Game Recap/Notes: Preseason game #2. Pistons 81 - Spurs 86. 0-2

Hey, this game actually went better. There was some to like but a lot to not like after the first preseason game, after this one though there is definitely more to like.


Box score.


Once again, remember that it is the preseason, so take everything that is said here with a grain of salt. You can't ever read too much into preseason stuff.


Ish Smith:

Looking better. He didn't shoot the ball well, going 1-6 (and getting no free throws) and I think he was a little too quick to pull up for jumpers for my taste. He has never been a good shooter, there is no reason to expect that to change, so I would rather he go to the hoop unless left wide open. HOWEVA, he did finish with 5 assists to 2 turnovers with 6 rebounds in just 24 minutes. He seemed to be in better control of the offense, and actually got to get out onto the break a few times in this game to good results. Although it is still a bit hard to gauge him because SVG clearly is not interested in seeing Ish and Andre run pick and rolls yet, by my unofficial account those 2 ran just 2 pick and rolls. On the first one Ish promptly threw the ball to the Spurs on a bad pass, the other ended in an Andre layup. All in all though, this is not going to be an uncommon line for Ish, he is not a very good scorer and his inability to get to the line will make it hard to buoy himself in games where he doesn't shoot well. But as long as his passing and playmaking is consistent he is doing what he needs to do. Also on the plus side, he made a couple of pretty nice defensive plays. All in all though, much better look for Ish, but until we see him running lots of pick and rolls with Andre it will be hard to judge how he will fill in for Reggie once the games count.



With KCP I want to give extra emphasis on taking this with a grain of salt because it is the preseason. But man, he has probably been the most underwhelming guy after 2 games. He clearly has not made any (meaningful) improvements as a creator/facilitator with the ball in his hands, and is 1/7 from 3 on some fairly easy looks. The shooting isn't a big worry because preseason, but the fact that he still looks uncomfortable and not good when trying to create offense for himself and others is a bit disappointing. I would say with some confidence that KCP has not made a huge Jimmy Butler type of leap this offseason, which was a long shot anyways, but that hope can pretty much be put to bed now. HOWEVA, the reason why he gets extra emphasis on taking it with a grain of salt is because first off, remember that his best skill is on ball defense and the first two games have seen his primary guys be Randy Foye and Danny Green. Not that they are bad players, but neither are exactly ball handlers, thusly KCP did not really get much of a chance to do much defensively, but later in tonight's game he did get to defend some ball handlers, which he promptly snuffed out and reminded everyone why he is still valuable even if he is a minus on offense. Secondly, given that he is the guy who creates the least of his own offense, the current lack of pick and rolls hurts him more than the other guys. Hopefully once the Pistons run their actually offense and KCP gets to try his pump and drive game on defenses that are already more broken up it will look better (which FWIW, he did have one really nice drive in this game on just such a look).


Greater Morris:

Lol, not much to say here. Was not his night, fouled out after just 12 minutes of play. When he was on the floor he did a couple good things but was thoroughly outplayed by Kawhi Leonard. (which is not a surprise of course.) Yeah, nothing else to really say. Commit less fouls man.


Tobias Harris:

Tobias continues to look pretty good, although he didn't have as much of a role in the offense in this game. He scored pretty well with 11 points on 9 equivalents, and even though not many ended up being great passes he was looking to pass quite a bit. His defense of both Aldridge and Leonard was alright but he did struggle. (once again, not a surprise) Not a ton to say with Harris because even though he played 29 minutes, SVG clearly wanted to give a shot to other guys to run plays and such.


Andre Drummond:

Played 35(!) minutes, which I'm not sure if that is SVG or Andre wanting to do that but whatever. Finished with 17 points on 14 equivalents, with 13 rebounds and his usual impactful defense. Very complete game for Andre, and while ideally he would have done better against the scrubs the Spurs finished the game with, I had to remind myself that it is preseason and SVG is trying to give other guys a chance to prove themselves. The only downside in this game for Andre was that he didn't look good in the post when he looked to score, we will need a large sample size (maybe a month or two into the season) before making much judgment on how Andre's post game has progressed, but there is one positive that shone through again. Andre can freaking pass.


Jon Leuer:

Wow. Leuer is the pleasant surprise of the preseason so far in the same vein of Reggie Bullock last year where he just seems to be playing perfect ball. Emphasis on preseason, but if this is actually what Jon Leuer is going to be all year, he will be pushing Harris and Morris for minutes. I've never hid the fact that I love the Mobias combo for all sorts of reasons, but based on these 2 games, I am ok with breaking up Mobias more to get Leuer more time because he looks excellent shooting, passing, and even handling the ball. Also looks much more comfortable in the post than in the past which could be big for him. But 14 points on 13 shots, 5 boards and 5 assists is very nice line for him, and his passing and general ball skills are better than I had anticipated. Defensively he has also looked much better and he has visibly added some bulk this offseason. Time will tell of course, but Leuer looks brilliant right now.


Lorenzo Brown:

Got the backup PG minutes tonight in his turn to try and woo SVG for the Pistons last roster spot. And given that McCallum did nothing to really stand out Brown had a good chance to make an impression, which he didn't really do. He looked largely the same as McCallum, had a few nice plays as well as a few not nice ones but generally looked fine. I would give a slight edge to Brown because he looked more aggressive in trying to create offense than McCallum was, but that is a slight edge. After round 1 of the fight for the last spot, it is pretty much a dead heat as far as I'm concerned.


Darrun Hilliard:

Apparently SVG is not set on Bullock as the backup 2 as I had suggested. Bullock sat tonight in favor of Hilliard getting a chance, and Hilliard did not look very good, certainly not better than Bullock. He struggled defensively while Manu put a clinic of old man moves on him, and struggled to do anything good on offense until he was facing the scrubs. It's just one game, but I am officially a bit worried about Hilliard. His best attribute is (supposedly) his ability to put it on the floor and create offense for himself, and the only way that he really thrives is with the ball in his hands creating the offense since he is still nothing good (although a bit better) on defense and has not proven to be any big threat as an off ball shooter. The problem is that I'm not sure he is quite good enough to actually score consistently against NBA defenders, in which case he is just an inefficient chucker who hurts your team by being on the floor. Obviously he has a long ways to go, but I'm a wee bit worried.


Aron Baynes:

Only played 14 minutes, looked fine. We did see the Andre/Baynes combo when Morris fouled out, and we learned what we already knew, that Baynes cannot guard people who can actually score which includes LaMarcus Aldridge. 7 points on 9 equivalents is not a great number either, but he generally took the shots you want him to take. So yeah, he did fine, just nothing major.


Stanley Johnson:

Also only played 14 minutes and only in the 2nd half since SVG wanted to give Hilliard extended run with the starters. He did well, made a few good defensive plays, 6 points on 8 equivalents and a couple of assists. He only played with the goons though so not much to say.


Henry Ellenson:

Nice to see SVG give him a bit of floor time again (even if just 7 minutes) although he once again didn't look like much. He traveled once and missed a 3 pointer. Really about all I can say about his game lol. Hopefully SVG keeps letting him get a little tread in the preseason games though, I really like that.



Team looked much better, and they looked really good with the Ish/KCP/Harris/Leuer/Drummond lineup on the floor. And I understand the thought process behind SVG not really running pick and rolls with Ish but I kind of wish he would let them run a few more just so we could see it. The team defense was much better this game as well, the Spurs scored quite a few points on Aldridge and Leonard just being really good, which will happen. The downside there is that it seems that one of the Pistons biggest weaknesses from last year will carry over, any good scorer who is not a center and too big for KCP is going to give them fits. On that note by the way, I'm a little bit worried about the Ish/KCP combo because SVG has still not put Ish onto a wing allowing KCP to take the point. If SVG is unwilling to put Ish onto wings (he is much smaller than Jackson) then KCP losses a ton of his value as well, hopefully it is just preseason so SVG isn't worrying about such things, but still something to keep an eye on.


Have they really ran that few pick and rolls?

Let me put it this way, remember how much hate I gave Steve Blake last year? If these had been the first two regular season games I would be giving similar hate to SVG. Andre is at his best when running pick and rolls, Ish is at his best running pick and rolls, that has to be the center of the offense. SVG let every other ball handler run lots of pick and rolls with Andre and that was generally when the offense looked at its best. I am going to choose to take it as a good sign though, because it means that SVG is so satisfied with Ish and Andre doing pick and rolls that it must be pretty effective.



What do you think? How about Jon Leuer?


Joseph Sinke