The Detroit Pistons’ season is not going as planned up to this point in the season. Saturday night was another hapless performance as they lost to the Washington Wizards 106-82! The game was really never in question as the Wizards were up eight after the first quarter and up 21 at halftime. What’s worse is the Pistons and Maurice Cheeks look like they have no direction. Now rest assured we are not all privy to the Pistons’ master plan (as if there was one), but I assure you that plan did not include starting 14-18 after going out and adding big-name free agents Brandon Jennings (three years/$24 million) and Josh Smith (four years/$54 million).
Alas, the Eastern Conference is god-awful and the Pistons, while four games under .500, are still in seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. The problem with finishing seventh or eighth out east — you get the first round playoff matchup of the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers; which all but assures you a first round exit.
The ‘Plan’ So Far
The starting lineup Cheeks rolls out on a nightly basis is: Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. While this seems like an advantage with all the bigs in the lineup, it hasn’t really worked out that way and this lineup is only producing 93.4 points per 100 possessions — good enough for dead last in the NBA (the Bucks currently hold that spot at 98.8). Cheeks only plays Caldwell-Pope, KCP for short, 23.4 minutes per night with Rodney Stuckey getting the bulk of the shooting guard minutes at 27 minutes per night.
When you take out KCP and plug-in Stuckey with the other four guys staying the same; the offensive rating goes up to 107.1 points per 100 possessions — though to be fair this lineup has played FAR less than the starting lineup. It would seem that the “problem” is KCP when you look at these numbers in a vacuum. This might be the case, however there are deeper issues here like the fact that Josh Smith should absolutely NOT be playing small forward and the Pistons should be starting either Kyle Singler or Luigi Datome instead. Greg Monroe has to be moved for a viable small forward down the road but that’s an article for another day.
See What You’ve Got
I think the Pistons need to give KCP 35 minutes a night and see what they’ve got in their young (just a kid at 20), lottery pick they’ve invested in. I know, I know I just gave you factual proof that the lineup is more offensively efficient with Stuckey in the lineup over KCP. However, you already know what you have in Stuckey — a 6’5″ slasher who can score about 14 points a night given ample opportunity AND whom you overpaid three years ago to the tune of $24 million. Stuckey is a free agent this upcoming offseason and it seems like KCP’s draft selection would lead us to believe that Stuckey will not be back.
With that said — give KCP those minutes and see if he can develop into the potent scorer you hoped you drafted. Caldwell-Pope averaged an impressive 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore at University of Georgia last year and vaulted into the lottery after scouts dubbed him “the best scorer in this draft class”.
Kentavious (just rolls off the tongue) hasn’t done much with the minutes he has been given this season averaging just 6.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in a limited 23.4 minutes per night. Not only that but his shooting has been pretty awful as well: 36.3 percent overall, 31 percent from 3-point land — however he is shooting 40 percent on his 2-point field goals so there’s that. Caldwell-Pope is not a shooter (he only shot 37.3 percent from three in college) but he is a scorer and Cheeks and Dumars need to let the reigns go on this one.
I don’t want to see another wasted year for a young, explosive talent like we did last season in Terrence Ross north of the border. Ross is just now getting his chance to start and play big minutes and its paying dividends for the Raptors (Ross is averaging 19 points a night over his last three games). The Pistons might still make the playoffs this year and if they can creep up to the fifth or sixth seed then they might get past the first round — however they are not title contenders and thus should be evaluating assets and seeing who will be there for the long-haul. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be there; so develop him now, get him game experience, and he will start paying dividends sooner rather than later.
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