First of all, I hope you all remember the Charlotte game on Sunday. I was really impressed with how the Pistons played in that one. They hustled, they had off the ball movement and they won. Those are all traits they hadn’t shown in previous games. Well, sometimes they won, but quite honestly the Pistons didn’t really play meaningful games against good teams, they mainly played well in meaningless games against bad teams.
The team has ended the season on a rather high note so I wanted to do a post on the Charlotte game, because it was one of my favorite efforts of the year. You can’t always expect your favorite team to play great or to never have a bad season, but this season was particularly bad. Covering a team on an Xs and Os basis can be harsh with a coach like John Kuester. He runs a lot of similar plays and I can see why the team has struggled so much to get consistent offense. The half-court sets were just very bad at times. I don’t completely blame Kuester for that, the players often stopped executing the plays, didn’t run hard or just didn’t run at all. Something that will kill 100 percent of the teams in the NBA is to have an insufficient amount of movement. You just don’t create enough holes in the defense that can be exploited. The first play will be a beautiful inbounds play by Detroit, the second an alley-oop dunk by Chris Wilcox and the third one another nice pass by Greg Monroe.
The Sneaky Backdoor Play
The play starts out with a lot of players near the free throw line, Rip Hamilton at the top of the key, Tayshaun Prince at the free throw line and Monroe and Wilcox standing at the left elbow. The defender suspects Hamilton will come off a double-screen by Wilcox and Monroe and cheats a little bit to this side of the court. This is how the Pistons normally run the play, so you can’t really blame the defender. I especially love the play because it is such great acting on Tayshaun’s part. Look at him all hunched over looking as if he has no role at all. Rip quickly blows past Tay and the defender gets kind of confused by this. Throughout the play, Tay doesn’t stop to stand around like in the picture. He never gets into a screening position and Rip gets an easy lay-up and two points. This play is a good example how you can use scouting knowledge to your advantage. As soon as you realize the opponent knows exactly what you are trying to do, just switch it up a little bit. I don’t know if Kuester designed the play or if it was an impromptu play, either way it led to great success.
Ooping it up
Rip was hot in this game so Charlotte had to figure out a way how to stop him. Naturally, they tried to double team him and in this case it worked out pretty badly. Rodney Stuckey passes the ball to Rip, who receives it about 14 feet away from the basket, his bread and butter distance to pull up for a jumper or to drive to the basket. Wilcox is standing at the right elbow covered by Kwame Brown.
Kwame Brown is a familiar face to Pistons fans and he is one of the biggest draft busts of all time. I don’t blame him for being the player he is, I blame the Wizards for picking him first overall, he just doesn’t have the talent. Some busts showed the talent to be a high draft-pick, but never put it together, Brown just seems to have a low basketball IQ and very little desire to be a superstar. He’s been playing rather well of late, I guess it’s just a typical late season surge by an average player that makes people wonder if he’ll finally get it together (see also: Rodney Stuckey). The low basketball IQ is showing in this play. Brown comes over for the double-team, but he does so way too early. Hamilton has not even put down the ball to dribble. Usually you start double-teaming a player when he starts to make a move, not when he catches the ball. Wilcox follows a simple rule in this case. Phil Jackson has two rules of thumb, firstly, as soon as you have a clear path to the basket, you cut hard, secondly, as soon as you can see your defender’s head turn, you cut hard. Look at the picture, both rules apply and Wilcox cuts hard.
Rip sees the open space and lobs the ball, Wilcox catches it midair and converts a wide open alley-oop.
Look at Mister Fancy Pants
Let me start this off by saying that it’s been a real pleasure to watch Monroe grow this season. Personally, it’s been my first season of breaking down plays and watching games real closely on a regular basis. While most players on the team didn’t improve at all or regressed, Monroe has shown steady improvement all throughout the year. I chose this play, because this is the reason why I root for him and why I actually started rooting for him, his passing ability.
Tay gets a baseline-screen from Hamilton on the left elbow and opts to go the other way. Players do that from time to time whenever the defender is gambling too much. The smart veteran Prince is he takes advantage of Dante Cunningham here. Boris Diaw comes over to help, leaving his man, Monroe, all by himself. Wilcox is almost out of the picture running out of bounds all the way on the left side. I don’t know what he wanted there, but who cares, he scored.
Tay dumps the ball to Monroe who quickly realizes he has two defenders on him which leaves a teammate open, in this case Wilcox. Monroe is aware of it and as soon as he develops a refined enough offensive skill set and forces teams to double-team him, I believe he will be deadly in every regard. The comparisons with Tim Duncan aren’t that far-fetched. He has such a great sense of finding the open man. In this case he catches the ball, spins around 360 degrees in the air in order to dump the ball to Wilcox, who has got back inbounds.
It might be typical of this dismal season that the three best plays I found are all not really great play calls, but they do show a high IQ by certain players on the team. To me this shows that we have potential on the team because there are smart players like Rip, Tay and Monroe, who can execute plays perfectly and have a deeper understanding of the game. Without these three the season would have been even worse to watch.
This was the last breakdown of the season as we missed the playoffs and there will be no games played until hopefully November. If there’s a lockout it might take longer. It is a great honor to contribute to this great blog from time to time and to work with great guys like Dan and Patrick. I hope you enjoyed reading my breakdowns as much as I enjoyed writing them. I’m already looking forward to writing more analyses next season and stay tuned for further coverage of the team on PistonPowered!