With only 66 games this season as a result of the stupid lockout, the midseason point snuck up on us and has now passed. The official halfway mark of the season was before Tuesday night's loss against the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, due to the squeezed-tight schedule, we weren't able to put together midseason grades like we did last year. While it won't be nearly as comprehensive, this post here will have to make-do.
On Feb. 1, Detroit lost its seventh straight game to fall to 4-20, and it was beginning to look like the player mutiny against then-coach John Kuester last season might not be the modern nadir of the franchise after all. But since then, the Pistons have won seven of nine, and with games against Cleveland and Toronto this week, they have a chance to go into the All-Star break with genuine momentum. Guard Rodney Stuckey has finally overcome injuries enough to help lighten the load on second-year center Greg Monroe, who is having a breakout year. The roster is still littered with terrible long-term contracts and laden with combo guards at the expense of those who make ball distribution a priority. And the bargain coach Lawrence Frank recently struck with his players -- make a stop on defense and you can freelance on offense -- sounds like the teaching process is at ground zero. But winning games while you develop a franchise center isn't a bad way to end the first half.
If you're wondering about that "bargain," it's referring to what Keith Langlois wrote on February 11:
Lawrence Frank offers players a tantalizing bargain: play good defense and you don’t have to worry about mastering the playbook. "We give the ultimate gold ticket to players," he said after a Saturday practice carried out with the lively tempo of a team riding a four-game winning streak. "If we get stops, we just play out of basketball principles. We don’t run set plays off of misses. So if I’m a player and I want freedom, I’m going to get stops."
If that's a rule he just implemented in February, it's certainly working. In this month alone, the Pistons have held opponents to under 90 points four times. That number was three for the first 23 games.
Again, it's hard to tell how much the Pistons have actually improved due to the relative ease of their opponents in a bizarre bunch-like fashion, but as MFMP said in the preview of the first game of the second half, there is credit to be given for winning games against beatable opponents, which past Pistons teams had trouble doing with regularity. The Cavs loss was a step back, but still, winning seven out of 10 games against anyone is 100-percent acceptable in my book and should earn the Pistons an A on this month's report card.
And if you don't think the Pistons are improving, these useful midseason charts from PistonPowered will likely change your mind. After the jump, I'll arbitrarily go through each player.
Greg Monroe: A
I'd like to move to have Warrior added to the end of all his nicknames and not have it only be attached to 'Monroad.' All-Star snub and team's best player in just his second season at the age of 21.
I thought about giving him a C-plus, but I was afraid of getting reamed. I still might.
Rodney Stuckey: B+
He's a Top 60 player in the NBA if you're going by Hollinger's metrics. He's also one of three Pistons who are a net positive this season (if you don't count Macklin, because he has only played 71 minutes)
Ben Gordon: C-
He's 21st in the NBA in 3-point percentage, but he hasn't been much better than the rookie. I docked him a grade for being a veteran and not living up to his contract (which isn't really his fault, but you can't say it doesn't create unreasonable expectations).
Will Bynum: D+
Seeing the fewest minutes since he's been a Piston, but he's not making the most of them, either.
Walker Russel: D-league
Truest passer on the team, but he can't make shots and can't play defense. He almost prevented Linsanity, though.
Jonas Jerebko: B
Couldn't ask for much more from a late second rounder returning from a torn achilles in just his second NBA season.
Tayshaun Prince: Dick-
Okay, that's not fair ... or is it?
Jason Maxiell: C+
Having a bounce back season in terms of rebounding and defense.
Austin Daye: see Prince's grade
Ben Wallace: A-
I'm grading this one on a career curve.
A cheaper, not-mopey 2012 Tayshaun Prince.
Vernon Macklin: Inc.
I wish his minutes were multiplied by ten.
Charlie Villanueva: Inc.
Two games is enough, if you know what I mean, but not enough to give a grade.