3-on-3: Wizards at Pistons: John Calipari is Master of His Domain
When the Wizards last faced the Pistons in D.C., via TAI’s Adam McGinnis:
This has been quite a week for Coach John Calipari. On Monday night, his Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Kansas Jayhawks to win the NCAA championship. Yesterday, he emphatically declared that Kentucky was the best job in basketball coaching, and he has no intentions of leaving. Today, it was announced that his former All-American point guard (at Memphis), Derrick Rose, may finally play for the Chicago Bulls after nearly a month hiatus. Best of all, tonight Coach Cal can watch two more of his former point guards, John Wall and Brandon Knight, go head-to-head in the Palace of Auburn Hills. Per NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Coach Calipari could be watching his next team play in the Washington Wizards, but now we’re just getting ahead of ourselves. For tonight’s Wizards-Pistons 3-on-3, we have Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) from the Detroit News, Patrick Hayes (@patrick_hayes) from the ESPN True Hoop blog, Piston Powered and Truth About It’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Kentucky Coach John Calipari has given no public indication that he’s interested in leaving Kentucky for the NBA, but it would be shocking if he didn’t at least privately consider it. On a related note, it seems as if Anthony Davis will leave and be the consensus No. 1 pick, and barring something historic, the Pistons and the Wizards seem bound for the NBA lottery. Which situation would tempt Coach Calipari more? John Wall, Anthony Davis and the Wizards, or Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, and the Pistons?
GOODWILL: I would think the Pistons because they seem closer to contention than the Wizards, along with Anthony Davis being the closest thing to a perfect complement to Greg Monroe that the Pistons could ever find. Knight, Monroe, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko looks to be a solid foundation compared to Wall, Nene and…exactly. Also, Calipari wasn’t a complete disaster at New Jersey, taking them to the playoffs in 1998 but with full organizational control it was too much to handle. That’s not the case in Detroit, where although Joe Dumars has had some blemishes, he knows how to put together a championship core. Can the same be said for Ernie Grunfeld in D.C.? If he wants personnel control, I’d assume the Wizards would be the better choice. But if it comes down to roster and how close each team is to contending if you add Davis, it’s the Pistons and it’s not close.
HAYES: If we’re just limiting to those two players from each team, it’s definitely Wall-Davis. Knight has shown some flashes of good play, but nothing to suggest he has the franchise player ceiling Wall does. However, the fact that the Pistons have a potential All-Star big in Greg Monroe in the mix too and Cal’s guy, Worldwide Wes, has Detroit ties too, could maybe swing things in the Pistons’ favor. Fortunately, the Pistons seem pretty happy with Lawrence Frank, and they’ve become too cheap to pay coaches who would come with Calipari‘s asking price, so I don’t think they’ll have to worry about this scenario.
MOBLEY: Assuming Detroit is in position to draft Anthony Davis, Coach Cal would rather have Davis, Knight, Greg Monroe, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villaneuva and Rodney Stuckey as his core group. He’d be crazy not to jump all over that. But as LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami over Chicago demonstrated, sound basketball reasoning isn’t always the driving force behind these types of decisions. And given the fragile state of John Wall’s tenure in D.C. beyond his rookie contract, Ted Leonsis would surely throw copious amount of cash at Coach Calipari. Calipari would choose the Wizards, speak of new traditions and bringing a title to D.C., and Detroit would be left cold(er).
#2) After the last Pistons-Wizards game, Lawrence Frank made it a point to praise Ben Wallace and the abilities he still brings to the table. Wallace recently said that he’s not entirely closing the door on coming back another year. Do you agree with Coach Frank’s assessment that Wallace can still be effective? And from a team perspective, is there anything to be gained from another year of Wallace?
GOODWILL: From talking to Ben Wallace through this year, I think he’s done. Can he still play, albeit at a limited role? Definitely. He has what I call “old man strength” where he can’t be pushed off the block and what he lacks physically, mentally he’s still extremely sharp. Is there anything to gain? Yes, because I thought Wallace would be a pretty good assistant coach, working with bigs on defensive positioning and the obvious, getting in the weight room. If the Pistons draft a young big, Wallace would be the perfect mentor. He keeps the locker room light but doesn’t let things get too far out of control. He values his role and would take pride in aiding the development of another young player, which surely would help the franchise move closer to where Wallace wants it to be—back in the upper echelon of the East.
HAYES: Definitely. With proper rest and a light workload (15-20 minutes per game), Wallace is still a good rebounder, good defensive player and, although he’s not a rim protector anymore, still capable of bothering shots and disrupting passing lanes. Plus, though he’s obviously not a scoring threat, he’s a good passer on offense and the Pistons often run much smoother halfcourt sets with him on the floor. If, as expected, the Pistons add another young big to compliment Greg Monroe in the draft, having Wallace around another year to give spot minutes and beat them up in practice would be extremely valuable.
MOBLEY: Nene’s physical play and passing ability have had a positive effect on the Wizards’ big men, and he hasn’t even been in D.C. for a month. Ben Wallace has an NBA title, rebounding titles, and 15 years of experience. If he is OK with not starting and keeping his minutes down (the playoffs would be the exception), it is absolutely worth it for the Pistons to bring Wallace back. And as Pacers coach Frank Vogel mentioned last week, a player who has the ability to drive home the coach’s message is always a plus. No wonder Lawrence Frank wants him back.
#3) The Pistons won last week because the Wizards had no answer for Rodney Stuckey. Who wins this time, and which player from the winning team will have the most impact?
GOODWILL: Since JaVale McGee is no longer in uniform for the Wizards, I’d have to say Tayshaun Prince, simply because the Wizards have no real answer for him. Prince scored 18 last meeting, although he didn’t shoot well. At home, he tends to play closer to the basket offensively so I’d expect the Pistons to run a lot of offense through him early to get started. Greg Monroe only took four shots last meeting so who knows how much the Pistons will go to him this time around. Although you can never discount Jordan Crawford coming home to play in front of family and friends, considering his trigger finger is always ready—and he may just get hot, he scored 20 last time.
HAYES: Rodney Stuckey is still questionable for this game, but the Pistons are now 16-13 since their 4-20 start and playing really well at home. Detroit always struggles against good big men like Nene, but Monroe, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Jonas Jerebko have all been making positive contributions, particularly at home, and because the Pistons are apparently determined to not get a high draft pick, Detroit hasn’t been playing young, raw players like Austin Daye or Vernon Macklin down the stretch like the Wizards have been doing with their young guys. Pistons win and Greg Monroe has a big game.
MOBLEY: The Pistons should win. Even with a questionable Rodney Stuckey, they will still have Greg Monroe, Ben Gordon (who didn’t play against the Wizards last week), Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight and others. The Wizards may not have the services of Nene and Trevor Booker, and the players they do have will playing their second of three consecutive games. That being said, John Wall will respond well to being called out by Randy Wittman, and lead the Wizards to victory with at least 20 points and 10 assists.
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