The Detroit Pistons lost another game to a team also unintentionally trying to tank, falling to the fairly dreadful Chicago Bulls Saturday night 108-99. The Bulls were without two starters in Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr., and both are not expected back for a least another month. The Bulls have some talent, even without those two, but it’s barely grab-the-8th- seed-accidentally type of talent.
Long story short, the Bulls are trying to win games just as the Pistons are, it’s just that they aren’t very good and probably won’t be able to do so. Basically, losing lots of games the rest of the season isn’t the worst thing ever for them. Play Coby White, Lauri Markkanen and Daniel Gafford as many minutes as they can handle. Get Wendell Carter Jr. back healthy and continue to develop.
In Detroit’s eyes, this losing result is a job well done for tanking purposes. Stickers for everyone. You simultaneously play the young pups — Bruce Brown, Sekou Doumbouya, Christian Wood, Svi Mykhailiuk, Thon Maker and eventually a healthy Luke Kennard (and hopefully Jordan Bone at some point too) — as much as you can, while still losing most of your games.
More losing means a very pathetic record which will then mean a decent shot at drafting one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe, just maybe, this draft Detroit can have a larger pool of prospects to pick from instead of not being horrible enough (i.e. winning too many games) and settling for just getting insanely lucky with Sekou Doumbouya falling to them at 15.
Sitting at 14-26 leading up to the New Orleans Pelicans game, Detroit needs at least around another 32-34 more losses to set themselves up for a legitimate chance at a top five pick in the draft. The coaches and players will try their best to win games, just hopefully they don’t win too many. It’s a long winding road, persist and complete the proper tank!
Here are clips I want to highlight. Some won’t impress you much, as they’re not winning basketball plays. So, I guess they are just right at this point for an unintentionally tanking team then.
Detroit was blitzed by the Bulls in the first quarter by the tune of 35-20. The below clip isn’t even considered part of the blitz. Chicago’s Kris Dunn didn’t have to do much here other than just take the open lane given to him. He’ll be able to take Svi one-on-one off the dribble most every time. The on-ball defense and help defense both fall short. Svi is giving effort but just isn’t in good defensive position and lacks a certain degree of foot speed. And you have Markieff Morris is sticking like glue to career 32-percent 3-point shooter in Thaddeus Young.
And then there’s Andre Drummond. Andre only played 19 minutes in this one due to being ejected in the third quarter. That’s to say, even in 19 minutes of action he showed about as much focus and awareness on defense as you or I sitting on our butts watching did. Dunn realized Andre was being lackadaisical in his coverage and took advantage. All Andre had to do was be in turned in the correct direction so he could see the ball and see his man. Dunn likely wouldn’t have penetrated in that case.
Andre sure does amaze people with his gaudy and sexy numbers year in and year out. Point blank, he is a pretty good player and a perennially fringe All-Star caliber center for a reason: he’s very good at certain important basketball things. He’s come a long way on offense and at the charity stripe. He’s one of the best rebounders ever. However, despite of all that, what about the numerous losing basketball plays we’re accustomed to seeing from him nearly every game? Because that’s what it is — constant losing basketball plays from Andre.
Here’s a number for you: zero playoff wins in Andre’s career with this franchise. That’s going to be eight seasons of zilch, nada, nothingness. I know that Pistons fans know this, but I think for some it needs to sink in a bit more. True, for the most part Andre has had far from the best lead or supporting cast during his Pistons career. That is undeniable. But Andre often times does not help himself out either. Carelessness? Lack of focus? Too many miles? Frustration over consistent failings of his teammates? Boredom? Maybe it’s everything. This team is bad and so far from relevancy.
Zach LaVine makes a tough play seem pretty easy over / around Bruce here. LaVine doesn’t take the potential screen by Daniel Gafford, instead he goes baseline. LaVine has jets and hops, and probably isn’t going to be denied on his drive anyway, no matter if there’s any possibility of weak-side help or not. It’s a superb one-on-one play.
Speaking of help — why is Andre sticking so close with total non-shooter Gafford? Andre should have been deeper in help coverage to begin with — it may have deterred LaVine from wanting to go all the way to the basket? LaVine knows he has the speed to get around Brown and be home free because the help is just not there. There’s no reason for Andre to be that far out on a non-shooter (especially with it being an end of quarter play).
Additionally, Wood is paying a bit too much attention to Dunn, a 30-percent career 3-point shooter (25-percent this season). It might be a stretch to say that Wood could have come over and contested, especially since Andre is closer to the play. At any rate, you have two weak-side defenders that don’t even come close to attempting a contest. Help defense is not always easy, but it’s so important. Am I being too nit-picky on this one?
I know players have to avoid a defensive three-second violation — they can’t just camp out in the paint — but here Andre seems disinterested in an type of proactive positioning or defense. His flat-footed defensive stance kind of gives it away. Otherwise, a good set from Chicago: spread things out and shift direction at a moment’s notice to the weak side of the floor for most explosive player.
In the Pistons-Bulls game recap, I noted that during the second quarter Greg Kelser mentioned the Pistons were not giving full effort.
Ending on a few positive notes, I’d like to look at Doumbouya’s fall-away here and note that there’s still a good chunk of time left on the shot clock. He could have taken Markkanen deeper in the post and abused him there. However, Sekou’s ball handling to create space and keep the defender off balance, plus his ability to get the shot off softly and in a controlled manner, speaks volumes on where his skill level is at.
This Sekou creation is a little better. Again, Sekou shows his ball-handling skills and ability to break down defenders off the dribble with subtle changes in speed. Gafford saw things develop and came over to contest, making probably a bit of a difference in Sekou’s comfort factor in taking the shot. Sekou had his mind made up that he was going to shoot no matter what. He could have had Andre in the middle for an easy drop off, though, the timing may not have presented itself until the very last moment.
Eventually different sequences will become more familiar to the rookie and then things will slow down a bit for him. He’ll be able to make plays for others, at least that’s the plan moving forward with his development. It could be a season or so yet before we see consistency in that area. And that’s fine. Sekou’s aggression is a great sign. His shot creation coming downhill is encouraging. For a long time Detroit has lacked wing players who can attack and score from all levels — Sekou is already quite close to being able to do so.
Well, there you have it. We’d be here all day if I were to “showcase” every single one of the head-scratching and also low effort plays from the Pistons on a nightly basis. It just can’t be done.
At least, let’s play the kids more and have them learn and improve.