Last week, Kevin previewed the starting lineup, describing what the Pistons needs from each player in order to lock up another title. This week, he previews the bench.
by: Kevin Sawyer
Well, an unbroken hand, for starters. What they really need is consistent production from their backup guard. Stuckey proved in the pre-season that he can be aggressive in driving to the basket, and if he can get to the foul line regularly, he should be extremely effective. In order to do that, though, he’ll have to prove that he can shoot the ball well. If his FG% dips below the 43-44% range, those trips to the lane are going to result in charges as defenders simply beg him to shoot open jumpers.
The Pistons can live with last year’s production, so long as he cuts down on fouls, turnovers and goaltending. His aggressiveness is admirable, and he is certainly fun to watch, but those three elements will limit his effectiveness (see: Mohammed, Nazr). Maxiell will be the first starting option behind McDyess and Wallace, which means he will probably start 10-12 games. That makes staying out of foul trouble all the more important.
Honestly, I think the Pistons should give Flip the starting nod when Billups and/or Hamilton are unavailable. Over the long term, the difference in efficiency would be ruinous, but Murray does play better as a starter, and isn’t going to choke in the spotlight. If he can fill the spot starter role, he should provide value, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t shoot very well, and (like Maxiell) could see 10+ games in that capacity.
Really, the Pistons need defense from Amir. His offensive game will develop over time, but his height and athleticism should allow him to be very disruptive on the defensive end, especially against the 2nd and 3rd stringers he is likely to face. For all his talents, Maxiell is a defensive liability and a mediocre rebounder. Johnson can earn his minutes by blocking and altering shots and hording defensive rebounds. One key stat will be his bpg/foul ratio. If he can stay north of, say .80 in that area, it will be a sure sign that this season was a success.
That this guy has DNPs next to his name is absurd, but it appears that the trend may continue. What’s worse is that even if Mohammed or Johnson fail to take the next step, it appears as though Chris Webber has a rotation spot secured for him. It’s tough to say what the Pistons will need from him, because they won’t play him even if he provides it. That said, most teams would kill to call this guy their 12th man.
Spellcheck’s pre-season hinted that he might have an offensive game after all. Judging him by his two starting gigs is a bit unfair, and Saunders was awfully quick to pull the hook on him. Afflalo brings a reputation as a defensive stopper. If he can bring lockdown defense to the table, and maintain an efficient (if not prolific) offensive game, he could find minutes as our new Lindsey Hunter. But he is 23, and playing for a loaded team. His chances to succeed will be very limited, and he had better make the best of them.
Welcome to the world of management. Here is your key to the executive washroom. Oh, and keep in shape, cause you’ll probably wind up seeing heavy minutes in the Eastern Conference Finals anyway.
Not a rotation player. However, circle March 29 on your calendar, when the Cavs come in town. Can’t you just see LeBron, frustrated with his .500 ball club, on the verge of eruption? That’s Dupree time baby! Take him down with a flagrant 2, and enjoy watching yourself on ESPN for the next two weeks as the Cavs go down in flames.
Key moment: Zydrunas Ilgauskas pounding the top of Sheed’s head while Sheed throws his hands in the air yelling " I ain’t doin’ nothin’! I ain’t doin’ nothin’!" To the refs. Sheed gets a three game suspension for excessive bleeding.
[Update: Whoops ... last but not least: ]
The Pistons need three point shooting off the bench in order to spread defenses an mike life easier for Max, Stuckey, and whatever starter happens to be anchoring the second unit. As limited as his game has been, Hayes has shown that he can meet this particular challenge, which should provide a boost. He won't shoot 40% for the season, but a few more open looks might get him into the high 30s, and that should be enough to convince him to abandon his mediocre midrange game.