Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan - teammates soon?

The Pistons are in the same tier as the Raptors and are one of the teams that will try to make a playoff push at our expense. How do I know? Their blogger predicts 44 wins. They’re nothing like the feared teams of the mid-2000’s when Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and a fierce Ben Wallace made you regret even coming to the building. They’re replaced the old guard with Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, Chris Wilcox and Kwame Brown, which is like replacing a sturdy reliable John Deere tractor with a shiny plastic lawnmower.

Investing 10 years and $85 million in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was a questionable move at best, and made me wonder if they’ll actually make a run at Chris Bosh since they’ve already got Villanueva locked up. They’ve got $40M tied up for next year which means they’d have to sign-and-trade for him which would mean they’d feed us good ‘ol Charlie V. Imagine that! I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s look at this contest a little closer.

Blogger’s Take

Let’s see what TrueHoop blogger, Piston Powered thinks:

How have Ben Gordon and CV looked so far?

Ben Gordon has been very good so far for Detroit. A knock on him has been games where he just can’t shoot, yet continues to do so anyway. That hasn’t happened yet, though. He’s scored at least 22 points every game this season. Villanueva, on the other hand, has just seemed off. He’s hit just 13-of-38 shots this season and struggled with foul trouble in a couple games. He missed most of the preseason because of an injury, so hopefully he just needs a few games to hit his stride.

Team Weaknesses – what would a scout say?

The Pistons don’t have anyone who can score in the low post (assuming Jason Maxiell is still out of the rotation). Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown are defense-first guys. And Charlie Villanueva is more of a slasher and perimeter shooter.

What’s your bread-and-butter set?

The Pistons are at their best when Rodney Stuckey is penetrating and making good decisions with the basketball. That opens up jumpers for Gordon and Rip Hamilton, space for Charlie Villanueva to drive and drop-offs for Ben Wallace dunks.

Injuries

Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are out for the game. Prince’s iron man streak was broken in last night’s win against Orlando (Howard left the game early) after he came up with a back issue. Hamilton has a sprained ankle. Two of their main players are missing and on paper this should be a gettable W, but that’s what we said about Orlando. In addition to that, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey played 43 and 41 minutes in that game which should help the Raptors.

For the Raptors, Sonny Weems and Reggie Evans are out. Antoine Wright practiced on Tuesday after missing Monday’s practice due to a tweaked ankle. He’s expected to play. Let’s check the five positions.

Matchups

The Point: Stuckey’s explosiveness versus Calderon’s…umm…craftiness?. Key is to go under and back around the screen to make sure you only give Stuckey the perimeter jumper and are in position to get in front of him if he decides to turn on the screen. Test his legs, he’s tired. My mind tells me Jack should be given Stuckey duties, his strength will do better to offset the Piston. Will Bynum had 20 in last night’s game and already showed last year that he’s a very capable backup, watch for him too.

The Skill: Even though DeRozan starts, Jack could be asked to cover Gordon who matches him in height at 6′ 3″ and also in center of gravity. Somebody tell Gordon that he already got the big contract and shouldn’t try so hard, he’s averaging in. 24+ for the 2-2 Pistons while shooting 49%. This is the matchup we envisioned when thinking of Jack on the defensive end, let’s test it out. This also could be a chance to see if DeRozan can put his height advantage to any use; many feel he’s been underutilized and this is a chance to have him get his against a weak defender.

The Swingman: With Tayshaun Prince out, they gave the start to Jonas Jerebko. I have no idea who he is except that he went 0-5 last night so I reckon we don’t have to worry too much about him. Hedo Turkoglu should have the green light to do whatever he wants since Prince is Detroit’s only true defensive wing. I can see the Pistons’ switching Charlie V on Hedo and having Gonzaga rookie Austin Daye check Bargnani, he impressed in summer league.

The Big: This isn’t the Ben Wallace of old, this version of Ben Wallace moves about as well as a fridge but is still managing to average 10 rebounds. Bargnani must do to him what he did to Shaq, except the Piston’s have other more agile big men in Wilcox, Maxiell and Kwame to counter what Bargnani has to throw at them. Detroit has always had a good big man core which generates positive rebounding differential but this year is a little different, actually it’s a lot different. They’re a league worst -6.7 in that department. We’ll still need Bargnani to hit the glass because Bosh alone can’t handle Maxiell and Wallace, even though the former suffered through a DNP-CD and is very close the doghouse. The Raps should inquire. Perhaps this could be a game where ex-Piston Amir Johnson shows us a reason to have faith in him.

The Strong: Villanueva averaged 16.2/6.7 last year and we all make fun of him for not playing defense and everybody has a good laugh. When somebody dares to make fun of Bargnani’s defense people get their panties in a knot. Somebody explain. Bosh is in for a tougher night as Wallace, Maxiell and a motivated Charlie V – who beats Bosh for quickness – have the tools to give him fits. Bosh is second in the league in rebounding with 14.7 (Howard 16.0) and is averaging 4+ offensive rebounds a game. We’ll need that.

Keys and Predictions

There’s nothing to worry about here, Visser‘s sim says we blew the crap out of them.

The keys to winning this game is to not let their guards go off on you like Orlando’s did and to not concede offensive rebounds. You have to like the Raptors at home against a short-handed team playing a back-to-back. If we lose this it will be the worst loss of the season. After this is it’s away to New Orleans, Dallas and San Antonio, so this is the easiest game until we play the Clippers at home on the 13th.

Some boring practice scrums. Bosh on why he’s getting more offensive rebounds and what he thinks of where the team is.

I think we’re close as a team, I think we’re doing pretty good given the time we’ve had together.

I’m happy with getting offensive rebounds. I’m more inside in the offense, I’m in the right position. You have to get position early and be strong with guys. You have to be inside first and that’s a lot tougher. The point of emphasis for me was to roll to the basket more…be a more traditional big.

Triano on where the team is and whether he’s satisfied with what he’s seen so far.

I see signs where we share the ball real well and cover for each other. Then I see signs where we look like we don’t know each other. I think it’s going to be like that for a little bit and I think for the most part I’m pleased with where we are. Do I want it to get better? Absolutely, will it get better? Yes.

That all comes with him getting to understand and know his teammates a little better. It also comes with us understanding when and where to put him in situations, especially at the end of the game. I thought we scored the ball well [against Orlando] but we should probably have the ball in his hands more.

Amir Johnson was asked who helped him the most in Detroit.

Sheed was one of the guys, McDyess, Lindsay Hunter, Ben Wallace when he was there. There was a bunch of guys, a bunch of old vets. Dale Davis, Kelvin Cato, man. There were a bunch of guys who really helped my game. Really brought me a toughness, it was a battle every practice.

I’m sure all the guys he mentioned are cringing at his early season numbers.

Check the live chat and stream at 7PM. There’s also going to be a live blog for those who can’t watch the game but want meaningful updates.