[Remember when Gilbert Arenas made one of many returns to the court against the Pistons in March 2009 (one of two appearances for all of the 2008-09 season)?
Sure you do.]
The Wizards kick off a five-game road trip in Detroit on this Sunday evening, with stops in Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), Utah and Phoenix up next. For one, Detroit is Jordan Crawford’s home, so keep an eye on if he’s pressing too much or smelling the popcorn. But also, Washington is seeking their second road win on the season against the 8-20 Pistons to their 5-22 record; a Pistons team that also experienced championship-level success with former (Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Darvin Ham), and future (Mike James, Flip Saunders) Wizards. Furthermore, John Wall and his Kentucky Wildcats freshman point guard successor, Brandon Knight, will face off for the first time. For today’s 3-on-3 we have Dan Feldman (@danfeld11) of the TrueHoop Network’s PistonPowered.com, along with TAI’s Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis) and Sam Permutt (@sammyvert). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Washington is tied with the Miami Heat in playing at the fifth fastest pace in the NBA (93.3 possessions per 48 minutes); Detroit plays at… the… slow… est… pace… in the league (87.7 possessions per 48). Which team’s style wins out and why?
FELDMAN: Detroit’s. Though the Pistons have played a little faster lately, they have an incredible ability to suck the speed out of any game. If the Pistons get a lot of offensive rebounds — see question No. 2 — they can extend their possessions and lower the pace.
McGINNIS: John Wall is usually the only player initiating Washington’s speedy play, so I could see the Wizards being drug into Detroit’s slow methodical ways very easily if the Pistons limit John’s chances. The main reason Detroit’s style will prevail is because of Washington’s struggles on the road, which never allow them dictate much of anything on the court unless they are up against the Bobcats. This game has the makings of a final score in the low 80s.
PERMUTT: Neither one of these teams is consistent enough to make the other team succumb to their style. Washington will play fast when they have the ball, using John Wall as the one-man-break even if the rest of the guys don’t run with him. Detroit will play slow and run their half-court offense when they have possession. However, if Washington forces Detroit to play fast by using their pressure defense early in the game, expect the edge to go to the Wizards.
#2) Detroit crashes offensive boards hard, snagging 28.5-percent of the offensive rebounds available to them (ranked 6th best league-wide). The Wizards are barely above average in the offensive rebounding department (26.7-percent of available offensive boards, league average is 26.4-percent), but are the NBA’s absolute worst in defensive rebound rate. Washington grabs just 69.5-percent of the defensive rebounds available. If you’re the Wizards coaching staff, is this the biggest area of concern to you? Why or why not?
FELDMAN: It’s a huge area of concern — not just today, but for every game. JaVale McGee is a good defensive rebounder, but if he didn’t try to block every shot, he could be an excellent defensive rebounder. No Wizard has more range in how the rest of his career could go. If McGee were more concerned about playing effective defense than padding his block total, I’d be much more optimistic about his and the Wizards’ future.
McGINNIS: This is a huge concern, the Wizards can never afford to give opponents extra opportunities. It starts with JaVale McGee, who must do a better job of getting in position and reacting to missed shots. He also often loses track of his man. But the rebounding woes are deeper than just one player. McGee commonly makes the correct play to defend the rim, but the lane is left vulnerable when no other Wizards sink to cover the rebound. Wizards also struggle corralling long rebounds, usually due to not boxing out. In the loss to the Knicks last Wednesday, Wizards often looked to run up court before securing the rebound, and New York got several key second chances.
PERMUTT: It is a concern, but not as big of one as it might have been a few weeks ago. Trevor Booker is a phenomenal rebounder, especially when compared to Andray Blatche, and with Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely also playing bigger minutes, the Wizards are likely in better shape than the numbers suggest. Still, Greg Monroe is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league (currently 4th) and his combination of strength and length (and work ethic) could pose problems for JaVale keeping him off the glass.
#3) The Pistons have won four out of five (four in a row) with a starting lineup of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe. Two of those wins (and the first loss during this starting unit’s reign) came against the New Jersey Nets; the other two wins came against the Bucks and the Hornets.
Washington’s current starting lineup of John Wall, Nick Young, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee has recently become their most oft-used 5-man unit on the season. Their defensive rating stands at 97.3, significantly lower than Washington’s team season average of 106.9 (Off and Def Ratings = points scored and allowed per 100 possessions). However, this Wizards unit has an offensive rating of 91.4, lower than the team season average of 95.6. [To Note: the Knight - Stuckey - Prince - Maxiell - Monroe unit has a 95.6 Off Rtg and a 96.6 Def Rtg.]
After all of that, which team’s starting unit more decides this game and why?
FELDMAN: The Pistons’ — because their starting five makes their bench work. When Rodney Stuckey starts, Ben Gordon can come off the bench and focus only on making shots. As a starter, Gordon is asked to dribble and pass too much, and that leads to too many turnovers. When Jason Maxiell starts, Jonas Jerebko can come off the bench and provide energy. As a starter, Jerebko is asked to defend bigger and stronger opponents, and that leads to early foul trouble. The Pistons’ starting lineup might not be great, or even good, but it’s the best combination for them right now. I get the sense the Wizards are still searching for that.
McGINNIS: Booker and Singleton have brought more visible defensive effort and the numbers show this. They will be counted on to stop Monroe and help contain Stuckey, who always lights up the Wizards in Detroit (he had 19 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds the last time he faced visiting Washington in March 2011). This game will be decided by Washington’s offense. Can Nick Young get hot and not be a disruptive force with his tendency to hold the ball or dribble aimlessly? Will John Wall get calls on his drives? Will we see the good JaVale who hangs around the basket or the bad one who jacks up wild shots? Does Chris Singleton contribute anything offensively? The Wizards’ offense has been improving with Wall and Booker currently playing some of the best offensive basketball of their young careers, but the others have to answer those questions in a positive manner for them to beat Detroit on the road.
PERMUTT: The Wizards’ unit is ultimately more important to deciding the game because of the (in)consistency of their front-court. A player known as “streaky” is usually a guard or a shooter, but the Wizards’ Javale McGee has embodied this adjective as of late. After five consecutive single-digit scoring outputs, JaVale exploded for 24 against the Heat on Friday night. Which JaVale will show up? Chris Singleton could go either way, too. Prince, Maxiell, and Monroe are all solid (if limited) players who know their roles on the team and have been executing them efficiently.