Kyle Singler and Detroit’s Window

March 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Detroit Pistons shooting guard Kyle Singler (25) shoots the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers small forward Caron Butler (5) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
March 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Detroit Pistons shooting guard Kyle Singler (25) shoots the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Clippers small forward Caron Butler (5) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Lindsey Hunter, Chucky Atkins, the year’s first round pick and cash for Mike James and Rasheed Wallace. Everybody remembers the final result of that 2004 trade that brought Rasheed to the Motor City. It opened the championship window just enough for Detroit to bring home the trophy. The window is only open to a few teams each season, which leaves teams on the edge in tough positions. Detroit’s window has not yet opened, and it’s not yet time to trade away the future for the now.

A lot of fans think that Kyle Singler doesn’t have what it takes to start in the NBA and that Detroit needs to bring a new starting small forward in (Caron Butler is not the answer. His defense at the 3 was pretty bad last season). Singler is a quality starter, and while he may better fit as a backup on a championship team, Detroit isn’t there yet, and Singler is a fine player that can help lead to Detroit being an attractive free agent destination.

Last season, Detroit painfully played two players out of position – one (Josh Smith) for the full season, the other (Singler) for about half of the season. When players are playing out of position, there are usually a few reasons why they may not be as effective.

When a player is playing a position that isn’t ideal, he’s guarding somebody who wears him down physically, whether by brute force or running circles around him. It was the latter that destroyed both Smith and Singler last year, and not just defensively. Exerting an extra amount of energy on defense obviously takes its toll on the other aspects of the game.

Another issue is that when a player is out of position, they’re then using different skills. As the world saw last year, it was a terrible, terrible decision to put Smith on the perimeter. Should Smith be more aware of his limitations? Of course he should. But a coach should try to put players into the position to succeed, and Cheeks and Loyer did the opposite.

So, with that being said, let’s first look at what Singler brings to the table, and then we’ll take a look at the players who would be an upgrade and if they’re obtainable.

Remember, this is about Singler playing small forward not shooting guard. Singler’s value at shooting guard was greatly diminished due to the variety of reasons listed above.

Only 21 (statistically qualifying) players shot over 40% from the three point line on at least three attempts per game. Ignoring his abysmal first month of November, Singler did just that. Detroit mostly stashed their 3-point shooters in the corners, which is fine, but it will be interesting to see what Stan Van Gundy does with the offensive plays and if he opens things up for shooters like Singler to be involved in more of the court.

Not every player gives his teammates a good target for where he wants the ball. Singler always puts his hands up to where he wants the ball. He does this both on his spot ups and when he’s on the move towards the basket. This may not make a huge difference when, say, Chris Paul has the ball, but when the player doesn’t have those passing skills, it can be the difference between a bucket and a missed opportunity.

Singler doesn’t just bring shooting to the team. Sadly, last year, his ability to make his brilliant cuts was limited due to the poor lineups that created, what looked to be, a black hole in the lane. With real spacing (spacing that will be seen with a lack of the dreaded, big-three lineup and the swapping in of Meeks for Stuckey), Singler will find holes in the lane and will beneficially bend opposing defenses with his well-timed cuts.

While clearly not honed, Singler has also shown flashes of a post game. The lane wasn’t often open when he had a smaller defender on him, but when Singler did go at the smaller players, he did a good job of taking advantage of them. A lot of players who haven’t played a lot in the post don’t understand how to get into the most advantageous position when posting up, but Singler doesn’t rely on those little-too-deep fade-aways that Stuckey couldn’t get enough of. He has a few moves that he can go to, and that’s all it takes to get an above-average shot versus a poor post-defender.

Players like Kyle Singler, who lack elite athletic ability but are extremely intelligent, are far more valuable while playing with other intelligent defenders. It allows them to rely less on the ability to help and recover and more on being in their own correct position.

Singler wasn’t able to show off his defensive strengths last year. There were too many defensive flaws from the rest of his teammates, which, as seen in other intelligent defenders, enhanced Singler’s issues. A majority of Singler’s bad fouls last season were either from trying to help on plays where it wasn’t his responsibility or from being forced to guard players he wasn’t well-equipped to guard i.e. shooting guards that he shouldn’t have been guarding in the first place.

So, really, a majority of Singler’s defensive issues comes down to Stan Van Gundy playing players in their rightful positions, but if they don’t, then Singler will need to learn how to not do too much. He tries to use the lateral quickness of Scottie Pippen to help and recover, but that just isn’t who he is.

Upgrading the Position

It’s quite obvious that every team wants to upgrade their team, as long as it doesn’t involve throwing away the future. As seen with Dumars and this last, unfortunate draft, there are those cases where the closing of a window and desperation meet, and that is where most of those poor decisions are made. As Detroit is filled with a very young core, the window is just now starting to open, and Detroit is unlikely to give up any future assets.

So, with all of the moaning and groaning about the small forward position, let’s see if there are any players who are actually obtainable and are actually better than Singler.

We will go ahead and remove any of the small forwards that are either impossible to get or would include Drummond in the deal:

Durant, Anthony, LBJ, George, Leonard, Hayward

Now, we will remove any players who would require giving up a future first round pick and assets:

Andre Iguodala – Practically unavailable, unless the Pistons give up a lot of assets, and who knows if Golden State would still be willing. The pieces in Detroit don’t fit in very well with the pieces over there.

Nic Batum – A rich man’s Singler. It’s likely that he was the main piece if the Monroe sign and trade had worked out. It didn’t, which means Detroit either would have had to toss in more assets or he’s unobtainable.

There are a few players who are probably slightly better, but would have been huge overpays:

Chandler Parsons

Parsons is interesting, only in that I believe that he’s a fairly overrated and is only a little bit better than Singler. The Rockets played at a very fast pace, and they shot a ton of three pointers. Parsons was also the number three option (with two stars) which led to an inordinate amount of open looks.

A lot of people see Parsons as being a top 3-point shooting small forward, but Singler did outshoot him. Although, Parsons took more threes, and factoring that in, they’re probably similar shooters (Singler being better from the corners. Parsons being better from above the break).

Another place where Singler is stronger than Parsons is that previously mentioned ability to take advantage of smaller defenders. Teams can make the decision of guarding Parsons with a guard or a forward, because he doesn’t have any way of taking advantage of them.

Also, on the opposite end of the court, Parsons is a much worse defender, and a lot of his mistakes last season were erased by having an elite rim protector. If Tyson Chandler isn’t that in Dallas this year, Parsons’ weaknesses are going to shine a little more brightly.

Parsons is probably a better dribbler, but with the way Detroit seemed to play as individuals all trying to get their own shots up and the complete lack of spacing, it’s almost comparing apples and oranges on this matter. If you put Parsons on last year’s Pistons, he’s probably sitting in the corners getting seven shots a game and averaging ten points.

Luol Deng

Deng is a very good player. Detroit could have overpaid to try to get him, but it’s still unlikely that he would want to play for Detroit. Another issue is that Chicago ran him into the ground, and players who play that hard on both ends and play for that many minutes each season usually end up losing the fight against Father Time the way I would lose a sprint versus Usain Bolt.

Deng was also dreadful from the field, although, he was playing in Cleveland with an offensive system that made the Bulls’ offensive system look like a masterpiece that Beethoven created. There should be an uptick in Deng’s offense, but with Singler’s price tag and shooting ability, Deng would most likely be less valuable, as weird as that may sound.

Possibly obtainable but not better:

Jeff Green

A lot of people wanted Jeff Green last season. It’s likely that Detroit could get him away from Boston, but he shot 41% from the field, 34% from downtown, and is a worse defender than Singler, and he’s also worse than Singler without the ball in his hands.

If it had been a Green for Smith trade last season, and then Detroit brought Green off of the bench at either small forward or as a stretch-four, then that’s a different story, but with Monroe’s current position with the team, and Smith’s larger importance and larger portion of time being spent at the 4, Green is not an upgrade over anything Detroit has.

Obtainable but misguided upgrades:

Kyle Korver – He’s very similar to Singler as he is a very good team defender, except Korver is an incredible shooter. There’s a chance that the Pistons could have gotten Korver, but it would probably cost a first round pick, and that wouldn’t be worth it as the window isn’t yet open, and Korver won’t be putting Detroit over the top in its quest of title contention.

There are also a few players like Wesley Matthews who spend a majority of their time at shooting guard and would be an upgrade offensively, but with poor defensive play at small forward and the assets given up, would be a downgrade for the team.

Is Singler a starting small forward on a championship caliber team? Probably not. He lacks the athletic ability or the elite shooting to be that kind of player. The issue, however, is still with how ready Detroit is to make their run at the title. When the Pistons are ready to make that leap, they’ll hopefully be an attractive free agent destination, and, when that window is open, they’ll have to strike while the iron is hot, but as of now, the window is maybe only starting to creep open, and the iron is only just heating up.

The urgency to upgrade the underrated Singler just isn’t there yet.