Once again, these Detroit Pistons have fooled me. Just when you thought they had turned the corner and appeared to be a competitive squad, they go and get routed by the Milwaukee Bucks at home.
You’d think, after strong showings against the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, that the team’s collective energy would not require a Red Bull IV, but lo and behold, Detroit was lifeless. The only conclusion I was able to come to while watching another embarrassing effort (on national television, no less): I have no idea which Detroit Pistons team I’ll see from night to night.
Now the Pistons will have to (once again) find themselves, on the road, where they’ll play seven of their next nine games, starting with Friday night’s contest against the Atlanta Hawks.
When: December 30th, 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Players to Watch
During the 2016 off-season, Atlanta decided to part ways with their one-time All-Star Jeff Teague, and hand the keys over to Dennis Schroeder. This move was questioned by many that follow the league, including yours truly. And while the Hawks have stumbled lately, Schroeder has at least rewarded Wes Wilcox and company with his best season to date. Schroeder is averaging 17.6 points (on 46.6 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from three), 6.2 assists, and 3 rebounds per game; all career-highs.
He is the motor to this Atlanta Hawks team. Although his usage rate of 26.8 percent isn’t as high as I had expected, Schroeder is tasked with creating offense himself, while making sure to feed Dwight Howard, and allowing Paul Millsap to maximize his 1-on-1 skill set.
The Pistons level of play usually coincides with the play of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. When he’s on, the team is on. When KCP is hitting shots, it opens the floor for everyone else to maximize their offensive contributions. We know what he gives Detroit on defense, so we take that for granted (although we probably shouldn’t).
In both the Golden State and Cleveland games, KC3 was on full display. He shot 8/18 from deep (good for 44 percent), and made quick decisions when he had the ball in his hands. In the following game, against the Bucks, he lost his mojo; he disappeared. He took seven total attempts, and only managed to score six points. He played poorly and Detroit was taken to the woodshed. A confident Caldwell-Pope usually bodes well for the team’s overall performance, so that quick-release KCP should be the guy we all hope to see in Atlanta.
Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer, Andre Drummond
(But there was this from The Detroit News’ Rod Beard, so who knows:)
Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha, Dwight Howard
I’m not good at these, I believe I’m 1-for-5 so far this season, so don’t read too much into this section. This will be a battle of an incompetent offense vs. a disastrous defense. Defense wins championships, and Detroit boasts a top 10 defense. So I’m going with Detroit. Take that, well thought out analysis!
What will be the most important factor for the Pistons, if they are to win in Atlanta?