Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2014-15 Season Review: Power Forwards

The Pistons gave roughly seven players minutes at the PF position during the 2014-15 season, with varying styles of play.  Greg Monroe was the starter for the majority of the year, with his low-post scoring providing the team with steady offense.  Josh Smith was very much himself until the team waived him in December.  Jonas Jerebko demonstrated continued hustle and versatility in spotty minutes before being traded.  Anthony Tolliver proved to be a valuable role player that the team asked too much of as the season wore on, and several other players saw limited or inconsistent minutes and filled a role at the fringe of the rotation throughout the year.  With Anthony Tolliver, Shawne Williams and Quincy Miller under contract for next season at the position, a changing of the guards for the 4-spot in the Pistons' offense may be taking place.



Greg Monroe
GP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
FT%
FTr
BPG
SPG
AST%
69
21.2
15.9
54.9%
17.9%
11.2%
25.1%
49.6%
75.0%
.394
0.5
1.1
11.7%

Monroe gained the most from the release of Josh Smith, other than the team as a whole, as he resumed his role as a centerpiece in the offense before an injury near the end of the year.  Monroe averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds per game from January to March, compared with about 14.5 PPG and 9 RPG between October and December, when Smith was still with the Pistons.  That should all have a nice effect on Monroe's bank account this offseason as he enters unrestricted free agency after signing the team's qualifying offer last summer.  The move was seen as a bit brazen at the time, but he avoided any serious injuries and, if nothing else, proved consistent from previous years.  Monroe has set himself firmly within the second tier of free agents this summer, which should help him secure a valuable contract, whether it's in Detroit or elsewhere else.  That's an argument that should and will take up a whole post at some point, including a discussion of his impact on the likely mainstay at PG, Reggie Jackson.

Monroe was a positive presence on the offensive end of the floor this season, as evidenced by an excellent PER, a decent TS% and good rebounding numbers.  Monroe managed this while often arguably playing out of his natural C position, as Basketball-Reference suggests 40% of his minutes this season came as a PF.  While he produced just fine on the offensive end of the floor, Monroe continued to struggle to guard rangier forwards, as his below-average footspeed for the position often caused trouble on the perimeter.  There's no doubt that Monroe is a good post player, but there is certainly reason to believe he needs to be at the C position for defensive purposes.

Monroe had a wide variety of solid-to-excellent performances this season, but in my opinion, his best came during the team's hot streak after waiving Josh Smith.  Monroe posted 27 points, 18 rebounds and a season-high 6 assists in a win at Dallas, posting his second-highest GameScore of the season, per Basketball-Reference:
Monroe is an unrestricted free agent this season, and it seems unlikely that he returns at this point.  While both sides have continued to say the right/politically correct thing, it would make more sense if Monroe were to move on this summer.  With the lone exceptions of an offseason DUI/pants-soiling and some comments he may or may not have made about wanting a teammate gone (rightfully so), Monroe has been a good member of the organization during an extended down period for the team.  However, Andre Drummond has a much higher upside at C, and the team appears to be better-served by playing a PF who can shoot the ball.  The Pistons may win more games with Monroe somewhere else, and he may find the role in an offense that he believes he deserves.  He's been heavily linked to the New York Knicks so far, with one source saying that it's "as close to a done deal as possible."

Josh Smith
GP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
FT%
FTr
BPG
SPG
AST%
28
14.3
13.1
41.7%
12.3%
6.1%
18.9%
40.7%
46.8%
.284
1.7
1.3
24.7%

osh Smith was waived on December 23rd, opening the door for a new era to take shape.  Stan Van Gundy gave Smith a chance to build some trade value, allowing him to start all 28 games he appeared in for Detroit this past season.  Smith curtailed his three point shooting (.095 3PAr, vs. .215 last season), was a good passer and a productive defender.  However, he continued to settle for long twos, wasn't a good finisher and continued to submarine the team from the inside out with his poor attitude.  By the time Smith was waived on December 23rd, the Pistons were 5-23, which would prove to be a hole too deep to climb out of.

Smith is an unrestricted free agent this summer.  Due to being waived using the Stretch Provision, the Pistons will pay Smith $5.4M per season through the 2018-19 season.  However, the team's cap hit may be reduced by half of any new contract Smith signs from here on out.  If you don't have any other rooting interests, pull for the Rockets to win the title with Smith as Finals MVP.

Anthony Tolliver
GP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
3P%
FT%
FTr
SPG
AST%
52
11.8
7.7
58.0%
9.0%
4.1%
14.3%
42.3%
36.0%
79.4%
.197
0.4
6.5%

Tolliver was acquired from Phoenix for the low, low price of Tony Mitchell the day after Smith was waived.  He emerged into a solid role player for the Pistons, and demonstrated that he is an excellent fit in a four-out, one-in offense.  Tolliver wasn't just valuable because he's an efficient shooter, but because he provided more spacing for everybody else to operate within.  Although he's a bit limited on the defensive end of the floor due to a lack of size, Tolliver always seems to be involved in the action thanks to great instincts.  Despite limited minutes in Phoenix and reserve minutes in Detroit, Tolliver ranked 9th in the NBA in charges taken for the 2014-15 season.  The next closest Piston was Greg Monroe, who finished in an eight-way tie for 38th.  Tolliver's energy endeared him to The Palace fans, which should carry through to next season.

Tolliver had a lot of great energy moments for the Pistons during the 2014-15 season, but his best work came in the loss to the Hawks in January that ended the team's seven-game winning streak.  Tolliver's huge second half helped bring the Pistons back from a 19-point halftime deficit, even though the comeback fell a bit short, ending in a three point loss.  Tolliver notched 15 points on 5-8 shooting and posted two monster blocks in the second half:
The Pistons hold a $3M team option on Tolliver for next season, which they are almost certainly going to exercise, pending anything outrageous happening.  Tolliver is best-suited for a reserve role, and will likely be the team's first or second big man off the bench during the 2015-16 season.

Jonas Jerebko
GP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
3P%
FT%
FTr
SPG
AST%
46
14.5
5.2
56.4%
11.0%
7.0%
15.3%
46.0%
36.8%
86.1%
.182
0.6
9.2%

Jerebko was dealt to the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline in the Tayshaun Prince deal.  Prior to being dealt, he saw inconsistent minutes before Josh Smith was waived, and fell behind Anthony Tolliver in the rotation after that.  When he did get on the floor, Jerebko provided the hustle and versatility that caused many fans to call for the Swede to get more minutes.  He's seen a bit of a bigger role in Boston, and is making the first playoff appearance of his career.  Jerebko is an unrestricted free agent this season, and should find a reasonable deal and possibly a bigger role on a team that can use his services off the bench.

Shawne Williams
GP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
3P%
FT%
FTr
SPG
AST%
19
6.7
2.6
38.8%
9.0%
5.8%
12.5%
31.7%
15.4%
100%
.117
0.2
7.5%

I advocated the Pistons acquiring Williams the second the Pelicans waived him the day after the trade deadline.  But even I can't find a positive spin to put on his time with the Pistons.  Williams, known for his ability to stretch the floor from the PF position, was ice cold for Detroit.  Although the sample size wasn't huge, the stretch four spot is too vital to the Pistons' success to risk letting a streaky veteran fill the role.  Williams' $1.4M salary for the 2015-16 season is non-guaranteed; don't be surprised if Quincy Miller swipes Williams' spot on the roster, as a younger version of what Williams offers, with more upside.

Quincy Miller
MP
PER
PPG
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FG%
3P%
FT%
FTr
SPG
AST%
58
3.6
3.0
30.0%
7.5%
3.6%
11.7%
25.0%
18.2%
N/A
.000
0.3
12.7%

Miller didn't play enough minutes for his statistics with the Pistons to mean much.  It's more helpful to look at what he did in the D-League in over 500 minutes between the Grand Rapids Drive and the Reno Bighorns: 23.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.2 BPG on .490/.355/.887 shooting.  You can pretty much toss aside his per-game D-League numbers; the Bighorns played at an extremely fast pace, and the competition is iffy.  What's really impressive is the shooting efficiency displayed in a high-usage role.  Miller attempted nearly six threes per game this year in the D-League, and shot the ball very well.  That's what Stan Van Gundy wants to see when he talks about getting more looks at what Miller can do.  It's also important to remember that although Miller is three years removed from college, he's younger than quite a few 2015 draft prospects, and won't turn 23 until November.  Miller is younger than first round prospects Jerian Grant and Delon Wright and second round prospects Rakeem Christmas and Aaron White, to name a few.

Miller is on a partially guaranteed contract for next season, but with everything Stan Van Gundy has said, I think it's likely that he's on the Pistons' roster next season.  They don't have to make a decision on him until after training camp in October, so they will have the Orlando Summer League and training camp to cement an evaluation.  Plus, Miller plans to spend the offseason working out in Detroit.  Picking up Miller, who is still only 22 years old, on a 10-day contract was like grabbing an extra second round pick for free.  Even if it doesn't work out, these are the kinds of guys a non-contender should be giving opportunities to.  Hopefully the Pistons realize the value of that asset and use one of their final roster spots to bring him back.

Tony Mitchell
Mitchell was traded for Anthony Tolliver in December, then subsequently waived by the Phoenix Suns.  He's currently playing in Puerto Rico.

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