Detroit Pistons vs. Sacramento Kings. Greg Monroe vs. DeMarcus Cousins. Two best players from the 2010 draft square off against one another on both offense and defense. Except not really. ... It seems that Cousins is out with back spasms.
And that is really too bad as I was eagerly anticipating this game. Before the draft, I wanted Cousins bad. Real bad. And while the Pistons selected Monroe, I honestly thought of it as a "consolation prize." Sure, I was glad it wasn't Ekpe Udoh, but it sure wasn't Cousins. But now I'm not so sure. Monroe is proving himself just as adept on offense and isn't getting a (bad) coach fired in the process. Of course, I am biased, and as you can see here, Kings fans aren't desperate for a mulligan either.
I don't know who the better player will be in the long run, but I'm glad to have Monroe and I hope these two teams battle it out with their big men for the next 10 years.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Sacramento Kings: 10 - 19 (3 - 14 road)
Detroit Pistons: 9 - 22 (6 - 10 home)
The Kings have a burgeoning big man, a point guard who might not really be a point guard. They've got high price tags on mediocre players and are counting on the draft to really round out the rebuilding process. John Salmons = Ben Gordon, Francisco Garcia = Jason Maxiell, Travis Outlaw = Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans = Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, Paul Whestphal = John Kuester. Money is a little different, talent is a little different, roles are a little different, but they're mired in similar situations.
But at least Pistons fans are comfortable we'll still have a team in a couple years. Kings fans have endured years of speculation the time might be bound for Anaheim and now a new suitor has arrived in Seattle. But at least they still have Cousins. Just not tonight.
Keys to the Game:
Feed the Moose -- This goes without saying, I know. But now that Cousins is out, the Kings are going to have to rely even more on the tandem of Chuck Hayes and J.J. Hickson. Hayes has a reputation as a great post defender thanks to the leverage he can generate with the low center of gravity his wide, 6-foot-6 frame affords. But he hasn't had a decent defensive rating in three seasons and is shooting an abysmal 36 percent from the floor. As a center.
Hickson is more athletic and dominated Monroe a season ago. In four games with the Cavs last year, Hickson average more than 17 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game while Monroe scored 9.5 points and grabbed 8.3 rebounds. But since arriving in Sacramento, Hickson's game has greatly deteriorated. He is averaging just 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds on 38 percent shooting this season.
But keep an eye on Thompson -- There are a few reasons to keep track of Jason Thompson. 1. He will be a restricted free agent and I'm not sure he has a future with the team. With both Cousins and Hayes locked up until 2015 and the team looking to add a big man in the draft, they might let the athletic Thompson go. 2. Two words: JaVale McGee. Monroe and the Pistons had a terrible time handling the freakish athleticism of McGee in their blowout loss to the Wizards. Thompson's no athletic freak but he is big and long and faster than the Moose.
Limit transition opportunities - With Tyreke Evans at the helm, the Kings want to run. They are sixth in the league in pace, and rank in the top 10 in fastbreak points and fastbreak efficiency. But in the half court the Sacramento offense is even more inept than Detroit's, especially if you force them to shoot jumpers. Check out these field goal percentages and where they rank in the NBA:
- 3-9 feet: 30.4 % (29)
- 10-15 feet: 33.5% (25)
- 16-23 feet: 32.9% (29)
- Threes: 46.1 eFG% (24)
Play Daye - Whichever team gets less horrific play from the small forward slot is probably going to win. We all know that Tayshaun Prince can play effectively on occasion, but I think there is a chance Austin Daye has a big game tonight. Daye is again in horrific shooting slump and its looking more and more likely that he's never going to "figure it out" in a Pistons uniform. But if he was ever going to break out of it, it would be against the Kings. John Salmons, Travis Outlaw and Francisco Garcia are all subpar defenders and have been dreadful on offense.
According to HoopData, the average NBA swingman has an average True Shooting Percentage of 52.1 percent. Salmons, Outlaw, and Garcia clock in with percentages of 42.3, 36.6 and 47.3, respectively . And according to a recent article by John Hollinger (Insider) that looked at teams getting the least amount of production at every position, no small forward tandem has been worse than the Kings.
Question of the Game:
Be honest -- Who would you rather have DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe? Take the poll.