Gameday: Pistons at Raptors

Dreaming on “ou-topos” before previewing tonight’s game with Tim Thielke of Pistons Powered.

Bryan Colangelo’s seven-year tenure at the helm of the Raptors was an utter disaster. I won’t list all the reasons here because my therapist specifically forbids it (Dr. Melfi actually suggests that I cut off ties with the Raptors altogether, but then I’d just fill the void with some other masochistic practice), but here are a few instances off the top of my head: Kapono, Turk, Fred Jones, Bargnani, Gay, O’Neal — the list goes on and on.

In particular, I’d like to focus on the last year of Colangelo’s tenure. There were rumors of his dismissal following the conclusion of the 2012-13 season (going 23-43 the season prior will do that) but Colangelo was given one last chance to right the ship. With cap space, a mid-lottery draft pick and Jose Calderon’s expiring contract on his palate, Colangelo went about painting his masterpiece.

His first stroke was luring Steve Nash which proved to be no easy task. A simpler man would have looked at the fact that the Raptors had more cap space than anyone else (notably the Lakers and Knicks), and the fact that our proud city resided within the same vast arctic confines as Nash’s hometown, and formulated an offer centered around those two cornerstones, but Bryan Colangelo is no simple man. Instead, he opted to cut off the legs of his adversaries by offering Landry Fields — a restricted FA of the Knicks at the time — a poison pill contract of 18 million over 3 years which would have taken the Knicks out of the running had they matched. However the Knicks wisely passed and Colangelo ended up poisoning the Raptors instead. When all was said and done, Nash spurned both the Big Apple and the Big Smoke, and settled on Hollywood.

Undeterred, Colangelo dealt a protected first-round draft pick to Houston in exchange for Kyle Lowry, who had been feuding with Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale. The calculus was simple in Colangelo’s mind — he wasn’t going to be here anyway, so he was spending money that never would be his. With Lowry in the fold, he had successfully repeated what he was best at — he created yet another point-guard controversy.

After the 4-19 start to the season, Colangelo looked at his flaming mess of a roster and thought: “you know what this team needs? More players who can miss shots.” With that, he dialed up John Hollinger and worked out a deal to acquire Rudy Gay in exchange for ED! and Calderon. His rejuvenated Raptors capitalized on unsuspecting teams and won a few extra meaningless games near the end of the season but it was far too little, far too late. The Raptors finished 34-48 and Colangelo was supplanted by his former pupil.

In retrospect, Colangelo’s biggest blunder was largely unnoticed at the time of occurrence. When it came time for the Raptors to make a selection with the 8th overall pick, Colangelo mulled over his options. The Warriors snagged Harrison Barnes leaving no consensus pick on the draft board. Should he take Austin Rivers? What about Jeremy Lamb? Maybe pick up Andre Drummond? Instead, Colangelo passed on all three and went off the board (as he is so apt to do) and took Terrence Ross, a hyper-athletic shooter out of the University of Washington and Drummond fell to the Detroit Pistons.

And that’s as close as we’ve ever gotten to the generational talent that is Andre Drummond.

If you’re unfamiliar with Drummond, allow me to make the introductions. The 6’11, 270 lbs giant happens to be the most athletic center since Dwight Howard. In fact, for all intents and purposes, he is Dwight Howard, only bigger. Held in check only by his poor FT% and Lawrence Frank’s dying gasps as an NBA head coach, Drummond terrorized his opponents to the tune of 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes played to go along with 60% shooting from the field in his rookie season. Although his offensive skillset was (and still is) limited to mostly lobs and putbacks, Andre the Giant is undeniably a force to be reckoned with. Put it this way; Drummond is Goliath and Ross is David, and this is no biblical tale — Goliath eats pieces of David for breakfast.

Anywho, here to preview tonight’s match-up, and to make us jealous about Andre Drummond, is Tim Thielke of Pistons Powered:

1. You’d think that having Drummond and Smith in the paint would make for an effective defense, but the Pistons have the league’s 7th worst defense (defensive rating of 105.2). Why is it so bad and what holes in the defense should the Raptors look to exploit?

Drummond makes a lot of spectacular defensive plays, but he’s not yet consistently able to be a rock in the middle. And Smith plays way too many minutes at SF where he has done a dreadful job of guarding shooters.  Having minus defenders at PG and PF isn’t great either. The Raptors should try to use shooters to pull Smith and Monroe away from the basket and slashers to try to get Drummond in foul trouble.

2. What’s the plan of attack with the Smith-Monroe-Drummond frontcourt? My impression is that Smith shoots a lot from the perimeter, Monroe operates at the mid-post and Drummond crashes for boards. Is that correct? Also, what’s the biggest key to stopping these three?

The Pistons are at their best with Drummond and only one of Monroe and Smith on the floor. Then the best game plan is to have Monroe or Smith roll hard to the rim. Strong help defense will often force a miss but leave the board wide open to Drummond. That’s when he feasts. The key to stopping them is to let them shoot and go for strips when they get aggressive. And always keep a body between Drummond and the glass.

3. Speaking of Monroe, will the Pistons retain him after this season, or is he a candidate to be traded? If he’s retained, what price would he command? If he’s traded, what will the Pistons want in exchange?

Monroe has to be available in trade. But Dumars’ price tag is unknowable. He really tends to overvalue his guys and I don’t expect any other GM will offer him what he considers enough. Monroe will definitely be an RFA, but that means he’ll probably be Detroit’s. Odds are that someone else offers him a max contract, but if not, I’d expect him to end up signing for around $50M/4 yrs.

4.  Pistons fans must LOVE Bryan Colangelo, our much-maligned former GM who inexplicably passed over Drummond to take Terrence Ross.  How has Drummond improved his game this season and which area(s) of his game should he focus on improving (aside from FT shooting, obviously)?

Drummond’s main improvement this season is conditioning. Last year, while he should have received more minutes, whenever he was in for much of a game, he’d look really gassed. This season, Drummond has handled a heavier workload with only slight down ticks in his per possession impact. Apart from that, he has gotten his free throw rate down considerably. That would be a bad thing for literally any other player in the league (except DeAndre Jordan). But for Drummond, it’s a plus. Drummond needs to work on avoiding fouls. Not only will that keep him on the floor more, it will make him more of “a rock in the middle”. And yes, we hope you’re enjoying Ross.
5. In your opinion, is iCarly star Jennette McCurdy a worthy companion for Andre Drummond or should be upgrade to a mate more on par with his ungodliness?

I wasn’t a big fan of the public nature of McCurdy’s and Drummond’s romance. I think people ought to have better things to do with their time than snoop into celebrity romances. But I certainly have nothing against McCurdy personally. I hope both she and Drummond end up with happy, fulfilling personal lives (with each other or not).

Last night the Raptors squared off against the Pacers and like a Reggie miller with a grindstone, the Pacers bludgeoned the Raptors until they were nothing but wilted husks. It was an ugly game — lots of fouls, lots of missed shots — and the frountcourt took a serious ass-whooping courtesy of Hibbert and West. Our bigs were clearly worn out and aside from Patrick Patterson, the front-line was rendered ineffective.

However, despite the quick turn-around, Jonas and Amir will have to lace them up against yet another formidable foe. The Pistons frontcourt might be overcrowded and awkward, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for ineffective. If Jonas thought keeping Hibbert off the boards was tough, he’ll dread having to contend with the more athletic Drummond. Amir will need to stay out of foul trouble while defending the crafty Monroe. Finally, who will guard Josh Smith? The real answer is invariably Josh Smith himself as his effectiveness on offense is usually a matter of selectivity and geography, but if the Pistons come to their senses and stagger the duo of Monroe and Smith, their presence in the paint will have to be heeded all game long.

But past those three, you basically just need to hold Brandon Jennings in check, which isn’t usually a problem. Sometimes Jennings gets hot and pours in a bucket of points, but that takes away the precarious wisps of the Pistons’ ball-movement and turns their complex front-court rubix cube into a simple 1-piece puzzle.

Player Match-ups

Point Guard — As I mentioned earlier, Jennings is a volume scorer and the squirrel is known to find its nut from time-to-time but his outbursts are seldom. Lowry has been playing at an All-Star level for over a month and should be able to give the Raptors a significant advantage at the point. Jennings is also a poor defender so if Lowry were so inclined, he could probably call his own number whenever he wants. The back-ups are a wash.

Advantage: Raptors

Shooting Guard — On a night where all of his teammates (Lowry and Patterson aside) were shooting blanks, Demar Derozan turned into 2007 Kobe and dropped 28 points and 6 assists on the vaunted Pacers’ defense. Even if you assume that all 6 of Derozan’s assists led to 2-point baskets, that still gives him a hand in 40 points, which is more than half of the Raptors’ total on the night. Do you really think that semi-player coach Chauncey Billups and KCP can stop him? No way.

Advantage: Raptors

Small Forward — Terrence Ross is pretty hit-or-miss of late but he’s been bringing it on the defensive side of the court. His length bothered Paul George again last night as he held him to 4-12 shooting from the field. Luckily, Josh Smith will probably hold himself to a similar shooting percentage, so Ross just needs to run J-Smooth around a few screens before knocking down his open spot-ups. However, if Smith decides to operate in the post, Ross is toast. It’s all predicated on Josh Smith.

Advantage: Unpredictable

Front Court —If the John Cena (Johnson + Valanciunas – “u”)  of last night show up, Drummond and Monroe take this one easily. If the pick-and-rolling, cleaning-up-the-glass John Cena show up, we have ourselves a game. Honestly, this is probably tainted by my undying love for Andre the Giant, but I think the Pistons have the upper hand on this one, especially if Smith logs minutes at the four.

Advantage: Pistons

Bench Unit — The Sacramento Kinks versus Singler, Billups and Charlie V. If Patterson plays like he did last night, the Raptors win this match-up by a landslide. If not, they should win it anyway. Detroit’s back-up bigs are Charlie V and a man nicknamed “Jorts”. Here’s a picture of Jorts:

Advantage: Raptors

Vegas Says: Wearing jorts is a fashion faux-pas and don’t bet on the NBA. If you must, the line is Raptors -5.0 and the total is 196.5. Again, I have no idea how betting lines work so just look at them yourself here.

Prediction: The Raptors traveled for the second day in a row and it’s minus a million degrees in Toronto, but this Detroit Pistons team is 14-21 in the weakened East. They just lost to the hapless Knicks last night and the Raptors are playing really well. Look for our Dinos to climb back to 0.500 tonight. Raptors win by 10


This was from yesterday’s Pistons/Knicks game. Yup.

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