they be? If the Pistons were a common household item, which common household item would they be? If the Pistons were a signer of the Declaration of Independence, which signer of the Declaration of Independence would they be?

Food: The Pistons are like Bruschetta. Looks okay on paper, and you don’t mind the components individually, but the execution is always awful and you wind up with a soggy mess. By the time the entree comes around, you have a half eaten plate of sadness. Household item: The Pistons are like a cheap food processor. You wanted a good one, but you figured a cheap one was an improvement over nothing, and you wanted to change up your cooking habits. Now, you’re left with a glorified blender that can’t even take on peas. Signer: William Williams.  Arrived late. Didn’t actually vote for independence.  Cited stomach flu.

Natalie Sitto, Need4Sheed.com

When it’s all said and done, what do you think Richard Hamilton’s and Tayshaun Prince’s legacy will be among Pistons’ fans?

Most fans have short memories, they will look back at the Eastern Conference finals runs an the Championship and hold both player in high regard.  It’s the fans that take the team seriously and invest their time and money into the team that will feel different.

Tayshaun won’t take as much heat as Rip, but  Hamilton did the team and their fans wrong. Detroit will never be “Rip City” again.

Ben Gulker, Pistons by the Numbers

Among Pistons fans, you’ve been the most ardent supporter of David Berri’s Wins Produced numbers. I find the stat fairly flawed, so I want to put you on the spot a bit to stir debate on the subject. A player has the ball with the shot clock winding down and a tough defense swarming him, a fairly common situation. From a Wins Produced perspective, what should that player do?

Before I attempt to answer this question, I’ll offer a very brief explanation of Wins Produced and what it does and doesn’t say about players. If you’re interested in more info, there are several great resources online.

To put it as simply as possible, Wins Produced (and its per minute measure, Wins Produced per 48 minute), takes box score statistics and connects those statistics with wins and losses. Generally speaking, players who shoot efficiently, grab rebounds, and avoid turnovers produce wins. Conversely, players who don’t shoot efficiently, don’t crash the boards, and turn the ball over frequently don’t.

It’s important to understand, though, that while Wins Produced explains productivity generally, it does not tell us how and why the player is productive by itself. For example, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo are both very productive players, but they are productive in different ways. In other words, there are several things players can do to produce wins, and not every player who is rated highly by Wins Produced is good at every single one of them.

Let’s take Ben Wallace as a familiar example. According to Wins Produced, Ben Wallace produced 133 wins for the Detroit Pistons between 2000-2006, which puts him among the top win producers of the last decade. But how was he so productive? Ben Wallace dominated the game through defense and rebounding, which generated an incredible amount of possessions for his team and limited the number of possessions of the oppositions. But, Big Ben wasn’t a good shooter, and smartly he rarely took a shot that wasn’t high percentage.

In a nutshell, Big Ben was so productive because generated an incredible amount of possessions for his team by dominating the glass and the defensive side of the basketball. And although he didn’t score much, he didn’t waste his team’s possessions by taking shots he wasn’t going to make.

With that in mind, let’s return to Dan’s question. Although Wins Produced doesn’t explain the why and how of player productivity by itself, it does illustrate that avoiding turnovers, scoring efficiently, and collecting rebounds are all important to winning.

So, the player who finds himself in Dan’s situation should be mindful of the three following things:

1) Don’t turn the ball over. A turnover completely eliminates the chance for a positive result. Even if the player takes a bad shot, there’s a chance a teammate could snag an offensive rebound. Turnovers produce losses because they result in empty possessions 100% of the time.

2) Identify the highest percentage shot that’s available, which varies from player to player. If Ben Wallace is trapped in the corner, passing out of the double team to any open player is likely to be the best bet, because even though Big Ben is a very productive player, he’s not a good shooter. However, if it’s TMac, one of the Pistons most efficient scorers and most productive players overall, there are several options that could generate positive results, including taking a tough shot over a double team.

3) Crash the boards, especially positions 2-5, because an offensive rebound gives your team a fresh possession and keeps possession away from the opposition.

Steve Kays, DetroitBasketball.net

You’ve stuck up for Charlie Villanueva a little bit, based on his production and contract. If he been a free agent last summer, what kind of offers do you think he would have received?

I admit I’ve been disappointed with Charlie Villanueva’s career as a Piston. But if he had been a free agent last summer, I think a team still would have given him a contract similar to the one the Pistons gave him (5 years and $37.5 million – all salary stats via shamsports.com).

In the NBA, young big men usually get paid well Especially if they can shoot (“stretch fours”). It’s the reason why Rashard Lewis is making over $19 million this season. The following power forward were all free agents last summer and have similar career stats compared to Villanueva: Al Harrington, Luis Scola, Drew Gooden, Channing Frye, and Amir Johnson.

On average each players was 27.6 years old and signed a contract for 5 years and $34.4 million. The season prior to signing that contract, those players on average put up 13.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Charlie Villanueva, age 24, averaged 16.2 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game the season before he signed his contract with Detroit in 2009. Villanueva was also the second-youngest of those five players and the third-best three-point shooter.

Out of those five players, I’d rather have Villanueva than Frye, Gooden, and Harrington. Johnson is a toss-up and I would definitely rather have Scola.

The bottom line is that the market called for a player like Villanueva to be worth a contract approximately 5 years and $34.4 million. And it’s worth noting that in the summer of 2009, Villanueva was arguably the best big man available on the market. It’s unfortunate that he’s turned into a 3-pt specialist (46% of his field goals are three-pointers, compared to just 23.5% in his final season in Milwaukee) and has regressed as Piston, but his signing made more sense at the time.

Jakob Eich, Bynumite Blog

Obviously there a lot of other factors in evaluating a coach, but strictly on Xs and Os, how do you rate John Kuester?

It is tough to evaluate a coach solely on the Xs and Os when he has clearly lost the support of the team. Do they execute the plays how he wants to execute them? Do they run the plays he calls? I guess I would still give him a D!! The play calling I have seen was not bad at all. He likes to run certain plays and I think some of them are a bit too easy. Most times he has four or five defensive liabilities on the court at the same time!  I do blame him for under-performing offensively, though. The team was put together in order to be an explosive offensive team. How can a team featuring scorers like Stuckey, Bynum, Gordon, Hamilton, Prince, Villanueva and Daye, all widely considered productive and efficient scorers, struggle offensively so much? You get the most out of a team by playing to your strengths, not your weaknesses, Detroit won’t lock anyone down soon, why try? Kuester could be a serviceable head coach for defensive-minded squad or a good defensive assistant coordinator on a contender. As a head coach for the Pistons, he could be worse strictly on Xs and Os.

Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered

You’ve staunchly defended Will Bynum, and you’ve been fairly critical of Rodney Stuckey. Who is a better player right now? Who will be a better player in two years?

See, I know what you’re doing here Feldman. You’re sitting there all self-satisfied like, “Ooh la la … I finally trapped Patrick with a question he’s going to have to answer honestly and admit he’s wrong about something.” But you’re not good enough. You’re the Stan Van Gundy to my David Stern.

I don’t think Will Bynum is a better player or prospect than Rodney Stuckey. These are the points I’ve argued, and I’m not going to back off from them:

– Bynum has done a much better job in his primary role (backup guard/energy guy off the bench) than Stuckey has in his (starting point guard). And because Stuckey is eligible for an extension that, if he gets it, will give him a significant raise based more on his potential than anything he’s accomplished to this point while Bynum is locked into a pretty reasonable contract for a backup guard, Bynum represents more value to the team because he’ll produce in his role while Stuckey could get overpaid to fill a role he’s underperformed in.

– Bynum better embodies the Joe Dumars kind of player from the 2000s teams. He’s scrappy, he had to fight just to have a NBA career and he carries an immense chip on his shoulder from teams that overlooked him or didn’t think he was good enough. Stuckey, on the other hand, was given a starting job he wasn’t ready for, he performed inconsistently at it for nearly three seasons, he was given that job at the expense of bigger name veterans (Billups and Iverson) and that just doesn’t represent the values Dumars used to build teams around.

– Bynum deserved a cursory opportunity to start sometime over the last two seasons. I’m not saying I think he would be better than Stuckey. He might be significantly worse. But Bynum has played well for this team when he’s been healthy. He plays hard. He’s produced offensively. And with virtually every other player, some who don’t work as hard as he does, getting chances to start over the last two seasons, Bynum deserved an audition at the starting PG spot, especially after Stuckey and Tracy McGrady both lost that spot at different times this season.

At worst, Stuckey is a dynamic combo guard off the bench for a contending team. If he ever puts things together, he has the tools to be a valuable starter at either guard spot for several teams. He’s physically skilled enough to be the best defensive guard in the NBA. Bynum possesses none of those traits. My “defenses” of Bynum are more a result of me simply enjoying watching a guy who gets a ton out of his limited talents, who seems to really enjoy playing the game and has provided as many exciting moments as any Piston since he’s been on the team.

My criticisms of Stuckey are a result of my belief (still) that he’s capable of so much more. It’s maddening that he seems content to simply scratch the surface of his talents. He’s the most physically gifted player on the Pistons roster, and it’s not even close. Incremental improvement isn’t acceptable in that case. He’s been entrusted by the organization as a potential franchise cornerstone, and even if Dumars has made some bad moves, he’s not wrong to see so much potential in Stuckey’s game. After four seasons in the league, it’s likely this is as good as it gets with Stuckey. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player at all, there’s no question that he’s a useful NBA player. But it’s extremely frustrating because he could be much more than that.

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