While the moves of the Detroit Pistons this offseason have been polarizing within the fan community and throughout the NBA, one place the team is getting plenty of love is Grantland.com.
Grantland, the Bill Simmons-run website subsidized by ESPN and Subway among others, has been heaping praise on the Pistons lately. Simmons might have spent all offseason concocting ways to trade a bunch of garbage and an injured Rajon Rondo in exchange for Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and a pick, but his staff has actually been paying attention and they like what they see.
Luigi Datome is the team's newest overseas import, and Grantland writer Brett Koremenos is high on his possible impact in the NBA. Koremenos writes that Datome's modest deal could be the path forward for NBA team's looking to identify specialists in the future.
When the Pistons signed Datome, they were under no illusions. This was not the next Manu Ginobili or Dirk Nowitzki. They knew that Datome possesses one clearly translatable NBA skill: He can knock down shots. In unguarded catch-and-shoot situations, Datome converted exactly half of his 60 attempts for a ridiculous adjusted field goal percentage of 72.5 percent (before you say that pros should always shoot that well on open shots, trust me, it's not that easy). Those open looks that were rather scarce in an Italian league where Datome was a marked man will be much more frequent as a secondary player in the NBA, at least until he proves to opposing teams that he's a player who can't be left alone outside the arc. In a league where aggressive defensive schemes are driving the constant one-on-one isolation play that dominated the 1990s into extinction, Datome should prove to be capable of handling the rigors of a higher level of competition, and could wind up being an extremely valuable role player.
That paragraph has me so impossibly excited I don't know what to say.
The piece then goes on to compare Datome's two-year, $3.5 million deal to other shooters and says Detroit got a big-time bargain.
Other teams are clearly coming around to this way of thinking. What Datome signifies is that teams, even those with questionable decision-makers like Joe Dumars, are open to the volatility that comes with that third option.
The point is well taken but I think it's needlessly harsh toward Dumars. This is, after all, an organization that has been a longtime proponent of looking overseas for NBA talent, and I'm not just talking about the dreaded Darko draft pick. This is the team of Zelkjo Rebraca and Mehmet Okur, and signing Will Bynum out of Israel when nobody else was interested. Credit where it is due, and I give all credit to Dumars for this and previous overseas acquisitions.
Next up we have Zach Lowe. Grantland's best writer has had particularly harsh words for Greg Monroe's defense, yes, but he has been complimentary of both the Josh Smith signing and now the Brandon Jennings trade.
But Jennings can play point guard, and he's gotten better at it over time. He understands the rhythms of a pick-and-roll - how to read layers of help defense, the art of an inside-out dribble, the prodding impact of a well-timed hesitation bounce, and the trajectory of a slick wraparound pass in the lane. He's got a little Chris Paul-style start-and-stop to his pick-and-roll game now, and he uses that to get further into the paint, in more dangerous ways, more often than he did one or two seasons ago. Jennings can even go right, at least occasionally, and he especially likes to do so when defenses anticipate him dribbling around a pick set to his left - this allows him to cross defenses up by rejecting the pick and dribbling to his right into the teeth of a surprised defense.
He's not an inherently selfish player either, despite some hellish shot selection. He seemed to enjoy picking out Monta Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, and J.J. Redick (all Bucks as recently as, like, five minutes ago) as they curled around screens, and he had a nice chemistry with the wily Ersan Ilyasova. Milwaukee's offense during the past two seasons was much healthier when Jennings shared the court with Ilyasova, a deadly stretch power forward who knows how to move without the ball, per NBA.com. I'd be a little worried, if I were Joe Dumars, about how Jennings might function without both a rangy power forward and an off-ball shooter running the baseline. Perhaps Datome and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could help on the latter front, and head coach Maurice Cheeks could add some stretchiness to the frontcourt by staggering Smith's, Monroe's, and Andre Drummond's minutes.
Lowe also covers Jennings' questionable shot selection, possible maturation and Brandon Knight's strengths and weaknesses. It's a great read so go read it.
Lastly, we have Andrew Sharp, who has been on the Pistons bandwagon the longest. In mid-July Sharp praised the Josh Smith deal:
Think of how terrifying a Drummond-Monroe-Smith front line will be. THINK ABOUT IT. The rest will figure itself out over the next few years. For now, instead of treading water or going into full-on tank mode, the Pistons took risks in the draft and free agency, and now they have a team that will play killer defense, run the floor, and might literally dunk you to death.
And now he has an entire piece that serves as an ode to Detroit's offseason titled Dunking > Tanking: All Hail the Pistons.
Now, after a summer when Jennings kinda turned into a league-wide punch line, he lands in Detroit with a chip on his shoulder and a fresh start. This could work better than you think. It was a smart deal.
Of course, it's also INSANE.
Three freak-athlete big men (Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe) who can't shoot, a point guard who shoots too much (and still can't shoot), a bench full of wild cards, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey ... How is this really a team?
Everything about this Pistons squad and the way Joe Dumars built it has been a giant middle finger to everyone. Nobody would take a chance on Andre Drummond in the 2012 draft? The Pistons grabbed him. Nobody wanted to commit big money to Josh Smith? The Pistons swooped in and stole him for $54 million. Chauncey Billups is washed up? Chauncey Billups is coming back to Detroit. Tony Mitchell? Freak athlete/tweener who plummeted in the draft. BOOM. Pistons. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Well ... nobody has any clue what he'll end up doing. But, hey, Pistons.
Throw in Jennings, and COACH SHEED, and the Pistons are basically just stockpiling guys who have driven the whole world crazy. Now they'll drive the world crazy together. It's League Pass Christmas!
Either way, we should celebrate the Pistons because regardless of whether it works or not, it'll be spectacular. I don't know if I believe in the Pistons' blueprint, but I'm glad it exists. It's better than having another team like the Sixers and Suns, both of whom will be unwatchable all year. Plus: Is some guy like Marcus Smart really worth throwing away another season and giving up on someone like Greg Monroe?
Instead, as we said a few weeks ago, Detroit's front line might dunk you to death. And maybe we'll watch Andre Drummond turn into a monster for real, Greg Monroe will play on the first good team of his career, and Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith will prove everyone wrong. There will be lots of spacing issues in the half-court, the lineup is still ridiculous to think about, Maurice Cheeks and COACH SHEED will have lots of work to do to make it all fit, etc. But whatever happens will be entertaining.