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For Pistons, Kings, Future Relies on Big Men
- Updated: October 26, 2012
By: Jay Wallis
What about now? The two have grown accustomed to the NBA’s lottery system and can’t seem to escape this ugly cycle.
From 2008-2012, the two teams have gone 239-415 (.365), and the Pistons had the only playoff appearance in 2009, when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept them in the first round. Neither team has found a way to present a winning season or an All-Star, except for Pistons’ Allen Iverson in 2009 (and didn’t that short team-player combination make the city of Detroit oh so happy.)
Last season provided a glimmer of hope – hope in their big men. If it weren’t for the Pacers emergence along with Roy Hibbert’s maturity and the pulling up of long-range treys by Lakers Andrew Bynum, Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins would have received more national attention.
He may always have a sulky look on his face. He may have had the second most technical fouls in the league behind another scowler from OKC. He may have forced his coach to be fired early on last season. But even with all of these black marks on his name, a slimmed-down Cousins (18.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg) poured in 1600 points last year, placing him second among centers in the league in points scored.
The former Kentucky Wildcat went from talent that might not be worth the trouble to a building block for the future of this franchise – no matter how uncertain the team’s home may be right now. (Virginia Beach, anyone?) With an improved attitude, Cousins can put up numbers comparable to the bigger baby over in Hollywood.
Just like Cousins, the Pistons big man failed to have a sophomore slump. Monroe (15.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) further developed his low-post moves and became an overall better basketball player. He went from a rookie with potential to a sophomore becoming the focal point of a team’s offense.
No longer were Pistons fans crying out for veteran Ben Wallace to grow out his hair again and stay just one more year as the face of their frontcourt. That face is a 22-year-old now.
But the hope doesn’t stop there. Along with the continued improvement of Monroe and Cousins, two rookie power forwards allow this glimmer to shine even brighter. Expectations are high concerning Thomas Robinson (fifth overall pick) and Andre Drummond (ninth overall pick), and they will have plenty of opportunities to prove they are a part of a frontline worth watching.
It may only be insignificant preseason play, but Mr. Robinson has already made his mark on the league. In the monumental opener for Mr. Howard in his Lakers uniform on Sunday, this young gun stole the highlight reel. Right over Howard’s nose.
Going against the best seven-footers duo in the league, the prototypical power forward had his best Kings game up to this point with 17 points, eight rebounds and that monster putback dunk in only 25 minutes.
It can’t be ignored that the undersized (6-9) former Kansas Jayhawk will also have to deal with Jason Thompson being ahead of him in the depth chart; however, with his pure strength and ability to gobble up rebounds, Robinson will find a way to be an exciting part to this offense and defense. He has persevered up to this point and doesn’t look to be done pushing onward.
Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank has already discussed the unlikelihood that Monroe and Drummond will both be in the starting lineup. It’s an improbable scenario due to the league’s tendency to use smaller, more versatile 4’s that can spread the floor. (See what you’ve done, Kevin and LeBron?)
Regardless, Drummond has the perfect physical combination that already has him prepared to take his talents to the NBA. He has the build necessary to bang with the big boys down low while also having the athleticism to bring weak-side help, which all translates to a player prepared to collect many blocks. The Milwaukee Bucks know what I’m saying.
In six preseason games, Drummond has averaged 9.8 points on 65.1 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He seems to be quickly growing comfortable with his role as a post defender, screen setter and alley-oop finisher. Starting lineup or not, this 19-year-old will exemplify what it means to have an impact for a team.
So what does this all mean? Will there finally be success back in these towns that were so accustomed to it at the beginning of this millennium?
To put it simply – no. With the top-heavy West and Heat-heavy East, this isn’t the right time for either of these teams to take that next step to elite status. There are only so many wins to go around, and these teams simply don’t have the pieces to make that transition.
But just as Blake Griffin did for the Clippers and Kevin Love is doing for the Timberwolves (as of right now), these young pair of duos will bring excitement back to their cities before any playoff appearances are even made. This is all a franchise can ask for from their players. Every single team cannot compete for a championship, but what every team can do is package a product that entices fans to go see their teams play. Sacramento and Detroit can finally buy tickets and expect to see some action-packed, enjoyable frontcourt play.
Bottom-of-the-barrel positioning isn’t over just yet for these teams. An eighth seed isn’t completely out of reach for the Pistons, but overall, these organizations won’t play in any significant basketball games once April arrives.
But they now have hope. Cousins and Robinson just need to wait for their Chris Paul. Monroe and Drummond must have faith that their own Ricky Rubio will walk through those Palace doors. With hope behind these big men, Detroit and Sacramento will one day live the good life again.
(Follow Jay on Twitter @JayWallis11 or check out his blog at Jaysjems.wordpress.com.)