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Pistons vs. Knicks preview: Ex-Piston Derrick Rose could have hard time against his successors

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Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee play staggering on-ball D, will it be also thorny to the Rose himself?

New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

It has been 20 days since the Detroit Pistons traded Derrick Rose for Dennis Smith Jr. Eleven days later the team lost it’s starting point guard (second, after Killian Hayes) in Delon Wright. Nevertheless, we have yet another good news to report in this supposedly lost and cursed season: two of three healthy point guards left on roster (well, two of two if we count Frank Jackson as a two-guard), aforementioned DSJ and a second-round draft pick, a two-way player, Saben Lee, are hitting their stride. Now it’ll be tested how much as they’ll face Rose who comes to town with his new team, Knickerbockers.

Game Vitals

When: Sunday, February 28, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Odds: Pistons +2

Analysis

It’ll be the first regular season meeting between Detroit and New York this year. But the teams know each other as they played two games in preseason, hosted by the good guys. Knicks currently are sitting at 5th place in Eastern Conference and, apparently, are very determined to get into the playoffs after seven seasons drought. Thus, the trade for Rose. (They also reportedly are interested in Bradley Beal, but who isn’t… actually I’m not, but I was once as well).

They’re so determined to get there that they seemingly don’t care much about developing young players. A bunch of young prospects is buried on its bench and getting fat… ok, ok poofy.

But they still can be good, or maybe even great, NBA players who just need to be invested with some playing time and developmental program, as evidenced by Smith Jr. After couple of games, in which he not only looked a little like being out of shape but played as someone who was out of game, Dennis is showing that he was a 9th overall pick for a reason.

And he’s doing it the old-school Pistons-way, by playing defense: Dennis is in the 72.9th percentile in BLK%, in the 97.1th percentile in STL%, in the 96.4th percentile in defending ball handler in P&Rs, he’s 16th in the entire League in deflections per 36 minutes, the players he defend have their FG% worse by 5.9 percentage points.

Recently, he started adding tothis some consistent offense. In 3 last games he’s averaging 14 PPG and 4,7 APG against 0,3 TOs (!), while starting in place of injured Delon (he replaced him four games ago, but in the first one he still was shaking the dust off offensively).

And playing now with a franchise apparently heavy invested in developing young players, Dennis doesn’t have a choice but quickly rebuild his status of one of the most intriguing young point guards. It’s because it turns out that Detroit, heaving earlier practically no playing time to spare, and no functional G League affiliate, somehow was able to develop Saben into one of the most exciting rookie playmakers at the moment. With a pit bull defense looking no less similar to that of Lindsey Hunter and Mike James than Dennis’ (even though the stats fall a little short of that picture), and with dynamic offense, the rebirth of which we only starting to see in Smith Jr, Lee surely could make Rose feel sorry that he left Motown and now has to face him. That is, if the vet will be back to his backup role – the usual Knicks starting PG, Elfrid Payton should be back sooner rather than later, and even Thibs wouldn’t start Rose on both ends of back-to-back...

Saben’s defense

Saben posterizing Vucevic

Dennis posterizing Kings

Or would he? Eh, whatever. Even if the ‘martinet’ visitors coach will do that, Detroit will be ready. It’s because Smith Jr will probably be even less rosy matchup for Rose. Either way this should be fun.

Projected lineups

Detroit Pistons (9-24):

Dennis Smith Jr, Wayne Ellington, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee

New York Knicks (17:17):

Elfrid Payton, R.J. Barrett, Reggie Bullock, Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel

May we indeed have a fun and good one, fellow DBBers!!!