Pistons Prospects via Win Score

Preface: I take absolutely no credit for the statistical analysis that follows; only the commentary is original to me. Ty originally posted these numbers here, and it was re-posted at the Wages of Wins Journal here. I’m re-posting these numbers for any Pistons fans who might follow this blog, but not those two others (and if you don’t, start already!).

Bismack Biyombo

We’ll start with Bismack Biyombo, who has become the fan favorite, or at least as far as I can tell by following the blogosphere and social media.

Bismack

On the one hand, Biyombo appears to represent two things the Pistons desperately need: rebounding and interior defense. On the other hand, the stats support the perception that he has very little to offer on the offensive side of the ball. I may get some flack for this, but he just looks more like Junkyard Dog than Ben Wallace to me, and he’s high risk due to uncertainty about his age. A raw eighteen year old who is full of potential posting slightly sub-par numbers looks quite different than a twenty-one year old doing the same.

I’m not opposed to drafting him. I simply worry that he’s not as good as his hype, and the question marks about his age should raise some red flags.

Kemba Walker

In spite of posting better-than-average numbers, the last thing a roster populated by Stuckey, Gordon, and Bynum needs is another under-sized guard whose position is a question mark. I think Kemba will carve out a role somewhere, just not here. I hope.

Kemba

Jonas Valanciunus

As Ty rightly notes, this is a crapshoot. He’s posted some very nice numbers with a small sample size from a league whose numbers don’t always project well to the NBA. At only nineteen, though, he’s certainly worth thinking about if he falls to #8.

Jonas V

Kawhi Leonard

For reasons I can’t quite understand, Leonard is reportedly rising up the Pistons draft board. Even if Prince and McGrady both depart, it seems Daye and Jerebko could man the small forward position for a year. Like Walker, Leonard posted some decent numbers, but he doesn’t seem to fit an obvious need, and his talent isn’t so great that it should demand selecting him.

Leonard

Tristan Thompson

Another projected combo forward in the NBA, but this time with below-average numbers. Pass.

Tristan

The Morris twins (numbers taken from here)

I’m not sure what to make of the Morris twins. Both posted respectable numbers on a powerhouse; however, to the surprise of many, Markieff’s Win Score numbers surpass his brother’s (Markieff, 13.5; Marcus, 11.6). Suddenly, Robin and Brooke come to mind.

Kenneth Faried

While not featured in Ty’s analysis, Faried has been a popular topic among the WoW network. He’s exactly the type of player that critics of Wins Produced like to highlight, because his productivity is directly (although not exclusively) linked to rebounding.

In spite of being older than many of the other big men in the draft, he boasts the highest Win Score (17.2) of any prospect. Because rebounding consistently translates to the NBA, he seems to be a lock as a rotation big man, but he will almost certainly fall out of the lottery. While he won’t fall nearly as far, he seems to be this year’s DeJuan Blair; he is like to drop far enough that an already good team will be able to add another productive and cheap asset.

What to do with the lottery pick?

Obviously, I am not a supporter of drafting any of the below-average big men whose stock is rising due to impressive workouts. I am also opposed to drafting Walker and Leonard at #8 (although to a lesser extent with Leonard, and if trading down is an option, I could be convinced).

Since the draft lottery, I have been an advocate of trading down, and I still prefer that under specific circumstances. If the Pistons can trade down and draft Faried (or maybe Leonard or Markieff) and/or land another asset such as an additional draft pick and/or unload a bad contract, I prefer this scenario. Faried appears to be a low risk, medium reward player. He’s not likely to be the next Marcus Camby or Ben Wallace, but he’s very likely to become a rotation player, and the Pistons can use a cheap, productive big man who can crack the rotation. Considering that our current rotation consists of Monroe, Jerebko, Villanueva, Maxiell, and Wallace, we desperately need help up front.

If trading down for Faried isn’t an option, I can support trading down for one of the other productive players mentioned above, as long as there’s an additional asset involved.

If we stand pat at eight, Biyombo or Jonas V. Both appear to be high risk, high reward players that could develop to fit a need, but the skeptic in me can’t shake the need to temper expectations.

John Kuester was not the problem (Part 1)

This week, Joe Dumars fired yet another coach – that makes 6 coaches in about 10 years by my count – and it seems as if John Kuester would have been fired sooner if the team’s ownership transition had not hindered such a decision.

The change makes sense for reasons obvious to anyone who followed the team, and I do not necessarily disagree with the decision. However, the Pistons blogosphere and mainstream media is filled with the sentiment that John Kuester was a complete failure as a coach.

In some ways, this is indisputable. He completely lost the respect of his players, which led to them publicly laughing at him when he was ejected from a game, as well as the infamous boycott of a shoot around. His rotations – especially as it relates to player position assignments and late-game lineups – left most fans scratching their heads.

But was Kuester a complete and utter failure?

I do not believe that to be the case, and there two important reasons why. Today, I will focus on the first. Tomorrow (or later this week), I’ll focus on the second.

John Kuester inherited a losing team

If you follow Wins Produced or this blog, this is a familiar point. The Pistons last made the Playoffs (barely) under Michael Curry’s leadership in 2008-2009. The production of those players looks like:

08-09 Wins Produced

The 08-09 Pistons were led to the Playoffs by Antonio McDyess – a player Dumars included in the infamous trade for Allen Iverson, but who later rejoined the team after a buyout – and Tayshuan Prince. Beyond these two players, only Rasheed Wallace, Amir Johnson, and Jason Maxiell contributed at an average level or better. Of these players, only Prince and Maxiell returned in 09-10 – which means the Pistons lost three above-average big men before Keuster began his tenure.

The players who returned – Prince, Stuckey, Maxiell, Hamilton, Bynum, and Brown – were joined by a collection of veterans and rookies. Dumars’ retooling project resulted in the following roster, which includes the familiar Wins Produced statistics.

09-10 Wins Produced

When we look at the players returning from 08-09, we see that most played within expectations. The exceptions are Rip Hamiltion, who plunged from a rotation-worthy guard to a negative contributor, and Kwame Brown. Rip’s decline is likely as much about age and injury as anything, and Kwame has been an inconsistent player his entire career. I do not believe Kuester is to blame for either decline.

In sum, then, the players Kuester inherited from the previous season played like they players they were the year before (and in some cases, the year before that, and that, and so on).

When we examine the new players to this roster, only Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko – an aging veteran who surprised everyone and a surprisingly effective second round pick from Europe – contributed meaningfully.

Beyond that? The Pistons received literally nothing. While the Pistons should have expected more from Villanueva, Gordon, Brown, and Wilcox, they shouldn’t have expected that much more. None of these players have ever contributed at an above-average rate for their positions consistently, so while they were certainly worse as Pistons, it wasn’t entirely surprising, at least from a Wins Produced perspective. It’s also worth noting that both Gordon and Villanueva struggled with significant injuries for much of the season.

In a basketball world where injuries don’t happen and players don’t get older, the 09-10 iteration of the Pistons may have been capable of winning close to 40 games… maybe. But injuries do happen, players do age, and sometimes players have off years. 

10-11 Wins Produced

The 2010-2011 season began where the 2009-2010 season left off. Our aging veterans got a little older, played a little worse, and in the case of Ben Wallace, played a lot less. McGrady was the new Ben Wallace – the aging veteran who surprised the league with his performance – and Greg Monroe was this year’s Jonas Jerebko – the rookie that exceeded expectations and contributed at a high level.

But beyond that, we simply see more of the same – mediocre or worse players playing mediocre or worse basketball. The net result was 30 wins, a three-win improvement.

Interestingly, what we don’t see is any dramatic drops in performance under Kuester’s tenure from established veterans. Ben Gordon continues to struggle in Detroit, but as I’ve noted here in the past, Gordon was never as effective as his PPG in Chicago suggested, and further, Gordon posted similar production in Chicago as a young player. In short, his decline in productino is not that significant in terms of wins produced, and it’s not crystal clear that coaching is causing the decline; injuries and regression to the mean are equally viable explanations.

Further, in the case of two young players, we actually see significant improvement under Kuester. Rodney Stuckey posted the best numbers of his career in 10-11, and Greg Monroe improved dramatically over the course of the season, nearly averaging a double double in the 2011 calendar year.

The point of everything above is simply to illustrate that John Kuester inherited a bad team.

The ultimate failure here is not John Kuester – although he certainly earned his early termination. The ultimate failure here is Dumars’ retooling project. The tools he gave his coach simply weren’t capable of doing the job he expected his coach to do.

Tomorrow, I will examine the one thing Kuester did well – give minutes to his most productive players, regardless of reputation or contract.