How many wins did you peg the Pistons to earn before the season started? No matter your answer, it probably falls within the strict boundaries of four distinct categories:
- The Kool-Aid Gulpers had the Pistons sitting oh-so-pretty between 47-50(+).
- The Demilitarized Zone, headed by yours truly, anywhere from 41-46.
- The Doom Squad, led by a handful of they-kinda-got-a-point DBBers, checking in somewhere around 34-40.
- Or, you’re my grandma, who lightly penciled the Pistons in for a generous six to eight touchdowns on the season.
As we get ready to embark on 2019, the Pistons are aggressively mediocre. Successfully, and somewhat disappointingly, living up to the middling expectations foisted upon them by myself and others three months ago.
But, they’ve done some good.
Like beating Toronto (road), Golden State and Boston. Blake Griffin has single-handedly won games. Andre Drummond has effortlessly collected numerous 20-20 games like a Pokemon master. Oh, and they’re also getting solid contributions from an afterthought second-round draft pick.
We can even that out, though.
The embarrassing home loss to Atlanta. Three(!) stinging defeats to the Hornets. Blake Griffin has single-handedly lost games. Andre Drummond still relies too much on effortless outcomes. Oh, and they’re also incredibly reliant on the solid contributions from an afterthought second-round draft pick.
Rinse and repeat the roller-coaster results for the rest of the season, right?
Let’s check with the assembled masses:
“No way. Once Detroit starts consistently connecting on jump shots, they’ll be the best non-Big Four team in the East.” — Kool-Aid Gulpers
“Yeah, probably.” — The Demilitarized Zone
“I stopped watching before Halloween, is Reggie Jackson still on the team? Yes? Then stop bothering me with this nonsense.” — The Doom Squad
“Having fun is all that matters, it’s just a silly game.” — Grandma
We’ll find out at the same if the remainder of the season is as predictably unpredictable as “rinse and repeat”, but, what (no trade) happenings, if anything, could change the course of the season? Who needs to step up (or sit down)? Does someone need more touches? Why is it so dang difficult to inbound the ball? And, what the fuck is going on with Luke Kennard?
All fair questions, but for today, let’s focus on specific personnel inquiries. Below, we’ll start by properly diagnosing that which is Bruce Brown and look to continue solving problems over the next few days.
Can the Pistons depend on Bruce Brown as a starter this season?
Bruce Brown, a 6-foot-5 “shooting” guard, was the 42nd overall pick from last June’s NBA Draft which, usually, means bouncing back and forth between The League and The G-League. Instead, Brown is logging meaningful Pistons minutes and emphatically knocking on the door of becoming a full-time starter.
That is more an indictment of the situation he is stepping into than a sign of his true talent.
Nothing against Brown, but, from a seasonal outlook perspective, this type of dependency, via rook, cannot be good, right? Half of Pistons fans couldn’t pick Brown out of a one-person lineup and the other half still refer to him as Bruce Bowen. My grandma can’t figure out why I keep calling some guy named Bruce a “clown.” She doesn’t hear so well these days.
Yes, Brown is a rookie, but that doesn’t mean he’s forbidden to contribute to the 2018-19 Detroit Pistons. That contribution, however, won’t come in form of long-ball accuracy:
Yikes. I haven’t felt that sorry for backboard since Sandy Lyle made it rain:
To date, Brown sheepishly identifies himself as a 27 percent 3-point shooter and it’s presumably safe to assume not much will change during the foreseeable future. At a mere 22 years young, Brown has ample time to get right, but that’s more of an off-season endeavor.
OK, in a modern world of 3-point worshiping lunacy, how does a player with Brown’s, um, shortcomings keep his head above water?
Well, he better have some really nice pants.
In the movie Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays the role of Chris Gardner, a struggling salesmen hellbent on making a better life for himself and his son. The day before a job interview - a job that could change his life - Gardner is hauled off to jail, as is, thanks to unpaid parking tickets. Upon his release early the next morning, Gardner rushes to make the interview on time but is not quite dressed for success:
Hot shot executive: “What would you say if a man walked in here with no shirt, and I hired him? What would you say? ”
Gardner: “He must have had on some really nice pants.”
Spoiler alert: Gardner gets the job.
For Brown to positively impact the Pistons’ offense this season, he must find his version of Gardner’s tongue-in-cheek “really nice pants” that can convincingly mask his volume-10 loud, um, shortcoming. Thankfully, between Vermont Academy and the University of Miami, someone taught Brown how to move without the basketball:
And, just as important, to keep moving:
Most coaches from middle school to the NBA will agree, as a player, generating a shot without the ball is much easier and efficient than trying to create with the ball.
Embedded in Brown’s corner is the (concerning?) reality that the Pistons are in dire need of off-ball know-how due to Blake Griffin’s torrid love affair with a post/face-up-centric offense:
Only people waiting in line to check in at the Secretary of State (especially the one off E. Long Lake, get it together!) stand around for longer periods of time. The cure is to provide Griffin both moving and stationery targets. It’s a concept Brown’s active basketball lifestyle could call home.
After Detroit’s recent 106-95 win over the Washington Wizards, coach Dwane Casey reiterated his reasoning to start Brown instead of Luke Kennard:
“It’s about what we needed, or what Bruce Brown brought,” Casey said. “Luke, in this league, is gonna be a good shooter. But it’s more than just shooting for him — and everybody. It’s cutting, moving without the ball, running the floor, defending.”
No “standard” skill in the NBA is more noticeably absent than moving without the ball. Now, combine sans ball movement with a splash of team defenses’ most common no-no, ball watching, and you end up with:
Sorry Reggie, that was a blatant cheap shot. But, it’s also an excellent example of Bruce Brown’s possible pants for Detroit’s dry and offensive offense.
During the same post-game chat session as Casey’s quote from above, Blake Griffin chimed in on Brown’s importance to the team:
“He does a great job every night, especially being a rookie. Every night, I tell him there’s no other rookie that can guard like he can guard, and I firmly believe that. You look at all the different guys he’s been thrown at in his first year, and he’s done a great job on all of them.”
Brown’s defensive workload, as a rookie nonetheless, has been noteworthy high this year and he’s absorbed some lumps but the willingness to violently compete on a possession-to-possession basis is rather refreshing. He’s already lined up against a who’s who of elite ball-handlers, including the reigning MVP:
Either Brown don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on with former MVPs. He should be at least slightly intimidated by the James Hardens of the league. With basketball being the synergy sport that it is, Casey is clearly hoping Brown’s competitive voraciousness becomes contagious among his gentle-mental teammates.
Despite the above love-fest, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Brown this year. Even taking his fancy pants into account, his shooting woes are beyond worrisome. He’s not much of a playmaker for others. And, yes, his on-ball defense has been sufficient, but he’s overly-prone to mistakes on the team defense front.
But, you know what?
He’s a second round draft pick and the struggles are to be expected! Brown isn’t supposed to be burdened with such a large plate of important chores this soon, but here we are. I refuse to be the nitpicking blogger harping on a rookie that has been unfairly thrusted into such an important role. I’m not a monster.
If we’re being honest, DBB, the “rise” of Brown remains equal parts concerning and exciting. In the long run, finding gems late in the draft is how good teams become great. Relying on those gems as a rookie, however, is how good teams become bad.
Speaking solely for myself, an upgrade to the Kool-Aid Gulpers for 2018-19 ain’t happening on my end if Bruce Brown, nice pants and all, is anything more than an emergency contributor.
Wings of Detroit - Glenn Robinson III, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Langston Galloway, Reggie Bullock - this is the part of the story where you make sure Brown’s largest gift to the organization this year takes place in Grand Rapids. The 2018-19 Pistons are already playing with 2nd-Round-draft-pick house money and the unforeseen luck is bound to change course.
It’s not your fault, Bruce. You’ve been great.