Lowe on Pistons’ all-star merits and positional versatility

Dec 2, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) high fives guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit won 127-122 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) high fives guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit won 127-122 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The best NBA writer in the business, Zach Lowe, listed who he thought deserved to be in the all-star game. Drummond made the list:

"EASTERN CONFERENCEStartersG Kyle LowryG Jimmy ButlerFC LeBron JamesFC Paul GeorgeFC Paul MillsapReservesG John WallG DeMar DeRozanFC Chris BoshFC Al HorfordFC Andre DrummondWC Carmelo AnthonyWC Isaiah Thomas"

I’m not surprised that he didn’t have Drummond as a starter although a case could certainly be made from him over Millsap–a case I would, in fact, make. But I was surprised that he didn’t consider Drummond a “no-brainer” to make the game.

"There are eight no-brainers here: the five starters, plus Wall, DeRozan and Bosh… Still, Wade is a worthy candidate who has played more, and better, than expected. Slotting DeRozan ahead of him leaves at least 15 candidates for four spots: Wade, Drummond, Anthony, Horford, Thomas, Pau Gasol, Reggie Jackson, Nikola Vucevic, Kevin Love, Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Brook Lopez, Jae Crowder, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton and maybe a couple more."

Instead, he has Drummond merely in the mix with a lot of names, including Reggie Jackson’s, for not very many spots.

"Drummond is neck-and-neck with DeAndre Jordan as the league’s scariest lob threat, and he probably deserves at least a 60-40 share of the credit for the devastation of the Jackson-Drummond pick-and-roll. Anti-Drummond paranoia gets Jackson a half-dozen open floaters and layups every game; Jackson has played just 127 minutes total without Drummond, and the Pistons have been a disaster in those minutes. Drummond has logged about twice as much time sans Jackson, and Detroit has held up fine. We’d be hearing more about Jackson’s so-so defense if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope weren’t smothering elite point guards.Drummond is also leading the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate, and he could end up with the best non-Dennis Rodman season of glass-eating in modern league history.I’d take Jackson over Walker by a tiny margin, even with Walker’s improved shooting and Monday’s 52-point insanity against Utah. Batum is probably Charlotte’s best all-around player anyway, but both fall just short here.Drummond isn’t as good on defense as he should be, and privately, the Pistons wish he would play harder; he reaches instead of sliding his feet, leaps late for shots he has no chance of blocking and takes off-kilter angles defending the pick-and-roll. Still, he’s a fearsome leaper, a more frightening deterrent than Vucevic or Monroe and his hands are so quick that all that reaching nets nearly two steals per game — a killer mark for a big man."

By and large, the assessments of Drummond and Jackson are spot on. Drummond is the best rebounder in the game (although that number is buoyed by his unsustainably hot start). And he deserves more credit for Jackson’s success than vice versa. And Drummond is way too inclined to phone it in for stretches of games. He’s just so gifted physically that in spite of his hit-or-miss effort and being the worst free throw shooter in NBA history, he’s still pushing superstar status.

Lowe also had some words for Marcus Morris that hit the nail on the head:

"8. Marcus Morris, secondary playmakerMorris has shot just 20-of-58 out of the pick-and-roll this season, but even so, he has filled a major void for a Pistons team desperate for someone who can keep the rock moving after Jackson kicks it out. Letting Morris stretch himself has been especially useful when he serves as the only holdover starter on bench units — lineups that struggled to do much of anything before Brandon Jennings’ return from an Achilles tear.Morris has already been the ball handler on 118 pick-and-rolls this season after running just 146 of those suckers in Phoenix last season, per SportVU data provided to ESPN.com. It hasn’t been pretty, or super-productive, but Morris will come out of this a more well-rounded player.Now: Can we see him just a bit at power forward? Pretty please, Stan?"

Morris’ ability to create shots is something the Pistons desperately need, even though the ones he creates usually aren’t that great. But the comment on wanting to see Morris more at power forward was one I found particularly interesting. Not so much about Morris in particular, but because more than any other coach in the league today, Stan Van Gundy really shoehorns his players into particular positions. If he thinks someone is a small forward, that’s all he ever plays. No big lineups, no small lineups, no positional versatility.

In many ways, Van Gundy is an excellent coach. He has the Pistons playing way better this season than I expected. But, as I’ve bemoaned before, he seems exceedingly rigid. He has a particular way of doing things and doesn’t appear to have the capacity to adapt it to make the most of resources that don’t fit his mold.

All 15 Pistons this season have made it onto the court. Of them, nine have played exclusively at one position: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ersan Ilyasova, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, and Aaron Baynes. That’s an insanely high number. Especially considering that six of those guys had never played exclusively at one position in any other season of their careers.

He’s making it work and it’s not like multipositionality is necessarily better. But it does create more versatility.Ideally, I’d like to see the Pistons put more different looks on the floor. It just creates more options and creates opportunities for teams to stumble onto things that work better than expected. But if past lineup decisions are any indication, neither Lowe nor I will get our wishes.