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Pistons vs. Hornets preview: Beware the Kemba and Cody show

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Kemba Walker might be the best player nobody talks about

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons face the Charlotte Hornets just nine days after besting them 112-89. The Pistons shouldn’t be overconfident, however, as Charlotte was playing its fourth game in five days. Now, they’re coming off of rest and the Pistons are on the second night of a back-to-back. The Hornets are also, incidentally, a really good team.

Game Vitals

When: December 7th @ 7 PM EST
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Analysis

Kemba Walker might just be the best point guard in the NBA that nobody is talking about. Walker didn’t burst out of the gate. He struggled in his first two years while soaking up 4,500 minutes on a largely forgotten Charlotte team. Then he started putting things together. Last year, he was the best player on a 49-win team and this year he has exploded as one of the most dangerous points guards in the NBA.

He’s not Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook, dangerous, no, but when you think about point guards in the East, he belongs in the same conversations as Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry and John Wall.

How does he do it? By adding veteran savvy to his natural quickness and strength, and by slowly building his 3-point shot, which now sits above 40 percent on over six attempts per game.

Savvy

Strength + Quickness

3-point shooting

You’ll notice also that Kemba loves to operate in the pick and roll. That should come as no surprise, however, as Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a Stan Van Gundy disciple. Walker averages 12 pick-and-roll possessions per game, third in the NBA, and scores .99 points per possession. For reference, last season Reggie Jackson led the NBA with 11.3 PNR possessions per game last season, but only managed to score .88 ppp.

Walker is not the Hornets’ only dangerous offensive weapon, however. Nicholas Batum is a playmaking wing who actually leads the team in assists and Cody Zeller is shooting better than 60 percent on the year because of quality screens, hard cuts and good footwork.

Detroit’s bigs can’t lose containment on the pick and roll whether they switch or fight through the screen. Charlotte can put you at risk of giving up jumpers and drives with just about any of its big men and ball handler combos.

The Batum-Zeller pick and roll is dangerous, but, really, what the hell is Dwight Howard doing in the above clip?

To make things even more difficult for Detroit, Marvin Williams will be active and starting tonight after missing the first matchup with a bone bruise. Williams is a quality multi-positional defender who had a career year last year from deep. So far this year he is struggling with his perimeter shot, but he could make life tough for Tobias Harris.

On Detroit’s end, they need to slow down Walker, and that is a lot to ask of the recently returned Reggie Jackson (who might sit tonight as it is the second game of a back-to-back). Much like Detroit, Charlotte can really get cooking if their point guard is able to force the defense to react to the pick and roll.

Andre Drummond will also need to have a big game. Drummond was ejected in the first meeting after a swift elbow to the back of Roy Hibbert’s head. Detroit needs Drummond to control the boards and create second opportunities.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jon Leuer in action quite a bit on either Cody Zeller or Frank Kaminsky. Leuer has the length and quickness to bother shots and stay in front on drives and cuts to the hoop. He’ll also draw defenders out and mitigate some of Charlotte’s strength rebounding on the defensive end.

Projected Lineups

Pistons

Reggie Jackson, Kentavious-Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Hornets

Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller

Prediction

Both teams play hard. No ejections.