Game Recap/Notes: Preseason. Pistons 97 - Thunder 91. (1-0)
The Pistons got the preseason underway in Oklahoma City by defeating the Thunder 97 – 91. As always, all observations and notes here should come with the huge asterisk of that it is preseason and none of this matters. If you didn't watch, neither Westbrook or Paul George played for the Thunder. Both Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin (and Jon Leuer) sat out for the Pistons.
Dwane Casey made good on his talk about Calderon being the starter if Jackson goes down this year to keep Ish Smith with the bench mob. Calderon looked mostly fine, he got utterly destroyed by Dennis Schroder on defense but that's fine. In a real game (and even in the second half of this game) they would hide him on someone else to try and avoid the matchup. He didn't do a lot, but he looked mostly like he did last season with the Cavaliers, which is to say that he should be fine as a 3rd point guard when he is (hopefully) only asked to fill in occasionally.
Bullock picked right up where he left off last season, 10 points on 9 shots with a pair of threes hit in the game. He also tacked on 5 rebounds and a pair of assists for good measure. He looked good, confident, and ready to go on both ends, he may not totally replicate last season's lofty numbers, but if he stays on the floor he will be good and this game should only further cement him as being very secure in a starting position.
Probably the biggest news looking forward is that the starting lineup reflected what most of the talk has been from the team at every level. Even if Glenn Robinson will push Stanley, the starting spot is his to lose. Stanley played 37 minutes which isn't good but he looked good. 14 points on 12 equivalents with 5 rebounds and a trio of assists. He did go 3-7 from deep which is cool but I also don't care how anyone shoots in preseason good or bad. I am firmly a believer and Stanley Johnson homer, but don't buy into people saying that this game showed how much better he's ready to be. They didn't use him differently, didn't run anything different, his form isn't different. The only thing that was different here is that the shots went in, any additional ball-handling he may have gotten are because Jackson and Griffin are out, and he had 6 turnovers as a result.
Once again, I am as big a fan of Stanley as anyone. Simply put, he has to prove it the hard way. He will have to put up numbers like this for at least a few months before I put much stock into it. Still, he did look good.
Another guy who many have left for dead and I still believe in. He only played 18 minutes which is weird given that he should probably be a guy they want to see as many reps against actual NBA competition as possible. He scored 4 points on 5 shots, had a pair of rebounds and an assist and a +/- of 0 in those 18 minutes. He showed a couple of flashes of why he could be a useful player, but he didn't do anything of note. One thing to remember is that if this were not a preseason game and one that, yaknow, mattered, the Thunder likely would've hunted him much more aggressively on defense.
He played 34 minutes which isn't good, he also half-assed his way through a lot of the first half. That said, he finished with 31 points on 26 equivalents with 16 rebounds a steal and a block. Worth noting, even though he was not all the way there in the first half, it looked like he was playing worse on defense than he actually was. The Thunder repeatedly ran pick and rolls with Schroder and Adams which meant Calderon was always way behind and put Drummond in a no-win situation.
It is cool, even in a preseason game, to see a guy put up such huge numbers, and the way he took control of the game in the second half was cool. The best news coming out of this was actually his threes. He missed the three that he took, they looked kind of awkward and out of place, but I don't recall a single play where he stood outside the arc as a spot-up guy or otherwise went out of his way to hunt threes. He played his game and did the stuff he is great at, he just had a few times where he found himself with the ball wide open so he shot. Obviously he will have to hit some shots for it to be worth it, but it was good to see that he clearly didn't get it in his head that he has to try too hard to get long-ball looks.
Looked utterly terrible. He did, somehow, manage 10 points on 6 shots, but he had some ugly plays and was clearly out-classed by Nerlans Noel. He shouldn't be pressed into much serious duty this season though so it's whatever.
21 minutes, looked like the same guy but he took six threes and every one of them was utterly miserable. They were early in the shot-clock, often contested, and very ugly. I'm fine with Ish shooting, its even a good thing, but I hope he remembers that it isn't his game even if he takes them occasionally.
18 minutes, 5 points on 7 shots isn't great even if he also had 3 assists. But he looked fine, I wouldn't read too much into his preseason though. The most important thing will be for him to get into game-shape after being injured for the later part of the off-season.
With Reggie Jackson out and Ish Smith in foul trouble we got 9 minutes of point-guard Bruce Brown. He didn't score and only had 1 assist, but the potential is clearly there. He is fearless and tenacious attacking the paint and has pretty good vision. He is likely to spend most of the season in Grand Rapids, but with Ish Smith a free agent after this season he should be shooting to be NBA ready by next year.
23 minutes. 1-5 from the field for 3 points. He is the same guy.
Glenn Robinson III:
I loved the way he played. Always moving, when he got the ball on the perimeter he was either shooting or driving instantly. 11 points on 10 equivalents is solid, he also snagged some good rebounds. I'm still on team Stanley, but the Pistons should be sure to give Robinson a long look for the starting job.
He shot twice and hit one.
I have no clue what Dwane Casey was thinking/trying to prove by playing Stanley Johnson 37 and Andre Drummond 34 minutes. Had they ran the offense through both guys more and done some goofy stuff with them I'd be ok with it, but they didn't. The game ended with multiple Ish Smith isolations. It is especially egregious with Stanley given how many wings the Pistons have available. Why on earth not just let Khyri Thomas or Reggie Hearn play some? At least with Andre there wasn't much choice since Zaza is so old they probably didn't want to play him more. They could've played Chris McCullough at center some, maybe given Ellenson a try, Johnny Hamilton is on the roster for now. I don't know, not a good look for Dwane Casey to start his coaching career by playing two really important pieces so many minutes in a preseason game.