Opening Statements: Wizards at Pistons, Game 10 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Pistons, Game 10

Updated: November 21, 2015

Tonight, the Wizards take on the Pistons in Detroit. It’s the first of four meetings against Stan Van Gundy’s guys and there are plenty of reasons to get fired up for this one. John Wall is playing as well as he ever has, even if he’s shooting below his career average from both the field and free throw line, and his turnovers are up. He ranks in the top five in assists per game (3rd), free throw assists per game (1st), secondary assists (T-5th), and points created by assists (3rd). Passing wizardry of the highest order. Wall will square off against Reggie Jackson, who is not only averaging 20.4 points per game but also adding a healthy 4.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. He’s also a plus defender, just barely, with the size (he’s 6-foot-3) to bother Wall on and off the ball.

But the real reason to tune in is to watch Andre Drummond dominate. Drummond has double-doubled in each of Detroit’s first dozen games, the longest streak by a Piston since ’85-86 and the longest streak since CP3 double-doubled in the first 13 games of the 2013-14 season. And these aren’t just normal, human double-doubles: Drummond is flirting with a 20-20 line. He’s going to be a handful or two (or ten) for Marcin Gortat, who has had his struggles on the glass this season, which forced Randy Wittman to put him on blast. Gortat is grabbing 30.4 percent of contested rebounds, which pales in comparison to Drummond’s Contested REB% of 42.5. The Polish Machine had better bring his A game to The Palace.

I have yet to watch the Pistons play this season, so to do this preview justice I reached out to someone who has: roundball poet Seth Landman (@sethlandman) who kills it over at The Peach Basket. Read his look-ahead below and follow him on Twitter.

Teams: Wizards at Pistons
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
Television: NBATV/CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Pistons fav’d by 2 points.

Q #1: Andre Drummond is averaging 19 and 19. Is he another one of those Monstars from Moron Mountain and whose powers did he steal?

@sethlandman: The answer to this question is Dwight Howard. It’s boring, but true. Everything you would say to describe Andre Drummond’s game doubles as a description of Young Dwight Howard: the crazy combination of speed and size, the pick-and-roll dives that open up the whole offense, the terrifying rim protection, the ability to switch onto any kind of offensive player, the phenomenal rebounding, etc. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Young Dwight feels a little underrated to me historically, by the way. Do we remember that he was the second-best basketball player in the world for an extended period of time? To bring this back to Drummond, the thing I really want to talk about is the rebounding. Here’s a crazy stat: the list of players going back to 1970 who have pulled down 25 percent of available rebounds while playing more than 35 minutes per game is just 2015-16 Andre Drummond and a bunch of random Dennis Rodman seasons. It’s so rare for a big guy to play this many minutes! I don’t know if Drummond will ever be the best player on an NBA Finals team the way Dwight was in Orlando, but it certainly feels like it’s in play to me.

Q #2: You’ve written about the Pistons’ ability to score—impressive because it’s powered by creative off-ball movement and precise passing not seen since, oh, the Brazilian national soccer team in 1994.

How much of that is parts fitting perfectly together, and how much is it the underrated, mostly-hated Reggie Jackson pulling strings?

@sethlandman: I don’t know if I’m ready to compare this team to the sublimity of soccer at its highest level, but I do think the Pistons seems to be playing with a clear sense of purpose that fosters unselfishness in the context of the game itself. Drummond is at the center of it all. You put a ball-handler who can play pick-and-roll with Drummond, and the gravity created by that action allows everything else to happen. Still, I have this nagging sense that this is still more an idea of a basketball team than an actual basketball team. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova: these all seem like lesser models built from more ideal prototypes. Combine Morris and Ilyasova into one player, and you maybe have a good stretch 4, but in real life Morris can’t shoot and Ilyasova doesn’t rebound. Caldwell-Pope continues to look the part of a world-class shooting guard, but at this point I wonder if the stats will ever bear that out. Even Reggie Jackson is, I’m a little sad to say, probably better in theory than in real life. A big guard who can get to the rim and shoot enough to keep defenses from mercilessly going under ever single ball screen? Sounds great! But Reggie, as he must be well aware based on life-experience, is not Russell Westbrook. He’s just Reggie Jackson. That’s fine, but if he’s the second best player on your team, you might be a little over-extended.

I remember when Stan Van Gundy signed Jodie Meeks, I thought, “Jodie Meeks is not very good, but he can really shoot.” In terms of Stan’s philosophy, both sides of that “but” are revealing. How do you build a team? Do you find players with outsized physical talent and teach them to do the things you need, or do you find players with clearly defined skills and try to put them into situations where their athletic shortcomings aren’t exposed? Every player on this Pistons squad is an unyielding basketball dilemma on one side or the other of that equation, save Drummond. But what the hell: maybe Drummond is enough.

Q #3: In Detroit’s last five they’ve beaten the Cavs (!), but lost to both L.A. teams, Sacramento, and Golden State (no shame there). You’re Stan Van Gundy. Where can you score some consistency because I don’t see any on

@sethlandman: Well, in the time since you asked me this question, they managed to beat the Timberwolves by 10 on the road, which isn’t exactly like taking down the Warriors, but it’s something. That consistency you’re referring to is elusive. For the Pistons, I think it’s on the bench. Their starters are playing insane minutes right now. Caldwell-Pope and Morris are both in the top five in the league in minutes per game, and Drummond is first among centers. I think that’s fine, in and of itself, but it points to the fact that the bench is an issue. Stanley Johnson is probably their best guy off the bench right now, and he’s a rookie. Aron Baynes is solid, I guess, but it’s not like other teams have to game-plan for him. Anthony Tolliver is supposed to stretch the floor, but he’s making 26 percent of his 3s right now. Maybe getting Brandon Jennings back will help? I think part of the problem is what I talked about in my previous answer. When you have an entire roster of flawed players carefully put together, one bad game throws everything into chaos. This is a good basketball team, but in many ways team consistency is a byproduct of talent, and the Pistons just don’t have enough across the roster quite yet.

Q #4: Wittman or SVG? Wall or three Pistons of your choosing? Jared Dudley or Brandon Jennings off the bench?

@sethlandmanLet me just quickly say SVG and Jennings so I can focus on that middle question, which is a juicy one. I’m going with Wall. I love Drummond, but man, Wall is just so special. He’s got once-in-a-generation court vision, and I’ll take that over once-in-a-generation rebounding. Nobody else I’m getting with my other two Pistons is moving the needle for me. I know you’re always supposed to go with the big man, but that’s how you get Hakeem Olajuwon (or Sam Bowie) instead of Michael Jordan. Hakeem’s great. Probably one of the 10 or 15 best players ever. You could never fault the Rockets for taking him ahead of Jordan, but they could have had Jordan. That’s an extreme example, and I feel insane writing it, but that’s what Wall does to me. I wrote about him extensively already in The Peach Basket’s Wizards preview before the season, and my thoughts on the matter still stand. I’d take Wall ahead of anyone in the league right now besides Curry, LeBron, Durant, Davis, Westbrook, and maybe, MAYBE, Karl-Anthony Towns. There. I said it.


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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.