Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Establishing a winning identity in the NBA is no easy task and we Pistons fans have been reminded of this for over a decade now. This fact makes itself obvious in our late game indecision and failures. Losing two games to two teams that do not know how to win is more concerning than Blake Griffin making 8 three pointers and making no free throws. Not being able to score more than 101 points against the Timberwolves is more concerning than giving up 32 points to Collin Sexton. With that said, Jerami Grant has been better than advertised and Derrick Rose still can be an incredibly effective 6th man.
At times our offense can cook for long periods because our second unit can score as well, and this was verified by averaging 55 points in the first half so far. Once Rose comes in our speed gets kicked up 5 notches as he gets to the rim, keeps the offense moving, and sets up defensive schemes. Outside the final 5 minutes of the Cleveland game, he has been the most consistent player. Jerami Grant is averaging 18.5 points per game, which is good, but that is with two entirely different games. He had 9 points against the Timberwolves and 28 against the Cavaliers. Josh Jackson has shown his high draft pedigree leading the Pistons in scoring in the Minnesota game. He has great energy and will quickly take Wright's spot in the starting 5 if this continues. The largest disappointment thus far for me has been Blake.
Rookie PG Killian Hayes was credited with the two TO's that kicked off the Timberwolves run that lost the first game, but I blame Blake. He asked for both passes, in a terrible place to ask for a pass against a zone defense, and he put the rookie in a place where he had to reject passing to an All-NBA player. Blake has also not seemed inspired on defense either. We have given up way too many uncontested layups and while some blame goes to Plumlee, he has also had the harder matchups. The fact that Blake has played 79 minutes and has a combined 3 steals/blocks is disheartening because it seems he is not trying to increase his value to be traded to a contender. While his 8 three pointers against the Cavaliers was good on its face, he attempted no free throws and was 1-5 inside the arc. We won't get much of a trade if he is an older, bruising, 36% three point shooter. The brightness of our future is directly related to what sort of trade packages we can get for Blake and Rose.
Our young players have been largely unnoticeable. Saddiq Bey and Isiah Stewart have a combined 6 minutes of play and neither played in the season opener. Obviously not much time to decipher, but Bey looks like he is always ready to shoot. Sekou Doumbouya was great in the first game and fell off a cliff in the second game which led to being benched for the second half. He still shows he is incredible in the open court and is deceptively quick, but he still struggles with consistency and once again with him, a great game was followed by a complete clunker.
I am sure that you are focused, as I am, on the young foreign PG Killian Hayes. He has been hard to get a read on because he has gone long stretches of disappearing. He hasn't shot well, has too many TO's, and hasn't attacked hardly at all from the PG spot. The few times he has attacked his length and athleticism can really show. He has been a solid passer and has a great feel for when to cut, and over the next couple years his floater could become deadly. I think that mostly he is a young PG that hasn't gained confidence yet. He plays hard and once he trusts what he is seeing we will start to see what the scouts saw. This week will be illuminating because he should be guarded by Trae Young, the worst defensive player in the league statistically, and he will need to attack him. He will also get to go head to head with Jeff Teague against Boston due to Kemba Walker's injury. He is a vet, but Hayes will get to use his youth to get to the basket more. I am hoping this week he works from inside out in terms of scoring. Before a 3 point attempt get some layups and FT's first. I think he is going to have a break out week of sorts scoring double digits twice and leading the team in assists once.
By this time next week four more games will have been completed and our roster and season could start to take shape. The next four games are at the Hawks followed by the Warriors and back-to-back against the Celtics at home. I will predict a 2-2 week with wins against the Warriors and splitting with the Celtics. We have the defenders to make the Celtics wings work and after Curry the Warriors don't have much. The Hawks are much tougher this year than last, and while I'd like to think that we could pull it out, we haven't shown an ability to slow primary scorers yet and Trae Young is the most primary of scorers besides James Harden. At this point in the season I am 0-2 on predictions and hope this week will be better.
0-2 is not how we wanted to start because the first 1/3 of our schedule looks to be pretty brutal and losing to other teams that are predicted to be bottom dwellers is not a good sign at all. We have good NBA players, so I haven't given up on the 10 seed and the play in tournament, but these first two games didn't expand confidence. One thing to remember is that Cade Cunningham is going to be the first pick in next years draft. Always keep his name in the back of your head..... Cade Cunningham..
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