With no major news coming out of Detroit today, I thought I'd take a look at the current Pistons and compare them with our most recent title team of 2004.
Antonio McDyess v. Ben Wallace
McDyess --- 9.6 ppg, 49% FG, 8.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, .9 spg, .6 bpg, and 1.o tpg in 31.2 mpg
Wallace --- 9.5 ppg, 42% FG, 12.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.8 spg, 3 bpg, 1.5 tpg in 37.7 mpg
McDyess easily wins the offensive end of the battle, putting up the same amount of points in far less minutes. His ability to hit the 17 ft. jump shot spreads out the defense and allows for movement in our offense. With Wallace, the Pistons were constantly playing 4-on-5 and getting stagnant in the halfcourt. However, Wallace's defense was huge for the Pistons, effectively neutralizing the opponents' inside presence. It was not always the man Wallace was guarding, though. Big Ben was at his best coming from off the ball to make a steal, block, or weakside rebound. With Dice's knee problems and declining speed, he can be beat by quicker big men in the post.
Rasheed Wallace v. Rasheed Wallace
Wallace 08 --- 12.9 ppg, 43% FG, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.35 spg, 1.6 bpg, and 1.3 tpg in 31.8 mpg
Wallace 04 --- 13.7 ppg, 43% FG, 7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.1 bpg, and 1.3 tpg in 30.7 mpg
It's actually quite eerie how similar his stats are. Normally a player in his 30s would show more decline in his stats, but Wallace has stayed remarkably consistent. He may not have been worth the contract he signed after our title, but it was needed to keep him (and his defensive presence) on our team. His backup, Mehmet Okur, was allowed to sign with Utah because of his poor defense, and he's done nothing to change that reputation in Salt Lake.
Tayshaun Prince v. Tayshaun Prince
Prince 08 --- 13.4 ppg, 44%FG, 4.8 rpg, 3 apg, .5 spg, .4 bpg, and 1.1 tpg in 33.8 mpg
Prince 04 --- 10.3 ppg, 47% FG, 4.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, .8 spg, .8 bpg, and 1.5 tpg in 32.9 mpg
Again, we see a player who has stayed very similar to his '04 counterpart. There are some telling signs of growth, though. Prince has raised his scoring average three points, which is actually a dropoff from the past three seasons. From watching him play, I don't see his talent declining. Rather, I think teams are placing more emphasis on stopping him, and he has had to take tougher shots against stronger defenders. As a defender, his steals and blocks have gone down, but again, I think teams are more aware of him and don't test him as much. This theory works on baseball outfielders as well. How else to explain someone like Alfonso Soriano at the top of the assist leaderboard? It's because teams test him regularly, knowing he isn't a true outfielder. As opponents get more and more data on the player, they test him less often, resulting in fewer assists (or in Prince's case, steals).
Richard Hamilton v. Richard Hamilton
Hamilton 08 --- 18.7 ppg, 50% FG, 3.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.1 spg, .2 bpg, and 1.9 tpg in 35.3 mpg
Hamilton 04 --- 17.6 ppg, 46%FG, 3.6 rpg, 4 apg, 1.3 spg, .2 bpg, and 1.5 tpg in 35.5 mpg
Seeing a trend yet? This group of Pistons is remarkably consistent, proving why they've stayed at the top for so many years. One major change for Hamilton over the last four years has been his improved three-point shooting. Hamilton averaged 15 shots a game in 2004 and this year. But, those shots have been dispersed differently. In '04, he shot less than one 3-pointer per game, making 27%. This year, he's shooting 2 a game, making 47%! In fact, Hamilton led the league in 3FG% last year and will participate in the 3-point contest at the All-Star Game. This has made Hamilton a much more versatile player and harder to shut down.
Chauncey Billups v. Chauncey Billups
Billups 08 --- 17.6 ppg, 45% FG, 3 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.3 spg, .2 bpg, and 2.1 tpg in 34 mpg
Billups 04 --- 16.9 ppg, 39% FG, 3.5 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.1 spg, .1 bpg, and 2.4 tpg in 35.4 mpg
In Billups, I see a player who was struggling to fit in Larry Brown's slower-paced offense. While he did lead Detroit to a title, he is a much better player than he was then. He has a become a more efficient, smarter point guard. Perhaps this was due to Brown's relentless teaching or maybe it's because of Flip Saunders' more open offense. Either way, Billups scores more, passes better, and turns the ball over less than he did four years ago.
Forwards & Centers
Mehmet Okur, Corliss Williamson, Elden Campbell v. Jason Maxiell, Jarvis Hayes, Amir Johnson
Okur --- 9.6 ppg, 46%FG, 5.9 rpg in 22 mpg
Maxiell --- 8 ppg, 52%FG, 5.3 rpg in 23 mpg
Williamson --- 9.5 ppg, 51%FG, 3.2 rpg in 19.9 mpg
Hayes --- 6.7 ppg, 44%FG, 2.4 rpg in 16.1 mpg
Campbell --- 5.6 ppg, 44%FG, 3.2 rpg in 13.7 mpg
Johnson --- 2.7 ppg, 52%FG, 2.9 rpg in 8.5 mpg
In 2004, the Pistons bench was used to compensate for B. Wallace's inept offensive game. Big mean like Okur and Corliss could score quickly and in many different ways. Okur was deadly from 3-point range for a man his size. Corliss was Maxiell when Baby Max was still in college. Williamson struggled defending the quicker 3's on the perimeter, but could was also fast enough to beat the bigger 4's and 5's inside. Campbell was our size off the bench, used to defend people like Ilgauskas and Shaq. However, at that point in his career, his offense was limited to tip-ins and putbacks.
This season, our frontcourt doesn't have to score as much off the bench. Maxiell and Johnson are relied upon mainly for their energy and quickness. Maxiell is a monster on the boards, but at times can be out of position due to his aggressiveness. Johnson has just begun to get playing time, but isn't consistent because of foul trouble. When he does get extensive time, he can rebound well and shows developing post moves. Hayes is something Detroit lacked in 2004: a wing that can defend well and shoot the 3. He's shown a great fadeaway in the post and the speed to defend players Corliss never could.
Mike James, Lindsey Hunter v. Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo
James --- 6.3 ppg, 40%FG, 3.7 apg in 19.7 mpg
Afflalo --- 3.4 ppg, 43%FG, 1.6 rpg in 11.5 mpg
Hunter --- 3.5 ppg, 34%FG, 2.6 apg in 20 mpg
Stuckey --- 4.7 ppg, 35%FG, 2.2 apg in 15.1 mpg
Our guard group is quite interesting. James and Hunter were known for their trapping and relentless defense off the bench. James was a shooter who could get hot quickly, but he was also too small to defend some of the bigger guards. In 2004, Hunter was beginning the decline phase of his career. He averaged under 7 ppg for just the second time in his career and couldn't shoot consistently anymore. However, his defense was still good enough to give him playing time.
We go from two old guards to two rookies. Afflalo has proven to be one of our team's best defenders. If Prince is off the floor, Afflalo can defend the other team's best wing and we don't miss a beat. His scoring isn't quite there yet, but as long has plays top-notch defense, the scoring is just an added bonus. Stuckey is our scoring guard off the bench. His defense isn't nearly as good as Hunter or James, but offense is his calling card. His ability to penetrate and score at the basket is something the Pistons have lacked off the bench for years.
The 2004 Pistons rode an amazing defense and timely offense to the NBA title over the Lakers. Hindered by a blackhole at center, their offense struggled to find a rhythm many times during the year. When it mattered most, though, the Pistons used defense and takeaways to create easy scoring opportunities for themselves.
This year, our defense is down slightly, but still near the top of the league. Our increased pace just makes it look like worse than it is. But, with a vastly improved offense, I think the 2008 Pistons are the better of the two teams. We're younger and more athletic off the bench and our veteran starters have shown little sign of decline.