Detroit Pistons

Are the Pistons back?

To this day, Detroit fans have a fond memory of the Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman days. Those were the days in which the Pistons won back-to-back titles, first sweeping the Magic Johnson and James Worthy led Lakers, then defeating Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trail Blazers in five games.

How about the early 2000s Pistons, who won a title in the 2003-04 season (we will touch on this later) while also making it to six straight Eastern Conference finals. From the 2002-03 season, all the way up to 2007-08, Detroit either won the championship, lost in the Finals, or was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals.

Then, they dropped off. It has been nine years since the Pistons lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Of Detroit’s last nine seasons, eight of them have been years in which the team finished below .500.  In their one winning season, 2015-16, Detroit was swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The switch to Little Caesars Arena was actually what this team needed. It gives them a fresh start and some new life. After 13 games, the new-look Pistons sit at 10-3, tied for their fifth best start in franchise history.

DETROIT’S BEST STARTS THROUGH 13 GAMES

SEASONRECORDFINISH
1970-7112-145-37
1990-9111-2Lost E. Conf. Finals
1996-9711-254-28
2005-0611-2Lost E. Conf. Finals
1988-8910-3Won Finals
2002-0310-3Lost E. Conf. Finals
2017-1810-3?

The other six times this franchise won at least 10 of their first 13 games, they ended up in solid spots come playoff time. On four occasions, the Pistons made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, and of course won the title in 1988-89.

Obviously, this does not mean that the 2017-18 Detroit team is a lock to go deep into the playoffs, but do not sleep on them.

How is this happening?

A year ago, Detroit ranked 28th in 3-point percentage. On the defensive end, they were not forcing any turnovers, finishing 27th in that department. This season, Detroit is currently eighth in 3-point percentage, and forcing almost four more turnovers per game. They are continuing to dominate the offensive glass, and committing far less fouls than the league average.

Detroit Pistons

Tobias Harris is quietly averaging 20.1 points per game (Photo from ESPN.com)

At this point, Detroit’s MVP appears to be Tobias Harris. Harris, who was traded by the Magic for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings in February, 2016, is absolutely balling out in his second full season with the Pistons. After averaging 16.1 points per game during the 2016-17 season, Harris, through 13 games, is averaging 20.1 points, and 5 rebounds. He is shooting 48.1 percent from the field, and an outlandish 50.6 percent from three. Not to mention the 6-foot-9 forward is shooting 90.5 percent from the charity stripe, a place where Harris has succeeded his whole career.

Andre Drummond, who is the only Piston to have played in an All-Star game, is averaging 15.6 rebounds per game, which leads the NBA. Drummond also leads the league in offensive rebounds per game with 5.3 and has nine double-doubles in 13 games.

Their big offseason addition, Avery Bradley, appears to be exactly what Detroit needed. Bradley, a former All-Defensive First Team member, is dominating both sides of the floor. Not only has he continued to be a lockdown defender, but Bradley is averaging 17 points per game. He is a key reason for Detroit’s jump in 3-point efficiency, as he is shooting 41.4 percent from long range. Reggie Jackson is also looking like the Jackson from two years ago, averaging 16.3 a game.

Detroit’s bench has been quite special. Anthony Tolliver ranks first in defensive rating of players who have played at least 10 games. While averaging just under 10 points per game, Ish Smith is shooting 54.6 percent from the field. Of players who have played at least 8 games, Reggie Bullock ranks second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

While Detroit may be an underdog in the East, having to deal with teams like Boston and Cleveland, they look like they can play with anyone. Being considered an underdog is nothing new to Detroit, as their 2003-04 championship team was one of the biggest underdogs in the history of the NBA Finals.

Remembering the 2003-04 Pistons

After a conference finals loss, the Pistons brought in a new coach, Larry Brown. In that year’s draft, with the second overall pick (from the Grizzlies), Detroit selected Darko Milicic. Milicic would go on to play a few minutes off the bench, and is widely considered as a bust.

Detroit Pistons

One of the best starting fives of recent times. (Photo from History Locker)

Under the great Coach Brown, the Pistons, a strong defensive team, rallied off 13 straight wins between December and January. After hitting a bump in the road in February when they lost six straight games, Detroit needed a major acquisition to get them back on track. At the midway point in the season, the Pistons acquired Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks.

The starting five of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and All-Star Ben Wallace was absolutely electric down the stretch. Detroit would go on to win 16 of their final 19 games. They ended the season at 54-28, good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

After defeating the Bucks and Nets in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Detroit faced off against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, led by Jermaine O’Neal and Defensive Player of the Year, Ron Artest, were defeated in six games by Detroit. Into the Finals they went, squaring off against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers.

UNDERDOGS PREVAIL

Since the 2004 playoffs, no team has been more of an underdog when the opening odds dropped for the NBA Finals since the Pistons. Even Lebron James’ 2007 Cavaliers, who were made up of a bunch of scrubs while facing the Spurs, were given a better shot to win. The Lakers opened up at -550 and had a total of 37 All-Star selections on their roster. Their coach, Phil Jackson, already had nine championships under his belt. Detroit had four All-Star selections, and Larry Brown was seeking his first title.

Detroit Pistons

Pistons in 5. (Photo from Twitter.com)

Both Karl Malone and Gary Payton, two Hall of Famers, signed with L.A. for the minimum salary in hopes of winning a ring. Not to mention the fact that the Lakers were also were coming off three championships in four years. The combo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal is considered one of the best duos of all-time.

Despite the Lakers’ greatness, Detroit was not phased. In fact, the series only went five games, as the Pistons defeated the Lakers 4-1. Billups was named Finals MVP, averaging 21 points per game in the series. The Lakers, who averaged 98.2 points per game during the regular season, were held to just 81.8 points against Detroit. Defense wins championships. Coach Larry Brown became the first coach to win both an NCAA national championship and an NBA title.

While many will not give Detroit a shot at winning it all, mainly because of the super teams, just don’t sleep on them. Nonetheless, they are off to one of their hottest starts in franchise history and look to be back to their winning ways, which is dope for the city of Detroit.

 

Featured image from Bleacher Report

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Where Does Melo Go From Here?

Nothing seems to be going right in the life of Carmelo Anthony at the moment. Phil Jackson recently gave a press conference in which he said, “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”

He is unwanted and, according to Jackson, unneeded in New York.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there are reports coming out that he and his wife of seven years will be getting a divorce after rumors that he got a stripper pregnant.

Carmelo’s life and career are at a crossroads. The question that begs to be answered is, where does Melo go from here?

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

Carmelo is a legend at Syracuse University. In the 2002-03 season, Carmelo led the Orange to their first national championship. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding player that season. His future was bright and he was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

Carmelo has also been a successful international basketball player. One could argue he is the most successful basketball olympian in United States history. Melo has a record of playing on four Olympic rosters, and a record three gold medals. Melo also holds the record for most points scored in a USA Men’s Olympic game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.

He is first all-time in each of the following: games played (31), career points (336), rebounds (125), field goals made (113), field goals attempted (262), 3-pointers attempted (139), free throws made (53) and free throws attempted (71). He is also second all-time in 3-pointers made (57).

Carmelo’s NBA career hasn’t led to as much hardware, but he has still had a great career. Melo is a 10-time all star, has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the scoring champion in the 2012-13 season.

One of his best accomplishments in the NBA was when he led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Championship in 2009, but fell to Kobe and the Lakers 4-2.

Carmelo has scored 24,156 career points in 15 NBA seasons. He has over 3,000 assists and over 6,000 rebounds, but a championship is what eludes him. The Knicks have openly said he will be better off chasing that ring somewhere else, but where?

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: http://clutchpoints.com)

Melo has few options if all he is looking for is a ring. Those options include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

It would be foolish for the Knicks to release Carmelo Anthony, but it may be their only option. Melo is under contract until July of 2019 and has a no-trade clause. He will veto any trade that is not to a championship contender, or a trade that leaves the new team without the pieces needed to win that elusive title. If the Knicks really want to part ways with Melo, they may have to just cut him.

Boston

The Celtics would be a great fit for both Melo and the team. Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the east despite only having one major option on offense in Isaiah Thomas.

Adding Anthony would bring in an easy 20 points per game and veteran leadership to a team that tied for the third youngest team (25.6) in the NBA. Both Melo and the Celtics would help one another in trying to win a ring.

Los Angeles

One team that is often mentioned in Anthony rumors is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is loaded with talent, but fails to make an impact in the history books.

Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are close friends who both need to validate their careers with an NBA championship. Neither wants to go down in history like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, John Stockton or Karl Malone.

If Anthony is cut, this would be his ideal spot. A team with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could only get better by adding Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded, but this makes the Clippers a legitimate threat rather than just a bump in the road out west.

Cleveland

The last team that Melo could sign with, if cut, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Melo is just as close with LeBron as he is with Chris Paul. Cleveland may win a title this year, but if they don’t, it’s because they ran into a Warriors team that loaded up with Kevin Durant. The answer to that would be to get Anthony and his scoring. He would take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron.

The Cavs are in less need of Melo than Melo is of the Cavs. Signing with Cleveland would prove that all Melo wants is that trophy. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight or the face of a franchise, which is something Melo has never experienced. Signing in Cleveland would all but guarantee him that ring he so desperately wants.

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: http://clutchpoints.com)

As Carmelo enters the twilight of his playing days, he is focused on one thing: winning. Knowing that  the Knicks no longer want or need him will make him seek a team that does want him.

He will also need a distraction from his personal problems, and finding another team can help with that. It is hard to see where Carmelo goes from here, but one thing is for certain: his playing days in New York are over.

 

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why Choosing a School Does not Affect NBA Aspriations

Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.

The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.

Past NBA Examples

There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.

One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position.  He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.

There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others.  These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?

Current NBA Examples

While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.

Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State.  Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.

Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.

Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.

The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.

The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here.  The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury.  50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further.  Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power.  He is now a perennial All-Star.

The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East.  58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history.  They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.

Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot

Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.

Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.

Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)

Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.

Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.

The Reality behind the Myth

So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.

To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent.  This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.

Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.

So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.