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Pistons vs. Wizards: Battle of the Guard

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Brandon Jennings outplayed John Wall Wednesday night in a loss to the Washington Wizards. Could Jennings have left the Jith

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Since the day Chauncey Billups was traded by the Detroit Pistons to the Denver Nuggets for future cap space, the Pistons have had an issue at the guard position. And not just the point guard position. Since Billups left the Pistons have gone through the following guards:

  • Rodney Stuckey - put in the wrong position to succeed.
  • Allen "Cap Space" Iverson - on the downside of his career.
  • Arron "Spellcheck" Afflalo - who was traded to Denver for peanuts.
  • Chucky Atkins Sr. - if only it was his younger version.
  • Ben Gordon - got paid based off of his rookie year and a playoff series.
  • Richard Hamilton - on the downside of his career.
  • Tracy McGrady - after injuries.
  • Brandon Knight - if his current play continues, we might regret that trade even more (though some already do).
  • Jose Calderon - he should still be here...
  • Kim English - I will always remember him for this video.
  • Khris Middleton - another reason to possibly regret trading for Brandon Jennings.
  • Peyton Siva - *anything to get KC3 to visit*
  • Chauncey Billups Sr. - after injuries.

This is all in a matter of six years. This all lead to the DBB Meme (P/S)GOTF. The Pistons current guard stock includes Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin and our 2014 second rounder Spencer Dinwiddie. So far this year, there has been slight glimpses that we may finally have consistent quality guard play ... or that we are at least on our way there.

Oh yeah, and What about Will Bynum?

On Wednesday night, the Pistons played one of the top guards in the NBA in the Washington Wizards' John Wall. Wall had himself a nice night. He went for 27 points, 11 assists and three steals. Of those 27 points, 13 of them came from the free throw line where Wall shot from 16 times (12 in the first half). However, with Bradley Beal out, the Wizards were without the second half of one of the best guard duos in the league.

Jennings and Caldwell-Pope rose to the challenge. In the first quarter alone, Jennings and Caldwell-Pope scored more points than the entire Wizards team 25-24. Jennings was 6-for-8 including 3-for-4 from long distance. Caldwell-Pope was 4-for-6 including 1-for-1 from deep. That is highly efficient guard play. They would finish the game less efficient, but still very good overall.

Jennings finished the game 11-for-19 (3-for-7 from long distance) for 32 points to go along with 10 assists and two steals. Caldwell-Pope finished 8-for-14 (4-for-6 from long distance) for 20 points. This brings up two questions: 1) are they playing better than last year and 2) is this sustainable?

In regards to Caldwell-Pope, we do not have much to go on. This is only his second year in the league. In college, Caldwell-Pope made a jump in his second year. He went from shooting .396 overall to .433. There was an even larger jump in his 3-point percentage going from .304 to .373. However, this did not include much of a jump in shots per game as he went from 12.0 overall shots to 13.4, and 6.7 three pointers to 7.0.

So far, Caldwell-Pope has not made that sophomore jump. His shots per game have more than doubled from 5.8 overall to 12.9. His 3-point attempts have also more than doubled going from 2.3 to 5.8. While his field-goal percentage has gone down, his three-point percentage has had a nice uptick, going from .319 to .370 (very similar to his sophomore jump in college). What's really disturbing though is his free-throw percentage. For a shooter (not a Josh Smith shooter) to shoot .556 from the free-throw line is offensive.

As for Jennings, this may be Stan Van Gundy's doing. There has been talk that Stan Van Gundy made Jameer Nelson into a better player. So far, Jennings has possibly been playing the best basketball of his career.

Obviously eight games is a small sample size, but through eight games Jennings has shot the fewest shots per game in any year of his career, the fewest three-point shots, the highest field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage, and has his highest career WS/48 at 0.184. Jennings also has been showing a better effort on the defensive end compared to last year. His defense rating last year was 113. It's down to 108 this year. He still has an issue with some quicker point guards getting by him and being picked off on pick and rolls, but the effort is certainly there.

Most players tend to get better as the year goes on. They get into rhythm and learn their teammates tendencies more. Therefore, it's hopeful that both Jennings and Caldwell-Pope will continue to improve. That will be great in tandem with getting back Jodie Meeks, Cartier Martin and Spencer Dinwiddie. D.J. Augustin has not been as efficient as he was last year (especially from distance or the free-throw line), which hopefully means that once he gets into a rhythm the Pistons will have a solid guard rotation. Of course, with a history of Hall of Fame guards, Pistons fans will always hold their guards to a high standard.