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Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Pistons

Isiah Thomas is overrated

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With the Last Dance covering the rivalry between the Pistons and Bulls and Isiah’s Dream Team snub, it has ignited an argument about his legacy.

Isiah is widely considered a top 30 player all time and one of the best PGs after Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson, however the stats don’t back this up. They’re not just off, they’re way off. Isiah is only 151st all time in career win shares – behind guards like Sam Cassell, Derek Harper, Calvin Murphy, Hersey Hawkins, Andre Miller and others who it’d be considered insulting to put in the same conversation.

To begin with the positive, Isiah does have an illustrious passing career. He is 7th all time in assists per game and his 13.9 mark in 86 is the 3rd highest in history. He is one of 9 players in history to have 4 or more 10 assist seasons. During the title years the Pistons were the slowest paced team in the league which reduced his numbers to a still strong 8 or 9 per game. While overshadowed by other defensive stars on the Pistons during their best years he also averaged over 2 steals per game from 83 to 86.

Where Isiah’s case slides is his scoring. The most overrated type of scorer tends to be players who are inefficient, but who’s volume also isn’t overwhelming. The combination is the Bermuda Triangle of overrated scoring, the Rudy Gay and Andrew Wiggins zone. This is the issue with Isiah. His ranks in TS% and PPG from 83-90:

83 – 25 players over 20ppg: 21st TS%, 12th PPG
84 – 26 players over 20ppg: 24th TS%, 21st PPG
85 – 28 players over 20ppg: 25th TS%, 24th PPG
86 – 27 players over 20ppg: 17th TS%, 20th PPG
87 – 28 players over 20ppg: 25th TS%, 27th PPG
88 – 30 players over 19ppg: 27th TS%, 30th PPG
89 – 41 players over 18ppg: 36th TS%, 39th PPG
90 – 37 players over 18ppg: 37th TS%, 35th PPG

On five different occasions he ranked bottom 5 for both volume and TS% for his benchmark, including both title seasons. In comparison in 2019 the only players above 18ppg who ranked bottom 5 in volume and TS% were Wiggins and Tim Hardaway. No-one above 20ppg ranked bottom 5 in both, but C.J. McCollum was close at 5th from the bottom in volume and 6th in TS%.

The best modern comparison for Isiah’s stats is John Wall, another player who excelled at points and steals. From 2013 to 2016 he finished between 17.6 and 19.9 pts and between .510 and .524 TS%. In 2016 he was the least efficient scorer over 19 pts in the league and 2nd least in 2014. 2017 was his best year in volume and efficiency at 23.1ppg and .541 TS%.

Isiah vs Stockton is often framed as scoring vs playmaking, but Stockton had better scoring numbers in 89 and 90 than Isiah. Stockton averaged 17.1 pts and 17.2 pts in 89 and 90, but on elite efficiency of .624 TS% and .607. Isiah’s scoring is slightly higher at 18.2 pts and 18.4, but far less efficient at .528 and .501 TS%. It would be foolish to value the one higher point per game Isiah averages compared to the vast efficiency difference.

Or compare him to his teammate Joe Dumars, who had a good career as a scorer but most don’t consider him lights out compared to his defense. At 17.2 and 17.8 pts in 89 and 90 he’s only marginally behind Isiah, but more efficient at .571 and .555 TS% giving him a great argument for having a better scoring season. His career high scoring season (23.5ppg) is higher than Isiah’s and while Isiah is lauded for big playoff performances, in 89 and 90 Isiah had 5 30 point games to Dumars 4. Other than eye test reasons which don’t show itself in stats, much like Stockton there’s little reason to separate Isiah from Dumars as a scorer by more than a marginal amount.

Naturally however the league is full of players who’s impact wasn’t captured by their stats. You have to be there to know who they are emotionally – and everyone from the time seems convinced Isiah was a superstar. This is where MVP and All NBA voting can play an invaluable role. Take Dave Cowens, another 2 time champion from a decade earlier. At 125th in career win shares his numbers don’t back up his legacy either, but the respect for him as a supestar is shown in MVP voting when he beat prime Kareem in 1973 and finished 2nd two years later. 

Which brings us to the most confounding part of the Isiah puzzle – why did he receive no MVP or All NBA love in 89 and 90? He did well earlier in his career rating 1st team All-NBA from 84-86 and 5th, 8th and 9th in MVP voting for those years, albeit his career MVP shares of 89th is still far off consensus. In 89 and 90 however he only finishes 13th and 17th and doesn’t make any of the three All-NBA teams – Dumars even beating him in 1990. Traditionally any best player on the best team does well in MVP voting, even if non-superstars. For example in 2006 Billups finished 5th on the 64 W Pistons and 2nd in All-NBA, far ahead of Isiah for the 63 W team in 1989. Tony Parker finished 5th and 6th in 2012 and 2013 while having Tim Duncan looming over him in a way no star did over Isiah. Yet for such a supposed clearcut superstar, this credit never shined onto Isiah. It’s hard to believe there was a conspiracy against him as even if disliked, it hadn’t stopped ultra reviled players like Elvin Hayes and Rick Barry from finishing top 5 in similar situations (Although it may have blocked their win). Perhaps the more believable explanation is that PGs like Stockton, Kevin Johnson and Mark Price were seen as more productive players their teams needed more and therefore people voted that way.

Another difference between Isiah and a player like Cowens is the how they would be underrated by the numbers. Cowens biggest impact was on the defensive end which is already hard to track statistically, but moreso he did it as like Garnett and Draymond being the premiere switching big of his era which didn’t show up in the block category. Add in legendary intensity and it’s easy to see why Cowens impact was rated to have not shown up in stats. Since point guard is an offensive stat friendly position it’s hard to say where Isiah’s impact isn’t captured by his points, assists and steals.

It’s not too say Isiah isn’t a great player. He has one of the top 15 all time PG careers in history. Even if you put all of Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Stephen Curry, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Walt Frazier, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Bob Cousy above him, after that many of the most talented PGs like Penny Hardaway, Kevin Johnson and Mark Price had abbreviated careers due to injury. At best he could sneak into the top 10 of that group over players like Kidd and Cousy. However I refuse to rate him as one of the 3 or 4 best players of that group over players who dwarfed him in production and talent. The Pistons had great success but defense, rebounding and depth played key roles much like 2004 and 2005 version. All evidence point towards his contribution being closer to the Billups of his team than the Jordan.

Written by jr.

May 3, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Greg Monroe for Eric Bledsoe would be a solid S&T for both teams

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It’s late August and Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe are still not signed, which is turning into a mess for Detroit and Phoenix. Either Monroe or Bledsoe taking the qualifying offer is the worst case scenario for both teams, as if they walked in unrestricted free agency they wouldn’t receive value in return for their asset.

I like the idea of just swapping Monroe and Bledsoe personally, even if this idea seems unlikely due to the lack of momentum in the press about it.

Detroit’s end

The Pistons suddenly teaming up Eric Bledsoe and Andre Drummond’s elite athleticism would give them an exciting direction going forward. In the drafts since acquiring Drummond, they took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2013 and had to surrender their lottery pick to Charlotte in 2014. Although I’m a big fan of their 2014 2nd round pick Spencer Dinwiddie, they’re lacking the supporting young talent to go around Drummond. Getting it through trade with Bledsoe may be the direction to go.

The argument against is fit, as Detroit has Brandon Jennings 2 year 16.3 million contract, which is already one of the most unmoveable contracts in the league, a situation that would get worse if backing up Bledsoe. Presumably giving Bledsoe the max contract he wants could also scare them for the same reason it did Phoenix, because of some injury issues so far in his career.

Nevertheless, Jennings problem is a short term problem. Within a year it’s an expiring deal and easy to move on from. Jennings and Bledsoe may also be able to share time in a small backcourt, like Dragic and Bledsoe did this year in Phoenix. I see it as the right move to grab the talent upgrade in Bledsoe and wait for the opportunity to move on from the Joe Dumars mistakes Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons won’t be rebuilt in a day and don’t have to be a perfect fit immediately. Yet with Bledsoe and Drummond along with pieces like Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the pieces seem in place. It would also make the Pistons expected to make the playoffs next year, which may be important to ownership after disappointing seasons lately.

Phoenix’s end

There’s a few reasons why Phoenix may be lukewarm on this deal. First Monroe is not a perfect fit as they have two young centers in Alex Len and Miles Plumlee who’d move down the depth chart, with Len’s minutes especially unguaranteed. In the meantime however Monroe starting at C beside Markieff Morris is an upgrade, giving them passing and post skills to compliment Phoenix’s perimeter penetrating and shooting skills. Some minutes could be opened up for Plumlee and Len by playing Monroe at power forward in some matchups.

Financially Monroe may be asking for upwards of 11 or 12 million to do this deal for a player who’s game has stagnated in recent years. For his strengths like post scoring, ability to drive past defenders with ballhandling skills and passing, he neither spaces the floor especially well or provides defensive impact, a combination that is scary in the modern game. Monroe is a poor man’s Al Jefferson or Zach Randolph, the question as he goes into his prime is whether that’s still enough to pay a premium contract.

However, signing Monroe to a long term deal may also give Phoenix some needed stability. The core of their team last year in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe is in doubt long term. In addition to their Bledsoe issues, because Dragic is so underpaid right now, the Suns can’t offer him an extension high enough for him to consider taking – Toronto faced a similar dilemma with Kyle Lowry last year. Although Dragic clearly likes Phoenix enough for him to return there last time he was a free agent, it’s never easy to see a player enter unrestricted free agency where any matter of large offers from contenders could be thrown at him. Toronto was able to have a division winning, franchise record season, promising Lowry a slew of winning seasons in upcoming years. Phoenix is in danger of becoming an also-ran non-playoff team next year, making it less appealing to Dragic. By trading for an established player like Monroe instead of S&Ting Bledsoe for draft picks or young players, it may help them resign Dragic next year, or give them a fallback option of an Isaiah Thomas-Greg Monroe core to rebuild with if he leaves.

Although it depends on what Phoenix’s other offers for Bledsoe are, I’d say you can certainly do worse than acquiring a starting big in Greg Monroe and then going from there.

For now this trade is a fantasy, but I’d say for both it’s certainly preferable to their player taking a qualifying offer.

Written by jr.

August 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm

NBA Franchise Power Rankings – #27: Detroit Pistons

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Ben Gordon of the Detroit Pistons during a gam...

Image via Wikipedia

Previous rankings:

#30 – Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)

#29 – Phoenix Suns

#28 – Denver Nuggets

#27 – Detroit Pistons

Total Trade Value Ranking: #27 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #27)

Best Assets: C Greg Monroe (young, projects as borderline all-star to legitimate starter), PG Brandon Knight (rookie, projects as legitimate starter to borderline starter), 2012 1st, 2013 1st, RFA SG Rodney Stuckey (borderline starter), SF Jonas Jerebko (borderline starter), PF Austin Daye (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), PG Will Bynum (bench player)

Bad contracts: PF Charlie Villaneuva (3 years, 24 million), SG Ben Gordon (3 years, 27.2 million), Richard Hamilton (2 years, 25.2 million), PF Jason Maxiell (2 years, 10 million)

Other chips: C Ben Wallace (expiring)

Managerial Grade: B

Financial grade: C

Estimated record next year: Bottom 12

Overall synopsis: The Pistons got their first major rebuilding piece in the 2010 draft by taking Greg Monroe at #7. In our 2010 redraft, we decided Monroe would be taken 2nd overall if the draft was replayed. His early results and skillsets show a possible future all-star at the most important position, center. Brandon Knight from this year’s draft could be a nice pick at #8 in the 2011 draft, but needs to prove he’s a real PG and not another combo guard like Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. Together, Monroe and Knight should at least give the Pistons a good character and hard work ethic grounding they’ve been missing lately. Aside from those two, the Pistons have a mix of combo position players doomed to the bench like Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, and terrible contracts like Charlie Villaneuva, Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton. The 2012 and 2013 draft picks project to help the Pistons, but not as much as a few teams just ahead of them. The Pistons right now know they have a future starting big man and they have a good chance of having a guard in their top 6 rotational fixture. What they now need is starters at the other big man spot, small forward position and other guards spot, and need to find all-stars despite their middling position in drafts. They may have found one in Monroe, but nevertheless he will have to prove it first – and even if he is one, the Pistons need to get many more starting caliber players and other all-stars around him.

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The Accidental Hater

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Image from Chapelle's Show

With Shaquille O’Neal‘s retirement I feel compelled share what unique place Shaq Diesel occupied in my mind.

This won’t be something everyone enjoys because it’s a quite negative place. However, I do think that it represents a side of Shaq’s career that needs to be told along with the good. Is it sour grapes? Call it what you will.

Call me Magic

I was born and raised a Laker fan in Los Angeles. Magic Johnson was the first player I ever knew of. He was the star of the city, and hey, with my last name and my penchant for basketball, how could I now want to call myself “Magic”.

Fast forward to Shaq’s feud with Kobe Bryant. I begin to get more and more irritated. While Kobe’s ball hogging tendencies made me a touch sympathetic to teammates complaining, Shaq’s behavior was so awful that he was the one I felt the frustration toward.

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Team Volatility

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I typically like to have some kind of tight argument in my posts here, but this one is loose. I welcome any feedback from people who’d like to see the data presented in a different light. With the major trades occurring at the trade deadline, I thought it of interest to to take a look at the data surrounding how volatile teams are in terms of player movement. In the above graph, the vertical represents team wins this season, the horizontal represents the amount of players who’ve played for the team in the past 3 years, and the size of the dot represents the payroll of the team right now.

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Written by Matt Johnson

March 13, 2011 at 12:22 am