Los Angeles Clippers at Detroit Pistons
The Palace of Auburn Hills
10:00 a.m. PST
January 20, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Given their personnel, why have the Pistons struggled so much defensively?
Dan Feldman, Piston Powered, (@PistonPowered): The biggest letdown, based strictly on defensive ability relative to defensive output, has been Josh Smith. Miscast as a small forward, he’s struggled to chase quicker players around screens on the perimeter. Rodney Stuckey has underwhelmed too, sometimes relaxing on defense as he focuses on scoring during a contract year. Otherwise, the defensive problems have mostly been expected. Andre Drummond has high defensive potential, but he hasn’t mastered the finer points of help-side rotations. Brandon Jennings is only occasionally interested in defending, and even an engaged Jennings is just a so-so defender at best. Greg Monroe showed flashes of defensive improvement earlier in the year, but he’s regressed back to his typical subpar level. And with Maurice Cheeks in his first with the Pistons, confusion is still common.
Dylan Rice-Leary, (@dylearium): The Piston’s defensive woes are myriad and it is difficult to find fault in a single isolated factor, but their defensive shortcomings have something to do with the following: their starting power forward and center (Monroe and Drummond) are both actually centers, and one of them is playing out of position; their small forward (Smith) is probably best at power forward as he is unreliable as a wing-defender, and it doesn’t help that he is the team’s best shot blocker and playing twenty feet away from the basket a lot of the time; Jennings is a subpar on-ball defender who doesn’t fight over picks nearly enough; and Coach Cheeks’ defensive schemes are either non-existent or aren’t communicated strongly enough to be effective.
Jacob Frankel, (@jacob_frankel): Brandon Jennings is just terrible. Andre Drummond is still learning how to protect the rim, and Jennings giving up penetration of nearly every play doesn’t help. Josh Smith is an awesome defender, but his strengths are neutralized and weaknesses accentuated when the Pistons play him at small forward.
2. Would you rather have DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond?
Feldman: At this very moment, it’s close, but I’d take Jordan. His defense is further along, and that’s probably enough to separate the similar players. However, the Clippers are better-positioned to hide Jordan’s deficiencies and accentuate his strengths than the Pistons are with Drummond, so that might cloud my view. Long term, I’d take Drummond, who’s at least in the conversation right now and is five years younger.
Rice-Leary: If I am this year’s Clippers with deep playoff hopes and possible championship aspirations, I would rather have DeAndre for his athleticism, experience, and his rapport with Griffin, but Drummond is beast with a ton of promise. Drummond is one of the few starting players in the NBA with a worse free throw percentage than DeAndre, which is rather remarkable; but that said, DeAndre took a long time and the right coach to become a reliable factor on the court, and Drummond is only 20 years old. I have a feeling that a 24 year old Andre Drummond might be the better player, but for now, I am going with Jordan. But can I pick DeAndre Drummond, instead?
Frankel: Andre Drummond. He’s 5 years younger and might be a better player already.
3. Where does Mo Cheeks rank among NBA coaches?
Feldman: Remember Vinny Del Negro?
Rice-Leary: Perhaps he has just been saddled with tough rosters to manage, but as it is I would rank Cheeks somewhere in the upper of the part of the lower third of the league’s coaches. He clearly communicates well with players, but a successful head coach in today’s NBA (shy of simply being blessed with an obscenely good roster) needs to bring tactical insight, decisiveness, discipline, inspirational leadership, and/or a combination thereof, and I just don’t see enough of those qualities in Mo’s coaching thus far.
Frankel: Near the bottom, but maybe some of that blame can be laid on Pistons’ management. He set out with a poorly constructed roster, has done nothing, and the Pistons have been a slightly below average team. He feels like a conservative, Larry Drew, Scott Brooks type of coach that doesn’t make much of an impact one way or the other.