The last time Washington and Detroit faced each other in mid-February, two young centers led the way (JaVale McGee had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Greg Monroe had 27 points and six rebounds), but Washington held Detroit to a season-low 32.6-percent shooting and stole a win on the road, 98-77. McGee is now in Denver and the Wizards will start both Nene and Kevin Seraphin (Trevor Booker is out with knee tendinitis)… Wonder what changes now. To answer you Wizards-Pistons questions, we have Dan Feldman of the ESPN TrueHoop Pistons blog, Piston Powered, along with TAI’s Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie. Let’s do it…
#1) Ben Gordon is averaging just 12.6 points per game this year, which is a far cry from 20.6 he averaged in his final year in Chicago, and definitely not what the Pistons had in mind when they signed him to a 5-year, $55 million contract in 2009. Andray Blatche has started only 13 of the 26 games he played, he only averaged 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in those games, and he’s currently not playing because of “conditioning” (aka the Dirk Nowitzki system). The Wizards surely did not have this in mind when they gave him a 5-year, $35 million contract extension in 2010. Which team regrets their contract more?
FELDMAN: From a purely basketball standpoint, it has to be the Pistons, just because $55 million is greater than $35 million. But Gordon’s downfall has been due to, I think, never mentally recovering from an injury his first year in Detroit and a surprisingly sudden physical aging. Gordon has continued to act professionally and play hard, and that might make it more palatable to pay him $11 million per year rather than paying Blatche $7 million per year.
MOBLEY: The Wizards regret Blatche’s extension, but I do believe in dark, media-free rooms where Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis have cliché free discussions, they will admit that re-upping Andray was risky. Blatche’s stretches of excellence were limited, at best, at that time. Ben Gordon was coming off a 2008-09 season that saw him average 20.7 points during the regular season and 24.3 in the Bulls’ tightly-contested playoff lost to the Celtics. Gordon was expected to carry the Detroit franchise, and instead he’s been inconsistent, hesitant and without a playoff appearance.
WEIDIE: Blatche by a burrito mile. I can’t speak for everything that goes on in Detroit, but 7-Day Dray has caused his franchsie to pull out more hairs due to non-basketball related action than not. He is perpetually out of shape, and he’s just not a competitor. At least Gordon put the Uconn Huskies on his back en route to an NCAA title — can’t say Blatche did anything of winning significance while in high school. Even though the Pistons ponied up more money (to sign Gordon away from Chicago), Washington’s decision to extend Blatche in hopes that it would improve his confidence is perhaps the franchise’s biggest bonehead move over the last two decades, at least.
#2) Seems like this question has come up more lately… If you were doing a 2010 re-draft, do you now take Greg Monroe first over John Wall? Why or why not?
FELDMAN: Monroe is better now, but Wall has more upside. So… I don’t know. I could argue either side, but I’ll take Monroe because a big man is more valuable than a point guard and, generally, I prefer the more-proven players. Regardless, it’s a clear win for the Pistons that the No. 7 and No. 1 picks are running neck and neck.
MOBLEY: Since the Wizards had the top pick that year, this answer has to be given with them in mind, and the answer is John Wall, still. Greg Monroe has emerged has a solid inside presence with average defensive skills, above-average passing skills and the ability to get a double-double nightly. Wall (and his personnel) has regressed a bit in year two, and his shot has not come along as hoped, but the mismatches he creates with his speed are part of what keeps the Wizards in games. More importantly, the Wizards, especially after the Gilbert Arenas situation, not only needed a talented point guard, but they needed someone to build the franchise around, and Wall filled both those needs. Monroe may prove to be that franchise cornerstone in year three, but right now, Wall — with all his inconsistencies – -is still a better fit in D.C. than the former Hoya.
WEIDIE: It’s scary close, at least for Wizards fans, especially since Wall is so bad at creating offense for himself. Still, with his athleticism, I — and I think most GMs – still take a shot with Wall over Monroe. In a league that’s becoming more and more point guard heavy, you want one of high-enough caliber to get invited the dance. Now Wall just needs many, many teammates of top-notch caliber too.
#3) Detroit, surprisingly (at least to me), is favored to win by two points in Washington tonight. What stat most determines this game? Who most influences that final stat? And what’s your final score prediction?
FELDMAN: Rodney Stuckey’s free throws. Stuckey is the Pistons’ most important player, because he does things — protect the ball, get to the line, defend on the perimeter — no other Piston guard does well. He’s missed Detroit’s last three games and was slowed in the contest before that with a toe injury. If Stuckey returns to form tonight (and he says he’ll play), free throws should tell the tale. With the Wizards on a back-to-back, I’ll take Detroit, 92-86.
MOBLEY: The Wizards’ assist total will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game. If Wall can find Nene (or Seraphin) inside, Crawford on the perimeter, and Booker mid-range, his assist total will rise, and it’ll be contagious–especially with Crawford. But if Wall’s passes result in missed shots, and hero ball becomes the offensive tactic, the Wizards will struggle, and the Pistons will win. The Wizards will shoot better, and Wall will have at least 12 assists. Final score: 102-99 Wizards.
WEIDIE: Three-pointers… With Nene back in the lineup, starting with Kevin Seraphin, Washington shooters will have to nail their long distance buckets… Not easy for a team that shoots 31.7-percent from deep, barely good enough for 25th in the NBA. But with more space due to offense worked from the inside-out, I say long-range bombs from Jordan Crawford, and more likely, Roger Mason, make the difference. Wizards 96 – Pistons 87.