Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014 FIBA World Cup Preview

Links:  Pre-Camp Breakdown; FIBA website

It was announced late last Friday night that Pistons C Andre Drummond had made the final cut and will travel as part of the 12-man Team USA roster to the FIBA World Cup in Spain.  Group play begins on Saturday, August 30th and the US will open action with a relatively easy matchup against Finland.  Before we get into the breakdown of what to watch for, what to expect and what kind of role Andre Drummond might play, here's a look at Team USA's roster and the teams participating in this year's FIBA World Cup:
Team USA Roster
Derrick Rose
Kyrie Irving

SGSteph CurryKlay Thompson
SFJames HardenDeMar DeRozan
PFRudy GayKenneth FariedMason Plumlee
CAnthony DavisDeMarcus CousinsAndre Drummond
*In bold is my estimate of the starting lineup

2014 FIBA World Cup Groups (World Rank)
Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
Spain (2)Argentina (3)USA (1)Lithuania (4)
France (8)Greece (6)Turkey (7)Australia (9)
Brazil (10)Croatia (16)New Zealand (19)Slovenia (13)
Serbia (11)Puerto Rico (17)Dominican Rep. (26)Angola (15)
Iran (20)Phillipines (34)Finland (39)Mexico (24)
Egypt (46)Senegal (41)Ukraine (45)Korea (31)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monroe to Sign Qualifying Offer

According to Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today, Greg Monroe has informed the Pistons that he will sign the Qualifying Offer extended to him earlier this offseason. The move seems to confirm the rift between Monroe and the Pistons front office, created in equal parts by the continued presence of Josh Smith and a difference in opinion over the value of the David Falk client.  The move also eliminates the option of a sign-and-trade deal, which hurts both sides of the arrangement.  Since Zilgitt's story was published, Vincent Goodwill has come out and said that the Pistons are holding out hope for a change in course up until the moment the QO is signed.  I'd be shocked if that hope is for a long-term deal and not for a sign-and-trade opportunity.  Assuming Monroe does follow through with his reported plan to sign the QO, he will be playing for the Pistons in 2014-15 on a one-year contract worth $5.479MM and will have the right to refuse any trade that sends him out of town.  Monroe will be an Unrestricted Free Agent next off-season and be free to sign with any team without the Pistons being able to match offers.

If Monroe follows through and inks the QO, expect the Pistons to begin shopping him immediately, although he cannot be traded for 30 days after signing.  The more games he can play for a prospective trade partner, the more valuable he is to said partner.  While it is technically a possibility that Monroe could sign a long-term deal in Detroit next summer, this off-season's happenings make it seem unlikely.  Monroe's affordable '14-'15 salary should help to cancel out the fact that he is only committed to any new team for one year.  Moose could make for an attractive option for contending teams who see their window as closing, or for contenders who believe giving up assets for Monroe could put them over the top.  Off the top of my head, the list of teams that fit this category include the Thunder, Spurs, Rockets and maybe even the Cavaliers.  Any trade to a non-contender would likely hinge on that team's confidence in their ability to sign Monroe to a long-term deal.  The return in a Monroe deal won't come close to what the Pistons could receive in a sign-and-trade, as four years of Monroe is worth way more than one.  At this point, it would simply be about not losing Monroe for zero return.

If Monroe is still around at the start of the season, I wouldn't really expect his role on this year's team to dramatically change.  He will likely still start at PF, and split minutes fairly evenly between PF and C, with Josh Smith playing predominantly at PF off the bench.  The bright side to Monroe possibly playing on a one-year deal with Detroit is that he will have extra motivation to prove that he's worth big money on the open market.  Contract years tend to force a player to sharpen their focus, arrive in excellent shape and produce in ways their team hasn't seen in prior seasons.  Expect the same from Greg Monroe this season, with the added opportunity to make the Pistons look foolish for not meeting his demands, whatever those may have been.  While Monroe is rumored to have demanded that Josh Smith be traded, he has ultimately been a non-issue in the locker room, and doesn't figure to change that this season.  There may be hurt feelings over this summer's negotiations, but Monroe has more to lose than gain by being a distraction.  Overall, I expect Monroe to make contributions above and beyond what he provided last year, which will hopefully be to the Pistons' benefit on the court and in what will likely be trade talks through the February deadline.

Assuming the report is true, this development effectively brings the Pistons off-season to an end, barring a Monroe trade.  While it didn't end the way most Pistons fans would have hoped, it offers Stan Van Gundy a chance to begin crafting his vision.  With a concrete plan to follow now that Monroe's future is less cloudy, we should see things take shape over the next 12 months.  It also will allow Pistons fans to look forward to actual basketball instead of off-court news, as training camp opens in a less than two months!  I, for one, can't wait that long.

Follow Six Championship Drive on Twitter, @Kevin6CD for Pistons news, views and developments.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

How the Paul George Injury Affects the Pistons

By now Paul George's gruesome leg injury suffered in a Team USA scrimmage last Friday night has been discussed ad nauseam.  All of the angles have been covered: the basket stanchion was an inch too close, owners don't want their stars competing internationally, will any of the other camp invites withdraw after watching this happen?  That last question was answered when Kevin Durant withdrew this week for "physical and emotional reasons".  As true as that may be, you won't convince me that George's injury had zero effect on his decision.  Durant has since been replaced by Rudy Gay on the roster.  As far as the stanchion issue goes, yes, it was an inch too close to the baseline according to NBA regulations.  These are the kinds of things that unfortunately don't get changed until something like this happens.  It's a lesson to be learned from, and there's really nothing more to it.  As far as owners wanting more control over what their players can do in the off-season, I wholeheartedly disagree that a team owner should be able to control a player's off-season commitments.  Eliminating professional players from international competition would simply be a reactionary move.  It wouldn't stop guys from playing in the Drew League or at Rucker Park, where the action is even less regulated.  However, when ultra-rich people who control a situation want things, they tend to get it.  I wouldn't be surprised to see some type of change instituted with regards to international competition within the next two or three years.

While all of these things have been discussed in the past few days, the angle I'm most selfishly interested in is how Paul George's injury affects the outlook for the 2014-15 Detroit Pistons.  After LeBron James signed with Cleveland, and the Bulls added Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol to their roster, there was all kinds of talk about how deadly the Central Division had become.  Cleveland will likely have two of the NBA's top six or seven players on their roster come fall.  Chicago will add Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and a Eurostar to the Eastern Conference's 4th best record; and Indiana had Paul George and the top record in the conference in 2014-15.  With the injury to George, the Pacers went from an assumed lock to host a first round playoff series to the playoff bubble.  Are the suggestions that Indy could miss the playoffs an overreaction, or are they in trouble without Stephenson and George?  Let's take a look at what their depth chart could look like and how they'll match up with the Pistons, down two stars on the wing...

Click "Read More" for the rest of the article...