Connect with us


NBA PM: Pistons are Here to Stay

With a talented young core and Stan Van Gundy at the helm, the Pistons aren’t going anywhere.

Cody Taylor



The Pistons are Here to Stay

As the Detroit Pistons transition into the offseason after being eliminated from the playoffs last night, many people around the NBA can’t help but wonder about the future of this young Pistons team.

Although they were swept in four games by the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pistons didn’t roll over against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavs. Outside of Game 2 in Cleveland, the Pistons were within striking distance in every game in the series.

Considering that the Pistons were playing against a Cavaliers team that is projected by many to advance to the NBA Finals for a second straight season, their fight throughout the first round of the playoffs was encouraging. They were practically written off before the series even began, given virtually no chance of upsetting the Cavaliers.

The Pistons made headlines earlier in the series when rookie Stanley Johnson told reporters after Game 2 that he was “definitely” in James’ head. He added that he felt like he was holding his own against James in the series. Johnson’s comments surfaced after James scored 27 points on 12-18 shooting from the field during that game.

Johnson’s comments prompted a sit-down meeting between Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy and Johnson. Van Gundy voiced his concerns with Johnson and called it a learning experience for the rookie. But as untimely as Johnson’s comments might have been, it showed that the rookie and the rest of the Pistons weren’t scared of James and the rest of the Cavaliers.

The reality in the NBA is most teams go through these steps as a team. There is the progression from being a lottery team to a squad that eventually makes the playoffs. Young players learn how to play in big moments. Even some of the NBA’s most elite teams have had similar beginnings as the Pistons.

The Oklahoma City were eliminated in six games during the 2009-10 playoffs to the eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin Durant was in just his third season in the NBA, while Russell Westbrook was only in his second year. While it remains to be seen just how good the Pistons can be, the league’s elite teams have all had to learn to how win big games and close out contests.

Although every player inside of the Pistons’ locker room obviously wished to remain alive in the playoffs, this series will be the stepping point for this team moving forward. They can look back and see if a play was handled differently here or there, and how things could have ended differently. It also gives them motivation for next year, since they got a small taste of postseason basketball, but are surely hungry for more.

“We just know we can compete in [any] playoff series, especially starting off with the No. 1 seed in the East,” shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We gave them a run for it. They really felt us the whole series. There really wasn’t no blowouts or no let-ups. We know we can come back next year even better.”

Their performance against the Cavaliers in this year’s playoffs will surely vault the team onto the national radar next season. Last year, the team finished in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at 32-50. Many didn’t expect the team to have the season they did, as they improved by 12 games to finish this season eighth at 44-38.

The Pistons rarely receive love for their core of players. Many teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz (among others) are often mentioned well ahead of the Pistons when talking about up-and-coming teams.

They proved this season that they should be taken seriously in the coming years. Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Caldwell-Pope, Johnson and Marcus Morris make up a team that will be able to compete for a long time.

The Pistons are tied for 10th in the NBA for the youngest average team age at 26 years old. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Detroit moving forward is that they have nearly every member of that promising core locked up for the foreseeable future.

The biggest priority this offseason for the Pistons will be re-signing restricted free agent Drummond. It seems like a forgone conclusion at this point that Drummond will be back next season, as the Pistons will be able to match any offer for him once they issue him a $4,433,683 qualifying offer.

They can avoid the restricted free agency process if the two sides agree to deal. It would likely take a maximum contract to reach a deal, and that would be worth around $120 million over five years. Pistons owner Tom Gores said last night after the team was eliminated that there would be no hesitation in re-signing Drummond.

Keeping Drummond around would solidify the team’s core for the next several years. The Pistons can also add to that core this summer through the draft and free agency. The team still holds both of their draft picks this year and will be looking at a first-round pick around the 18th selection. In addition, they’ll be looking at around $21 million in cap space this summer.

The Pistons will almost certainly be looking at adding another point guard to back up Jackson. The three point guards the team has behind Jackson – Steve Blake, Spencer Dinwiddie and Lorenzo Brown – are not guaranteed on the roster for next season. This summer’s free agency class could be loaded with potential options for the Pistons as veterans like Ramon Sessions, Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas and Beno Udrih (among others) could be available.

It seems as though this Pistons team could continue to rise up the ranks of the Eastern Conference over the next several years. With their core players continuing to develop each year, and with the right additions, they could become a serious threat down the line. Despite being swept by the Cavaliers, this postseason has become a valuable learning experience for the team.

“We have to go ahead and learn from this,” Jackson said. “Move on, use it for hunger, use it for fuel, and everybody has to take this into the back of their mind, getting ready for workouts in the summer, then getting ready to come back next season.”

Curry to be Re-Evaluated in Two Weeks

The basketball world has been on edge over the past 24 hours or so since Stephen Curry left Sunday night’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the first half after suffering a sprained right knee.

Replay showed that Curry appeared to slip on the court and then he landed awkwardly on his right knee. The play happened just before halftime and he would not return to the game.

Today, Curry underwent an MRI that revealed a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his right knee. According to a team press release, Curry will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

After defeating the Rockets 121-94 last night in Game 4, the Warriors hold a 3-1 series lead and look to be on the verge of advancing to the second-round with the series shifting back to Oakland on Wednesday.

Should the Warriors win the series against the Rockets, they’ll face either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Portland Trail Blazers next. The Warriors will be looking to wrap up the Rockets as quickly as possible in order to rest up ahead of that series.

The Blazers defeated the Clippers in Game 3 on Saturday and will look to even up that series tonight in Game 4. The Warriors will be hoping that series will run as long as possible in order to potentially have Curry back for the last few games in the next round.

The Warriors swept the regular season series against the Clippers 4-0, while they went 3-1 against the Trail Blazers.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Fred VanVleet is Finding Success in the NBA

David Yapkowitz speaks to Toronto’s Fred VanVleet about his unheralded path to the NBA and more.

David Yapkowitz



Fred VanVleet is used to being the underdog. Prior to the NBA, he spent four seasons at Wichita State, a school that hasn’t always been in the national spotlight when it comes to college basketball. Even after he finished his college career in impressive fashion, leading the Shockers to the NCAA tournament every year he was there, he went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft.

But despite the lack of recognition from national media outlets, VanVleet always knew that he was good enough to play in the NBA. He knew that his path to the league was going to be much different than many other top prospects, but he was confident. He put his trust in NBA personnel to recognize what was right in front of them.

“If you can play, they’re gonna find you. That’s the best thing about the NBA, you can’t hide forever,” VanVleet told Basketball Insiders. “You just got to try to wait and keep grinding for the opportunity, and when it comes be ready to make the most of it and that’s what I did.”

Making the most of his opportunity is definitely what he’s done. After he went undrafted in 2016, he joined the Toronto Raptors’ summer league team in Las Vegas. He put up decent numbers to the tune of 6.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 54.5 percent shooting from the three-point line.

He also showed solid defensive potential as well as the ability to run a steady offense. The Raptors were impressed by his performance and they invited him to training camp for a chance to make the team. They already had 14 guaranteed contracts at the time and had invited five other players, in addition to VanVleet, to camp.

VanVleet did his best to stand out in training camp that year, capping off the 2016 preseason with a 31 point, five rebound, five assist performance against San Lorenzo de Almagro of Argentina. The Raptors were in need of another point guard after Delon Wright was ruled out to start the season due to an injury.

Not only did he make the Raptors’ opening night roster, but he ended up playing some big minutes for the team as the season went on. This year, he started out as the third-string point guard once again. But with another injury to Wright, he’s solidified himself as the backup point for the time being.

“You just want to grow each year and get better. I had a smaller role last year, I’m just trying to improve on that and get better,” VanVleet said. “It’s a long process, you just try to get better each game on a pretty good team, a winning team. Being able to contribute to that is what you work for.”

VanVleet’s journey to the NBA is one that is not very common anymore for players coming out of college. More and more players are opting to spend one, maybe two years at most in college before declaring for the NBA draft.

Players like VanVleet, who spend the entire four years in college, are becoming more of a rarity. Although for him, he feels like the additional time spent at Wichita State helped him make more of a seamless transition to the NBA than some of his younger peers.

“I think more so off the court than anything, just being an adult, being a grown man coming in the door,” VanVleet said. “A pro before being a pro, being able to take care of your business. Coming in every day doing your job and being able to handle the things that come with the life off the court.”

The NBA season is a long one. Teams that start out hot sometimes end up fizzling out before the season’s end. Similarly, teams that that get off to a slow start sometimes pick it up as the season progresses. The Raptors have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference the past couple of years and this season looks to be no different.

Even with the Boston Celtics’ hot start, the Raptors are only three games back of the top spot in the East. They’re only one game back in the loss column. There was a time when mentioning the word ‘championship’ was unheard of around this team. Things are different now.

“We’re trying to contend for a championship. Obviously, we’ve been at the top of the East for the last few years,” VanVleet said. “We’re trying to get over that hump and contend for a championship, that’s definitely our goal. It’s a long year and still pretty early, but we’re just trying to grow and build and get better each game.”

Continue Reading


NBA DAILY: Tyrone Wallace Is Breaking Out in His Own Backyard

On his second G-Leauge team in two years, Tyrone Wallace is putting up numbers close to home, working towards his NBA shot.

Dennis Chambers



Located in the heart of Southern California, Bakersfield sits just on the cusp of Los Angeles’ shadow.

In terms of size, it’s not easy to overlook this Californian destination. Bakersfield is the ninth most populated city in the state. But it doesn’t hold the glamour that its contemporary two hours south down Interstate-5 possesses. Instead, Bakersfield rests its laurels on the farming past that made it the city it has become today, with three of the four top employers in the city either being farm or produce companies.

Working for a produce company doesn’t interest Tyrone Wallace, though. He’d much rather spend his time on the hardwood. Wallace grew up in Bakersfield. He’s Bakersfield High School’s all-time leading scorer and two-time Bakersfield Californian Player of the Year.

Wallace has sown his oats with a leather ball as opposed to some vegetables.

Growing up in Bakersfield is crucial to Wallace’s story, however. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, Wallace grew up a hardcore Lakers fan, caught up in the generation of kids who idolized Kobe Bryant. It’s Kobe, and Wallace’s brother, Ryan Caroline, who led him to where he is now.

Where that is, exactly, is playing professional basketball in the NBA G-League for the Agua Caliente Clippers. About another 45 minutes down Interstate-5 from his hometown.

For Wallace, getting an opportunity to work towards his dream of playing basketball at the highest level so close to home is a blessing.

“It’s been really fun for me,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “You know (Bakersfield) is a smaller city, not too many guys make it out, especially for basketball. It’s more of a football city, but the support there is awesome. Everybody’s behind me you know. Good games, bad games, guys are treating me, and you know the whole city is, I feel the whole support from the city. So to be so close to home is definitely a treat. I have friends and family that will come out to our games quite often. During preseason I had friends and family come out and watch. It’s been a blessing.”

Playing in front of familiar faces isn’t new territory for Wallace. After making his mark in Bakersfield, the 6-foot-4 guard went on to play his college ball at the University of California. Amid his four years at Cal, Wallace finished first-team All-Pac 12 his junior year, along with being named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s best point guard.

Sharing the court with the likes of other NBA players like Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb in college, Wallace joined the professional fraternity himself at the eleventh hour on draft night in 2016 when the Utah Jazz selected him 60th overall.

Pick one, or pick 60. It didn’t matter to Wallace that night in June. He was just happy to get the first chance he worked his whole life for.

“It was emotional, man,” Wallace said. “You watch everybody and see them go, I had Jaylen (Brown) earlier in the first round who I was really excited for. Just sitting there, pick after pick you’re waiting there hoping you get called. But it was a dream come true, better late than never. Very few people get the opportunity to say that they were drafted so it was emotional. But after I was finally selected, I was happy, there was tears of joy. There was a lot of family with me watching throughout and we were just sitting there hoping to be called, and it happened, so it was a dream come true.”

After being selected by the Jazz, Wallace experienced his first summer league action. His performance at the time was marginal, and didn’t warrant an invite to the big league club. Instead, Wallace found himself down in the minors for Utah, with their G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.

During Wallace’s first taste of professional basketball, he displayed some flashes of why, as he put it, he was one of 60 guys drafted in 2016. His first season in the G-League was promising when he posted per game averages of 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals on 27 minutes of action a night.

Alas, that wasn’t good enough for the Jazz organization. On July 18, 2017, just over a year after being selected with the last overall pick on draft night, Utah renounced Wallace’s draft rights, leaving him free to sign with any team.

For some, being let go after what could be considered a productive developmental year may have been a derailing let down. Not Wallace, though.

“I think in every situation you always reflect,” Wallace said. “And look back and say what could I have done better, on the court or off the court. So I think you know you always do that, but I’ve always stayed confident in myself, and I believe in myself. I kinda let that as a new opportunity that I was gonna have to go somewhere else and prove that I can play, and that I can belong. So I wanted to continue. I look at everything as a chance to learn and grow so I was just excited for the new opportunity that would be coming for me.”

New opportunities did come for Wallace. More than a few actually. But it was the opportunity that allowed the California native a chance to return to the place that led him to professional basketball initially, that has really allowed the second-year guard to flourish.

On Sept. 27, Wallace inked a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. They weren’t his childhood favorite Lakers, but they were the same distance down Interstate-5 from his hometown. Most of all, they represented a chance to keep chasing his dream.

After playing in the preseason, Wallace was one of the last players cut from the NBA roster, and he again found himself in the G-League. This time with Agua Caliente.

Wallace’s second go-around in the G-League so far this season feels different than his last, though. Almost as if the comfort of playing in his own backyard, something he’s been accustomed to for the majority of his basketball life, is easing him out on the court. Whatever it is, it’s reflecting itself in his performance. This year, Wallace upped his averages from last season to 22.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and five assists per game.

“I worked really hard this summer,” Wallace said. “Just going to the gym, hitting the weight room. I don’t think I necessarily changed anything. I just think being a year in, another year of experience playing in the G-League, I think that helped within itself. Then I think the system here that we run in LA helped a lot, fits my game,  more uptempo. Trying to get out on the break, a lot of pick and rolls. So I think everything just took off at once. I definitely feel like I got better in the offseason, but also just playing in this system where it helps my game.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Wallace since he left college. With the way things have shaped out, especially during this season where he seems to do no wrong on the court, it’s imperative he stays focused on his own goals. Instead of looking at others across the league who may be getting a shot he feels he deserves, Wallace wants to just “stay in my own lane.” Patience and hard work are what Wallace believe will ultimately deliver the goals he’s after.

“I know it’s coming,” he said.

When that opportunity does come, whether it’s near home in Los Angeles, or somewhere else across the country, Wallace will be happy to just be wanted. Just like the way Bakersfield has always treated him.

“Man, I’ll tell you any team for me it would be great,” Wallace said. “I haven’t really had a real NBA deal, and so for me just getting to that level on a team would definitely be a dream come true. I don’t have a specific team I would like to play for. Whoever wants me, I’ll want them.”

Continue Reading


NBA DAILY: Lou Williams Stepping Up For Injured Clippers

The Clippers have been hit by injuries again, but Lou Williams is doing everything he can to keep the team afloat.

Jesse Blancarte



The Los Angeles Clippers have been decimated by injuries this season. Blake Griffin is sidelined until approximately February of next year. Danilo Gallinari has been sidelined for an extended period of time with a glute injury and will continue to be out of action for some time after suffering a second glute injury recently. Patrick Beverley underwent season ending microfracture surgery in November. Milos Teodosic suffered a foot injury in just the second game of the season and only recently returned to the lineup. Austin Rivers just suffered a concussion and could miss some time as well.

With so many injuries, the Clippers currently find themselves in the 10th seed in the Western Conference with an 11-15 record. This isn’t what the Clippers had in mind when they brought back a solid haul of players last offseason in exchange for Chris Paul.

Competing with the top teams in the Western Conference was always going to be difficult for this Clippers team. Los Angeles has plenty of talent on the roster and added a few younger prospects to develop. However, key players like Griffin and Gallinari are injury prone and both needed to stay on the court for the Clippers to have any hope of staying in range of the West’s top teams. The Clippers lost 9 games straight in the middle of November and it looked as though they were on course to be competing for a top lottery pick in next season’s draft.

However, despite all of the injuries and setbacks, Lou Williams, along with iron man DeAndre Jordan, has picked up the slack and has done more than his fair share to keep the Clippers’ playoff hopes alive. This season, Williams is averaging 20 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range (on 6.2 attempts per game). Williams is sporting a healthy 21.2 Player Efficiency Rating, which is a near career best rating (Williams posted a 21.4 PER last season). His True Shooting percentage (59.3) is tied with his career high rating, which Williams posted last season as well. Williams’s free throw rate has taken a dip this season, but his ability to draw timely (and often questionable) fouls has been a valuable asset to his team once again. Simply put, Williams has been particularly efficient on offense this season for the Clippers – a team that has lost its most reliable scorers and playmakers.

“We’ve had some guys go down with injuries and somebody has to step in and fill that scoring void,” Williams said after helping the Clippers defeat the Magic. “I’ve been able to do it.”

Williams has also hit plenty of big shots for the Clippers this season. Most recently, Williams knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds against the Washington Wizards that sealed the win for the Clippers. The Clippers are used to having a natural born scorer coming off the bench to act as a sparkplug as they had Jamal Crawford on the roster for the last five seasons. Similar to Crawford, Williams struggles to hold his own on the defensive side of the ball. But Williams has been more effective defensively so far this season for the Clippers than Crawford was for the majority of his time in Los Angeles. Williams isn’t going to lock down the Russell Westbrooks of the world, but he isn’t giving back the majority of the points he scores either.

In addition to his scoring, Williams is a solid playmaker and has managed to facilitate the Clippers’ offense at various points of the season. Williams isn’t exactly Chris Paul in terms of setting up his teammates for easy baskets, but he has been notably effective in this role, which is very important considering how many playmakers have falled to injury this season. Williams is now, arguably, the team’s best offensive weapon and one of its most effective floor generals. Now that we are nearly two months into the NBA season, it seems as though Williams and his teammates are starting to find a little more chemistry with one another.

“I think these guys are just starting to be more comfortable. They understand we’re going to have some injuries and guys are going to be down,” Williams said recently. “So they’re just playing with a lot of confidence. I think at first you’re kind of getting your feet wet and guys don’t want to make mistakes. Now guys are just going out there and playing as hard as they can.”

Williams will need to continue building chemistry with his teammates if they are to keep pace until players like Gallinari and Griffin make it back onto the court.

The Clippers have won six of their last 10 games and are starting to steady what had becoming a sinking ship. Smart gamblers and predictive algorithms would caution against betting on the Clippers making the playoffs this season, but they are in much better shape now than they were in the middle of November — an accomplishment that Williams deserves plenty of credit for.

Continue Reading

Trending Now