The Detroit Pistons have spent most of the season as one of the worst teams in the league. They did not get their first win of the season until their ninth game. On Dec. 19, they were a lowly 7-21.
Since then, however, they have been on a hot streak, as they have won six of their past eight games. During this streak, they have impressive wins over the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.
Is this something that they can continue?
Their recent better play has been done through improved rebounding and shooting. While the shooting can be hit or miss, the rebounding is something that they can continue to build on.
Also during this streak they have received scoring from all over the team. Six different players have led the team in scoring over the eight games. While this can be good to have multiple scoring options, it helps if there is consistent scoring.
Will Bynum put two great games together when he scored 31 points against Atlanta then 25 against Miami. Unfortunately, he has only scored 31 points in the other six games combined and has only reached double digits in one of those.
Tayshaun Prince is a similar example. He has twice led the team by posting 20- and 21-point efforts. Yet in the other six games he has only averaged 9.3 points.
Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva have also spent time as the star for a day. Daye has had a best of 20 points during the streak, but he has also been shut out. Villanueva has been just as inconsistent. He has four double-digit games but also has been held to a zero- and a five-point night. Neither of these players are ones that can be counted on over the long term.
Daye has a tendency to have one or two streaks during a season where it gives people hope that he belongs in the rotation. The truth is that he simply just does not fit on this team and quite possibly not in the NBA.
Villanueva will go down as one of the worst contracts in Pistons history and at least one of the top 10 worst in NBA history. While he does seem to have more hustle and effort this season, he is just too inconsistent to bother with. Plus, by playing him it is blocking younger and more talented players such as Andre Drummond and Jonas Jerebko. At this point, it is holding the future of the team back by playing him.
It is doubtful that another team would take a chance on Villanueva as he still has another season left on his five-year, $35 million contract. Daye, on the other hand, could bring some interest. At 6-11 he does have some long-distance range. It is a great combination if only he could produce more often. The Pistons might get lucky and have someone make an offer for him.
The team has other issues besides these. Jason Maxiell is a decent roster player. Ideally he serves the team as an energy guy off the bench who can allow the starters to get some rest. In Detroit, he is a starter but only averages 26 minutes a game. Again with Drummond and Jerebko waiting on the bench, it makes little sense to have Maxiell starting.
Kyle Singler is another player similar to Maxiell. He starts at shooting guard, yet only averages 8.3 points per game. This is why he plays less than 28 minutes per game. He is ideally a sharp-shooter that comes off the bench, hits a few shots then gives way to the starters.
The team is full of more role players. Bynum and Rodney Stuckey can be scoring machines. They both tend to both be shoot-first guards. They both play well off of the bench but could also be starting. They also are able to drive to the basket and create opportunities that way as well. One of them should be playing ahead of Singler.
Despite the negatives, there are some things going right for the Pistons.
Rookie Drummond is slowly seeing his minutes expanded. He has averaged 7.1 rebounds this season while playing less than 20 minutes a game. He still is not playing enough minutes. Over the past eight games he has seen a slight increase in playing time but his rebounds have jumped to 10 per game. He adds solid defense and a major shot blocking presence to the floor. He is in the mold of a Ben Wallace and if the team ever puts him on the floor as a starter, the team will take off. He has future Defensive Player of the Year written all over him.
Greg Monroe is a bit inconsistent on the boards. When focused, he can be a steady double-double machine. He has averaged nine rebounds over this steak. The concern is that he has varied from four to 14 rebounds over that span. Scoring is Monroe’s main contribution. He has averaged 15.1 on the season.
There is some concern over playing Monroe and Drummond next to each other. Monroe’s offensive game is fit more fit for a center, but that is Drummond natural position. Drummond may not ever be an offensive weapon; the team should run Monroe in the center on the offensive side. They can have Drummond play the middle of defense.
Brandon Knight is the starting point guard on the team. While he has a good upside, he also is still developing. He seems to be stuck between two roles. Historically, the point guard would have a high number of assists. As the position has evolved, there are players who are now more focused on scoring in the position. Knight has yet to master either role. He only averages 13.9 points to go with 4.5 assists per game. While neither number is bad, those are not great either. He needs to improve in at least one of those areas.
Those numbers rank him 40th among guards in points and 42nd in assists. He does not rank in the top 100 in steals. Unfortunately, he is tied for eighth in turnovers. He does have youth in his favor so hopefully he can still develop. His points and assists have increase from last season; of course so have his turnovers.
Prince is the final piece to the puzzle. He serves as the mentor and veteran leadership on the team. While he may not always lead the stat sheet every night he does still have value to the team. While he can still help the team here, he could also be traded at the deadline to a contending team. A trade would probably bring more pieces to help the team grow.
So what about the recent streak? It is impressive, but it will not last. This is a team with too many players in the wrong role. There are a few reasons to be hopeful, but any long-term success is still a few years away.
Enjoy the streak while it last. They are much closer to rolling off six losses than they are six wins.
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