Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pistons acquire Reggie Jackson, Tayshaun Prince at the trade deadline


The two hours leading up to the NBA trade deadline forced even Adrian Wojnarowski to capitulate. The ever-present NBA behind-closed-doors, front-office prophet was so flabbergasted by the flurry of activity that even he was speechless. Twitter teemed with excitement and shock at the barrage of trades that were being made. Contenders and tankers alike were jockeying for prime contending/tanking position. The 76ers traded away found money in second-round pick KJ McDaniels, sending him to the Rockets for pennies on the dollar. The Bucks blew up their successful season by trading for one of the least efficient players in the NBA (Michael Carter-Williams). Phoenix made a complete roster overhaul. And Detroit shuffled its lineup without sacrificing any essential pieces.

Stan Van Gundy’s refrain for the previous month remained staunch: the Pistons will not sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains. The team would not make a panic trade to get into the playoffs this season, nor would they sacrifice any young assets without receiving similar compensation. Despite the laughable Joe Johnson trade rumors, SVG approached the trade deadline with the intention of keeping Drummond, Monroe, KCP, and Dinwiddie together. He accomplished that while adding one intriguing piece and clearing space for the coming free agency period, in which the Pistons look to be a major factor.

Gone are Kyle Singler, DJ Augustin, Jonas Jerebko, and Gigi Datome. In their stead come troubled Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson and living dinosaur Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons traded away flotsam that didn’t factor into the future for an upgrade at point guard and a stand-in small forward. The team may have gotten worse in the interim, but these moves create new opportunities for the free agency push this summer.


Basketball Things

The on-court impact of these trades will probably be negative unless Reggie Jackson turns out to be a revelation. The depth chart:

PG SG SF PF C
Reggie Jackson KCP Caron Butler Monroe Drummond
John Lucas III Jodie Meeks Tayshaun Tolliver Joel Anthony
Spencer Dinwiddie Cartier Martin
(Brandon Jennings) Quincy Miller


The most glaring weakness remains small forward. The acquisition of Tayshaun Prince does little to fix the problems that the Pistons face at the position. Singler admirably filled a role he was unable to, and held off Butler, who had played his way out of the rotation, and Cartier Martin who has seen only spot duties since the beginning of the season. Tayshau--or more accurately, his expiring contract--is a cog in a greater scheme, about which more later.

The loss of Datome will have a negligible impact on the team, but Jerebko's departure holds much more weight. The Pistons now only have four frontcourt players. Jerebko gave the Pistons flexibility and a consistent insurance policy. Drummond, prone to foul trouble, could be replaced by Monroe at center. Jerebko and Tolliver would platoon the power forward position and give SVG minutes from the bench that should be otherwise handled by Drummond. Without Jerebko, Tolliver and Joel Anthony will see more playing time. The former has acquitted himself this season as a floor spacer and reliable spot-up shooter. Anthony, however, appears barely functional at an NBA level. Foul trouble for Drummond--a certainty at this point--will force Anthony into major minutes.

Jackson, the centerpiece of these trades, boasts a mercurial history. He has struggled to find a rhythm this year with injuries to Westbrook and Durant, and has been a not-so-quiet malcontent who wanted out of OKC. He comes to Detroit with significant upside but also questions about his ability to lead a team. Prone to taking ill-advised shots, Jackson's considerable talents were squandered by a coach that refused to understand them. Jackson possesses athleticism that the Pistons haven't had at the point guard position in a long time. He has scored the 20th most points this season on drives and averages 8.3 points per 48 minutes on drives. For reference, Augustin averages 7.7 points per 48 minutes on drives and Jennings averaged 7.2.

Jackson's (left) and Augustin's (right) shot charts

The Pistons' offense has turned two different hit-or-miss point guards into terrors this season, and there's little reason to think Jackson won't see a notable bump in his production once he integrates into the offense. With his athleticism and pick-and-roll proficiency (he boasts a 50.6% eFG%, one spot ahead of James Harden, and has a low TO% in pick-and-roll situations), SVG's system may unleash his potential. Jackson going supernova stands as the Pistons' clearest path to the playoffs, something which is inadvisable at this junction, though.

Free Agency

What these trades garner for the Pistons is flexibility in the coming free agency period. At the end of the season, the Pistons will have just over $36 million on the books for '15-'16. The team may try to re-sign Monroe, who will require $15 million annually to stay in Detroit, or pursue Draymond Green, who would be an apt, SVG-approved replacement. Handing out a max deal to Monroe or Green would leave the Pistons with ~$15 million to fill out the rest of the roster. Bookmark $2-3 million for Detroit's first-round pick (with any luck, a small forward), and the Pistons would only need to shore up frontcourt depth. Of note, as well, is the $4.5 million team option on Caron Butler that may not be exercised depending on the team's draft haul and free agent moves.

The Pistons will encounter some difficulty re-signing Jackson. Currently in the final year of his contract, Jackson has notoriously declined a $48M/4 year offer from the Thunder, a deal that comes in at the top of his market. Jackson is a restricted free agent, which allows the Pistons to match any offer, but he may not be worth matching. Jackson's worth hovers somewhere between $8-12 million annually, but if he's seeking significantly more than that, parting ways would be prudent. SVG will cross that bridge when he comes to it. Regardless of Jackson's free agency, Brandon Jennings remains on the roster for an affordable $8 million next season.

The Pistons can't go crazy in free agency, however. Drummond will require a max extension following next season. Fortunately, only KCP, Dinwiddie, and Meeks are on the books for '16-'17. This summer will go a long way toward shaping the future of this franchise. I'd expect one or two splashy moves that position the team to contend for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Tanking?

An important question is whether or not the Pistons are low-key tanking now. Without making any moves, the Pistons could have snuck into the playoffs. Instead, SVG gutted the frontcourt depth, exchanged a deficient small forward for one that hasn't been a viable starter in years, and gambled on a high-risk, high-reward point guard. Meanwhile, the Pistons' primary playoff competition (Miami, Boston, and Brooklyn) all improved, which says nothing about Paul George's imminent return to the Pacers, who are also vying for a playoff spot. If SVG wanted plausible deniability for a tank campaign, today may prove pivotal.

If the season ended today, the Pistons would hold the #10 pick barring some luck (good or bad). Indiana could overtake the Pistons with a successful return from George, and the Sacramento Kings could find cohesion under new head coach George Karl, bumping the Pistons further up the lottery draft board. The moves that SVG made today feel like a franchise willing to take some gambles now that, even if they fail, could pay dividends this summer. And for a team nowhere near contending, these are smart moves to make.

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With news that the Pistons just signed Quincy Miller to a 10-day contract, it's clear that the team will scrapbook its way to the end of the season and reassess later. Jackson could prove to be an excellent leader stuck in a previously crummy situation. He could also be a shoot-first hindrance that fractures the offensive system. SVG has earned the benefit of the doubt, and it will be exciting to see if Jackson can run this offense and whether or not he can be convinced to stay. Despite the hope instilled following the un-Smithening, the Pistons always needed a few more years to develop young talent and craft a roster that can compete nightly. Today's moves don't make them into that team, but they do lay the groundwork for the years ahead.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On Brandon Jennings and hope


I was watching the Orlando Magic play the Indiana Pacers over the weekend and thought to myself, "What if Victor Oladipo just becomes the new Rodney Stuckey." On paper, it makes sense: an explosive shooting guard drafted by a sub-par team to take over point guard duties. An organization wallowing in anonymity because of poor coaching and free agent moves ultimately shoves a talented player into a role he's uncomfortable with. Then I kept watching the game and Oladipo reminded me that he's more Dwayne Wade than Stuckey, that the Magic drafted Elfrid Payton whose ceiling is barely visible, and that Aaron Gordon just started his first game.

Before the season, I lamented all of the stars (potential or otherwise) that currently reside in the Central division: Lebon, Love, Kyrie, George, Hibbert, David West, Rose, Wiggins, Jabari. And that's being cautious. Pau Gasol, Noah, and Jimmy Butler could also be thrown in the mix. Brandon Knight isn't terrible anymore. And then there's the Pistons. Andre Drummond made Team USA, which means something to some people. But Drummond hasn't played in the fourth quarter of the Pistons' last few games because he can't make free throws. The future looked hazy for the Pistons.

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I didn't see the Brandon Jennings injury. In basketball terms, it means that DJ Augustin and Spencer Dinwiddie take over the point guard duties, the former a shoot-first microwave, the latter a rookie. What it means for the Pistons zeitgeist is more damaging. Jennings has been maligned and miscast throughout his career as a selfish, shoot-first point guard. Only one year in Jennings' career (his second) did he drop below the top 16 players in assists per game, this season coming in at 12th. His assist/turnover ratio is at 3.02, ninth in the league among qualified players, and behind the likes of JJ Barea and Andre Miller who play half of the minutes that he does. Jennings promised to live up to the lofty Natural Point Guard expectations when he came to Detroit, saying that a better group of teammates would allow him to blossom as a passer. Despite a horrible season for the franchise, Jennings posted career highs in assists per game (7.6) and assist rate (29.0) last season.

Jennings' issues have always been his shot selection, finishing, and defense. The latter isn't changing, but Stan Van Gundy became his shepherd. Jennings is ball dominant, which is one of the reasons he's often thought of as being shoot-first. He sharpened his teeth in the Drew League after eschewing college for a short stint overseas. These pro-am leagues are notorious for shoddy defense and flashy offense, the kind of setting Jennings thrives in. Without an offense that could take advantage of Jennings' considerable talent, he struggled to find a niche in the NBA as a consistent player and winner, one of those nebulous terms like "grit" in football that people use to describe why a player performs as he does without the backing of any objective data. Van Gundy (and the loss of Josh Smith cannot be overstated) set Jennings free, putting the ball in his hands and allowing him to do his thing inside the structure of the offense. When Jennings wasn't screaming the ball up court, he was usually dribbling through walls of defenders and collapsing the defense, opening lanes for the Pistons' barrage of outside gunners. If he didn't have the ball in his hands, it was usually because it was floating softly toward the rim for a Drummond alley oop.


Since the Great De-Smithening, Jennings had developed into the visage that he promised and that his game always alluded to. It was clear watching Jennings--and to a greater extent, the Pistons--that this is not the same team that has been crumbling since 2008. Jennings became a whirlwind, Drummond has a baby hook that works 100% of the time 38% of the time, the bench is filled with players that you'd see spelling starters on contenders, Greg Monroe emerged from his cocoon as a stumpy-armed butterfly. In essence, not another Rodney Stuckey.

I realized while exhaustively live-Tweeting another Pistons game that this is why I bring up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope so often (sorry about that by the way). Detroit pre-Jennings injury was a good team and would have pushed for the 6th playoff spot in the East down the stretch, but to become anything more than what they are, KCP needs to turn into whatever demigod I've envisioned him to be. With Jennings firing on all cylinders and Drummond being Drummond, the Pistons needed a consistent outside threat that could also make up for some of the defensive inefficiencies in the lineup. Because for as good as Drummond is, barring huge improvements in his post-up game, it's hard to pinpoint where his ceiling might be. It's possible he's already there. It's equally likely that he develops into more of a terror. But KCP stands as a known entity, at least in regards to his ceiling.

Losing Jennings changes all of that. Augustin, despite his ability to score in bunches, has proven incapable of running this offense at a consistent, high level. Dinwiddie is a wild card, but tellingly, is a second-round pick. Losing Jennings for the rest of the season doesn't derail everything the team had going, but the hope that was building is stalled.

The Pistons' January 10th win over the Brooklyn Nets was the most important game this season. The team had just won seven straight games, a streak that was broken by the Atlanta Hawks. Smart people on the internet preached caution about swelling hope in the fanbase: Meeks won't continue shooting this well, Jennings will revert to the mean, the strength of schedule was low. Losing to a bad Nets team would seem to prove much of this right and swing the tide of momentum away from the Pistons. But that win, however meaningless, proved that this wasn't a fluke. Losing Jennings feels like that Nets game in perpetuity. How much of what we saw was real? Will the Pistons rise to those levels again? What does next season bring? And when Jennings returns, will a lower leg injury change how he plays the game?

I've always been sympathetic toward Jennings. I don't have a reason to be, but his game is visually pleasing: ball fakes, quick trigger dribbling, flashy passing, hot streaks (oh, the hot streaks). His development stood as the Pistons' fastest way to relevance. He looked comfortable for the first time on an NBA court, which was heartwarming. And while nine months is a long time to wait for an answer to whether or not Detroit will remain an up-and-coming franchise, it's difficult not to anticipate that they will following this last month.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A fucking wall


We just form a fucking wall

This is the greatest picture ever taken

Stan Van Gundy's FCC blunder will be the most remembered moment of the Pistons' last-second win against the San Antonio Spurs, moreso than Brandon Jennings' game winning shot. Add it to the growing list of Van Gundy-isms: the Diet Coke, the master of panic, the fucking wall. The sound bite will live on; the poetry will be lost. Forming a human wall is symbolic. There's a unity and strength behind a wall, something that Van Gundy didn't intend when he said it, but will stand as this team's rallying cry, at least amongst the hashtagging masses. Someone will sell "We just form a fucking wall" t-shirts by the afternoon.

There was a moment a few games after the Pistons released Josh Smith that typifies the difference in the team. Brandon Jennings was bringing the ball into the halfcourt and made an uncharacteristic turnover. The mistake didn't generate a fast break, so the Pistons sauntered back on defense. As they were crossing half court, Greg Monroe dapped Jennings as if to say, "Don't worry about it. We'll score the next time we have the ball."

There has been much written about the loss of Josh Smith from the Pistons' roster. Articles typically fall in one of two categories: the Pistons' sudden resurgence can realistically be attributed to a weak schedule and the emergence of Jodie Meeks as a consistent offensive threat, or Josh Smith was poison. I began writing about the Pistons because I genuinely like this collection of players. KCP is my favorite NBA player since I fell in love with the 2006 Denver Nuggets' Allen Iverson-led starting five (Iverson-JR Smith-Carmelo-Kenyon Martin-Marcus Camby, the best alley-oop lineup the NBA has ever seen). Andre Drummond is Andre Drummond, and that's a lot of fun. Will Bynum, a member of the team when this blog started, was always a fun microwave option.

Then the Pistons signed Brandon Jennings, a player best known for a game early in his rookie season and his endless Drew League highlights. Josh Smith came too. And I genuinely enjoyed watching them play, the former more than the latter. This season, Stan Van Gundy reignited my interest in Xs and Os that died shortly after John Kuester took the reins of the team last season. SVG made the best of a bad situation, turning Smith into a passing force and centering the offense on his ability to bend defenses. And I fought for Smith, because he's not a bad person and he's not a terrible basketball player. After a 6-0 streak following his dismissal, though, there are no arguments to be made. Smith was a cancer to this team, perhaps through no fault of his own other than taking the shots that he thought he could hit and would help the team. Or maybe he caused significant friction in the locker room. I imagine rumors leak out in the years to come, or Jalen Rose will let some insider information slip during a Pop the Truck podcast. Regardless, one thing is certain: the Pistons now hold the longest active winning streak in the NBA and are not a fluke.

The Pistons are replete with talent. They were last year as well, making the results disappointing, though not surprising given the team's leadership. The promise of Stan Van Gundy comes from his system and its replicability across talent and competition levels. One of the stark differences in the Pistons since the removal of Smith has been the tendency to let the system run the offense, rather than calling plays. Throughout most of the season, the Pistons came down the floor, got into a specific set--usually called by SVG--and ran that play. Van Gundy needed to calls plays in this manner to avoid Smith going rogue. He clearly felt uncomfortable letting Smith loose in the offense. Without Smith, the team can run SVG's capitol-s System, the 4-out, 1-in (or thereabout) schemes that made Dwight Howard a world beater. Look no further than Drummond's numbers throughout the last few games for proof of this system's success.

From here, the Pistons can only get better. With a young core of players reinvigorated by the loss of Smith and a top-flight coach, the Pistons making the playoffs feels assured, barring injury. It's hard to watch the Pistons and not see where this team can go: Drummond realizing his potential, KCP developing into a legit 3&D player, Monroe occasionally hitting a hook shot, Jennings turning in the best season of his career, Meeks and Butler coming off the bench to add an offensive spark, Jonas Jerebko (of all people) looking like a sustainably functional player, and the league's best victory cigar in Joel Anthony's 3.6 blocks per 36 minutes. I've been saying it for days: when the Pistons beat the Spurs, people will have to pay attention. Now that they have, it's exciting to see where they'll go.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pistons waive Josh Smith


Mark this as a watershed moment for the franchise. The Pistons have waived much-maligned forward Josh Smith. Citing the team's performance, Stan Van Gundy has made the boldest move this franchise has seen since the Chauncey Billups trade. What this means is that Smith, given that he clears waivers in two days (he will), will be a free agent that can sign with any team. Smith had two years and $26 million left on his contract following this season, which will stay on the Pistons' payroll and salary.

SVG had done a lot to center the offense on Smith's passing abilities, moves that made him more effective than at any other time as a Piston. But obvious chemistry issues and his poor performance made even those schematic changes worthless. This signals a possible change in Monroe-SVG relations, which could have a significant impact this offseason. For now, the Pistons are woefully short on power forwards, with Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, and Tony Mitchell the only other PFs on the roster.

Player rotations will be important, but the most intriguing aspect of this move will be seeing how the players react. I've long held that the team doesn't look like they enjoy playing basketball. It's entirely possible that Smith was dragging team morale down. Look for energy levels in the coming games. That will tell us a lot about where this team was and where it can go from here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Set Plays: Back screen from horns set

In spite of the Pistons' considerable issues this season, Stan Van Gundy has been living up to expectations. Some of that is evident: the Pistons are tied for 18th in defensive efficiency this season, allowing 104.2 points per 100 possessions, up from 25th and 107.3, respectively, last season. The gains on defense are a direct result of SVG's defensive schemes and coherence. The offense, while it has performed worse than last season--some of which is SVG's fault (using Andre Drummond as a post player), though most of which is the fault of abhorrent shooting around the basket--has been expertly designed and tweaked.

Earlier this season, I diagrammed a play that the Pistons were overusing, a screen set by the shooting guard on the block to get one of the post players deep position. The play was conceptually sound but not effective in practice. I concluded
I'm cautiously optimistic that SVG is slowly implementing his schemes and making sure that the Pistons can execute what they've been assigned, but after 12 games, the lack of schematic development has been alarming. Patience is afforded, but SVG needs to start showing something new in the coming stretch of games before eyebrows are raised.
As the season has progressed, that patience has proven well-founded. SVG has continued to develop his early-season schemes and the offense has started to grow because of it. In Saturday's win against the Kings, the Pistons utilized the concepts of the above play in a more constructive method to generate easy looks at the rim.

Brandon Jennings brings the ball up the floor and the Pistons align in the horns set. Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, KCP, and Kyle Singler are on the floor for this instance, but the play will work with any two-big lineup.


Jennings immediately enters the ball to Monroe on the elbow and runs into the corner to screen KCP's defender.


KCP curls from the corner and into the lane. In the future, Monroe may have the option to pass it to KCP in the lane, but that wasn't built into the play design in this game.


Rather than cutting to the basket and looking for a pass from Monroe, KCP's job is to set a back screen on Smith's defender while Smith cuts through the lane.


Monroe now makes an entry pass to Smith who is on the move toward the rim and whose defender is in a trail position.


Smith's defender has to come from the opposite side of the paint. On this play, Smith pump faked to get his defender in the air to get an easy layup.

Building blocks. Having KCP set screens on power forwards early in the season always seemed like a fool's errand. He doesn't have the size or strength to set a quality screen on big men, and the play itself failed to produce consistent (or even above average results). In the resulting weeks, SVG has shifted the Pistons' offense from a post-centric outfit to a perimeter-oriented, pick-and-roll scheme. But having perimeter players set screens for the team's bigs will remain a feature of the offense, however, and it's encouraging to see SVG utilize these fundamentals in more effective ways.

More Smith. I've written before about Josh Smith's versatility and SVG's decision to center the offense's pick and roll on him. The primary tenet of these schemes is to get Smith on the move rather than standing on the perimeter and taking shots. Though this play can be run with Drummond receiving the ball (and was a number of times in this game), Smith's skillset makes him dangerous in this scenario. If either corner defender leaves his man to help in the paint, Smith has the vision to find open shooters in the respective corner. Whether or not Smith becomes a consistently functional player on this roster or ends up traded, SVG will make lemonade when he has to.

Systems take time. Most consider the Pistons better than their record. The early parts of this season were a disaster, in large part because SVG's schemes are complex and take a long time to implement. Putting plays onto the court without establishing the baseline of their effectiveness is a recipe for incoherence. This is why SVG says things like, "I want to get them to run back on defense tomorrow in a scrimmage", you can be sure that's not just coachspeak. SVG is actually starting from the baseline with this team. Growing pains are to be expected, but as the season wears on, the team will have a better grasp on and more intuitive understanding of the schemes.

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The Pistons cannot replay the first 24 games of this season in their current form. If they could, they would have more than 5 wins, of that I'm certain. The Vegas line before the season was 36.5 wins in a weak Eastern Conference. To hit the over, the Pistons would have to finish the season 32-26, a tall task but not out of the picture in the Eastern Conference. The Kings were without Demarcus Cousins, so take the last two wins with a grain of salt, but this may be the turn that the Pistons were bound to make. Salvaging this season carries the side effect of losing a high draft pick, but we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. For now, the Pistons are starting to develop into the team everyone expected at the beginning of the season. Anyway you look at it, that's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Monroe and Drummond together isn't a long-term solution

Ed. note: All numbers in this post are according to NBAwowy.com.

I have been strident that Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe can't play together. The Pistons do not necessarily play worse when the pairing shares the court. Piston Powered's Dan Feldman and I discussed this on Twitter yesterday: the Pistons have actually outscored opponents this season with Drummond and Monroe on the floor together without Josh Smith, albeit by a slim margin (prior to last night's game, the duo outscored opponents 118 to 101 through 109 possessions when on the floor together this season). The problem stands as a structural one, borne of the players' respective inability to step away from the basket on the offensive end of the floor.

The picture above is a moment from the Pistons' most recent thwacking at the hands of the Portland Trailblazers. It is a common scene: Greg Monroe has the ball on the right post while Brandon Jennings, KCP, and Caron Butler space the floor around the perimeter. Standing on the opposite side of the paint is Andre Drummond. This example is actually one of the more pedestrian occurrences of this issue. Drummond stands at the free throw line, a location at which he is ineffective. Chris Kaman only has to play token defense on Drummond, and can dedicate most of his attention to Monroe. After a baseline spin move, Monroe moves to the basket and is greeted by Kaman, who forces a difficult attempt:


Monroe makes this shot, the kind of circus layup that has sent his field goal percentage at the rim careening to the 48.9% that it stands at today. Monroe has never been an efficient finisher at the rim, but the level he's performing at currently is untenable and a function of Drummond's inability to step away from the rim. When Monroe is on the court without Drummond, his effective field goal percentage is at 52.6%. When the two are on the court together, Monroe's effective field goal percentage plummets to 42%.

The issue extends further than contested shots at the rim. Not only is Monroe taking worse shots when Drummond is on the court, he's taking different shots. Without Drummond on the court, Monroe takes 64% of his shots between 0-3 feet from the basket, and only 32.5% of his shots from 4-9 feet from the basket. With Drummond on the floor, Monroe's shot distribution becomes less effective: only 47.7% of Monroe's shots come from 0-3 feet, while 44.3% of his shots are taken from 4-9 feet.

The screenshots above illustrate why. Monroe understands that help defense will come from the opposing frontcourt players when Drummond is on the floor. The layup that he makes above is not a high-percentage attempt, but is the kind of shot that Monroe can generate when the two play together. Perhaps more telling is Drummond's effective field goal percentage when the two play together. Without Monroe on the floor, Drummond posts a 43.4% eFG% this season. However, when they're in the frontcourt together, Drummond's effective field goal percentage rises to 50%.

These shooting percentages are low for any big man in the league, but that's the status of the Pistons in 2014. What the numbers do show is a distinct picture of how these two play together. Drummond has always feasted off of missed shots and putbacks. With Monroe on the floor, Drummond has ample opportunity for these easy baskets. Since Monroe's shot selection rarely extends beyond 10 feet, rebounds likely won't bounce further than Drummond can reach and return to the rim quickly. Meanwhile, Drummond's mere presence forces Monroe into worse shots. They're magnets being pressed together, like poles repelling one other.

Though problems with his game abound, Josh Smith stands as an integral part of Stan Van Gundy's schemes. Smith's dreaded mid-range shots are a necessary evil of the Pistons' post-up offense. The issue is not the shot, it's that Smith isn't Kevin Garnett. SVG's schemes require a stretch power forward for the reasons outlined above. Without the ability to extend the defense between them, Monroe and Drummond will occupy the same court space and find success from the failures that they're causing in one another. I am not advocating that Smith takes more midrange shots--I'm excited by the shift to a high pick-and-roll offense SVG uses with Smith as the roll man--and get just as frustrated when Smith heaves ill-fated long jumpers. But Monroe and Drummond together detract from one another, causing the Pistons to run in place rather than develop as a young, talented group should.

SVG seems to have noticed the same phenomenon. This is the reason Monroe comes off the bench to start games and why Monroe replaces Drummond rather than Smith at the first substitution. In recent weeks, SVG has worked to keep Monroe and Drummond separated, only playing the two together when the team's regular rotation struggles to generate any offense. This Pistons roster is broken, but Stan Van Gundy capitol-G, capitol-I Gets It.