Hopefully, Andre Drummond won’t have an opportunity to be a productive member of Detroit’s second unit this season because he’ll be too busy starting. But for the time being, Drummond is considered a reserve, and after scoring 18 points with 10 rebounds and two blocks in a 108-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday, it’s pretty clear he’ll be more ready to contribute something right away more quickly than most anticipated.
Drummond’s performance wasn’t without its hiccups — he fouled out in 25 minutes and he still sometimes leaves his feet too much on defense (Drew Gooden beat him badly with a pump fake in the fourth quarter). But he provides energy, defense and dunks when he’s on the court and, although the Pistons overall played very poorly for the second straight preseason game, their rookies are giving some hope that the Pistons could piece together a competent bench despite the struggles of some veteran players.
Charlie Villanueva shot 1-for-9 in 16 minutes. Austin Daye was 1-for-3. Both players, whose biggest asset is their 3-point shooting, have yet to make a 3-pointer in three preseason games. The Pistons came into this game having made just 4-for-31 from three in their previous two games, so although Daye and Villanueva didn’t do anything to bolster that effort, Kim English and Khris Middleton did in their first preseason action.
English shot 2-for-3 from three and Middleton was 3-for-6. In the two times I’ve watched English as a Piston (the other being the open practice), he seems to jump in the air a bit too much, and it can result in turnovers like a really bad pass he made in the fourth quarter tonight. Middleton had a pretty well-rounded effort with 11 points, five rebounds three assists and two steals. He moves well and his shot mechanics look good despite the fact that he didn’t shoot a particularly great percentage from three in college. The potential for him to be a good shooter seems to be there.
Some weaknesses of the Pistons have obviously been exposed this preseason, but perimeter shooting has been a big one. If the Pistons are going to have good spacing for Greg Monroe to operate in the post or if they’re going to create driving lanes for Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, they’re going to need players to knock down shots. Through two games, that looked like it would be a serious problem this season. After tonight, it still could be, but at least Middleton and English showed that if the players in front of them on the depth chart aren’t making shots, they have the ability to do it.
Poor frontcourt defense
Jonas Jerebko and Corey Maggette got the starts at the forward spots tonight, and both played well offensively. Maggette had 14 points and Jerebko had 11. Both shot over 50 percent. But they were part of a frontcourt defense that was pretty uninspiring.
Ersan Ilyasova got pretty much anything he wanted against any defender the Pistons threw at him. Sam Dalembert was 5-for-6 off the bench. Drew Gooden and John Henson didn’t shoot particularly well, but neither guy had a problem getting quality looks. Small forwards Marquis Daniels, Tobias Harris and Mike Dunleavy also had no problem getting good shots, even though Dunleavy was the only one from that group who shot well. Ilyasova is a really underrated player, but the Pistons are going to see far better frontcourts than Milwaukee’s this season. Their reserves are going to have to provide more resistance than what we saw tonight.
Knight’s turnovers creeping up, but he continues to create for others
The obvious weaknesses in Knight’s game as a rookie were the fact that he turned it over too much and he didn’t create good shots for others enough. So far this season, we’ve seen improvements in one of those areas. He had eight assists against the Bucks after having six and five in the first two preseason games. But his turnovers have crept up from two to five to six against Milwaukee.
Turnovers are obviously problematic, but they’re easier to live with if his passing continues. He only took six shots against the Bucks and he really seems to be making efforts to be a pass-first player. A few times tonight, he seemed to be a little too unselfish, which may have contributed to his turnovers. The Pistons need Knight to be a passer, but they also need his scoring and shooting.
Stuckey off to poor shooting start
Last night, I mentioned Tayshaun Prince‘s cold shooting to start last season as a contributing factor to the Pistons’ poor start. It’s also worth mentioning that Rodney Stuckey got off to a really poor shooting start last season and, like Prince, he’s struggled so far this preseason. Stuckey is just 8-for-22 through three games. He also has eight turnovers. He’s still getting to the line some, but like with Prince, the Pistons don’t really have a margin for error this season, so both guys have to get off to solid starts once the regular season opens.