The NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone; the New York Knicks made a franchise-shifting trade, while the Detroit Pistons trimmed around the edges. Both teams got worse, but only one of these teams is actively trying to win games at the moment. The Pistons find themselves just a game and a half back of the 7th place Charlotte Hornets, while the Knicks hold a mere half game advantage over the Cavaliers in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.
Detroit is presented an excellent opportunity to win their third straight game for the first time since their five-game win streak was snapped back on December 1. The question is, will they find a way to mess it up?
When: February 8, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
New York and Detroit faced off just four days ago, and the Pistons consistently outplayed the 10-43 Knicks to escape Madison Square Garden with a thirteen-point win. But as mentioned before, these two teams aren’t the same squads that they were just a few days ago. The good news for Detroit is that it looks like the Knicks are in all-out tank mode. This was not the case this past Monday, seeing how they rolled out a passable NBA starting lineup.
New York’s activity this past week includes, trading away their disgruntled franchise star, Kristaps Porzingis, in a salary dump, acquiring Dennis Smith Jr., a work-in-progress point guard, and are buying out Wesley Matthews and Enes Kanter - opening up $75M in cap space in the process. THEY WANT ZION.... AND KEVIN DURANT ...AND KYRIE IRVING * fan chant voice. *
They’ll continue to showcase Smith Jr., who had a strong performance against Detroit in NYC, leading all Knicks with 25 points and six assists. He carved up Detroit’s perimeter defenders, doing most of his damage in the paint, but shot just two of nine from deep. He’ll be the focal point of Dwane Casey’s defensive strategy, seeing how the rest of Knicks available are first or second year players, don’t want to be there, or are holding onto their NBA lives.
Don’t be surprised in Mitchell Robinson gets some extended minutes in this game - IF he can find a way to stay out of foul trouble, an issue that’s plagued the rookie center all season. He did his fair share of damage in the pick and roll against Detroit’s aging defenders on the second unit. Perhaps Detroit even rolls out their newly acquired seven footer, Thon Maker, if Robinson continues to jam on Zaza Pachulia (doubtful, but would be fun!).
The Knicks don’t have the bigs up front to handle Griffin and Drummond down low. These two have produced the bulk of Detroit’s offense the entire season (combining for 42.9 points and 22.9 rebounds per game), and should continue to attack the likes of DeAndre Jordan (if he continues to play), Noah Vonleh and the previously mentioned Mitchell Robinson.
The most interesting question for Detroit will be this: What do their wing lineups look like in the absence of Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson, who were traded away earlier this week? Will Casey start Luke Kennard or Langston Galloway alongside Bruce Brown Jr.? Perhaps Brown gets moved to the bench, and Detroit rolls out Galloway and Kennard in the starting unit? How will this starting lineup affect the second unit? Extended Glenn Robinson III minutes? How long until Svi gets some run?
There will definitely be some interesting takeaways from this game. Just because Detroit made moves with their eyes on the future, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still trying to make the post season this year.
Detroit Pistons (24-29):
Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown Jr., Luke Kennard, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
New York Knicks (10-43):
Dennis Smith Jr., Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox, Noah Vonleh, DeAndre Jordan
Detroit 114, New York 100