Well, I might just retire from writing about Pistons open practices.
I wrote about Andre Drummond looking a step slow defensively and rushing things on offense, then he promptly went out and was a game-changer on defense and only took good shots at the rim on offense in a win over the Toronto Raptors. I wrote about Slava Kravstov looking like the more ready defensively and offensively of the two rookie centers, then in his preseason debut Friday against those same Raptors, he looked a bit slow defensively, picked up three fouls in 17 minutes and turned the ball over four times.
I think the obvious conclusion is that both players could potentially help the Pistons at times this season, but both could also have moments when their inexperience is a liability. Kravstov made all three of his shots and all four of his free throws for 10 points, so at the very least, both guys should be high percentage finishers around the rim and both guys are athletic enough to go up and over opposing players. That’s a skill the Pistons need and probably something that will get both on the court most of the season, even if their minutes fluctuate back and forth.
Drummond only played five minutes Friday, scoring two points with a steal and a block. It would’ve been nice to see how he followed up his breakout performance in the first preseason game, but Lawrence Frank lived up to his promise to basically only use a 10-man rotation.
In Friday’s game, it was another rookie big man who proved to be too much to handle. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas is active and strong inside. The Pistons struggled to keep a body on him and he finished with 11 points (4-for-7 shooting) and eight rebounds in 29 minutes. He looks to be as good as advertised. If that continues, if Drummond continues to improve at a fast rate and if Anthony Davis is who most everyone thinks he is, this year’s class of rookie big men in the league will be really special.
Unfortunately, I guess I’m compelled to write more about what actually happened on the court tonight. Here goes …
The stretch four … uh … competition? I guess?
The assumption is that Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye, who the team seems to consider more of a four than anything else at this point judging by their preseason comments, are competing for one stretch four role. If that is truly the case behind the scenes, neither guy is off to the greatest start. Villanueva played Wednesday and shot 3-for-12 and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. Daye played Friday and shot 2-for-11 and 0-for-3 from 3-point range.
Both guys have deservedly taken turns being the punching bag of Pistons fans for their underwhelming performances over the last three seasons. I think many wouldn’t mind seeing one or both playing for a different team. Unfortunately, though, the Pistons really need a credible 3-point shooter, so unless a trade is made to bring someone in who fits that description, the Pistons are depending on one of these players to get it going by the end of preseason. As a team, they are 4-for-31 from 3-point range through two preseason games. That has to get significantly better or they have no chance at their stated goal of making the playoffs.
Jonny Flynn and Terrence Williams get in
Dan and I have written enough about how little a chance Flynn and Williams have of making the team that I don’t need to spend a lot of time rehashing. Both got a chance to audition tonight, though, and for once, something I wrote from that open practice recap actually played out on the court. Flynn was underwhelming (although he was one of only two Pistons to shoot better than 50 percent) with two assists and three turnovers in 12 minutes. Williams didn’t shoot well (1-for-4), but showed off what his size and vision can bring to the team as a backup guard. He had five rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 24 minutes.
I still don’t think either guy earns a spot, but both times I’ve seen Williams on the court, I’ve seen exactly why Frank is intrigued by him as a point guard. He sees the floor incredibly well and, despite being much bigger than most point guards, he’s quick enough to stay in front of them and his length can be really bothersome. If he’s committed to playing defense, the team could use a lockdown perimeter defender who can also pass on the bench. That might be worth finding a spot for if some other players continue under-performing.
Tayshaun Prince’s shot isn’t falling
My New Season’s Resolution is to stop harping on Tayshaun Prince so much. I think it’s obvious through two preseason games that he’ll probably have a reduced role in the offense and, in the first game, he genuinely was one of the players who helped the Pistons have really good ball movement.
One area for concern though — he’s shot just 5-for-18 in two games. Prince shot a bad percentage last season overall, but that was mostly because he got off to a brutal start to the season shooting. He picked it up in the second half some, but his poor shooting early on is part of why (though far from the only reason) the Pistons started the season so poorly. The team needs him to start the season stronger, so hopefully the long preseason this year helps him get off to a stronger regular season start.
A few other notes …
- Brandon Knight wasn’t as aggressive attacking the basket tonight, which was disappointing, but he did finish with five rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes. He turned it over three times, but everyone will live with some turnovers as long as his assist numbers keep trending up.
- Greg Monroe once again didn’t fare well against Valanciunas, but he did get better at not getting his shot blocked. Monroe had his shot blocked four times in the opener, none were blocked tonight.
- Rodney Stuckey played a little out of control. He got to the line five times and scored 14 points, which is fine, but he had four turnovers with no assists and he shot five 3-pointers. It’s good that his range is extended out to the 3-point line now, but I’m not sure him shooting that many threes in a game will ever do the Pistons much good.
- Kyle Singler shot 3-for-12. Between him and Daye struggling to shoot, Khris Middleton not playing at all yet and Corey Maggette and Prince being old, I like Jonas Jerebko’s chances of playing a lot of small forward this season more and more.