When your team adds $80 million dollars in salary over three and four years apiece for two players, there is no time for letting the other players develop. Individual expectations are even higher when the other three starters in the lineup were all taken in the top ten of their respective draft. However, the Pistons currently boast the NBA’s youngest starting lineup at just 23 years of age, and the 8th youngest team in the league overall. How are the young players developing and how are the veterans responding to their big contracts and contract years?
CHAUNCEY BILLUPS – G – 6’3, 210 lbs; 17th Season
2002 Tayshaun Prince Kentucky 1st 23rd 2003 Darko Milicic Serbia 1st 2nd 2003 Carlos Delfino Argentina 1st 25th 2003 Andreas Glyniadakis Greece 2nd 58th 2004 Rickey Paulding Missouri 2nd 55th 2005 Jason Maxiell Cincinnati 1st 26th 2005 Amir Johnson Westchester HS 2nd 56th 2005 Alex Acker Pepperdine 2nd 60th 2006 Cheikh Samb Senegal 2nd 51st 2006 Will Blalock Iowa State 2nd 60th 2007 Kevin Durant Texas 1st 2nd 2007 Jeff Green Georgetown 1st 5th (By Boston) 2007 Carl Landry Purdue 2nd 2007 Glen Davis LSU 2nd 2008 D.J. White Indiana 1st 29th (Traded to Seattle) 2008 Walter Sharpe UAB 2nd 2008 Trent Plaisted BYU 2nd 2008 Deron Washington Washington 2nd 59th 2009 Austin Daye Gonzaga 1st 15th 2009 DaJuan Summers Georgetown 2nd 35th 2009 Jonas Jerebko Sweden 2nd 39th 2009 Chase Budinger Arizona 2nd 44th (Traded to Houston) 2010 Greg Monroe Georgetown 1st 7th 2010 Terrico White Ole Miss 2nd 36th 2011 Brandon Knight Kentucky 1st 8th 2011 Kyle Singler Duke 2nd 33rd 2011 Vernon Macklin Florida 2nd 52nd 2012 Andrew Nicholson 1st 19th 2012 Kyle O'Quinn Norfolk State 2nd 49th 2013 Victor Oladipo Indiana 1st 2nd 2013 Romero Osby Oklahoma 2nd 51st
Mr. Big Shot probably wasn’t brought back just to be a locker room presence. However, that is about all that he has brought to the Pistons this year. His three-point shot hasn’t been there to stretch the floor off of the big three, he doesn’t score efficiently inside the arc and he turns it over as much as he creates buckets for others. His 8.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) ranks him as a low-level reserve who should only see the floor if injuries hit. Someone should probably tell Mo Cheeks this, because Billups plays close to 20 minutes per game when he dresses.
WILL BYNUM – PG – 6’0, 185 lbs; 7th Season
Will Bynum had a good season last year, really good if you consider that he was a backup. In a contract year! His 16.6 PER suggests that he was a starter-quality player coming off the Pistons bench last season. This year, Bynum has slipped back to being a role player. Injuries and the lack of a spot in the rotation have caused Bynum to only play in 14 of Detroit’s first 30 games. When he has played, Bynum has done what he always does: Run around with the ball a lot. His 23.4 Usage Rate suggests that he handles his share of Detroit’s possessions when he’s on the floor. As far as quality, Bynum has shot well above his means from deep (career 27.3% shooter). He’s done an okay job of taking care of the ball, but he struggles to score efficiently. That being said, he should probably get some of Chauncey’s minutes. Like the other Pistons PGs, he doesn’t pass the eye test defensively.
KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE – SG – 6’5, 205 lbs; 1st Season
2003 Dwyane Wade, SG 1st Marquette 5th 2003 Jerome Beasley, PF 2nd North Dakota 33rd 2004 Dorrell Wright, SF 1st South Kent HS (Connecticut) 19th 2004 Albert Miralles, PF 2nd Spain 40th (acquired from Toronto) 2004 Pape Sow, PF 2nd Cal State Fullerton 48th (traded to Toronto) 2004 Matt Freijc, SF 2nd Vanderbilt 54th 2005 Wayne Simien, F 1st Kansas 29th 2007 Reyshawn Terry, SF 2nd North Carolina 44th (traded to Dallas) 2007 Milovan Rakovic C 2nd Serbia 60th (acquired from Dallas) 2008 Courtney Lee, SG 1st Western Kentucky 22nd 2010 Daniel Orton, C 1st Kentucky 29th 2010 Stanley Robinson, SF 2nd UCONN 59th 2011 Justin Harper, PF 2nd Richmond 32nd (acquired from Cleveland) 2011 DeAndre Liggins, SG 2nd Kentucky 53rd 2012 Andrew Nicholson, PF 1st St Bonaventure 19th 2012 Kyle O'Quinn 2nd Norfolk State 49th
KCP has struggled with typical rookie issues this season. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, with both of his field goal efficiency measures below the 50-mark. His non-scoring numbers don’t offer much either, although his low usage rate offers some explanation for that. The one positive from KCP’s stats profile is his low turnover rate. The one positive that does not show up in the stats table is his defense. Recently he turned in a gem of a performance, guarding MVP-candidate Paul George for long stretches on a night where George finished with 17 points on only 4-14 shooting. However, you can’t justify a role player as a lottery pick and we need to see more consistency and promise from him on the offensive end.
LUIGI DATOME – SF- 6’8, 215 lbs; 1st Season
1995 Bryant Reeves, C 1st Oklahoma State 6th 1995 Lawrence Moten, G 2nd Syracuse 36th 1996 Shareef Abdur-Rahim, F 1st California 3rd 1996 Roy Rogers, F 1st Alabama 22nd 1996 Chris Robinson 2nd Western Kentucky 51st 1997 Antonio Daniels, PG 1st Bowling Green 4th 1997 C.J. Bruton 2nd Indian Hills CC (Iowa) 52nd 1998 Mike Bibby, PG 1st Arizona 2nd 1998 Felipe Lopez, G 1st St. John's 24th (acquired from Spurs) 1998 J.R. Henderson, SF 2nd UCLA 56th (acquired from Lakers) 1999 Steve Francis, G 1st Maryland 2nd 1999 Obinna Ekezie 2nd Maryland 37th
Luigi Datome has struggled immensely to adjust to the differences between the NBA game and what he was accustomed to in Europe. Billed as a strong three-point shooter, Datome is connecting on a measly 20.8% from deep so far this season. This doesn’t appear to be caused by a lack of confidence; Datome takes 17.5 field goals per 36 minutes and has a 23.2% usage rate. Far too high for a rookie coming overseas. He turns the ball over on more possessions than he assists and is a sub-par rebounder for his position. Datome has looked good in the past few games, but needs to establish himself to truly earn his minutes.
ANDRE DRUMMOND – C – 6’10, 270 lbs; 2nd Season
2005 Chris Paul 1st Wake Forest 4th 2005 Brandon Bass, PF 2nd LSU 33rd 2006 Hilton Armstrong, C 1st Connecticut 12th 2006 Cedric Simmons, F 1st North Carolina State 15th 2006 Marcus Vinicius de Souza, F 2nd Brazil 43rd 2007 Julian Wright, SF 1st Kansas 13th 2007 Adam Haluska, SG 2nd Iowa 43rd 2008 Darrell Arthur 1st Kansas 27th (acquired by Memphis via Portland) 2009 Darren Collison, PG 1st UCLA 21st 2009 Marcus Thornton, SG 2nd LSU 43rd (acquired draftee from Miami) 2010 Cole Aldrich, C 1st Kansas 11th (traded to Oklahoma City) 2010 Craig Brackins, PF 1st Iowa State 21st (acquired from OKC) 2010 Quincy Pondexter SF 1st Washington 26th (acquired from OKC)
The Big Penguin is the first player on this list who can be proud of himself this year! The expectations were high for Dre coming off a stellar rookie season, and he has lived up to the hype thus far. Drummond ranks 2nd in the NBA in rebounding rate, is the league’s top offensive rebounder and is ranked in the top-50 in True Shooting% as a low-usage big man. If you’re a fan of conventional stats, Drummond only trails DeAndre Jordan in FG%. Andre doesn’t get to play with Chris Paul either. Drummond’s Achilles Heel, free throw shooting, has been stagnant from last year, only seeing a .8% increase in his free throw percentage. Nobody’s perfect. One strange number does appear when comparing his rookie season to his second season: his block rate has decreased from 6.1% to 4.6%. He hasn’t become any less scary of an athlete, so perhaps he plays defense in fear of foul trouble. His defense has failed to pass the eye test as well at times; his technique still needs work. That being said, he’s increased his offensive rating, his defensive rating and is on pace to shatter his Win Shares from last year when he finished at 4.5. This is the development of an All-Star, franchise cornerstone player. Enjoy it.
JOSH “JORTS” HARRELLSON – C – 6’10, 275 lbs; 3rd Season
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The short version of this section reads: #Harrellson4MVP. Who could’ve expected the value that Josh Harrellson has brought to Detroit this season? He’s shooting 40% from three, scoring 54% of his two-point attempts, rebounding adequately and staying within himself. There have been several games this season where he kept Detroit in the game while one of the big three (lookin’ at you Andre) were in foul trouble. Starter-quality minutes off the bench that probably aren’t sustainable, and Jorts for life everybody!
BRANDON JENNINGS – PG – 6’1, 170 lbs soaking wet; 5th Season
Minutes 29 #1 Points 15.2 #1 Assists .8 Top 12 Steals .7 Top 10 Rebounds 5.9 #2 FG % 44.7 Top 10 3P% .5.3 Top Ten
We’ll just get this out of the way and get to happy things: Brandon Jennings is very, very bad on defense. If you’ve watched a game, you’ve seen it; no need for explanation there. However, there have been some incredible developments in Jennings’ game playing for Mo Cheeks this season. He’s increased his assist rate almost a whole 5% above his previous career high. With this has come only a slight uptick in turnover rate, and he’s hardly increased his usage. Jennings is playing at an efficiency level he hasn’t seen in his career other than 2011-12, and that year he was more of a scorer than a true Point Guard. Brandon has been true to his word so far this year; he said he would set up his teammates, and he’s done it. He’s also getting to the free throw line more frequently. If he can keep this up, it would be the best season for a Pistons PG since Chauncey was in his prime.
JONAS JEREBKO – F – 6’10, 230 lbs; 4th Season
DraftExpress Artem Klimenko Center Russia NBADraft.net Mitch McGary Center Michigan Gary Parrish, CBS Sports Bogdan Bogdanovic Shooting Guard Serbia Zach Harper, CBS Sports Spencer Dinwiddie Guard Colorado Matt Moore, CBS Sports LaQuinton Ross Forward Ohio State Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders Deonte Burton Point Guard Nevada Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders Johnny O'Bryant Center Louisiana State Steve Kyler, Basketball Insiders Dwight Powell Forward Stanford Yannis Koutroupis, Basketball Insiders Bogdan Bogdanovic Shooting Guard Serbia NBA Draft Insider DeAndre Daniels Small Forward Connecticut
Jonas is only playing 7.8 minutes per game this year, and that’s probably the appropriate amount. He’s shot the ball better than he has in the past, but that’s been his only area of improvement. His rebounding, passing and ability to take care of the ball have all been poor this season. He’s not the worst player on the team. Congrats, Jonas.
GREG MONROE – F/C – 6’11, 250 lbs; 4th Season
Points 9.8 Top 20 Assists 4.7 Top 15 Steals 2.5 Top 2 Rebounds 3.6 Top 15 FG % 47.3 Top 10 3P% 30.2 27th
Greg Monroe has felt the effects of the Josh Smith signing so far this season. His PER, Rebounding Rate, TS% and Usage Rate have all decreased in his fourth season in Detroit. Once looked upon as the building block of the franchise, he may now be the one shown the door if Detroit breaks up their “Big Three” (I hate that nickname, we need a new one). Numbers can only get you so far; they don’t tell you why Monroe’s production has slipped this season. He’s being asked to expand his range past his natural talents to accommodate Andre and Josh, and it’s hurting his shooting and rebounding efficiency. I don’t think he’s regressed as a player, but his ability to fit on this team has been diminished. Unless there’s a solution to the floor spacing issues, his best value to the organization may be as a trade asset. Moose has done his part well and he’s done it quietly; it just feels like there should be more there.
KYLE SINGLER – G/F – 6’8, 230 lbs; 2nd Season
DraftExpress Joe Harris Small Forward Virginia NBADraft.net Damien Inglis Small Forward France Gary Parrish, CBS Sports Bogdan Bogdanovic Shooting Guard Serbia Zach Harper, CBS Sports DeAndre Daniels Small Forward Connecticut Matt Moore, CBS Sports Jordan Adams Shooting Guard UCLA Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders Deonte Burton Point Guard Nevada Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders Johnny O'Bryant Center Louisiana State Steve Kyler, Basketball Insiders Dwight Powell Forward Stanford Yannis Koutroupis, Basketball Insiders Bogdan Bogdanovic Shooting Guard Serbia NBA Draft Insider DeAndre Daniels Small Forward Connecticut WalterFootball.com Dwight Powell Power Forward Stanford Sam Amico, Fox Sports Ohio Joe Harris Small Forward Virginia
I’ll get this out there before I say anything else: Kyle Singler is my least favorite Piston. Bias acknowledged. That being said, his numbers look okay. His best value is as a scorer, as he has improved his ability to get to the FT line (his FT rate has doubled from last year) and his shooting touch from the floor. He doesn’t do much else well, and his rebounding and passing numbers have taken a slight tumble from last year’s marks. His biggest area for improvement should be taking care of the ball. He provides good hustle and energy off the bench, which has been big for them with Datome’s struggles at the SF position.
JOSH SMITH – F – 6’9, 225 lbs; 10th Season
Memphis Grizzlies 3 1 23 Philadelphia 76ers 3 1 22 Boston Celtics 3 1 21 Indiana Pacers 3 1 21 Detroit Pistons 3 1 19 Orlando Magic 2 2 16 Miami Heat 1 3 13.5 Oklahoma City Thunder 1 3 12 Brooklyn Nets 1 3 8 Houston Rockets 0 4 4.5
This one could probably be broken down into two sections: Josh Smith in the first 24 games, and Josh Smith in the last 6 games. Josh Smith in the first 20 games gets an F. He was terrible, abysmal, hard to watch and the least intelligent player in the whole league. He shot way too many threes, wasn’t rebounding like he did in Atlanta, appeared to be an extremely overrated defender and was the inspiration for many of the stupidest suggested trades you’ll see on the internet. Josh Smith for the last player on Sacramento’s bench? Sounds like a great deal! However, during the last 6 games Smith has been a completely different player. Over the last 6 games he’s averaging 23.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG all while shooting 49.3% from the field. He’s raised his PER up to where it now sits at an even 15.0, decreased his 3-point attempt rate and improved his shooting efficiency numbers. Simply put, Josh Smith over the last 6 games has been what the Pistons thought they were getting when he signed him this summer. The Pistons are 3-3 in that stretch, but it hasn’t been Smith’s fault, which is a welcome change from the struggles the Pistons encountered in the first 24 games, which were mostly attributable to Smith. He’s been nothing short of an All-Star caliber player over the last 6 games, and the Pistons need more of that to secure home-court advantage for their first-round playoff series over the next 52 games.
RODNEY STUCKEY – SG – 6’5, 205 lbs; 7th Season
Rodney Stuckey is playing like he’s in a contract year so far. The much-maligned former combo-guard has seen the benefits of strictly playing the Shooting Guard position this season. He’s bounced back well from his worst year in the league, increasing his scoring efficiency back to his normal levels and giving the Pistons the scoring they need off the bench. He’s been slowed lately by injuries, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue being the sixth man the Pistons need. Seeing as he’s in the last year of his deal and doesn’t exactly fit into the Pistons’ long-term plans, Stuckey could see some trade discussion near the deadline in the middle of February. Until then, he’ll continue to be the 2nd-most underrated player on the roster behind Big Ol’ Jorts.
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