Editor's note: Welcome Gabe F-B to the DBB staff! Gabe's been a part of the DBB community for years, so you should know this was a long time coming. - BP
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
When: 8:00 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Elite Level Professional NBA Basketball Analysis
How does this sound:
Getting Andre and Greg on the court together was sure to be a key goal for the season. There was no reason to hold off on developing and evaluating the pairing Detroit is counting on to eventually push it into the elite ranks of the NBA. Granted, Greg had been playing quite well as an instant-offense player, capable of soaking up possessions while maintaining above-average efficiency. But ultimately, these two players need to be able to play long minutes together and complement each other.
I think it sounds pretty logical.
The Bucks are committing right off the bat to doing what the Pistons have inexplicably held off on for multiple seasons. Finding out if their two young potential star players can be effective together. And while the Bucks are in the midst of a surprising 7-7 start, it hasn't gone totally smoothly. They are sporting a negative point differential and have played a favorable schedule, both indicators that the .500 start is potentially a mirage. And if I was a Bucks fan I would say... who cares. The future cornerstones of their franchise are playing a lot of minutes together, surrounded by a supporting cast of players who actually know how to play the positions they are playing (I see your Brandon Knight PG rebuttal, but still). That's all I want. Just that. I'm easy to please, Stan. Promise.
But yeah, this is a winnable game for the Pistons, which makes sense because they've already beaten the Bucks once. It will almost certainly be ugly, but it is winnable. In a broad sense, the Bucks and the Pistons are strikingly similar statistically. They both play a slow it down half-court game (Pistons are 25th in pace, Bucks 21st), they are both terrible on offense (Pistons 27th in ORtg, Bucks 28th), and are kinda okay on defense (Pistons 13th in DRtg, Bucks 9th).
The Bucks rely on a deep roster of middling vets to keep the pressure up defensively. I assume. Well they have a lot of middling vets. Think names like; Dudley, Ilyasova, Bayless, Larry Sanders, Zaza. And Kidd regularly goes 11 deep into the rotation. Though why they give Zaza Pachulia more minutes than John Henson is one of the many mysteries of NBA coaching that may never be solved to my satisfaction. Actually, why Kidd plays Zaza at all... Yeah, I don't know.
But what I'm saying is there's a chance. The Bucks are turnover prone and terrible at shooting threes. Steals and offensive rebounds (ranked 2nd and 7th respectively) are propping up their offense, and it's still near the bottom of the league. This seems like a happy match-up for the Pistons, themselves a low turnover squad with triplet towers manning the front court. Teams that can't bomb the Pistons into oblivion from behind the three point line are less likely to make us wish Josh Smith, Small Forward, was never a thing. At least when Detroit is on defense.
Players to Watch
Detroit: Andre Drummond
Drummond is having an almost unfathomably bad season so far. But if there's a team Drummond should dominate just purely based on his mix of size, strength and athleticism, it's the Bucks. Larry Sanders is a capable NBA big, he's also giving up 50lbs to Dre. As mentioned above, Kidd has been sprinkling sparing amounts of Henson and generous heaps of Zaza into the rotation. Henson might be a very good PF, but his frame is maybe even slighter than Sanders, he should not be able to keep Drummond off the boards. Pachulia is 30 and just not good. It's time, Andre. Keep it simple, attack the glass, finish strong. Give us a glimpse that the Andre Drummond from the last two seasons is still in there.
Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis has been heating up since the Pistons last played the Bucks (averaging 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steal, while shooting 53%, just 1.5 turnovers), and is approaching the point where there is a very real possibility that his considerable athletic abilities are going to consistently translate into production on the basketball court. The vast majority of his FGA's have been in the paint, and he's finishing above 60% on those shots, so we'll see if it's sustainable. But right now he's experiencing a reverse-Drummond effect. As his usage rate has climbed, his efficiency is going up sharply and his turnovers are going down. The Pistons have several players they can try on Giannis, including hopefully Jerebko who I think is probably the best match-up, but Giannis's ability to impact the games in a number of ways could be the difference between two evenly matched teams.
Other Things to Keep an Eye
Will the highly anticipated rematch of spurned PG[s]OTF be called off? Apparently Knight is questionable and so is Jennings. Don't say I didn't warn you if we're treated to long stretches of DJ Augustin vs Jerryd Bayless action. If one of Knight or Jennings is fit to play, that might swing the game in their teams favor. Jennings has been sneakily great this season, and Knight has shown a pulse and isn't Jerryd Bayless.
Will SVG give KCP a quick hook? This is almost certainly wishful thinking on my part as KCP is leading the team in minutes, but his offensive output has been dragging the Pistons offense down throughout the season. Against an opponent with a less than threatening offense, maybe juuuust maybe, I'd like to see Stan prioritize the skill of throwing a round ball through a hoop over defense.
The current Pistons roster has a rotation that should beat the Bucks most of the time. With the weekend to reflect, some b-ref stat digging, perhaps SVG decides it is suboptimal to play a SG with a .45 TS% and a SF with a .399 (!!!) TS% for extended minutes. That seems logical, but what do I know. Anyway, I'm guessing 98-90 Pistons.
Will the Pistons win? Or lose?