After several weeks of a wired jaw and soft foods, Brandon Jennings has been cleared to suit up for the Detroit Pistons. When Jennings steps on to the court for Detroit, fans will finally see the complete team that was assembled this summer, from Jennings at the point to Josh Smith at small forward. If they're going to need a game or two to work out the kinks, a game against the Boston Celtics is a great opportunity to do so.
The Celtics are amidst a rebuild, running a team with a handful of familiar names and a lot of young talent. With Rajon Rondo out until December at the earliest, Boston will be anchored by Jeff Green and a group of vets and young players looking to work their way up from the bench. Jared Sullinger is working toward a sophomore start by challenging Brandon Bass for minutes. The story is a little different for 2013 lottery pick Kelly Olynyk, who finds himself in the depth chart beneath undrafted rookie Vitor Faverani from Brazil.
You've probably heard of Michael Carter-Williams by now, but Faverani is the unsung rookie surprise of the early NBA season. Faverani, a 25-year-old rookie from Porto Alegre, Brazil, put up 12 points, 18 rebounds and 6 blocks against Milwaukee on Friday. There's very little tape available on this undrafted big man, so the Pistons are going to have to adjust on the fly to this out-of-nowhere prospect.
Beyond Faverani and the familiar names like Green, Bass and Gerald Wallace, Detroit has the talent advantage going into tonight's game. It'll be a good opportunity to welcome Jennings back in limited minutes, getting him used to running pick-and-rolls with Detroit's trio of bigs.
Boston has lost both of its two regular season games so far, behind by a 6.5 point margin. In real terms, these games have been decided by a few baskets, and the six-point loss to Milwaukee on Friday fell on a late surge by the Bucks. Despite their loss of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (and Rajon Rondo to injury), this is still a potent team. If Detroit doesn't respect their ability, they could be looking up from below .500 at the end of 48 minutes.
Boston's offense has been driven by Jeff Green, but anchored by Brandon Bass. Green receives most of the team's shot attempts, but Bass has put up 17 points in both losses on a combined 67% shooting. 11 of Bass' 18 shots this season have come outside the paint, where he's shooting an astounding 73%. This will be a great test for Greg Monroe, who excelled last season in defending spot-up shooting and isolation in the mid-range. However, Bass has been impossible to defend thus far, shooting 86% from outside the paint against defensive stalwart Amir Johnson.
Despite his knack for post defense, Josh Smith has struggled to defend perimeter shooters so far as a Piston. Washington's small forwards combined for 58% from three, and Memphis' small forwards combined for 43%. This may have been a concern heading into the season, even as suggested by ex-Piston Tayshaun Prince, but Smith should have the night off against Boston in this regard. Boston is only shooting 24% from three so far this season. Tonight will be a great night for Smith to sag off and help Monroe with Brandon Bass if he's proving to be too much to handle. Every Smith block on Brandon Bass tonight is a reason to celebrate, Pistons fans.
In total, this team is a lot further along than Detroit was when it began its own rebuild after the Chauncey Billups trade five years ago today. They've already got some really promising young players, they have productive vets and plenty of trade opportunities to explore this season. Detroit should be very careful to count out the Boston Celtics tonight, and conscious of just how quick this team's rebuild might end up being in the near future.
Keys to the Game:
Balanced Offense: Friday night's game against Memphis was an offensive travesty. If Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe combine for 61% shooting again on the same number of shots as a 30% shooting Josh Smith, you can pencil this one into the loss column. This team has a lot of offensive firepower especially with Jennings returning. Split the offense evenly between its points of strength and move the ball -- and Detroit can come out on top.
Defend the Paint: Boston shot just 24% from three in its last two games, but still out-shot its competition by shooting well inside. Andre Drummond will be a key figure tonight, and Smith should feel free to play to his strengths on help D and sag off the perimeter a bit. Greg Monroe, on the other hand, will have to try and do something to contain Brandon Bass. If Moose can't and Smith struggles too, there's a wild card on the bench in Tony Mitchell.
Dust Yourselves Off a Bit: The loss to Memphis was crushing, but the team as a whole shouldn't feel bad about how they played. The box score shows six guys in double figures, a win in the rebound war, and beyond Smith, the four guys who attempted 10+ shots combined for 57% shooting. Those performances should be celebrated, and the players should feel great about their effort. Mo Cheeks and Josh Smith should take their lesson into this game against Boston and get back to playing to the team's strengths.
Question of the Game:
What are your thoughts on Boston, Gawker.com? (NSFW)