The ownership of the Detroit Pistons gave the front office a total facelift last offseason, hiring Stan Van Gundy as the new head coach and president of basketball operations. Van Gundy has already made a few significant alterations, releasing Josh Smith and acquiring Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline. Still, Detroit hasn’t managed to reach its playoff aspirations. Poised for yet another lottery pick and minor cap relief, Van Gundy has the opportunity to finally construct his ideal roster. The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night seeking to end a five game losing streak. Detroit has also endured a lengthy losing streak due to a variety of injuries and two last second trades at the deadline.
Frontcourt: A third-year center from UConn, Andre Drummond has failed to make any noticeable improvements to his game this season. Upon Stan Van Gundy’s arrival, Drummond was expected to shoulder more of the scoring load, with little success. His shooting percentage has plummeted to just 50.3 percent compared to 62.3 percent last season, although he’s scoring at about the same rate (13 points per game). Despite trailing just DeAndre Jordan for the rebounding title averaging 13 per game, the Pistons allow the most points in the paint per game in the NBA. Drummond is approaching the final year of his rookie contract, so he’s playing for a contract extension at this point.
Greg Monroe boldly opted to accept his qualifying offer last summer of about $5.5 million so he could become an unrestricted free agent this summer. His potential as a dominant offensive force has made him perhaps the hottest realistic commodity on the market this summer. Averaging 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season, Monroe has excelled since the Josh Smith plague was lifted a few months ago. Although he’s not exactly a premier rim protector yet, Monroe has certainly improved defensively, which should yield his coveted maximum contract this offseason. Multiple teams will be in pursuit of Monroe’s services, with the Lakers rumored to be at the top of that list.
After the Josh Smith experiment failed miserably, Detroit’s solution was apparently to load the wing positions with over the hill veterans like Caron Butler, Shawne Williams and most recently Tayshaun Prince. Prince rose to fame as a member of the early-2000 Pistons that defeated Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the 2004 NBA Finals. He was never a dominant offensive weapon, but excelled on the defensive end despite his thin 215-pound frame. Prince is currently in the final year of an expensive contract, averaging 7.4 points on the season and a mere 6.3 in six games with Detroit. The Pistons’ success is contingent on floor spacing, something Prince has failed to provide.
Backcourt: The eighth overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has yet to evolve into the perimeter threat Detroit had anticipated. He was an absolute marksman at Georgia, but has developed bad habits in the NBA leading to an abysmal 34.5 three-point percentage. Caldwell-Pope tends to over dribble far too often, when he’s a much better spot up shooter and should arguably be replaced by former Laker Jodie Meeks in the starting lineup. Van Gundy has decided to bank on Caldwell-Pope’s potential instead, which could change if Detroit’s woes continue.
Since the Pistons acquired Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to the Trade Deadline, the team has coincidentally nosedived in the standings losing six straight. Jackson’s reasoning behind his trade demand was to prove himself as a capable starting point guard instead of Russell Westbrook’s backup and earn himself a hefty payday. His diabolical plan has actually worked in the reverse as he’s proving himself to be an excessive shooter with a bad temperament. Teams will undoubtedly take these glaring flaws into consideration when Jackson becomes a restricted free agent this summer.
Keys To Victory:
Lock Down the Paint: The majority of Detroit’s scoring comes within paint from the frontcourt tandem of Monroe and Drummond. Without Brandon Jennings, the Pistons’ roster contains no outside threats, except the occasional outburst by Meeks. So, if Los Angeles can restrict Detroit to primarily outside shots it has a legitimate shot to come out victorious.
Jeremy Lin’s Offense: Byron Scott has evidently unleashed Jeremy Lin lately, as he’s strung together his best performances of the season. However, Lin has hit a brick wall lately on offense, translating into five straight losses. If the point guard can emulate the level of play he showcased a week ago, the Lakers will have a monstrous advantage on the Pistons bench.
Exploit Reggie Jackson: A career 42.8 percent shooter and 27.8 percent three-point shooter, Jackson is an extremely inefficient offensive player. Still, Jackson settles for over three three-point shots per game, which has been a major contributor to Detroit’s recent losing streak. The Lakers should dare Jackson to shoot early and often.
Heading into tonight’s game, Lakers are 2.5-point underdogs against Pistons via Sportsbook.ag.
Detroit Pistons (23-39) at Los Angeles Lakers (16-46)
7:30 PM PST, March 10, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Pistons Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Greg Monroe
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: SG: Jodie Meeks SF: Caron Butler PF: Anthony Tolliver
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Tarik Black
Lakers Practice Byron Scott