When the goal is to get stops, where does the ball drop?
Preached thus far in the Piston's post-game interviews has been the idea of defense, even going so far as to ignore offensive struggles. Even since Greg Monroe has started playing well, and Knight has been playing decently, Rodney Stuckey has truly brought down their offensive efficiency. Prince has played as Prince is expected to play at this point; he stops the flow of the game and takes the ball to get a high percentage shot for better or worse. Maxiell has played decidedly well for the first 8 minutes of games, giving the illusion of good play overall.
Overall the Pistons have given up entirely too many second chance points simply because they don't finish out their defensive possessions by rebounding the ball. People tend to forget that rebounding is the most important part of defense: You can make the other team take as many bad shots as you want, if they continuously get the offensive rebound it doesn't matter at all.
Still, the Pistons preach defense, and everyone on the team appears to buy into the mind frame even though it hasn't translated onto the court. Greg Monroe, for his lack of athletic ability, has to be rated as mediocre on the defensive end. This isn't for a lack of trying, as Monroe has played several plays of great defense, getting steals, making shots difficult even if they still go in, and overplaying in order to get stops all on his own. But for every good defensive play, there is a bad play. Unlike someone like Rondo who plays excessive defense that would likely get most others benched, Greg Monroe has no Kevin Garnett to clean up the slack and make up for a gamble play not paying off. Thus, Monroe's defense has to be considered consistently either pretty good, or pretty bad, averaging out to mediocre.
The guards defense has not made anything easy on Monroe either, and Prince appears to have lost a step. Maxiell's helpside defense has left a lot to be desired and Prince's rotations are no where near as crisp as Jerebko and Singler's. Add to that recipe the fact that Singler and Jerebko are hustling the entire time they are on the court, including a 14 minute stint for Singler against the Kings to finish out the game, and it's hard to see the starting line up stay the same.
What is the problem?
The problem is simple for the Pistons: Their best players, with the exception of Monroe, appear to have regressed or not play well through this point. Their best players are all offensive players with defense relying only on effort and not the athleticism it requires. They practice only defensive schemes, or at least it appears so with their terrible offensive execution. Their best defensive players are all on the bench.
So we have a team that can't play defense, playing energy bench players as starters, not focusing on their offensive potential, failing to execute offensively in games, preaching defense while sitting their best defensive player with the most upside on the team in favor of aging veterans, and allowing that player to only play 5 minutes in their last game. There is, somewhere, a misunderstanding of the strengths of not only individual players, but the team as a whole.
How do you fix it?
This has been relatively easy to see for Pistons' fans to this point, but the purpose of this is to give rhyme and reason to the outcry of the fans, to focus the slur of asterisks into a comprehensive and coherent argument for what is obvious. Here I will discuss two major points of emphasis: Maxiell, and Drummond.
There is no reason fans should be as upset as they are with coach Frank, but the frustration of an 0-5 start will bring the worst out of anyone, even this writer. Maxiell has played well. For the most part you do not take players who are playing well out of the starting line up. However, when I say "playing well" I feel I need to add a qualifier to that statement. Maxiell has been playing well (in the first quarter).
Maxiell has been playing well for roughly the first 10 minutes of playing time for him. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Maxiell had 3 of his 6 rebounds. In the first 10 minutes of the game Maxiell had 9 of his 11 points. In the latter half of his second quarter stint he had two turnovers in under 2 minutes. For 23 minutes of the game Maxiell managed to match his first 10 minutes production while grabbing 3 more rebounds, getting a flagrant foul, turning the ball over twice, getting 2 more points, and 1 block.
Maxiell's is not the production of a starter. His is the production of an energy guy off of the bench. If Maxiell is not playing within that role, he cannot abuse the fact that others do not match his energy. It is also clear that as his minutes increase, his efficiency plummets and his production does as well.
And Drummond? He makes mistakes. He does. He does not know the defensive schemes as well as Maxiell, but he definitely executes them FAR better when he actually is in the right place when he is supposed to be. Drummond's presence alone allows for other players to play more physically, take more risks, and be more aggressive on the defensive end of the ball. Monroe's risk moves would look as genuinely genius as Rondo's if Drummond manned the middle. On pick and rolls, Drummond will be far more useful in defending athletic guards while still being in position to defend the roller as well.
Finally, Maxiell is not a good defensive rebounder. He is active on the offensive glass and hurts teams there with explosiveness and quickness. What a good rebounder does is all about positioning. Maxiell is too small for this, too small to be a good defensive rebounder, but athletic enough to explode onto a small percentage of rebounds. While Drummond does not use his size to its potential now, he still is as athletic as Maxiell while being far larger, which just makes him a better rebound period.
I will not even touch on the potential of a Monroe and Drummond front court. Moose may have a tough time adjusting to a new position. Drummond may clog up the middle. Our offense may be worse off to start. That is not the point. None of that matters at all because of what the Pistons preach: defense first. If you want to talk about the defense, I suggest starting to actually utilize defensive options for once.