Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. It appeared that the Pistons’ focus during their rebuild was to craft a team around their talented duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Do you think that’s still the plan today?
Dan Feldman: I don’t think that has ever been the plan, at least not to the extent it should have been and should be. It took the Pistons way too long last season to play Drummond enough and somehow even longer to give him reasonable minutes with Monroe also on the floor. Then, the Pistons signed Josh Smith, who has unsurprisingly clogged the floor for Drummond and Monroe on offense and surprisingly given them a tougher time on defense, too. Drummond and Monroe have played just 119 minutes together this season without Smith. It’s almost as if the Pistons are going out of there way not to build around those two.
Brady Fredericksen: Judging by the Pistons consistent denial that they’re shopping Monroe, yes. We’ve blamed Lawrence Frank, Jason Maxiell, Joe Dumars and Maurice Cheeks for the lack of Drummond-Monroe action, and alas, they’re still not a go-to duo. Both are talented, but both are flawed. The only way to see if they can play together is to, well, play them together. They’re two of your best players, and you’re trying to win, so playing them together feels like it should be an obvious decision.
Tim Thielke: All the coverage coming out seems to suggest that that is still the plan. But I personally believe they should be more flexible. The Pistons have three good big men who don’t fit well. If they can get full value in trade for any of them, they should do it.
2. Even with the ill-fitting roster, Drummond has solidified himself as one of, if not the, best players on the Pistons this season. Monroe, on the other hand, has struggled. How can Drummond’s play help get Monroe back on track?
Dan Feldman: The biggest advantages come on defense. When Drummond is focused on protecting the rim like he has lately — nine blocks in his last three games in just 79 minutes — Monroe can risk going for steals. Monroe has never been the best positional defender, but his quick hands have terrorized opposing big men at times. Unfortunately, Monroe has gone for fewer and fewer steals as his career has progressed.
Brady Fredericksen: Monroe is a big man who needs room to operate. He’s not athletic enough to go over defenders, so he has to be crafty in that open space he has on the block. With Drummond, Smith and a lot of non-shooters surrounding him, he’s literally suffocated in the paint. That’s an issue that Drummond can’t help with, but where he can assist Monroe is on the defensive side of the ball. Monroe’s struggles with athletic forwards is well documented, but the faster Drummond can improve as a help defender, the better Monroe — and the rest of the Pistons — defense will look.
Tim Thielke: Monroe has to keep on doing what he does well and avoid the things he does poorly. He isn’t a plus defender, but he is big body that is hard to move out of the middle, while either Drummond or Smith makes an excellent weak-side shot blocker. When playing with Drummond, Monroe just has to keep on going down low and putting up shots near the rim. That is his best skill. And even when he misses, that creates a lot of put-back opportunities. When playing with Smith, he should be plying in the high post to leave driving lanes open, use his passing ability, and be crashing the offensive glass.
3. Do you think we’re any closer to knowing whether or not Drummond and Monroe are a viable “twin towers” that the Pistons can build around?
Dan Feldman: Barely and not nearly as close as we should be. But I know enough to believe Detroit should build around those two. For one, they’re both extremely valuable, and if it doesn’t work, the Pistons should have no trouble getting value for either or both if the duo must be broken up. Regardless, I think it would work. Drummond and Monroe haven’t played together enough to fortify their production together, but there are at least signs they can lift each other on both ends of the floor. Last year, the Pistons were equal offensively and better defensively when those two played together. This year, the Pistons are way better offensively, fairly worse defense and significantly better overall when those two play together without Smith. There has been a lot of noise regarding Drummond’s and Monroe’s fit the last two years, and sometimes it can be helpful to look back on the reason for pairing them in the first place. Here’s what I wrote the Pistons drafted Drummond: “Drummond, stylistically, fits the exact profile of an ideal Greg Monroe complement. Drummond has the size and athleticism to protect the rim, defend post-ups and sky for dunks in ways that Monroe simply can’t.”
Brady Fredericksen: I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think so, but the current construction of this team doesn’t really play to either of the big guy’s strengths. They need space, they need shooters — Jonas Jerebko for Jared Dudley, anyone? — and they need to have role players that fit around them. Good teams aren’t just a collection of players, they’re a collection that accentuates the strengths of their teammates. Monroe and Drummond can do that for other guys, they just need the right pieces are around them.
Tim Thielke: We are no closer. We have seen precious few minutes of Monroe and Drummond playing without Smith. That trio is awful, but just Monroe and Drummond could go either way. On paper, they have some complimentary skills and some redundant ones. And Cheeks refuses to give us any evidence to work with.