The NBA season is here… finally. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year’s NBA Blog Preview (don’t worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks … months … this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
Last Year: 30-52
Last Year vs. Magic: Lost 90-79 in Orlando; Lost 104-91 in Detroit; Won 103-95 in Orlando
This Year vs. Magic: Won 89-78 in Detroit; April 3 in Detroit; April 9 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Ben Wallace (Player, 1999-2000); Assistant Coach Brian Hill (Head Coach, 1993-97, 2005-07); Assistant Coach Dee Brown (Player, 2000-02); Assistant Coach Charles Klask (Video Coordinator)
The Previews: Steve Kays/Pro Hoops Talk
We saw the Pistons at their near best Monday night in The Palace of Auburn Hills.
With Ben Gordon able to score in bunches beyond the ability of defenses to stop or crowd him, the Pistons have a dangerous offensive weapon. With Lawrence Frnak as the head coach, the team has a coach with a strong offensive mind but a commitment to defense. With Tayshaun Prince, this team still has a remnant of its championship glory days.
This is far from a complete team. We saw that Monday night. It is still young and still has a lot of development left to do. Again, we saw that Monday night.
Detroit is still a far way off from being ready to compete for a playoff spot and the roster is too unbalanced to make that happen. Still, there are a lot of good players that should give Pistons fans a glimmer of hope.
It starts with first round pick Brandon Knight. Knight showed a whole lot of quickness and tenacity in Monday’s win over the Magic. He seems to have that floater down pat already and is not afraid to drive the lane even as a rookie against Dwight Howard. That was his way in his lone year at Kentucky too. Knight seems to have found the ability to experiment coming off the bench for Frank.
The youth revolution for the Pistons continues with second-year center Greg Monroe. Monroe had a solid 9.4 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game last year for the Pistons and the young center, who was brought along slowly much like Knight has been in the early going. It has been a strong second season now for Monroe as the starting center — 13.8 points pger game and 8.6 rebounds per game.
The Pistons also have received a nice boost from the return of Swedish forward Jonas Jerebko. Jerebko missed his entire rookie year with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Jerebko has shown a lot of athleticism in the early going and the Pistons really like him.
Those are all great young players. So the new parts are in place for the Pistons.
The problem is that much of the old is still in place to hold the ship steady while the new, young players get acclimated to the NBA.
Rodney Stuckey is back and is an OK player, but not the star the Pistons hoped he would be when they traded Chauncey Billups. Prince is back too, but he is not the player he once was on either end of the floor without the supporting cast of those championship Pistons teams.
Ben Gordon, as we saw Monday night, is as dangerous a scorer as he was in his days in Chicago — although not doing it consistently. And who knows where Charlie Villanueva is right now. But he is still there and potentially a stretch-4 for later on in the year.
There are plenty of questions about the Pistons. With Richard Hamilton amnestied in the offseason, Detroit has a backcourt full of undersized guards and no true point guards to distribute the ball. Not to mention, the center position is occupied by the undersized trio of Monroe, Jason Maxiell and the indomitable Ben Wallace.
It is going to lead Detroit to a lot of matchups where the team is overmatched by stronger, more versatile and longer teams. This is a team very much still in development and experimenting with new parts. And there will be lots of road bumps — including an incredibly slow pace — on the way to the new model of Pistons.
How The Pistons Will Beat The Magic: Aside from catching the Magic on the eighth night of a six-game in eight-nights stretch, the Pistons’ best bet is to follow the same strategy. Detroit was last in the league in free throw rate entering the game. Yet the Pistons took advantage of the Magic’s lackadaisical defense and attacked the basket and drew fouls. Orlando has had problems defending the pick and roll in the early part of the season. That is certainly something teams will continue to take advantage of if the Magic are not careful and disciplined. A constant attack to the paint gets Dwight Howard out of position and forces the Magic into dangerous rotations. Now, the Pistons do not have the shooters to really make the Magic pay, so they have to get hot too — they shot 50 percent from the floor in Monday’s game. But a constant attack and pressure should work. We saw in 2008 what Rodney Stuckey can do when he is playing at his best and Ben Gordon is always dangerous. Detroit has some guys who can drive the lane. That has to be their plan against Orlando.
How The Magic Will Beat the Pistons: The one thing Orlando really failed to do Monday night was establish Dwight Howard and get him going in the post. Howard has had some issues getting his offensive game going so far this season. Against the undersized Monroe and Wallace, Howard should have been able to get going. Howard still had 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. But it did not have the feel of a typically dominant Howard game. The Magic got kind of stagnant as they waited for Howard to dominate and never could get out of that funk. Still, this is the kind of team Howard needed to go out and absolutely dominate. His failure to do so set the tone for a tired Magic team. The next time these two teams meet, I would think Howard gets established more and he sets the tone.