Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: Wednesday, March 4, 8PM ET
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The last week or so has been somewhat of a mess for the Pistons. Starting at the trade deadline, the complete overhaul of the roster by sending out four players, including two starters, and bringing in two anticipated starters is always going to be a cause for a re-calibration. Add to the mix the signing of two other guys and you end up only having nine players in the 15-man squad who were actually part of the franchise on opening day, and three of those players get no minutes for various reasons (Jennings, Martin, Anthony). Therefore, six players in your squad have been a consistent part of this franchise since day one. Actually, let's whittle that down to five considering Jodie Meeks missed the early part of the season. Let's reduce that to four by stipulating that Spencer Dinwiddie was nailed to the bench early in the season as the third-string PG. That leaves Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Caron Butler as the only four players who have come close to consistently playing the whole season.
That sort of roster turnover is bound to cause a little period of readjustment. If we look at the six players acquired throughout the season, four of them have come in the last week. Anthony Tolliver has had time to settle into the rotation and exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of his production, while John Lucas III is where he belongs, at the end of the bench with the emergence of Dinwiddie as a viable option at backup PG for now. This leaves Reggie Jackson, Tayshaun Prince, Quincy Miller and Shawne Williams. Miller has just signed his second 10-day contract but has not played a minute for the Pistons, indicating Van Gundy may already like what he sees in practice and his two D-League games with the Drive, and is already thinking about at least a non or partially-guaranteed contract. Shawne Williams, since being claimed off waivers, has played a grand total of 12 minutes in his two Pistons outings. Prince and Jackson, the two "headline" acquisitions, have had mixed starts to their Pistons career (or resurgence in Prince's case). Jackson started strongly (after a poor first half) but has faded the last two games, while Prince has displayed his age and has been reduced to a bit-part role in the second half of a lot of games.
My underlying point is, considering all the turmoil and roster turnover that this team has gone through, I think it is a massive credit to both Stan Van Gundy and his coaching staff, as well as the players for sticking with it. Starting 5-23 and going through such a horrendous period including 13 straight losses could be cause to blow it all up. Considering all that, the fact that we are now 23-36 and only two and a half games out of the No. 8 seed with 23 games left, this is a massive accomplishment, and indicates massive growth, important if we want to attract free agents (including our own). I understand Jackson has perhaps disappointed a little bit of late, and I have openly criticized in GameThreads, but for a point guard to step into a new environment mid season with a team in a playoff push and start off like a house on fire is incredibly rare, and to expect it is foolish. Also, what annoys me is how people are writing off our chances after a couple of bad losses. Yes, they were disappointing, and in the immediate moments after a game the emotions can get the better of you, but as I said, two and a half games out with 23 games left is not unreachable. The team will get better as time passes and familiarity and chemistry is built. Three days between games will help, as will the practices, which should have been intense given the break. I expect Jackson to come out fully invigorated; he will have had time to study the playbook and see the plays run in practice. I'm not saying expect greatness, but expect an improvement on his last two games. OK, tangent over.
Oh yeah, we're playing the Pelicans tonight, in Nawlins. The Pelicans lost their last matchup against the Mavericks, but were riding a five game winning streak before that, with wins against Miami (twice), Toronto, Brooklyn and Denver. However, their roster is depleted. Anthony Davis' status has been upgraded to a "questionable", which puts him at roughly a 50-50 chance to play. The question is whether the Pelicans see us as enough of a threat to risk using him. Davis is coming off a shoulder sprain to his shooting arm, but the big issue will be banging with the likes of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Davis, for all his amazing qualities, is quite small compared to Drumroe, listed at 220 pounds, compared to Monroe (250 pounds) and Drummond (a fat 280 pounds). If the NOLA doctors feel he can handle the bruising, he will play, but probably be on a minutes restriction.
The Pelicans have other injury issues as well. Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson are both out, Holiday with a lingering lower leg stress reaction which he aggravated after the All-Star Break, and Anderson with a sprained MCL. In fairness, considering our front line, Anderson is a huge out, as it is well documented that Drumroe struggle with forwards who stretch the floor out to the three-point line. Anderson, who likely would've come off the bench regardless, will have his spot filled by a mixture of Dante Cunningham, Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca. Babbitt is a deadly shooter, but plays limited minutes when he does not start (which is more often than you'd think), while Cunningham and Ajinca have respectable mid-range games. My guess is if Davis is out, Cunningham will start next to Asik, but, at 6'8" and 221 pounds, will likely be in for a beating.
* Here's a fun trivia question. How many players on the Pelicans current roster were drafted by the franchise? Answer after the community question.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Spencer Dinwiddie
I could just as easily have put Jackson here (again), but history suggests that after a good game, Dinwiddie follows it up with a couple of stinkers. Of course, that history sample is one game against Chicago followed by 2 ordinary games against Washington (the first time) and Cleveland, so we'll have to wait and see. He is penciled in as the backup for the immediate future, and will likely face Norris Cole and Jimmer Fredette (if he plays).
Pelicans: Tyreke Evans
Evans has been a polarizing figure in this league. Drafted 4th in 2009, behind only Blake Griffin, THE GRAND RAPIDS DRIVE'S VERY OWN SUPERSTAR HASHEEM THABEET, and James Harden, he was supposed to be the next version of Derrick Rose (big, athletic point guard who could attack the rim, both out of the University of Memphis). However, for whatever reason, he never worked in Sacramento. Granted, not a lot works in Sacramento nowadays (Stauskas?), but he was bounced around from point guard to even small forward. His versatility was a curse. However, recently, he has been putting up some great numbers for NO. In February, he averaged 14.8 points per game with 9.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 34.7 minutes a game over 11 contests, with a low (for him) usage rate of 24.8. His shooting percentages still weren't great, and the best way to defend him is to sag off and let him shoot the long ball (season 29% from three, on three attempts a game, 27% from long distance in his career on two attempts per game).
Last Time We Met
Jan. 14, 2015 - Pelicans won 105-94 (season series 1-0 NO)
Don't let the scoreboard fool you. The Pistons were absolutely pasted in this game. Despite being within two at quarter time (22-18), the Pelicans had a 19-2 run in the second and led 58-36 at the half. Anthony Davis dominated with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 19 points and Greg Monroe added 16 and 8 rebounds.
-- Caron Butler played with Pelicans forward Alexis Ajinca for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-11 season.
-- Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy coached Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson in Orlando from 2009-12.
-- Anderson also played with Pistons director of player development Quentin Richardson in Orlando from 2010-12.
-- Pistons guard Jodie Meeks played with Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday for Philadelphia from 2010-12.
-- Pistons general manager Jeff Bower served as director of scouting, director of player personnel, scout, general manager and head coach of the New Orleans Hornets.
With the Pistons having had a big rest and multiple practice days, I can see a victory here. Potentially avoiding Anthony Davis helps as well.
Pistons 109, Pelicans 101
I'm going to
assume hope that Davis is out.
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Prince, Monroe, Drummond
Pelicans: Evans, Gordon, Pondexter, Cunningham, Asik
Pistons: Jennings (Achilles)
Pelicans: Davis (shoulder), Anderson (sprained MCL), Holiday (lower leg)
Did you get the trivia question right? Answer below. Also, do you want the trivia to be a regular feature?
* Answer: 1 (Anthony Davis, 1st overall in 2012). 9 were acquired by trade [Gordon (LAC), Anderson (ORL), Evans (SAC), Withey (POR), Holiday (PHI), Asik (HOU), Pondexter (MEM), Cole (MIA), Justin Hamilton (MIA)]. The other 4 (Cunningham, Babbitt, Ajinca and Fredette) were FA signings.
For an enemy perspective please visit The Bird Writes.