Andre Drummond, here on defense against Brooklyn's Kevin Garnett on Saturday, is averaging 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in the preseason. (Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)
The Pistons have gone 2-1 in their first three exhibition games after Saturday’s win against the new-look Brooklyn Nets and will play road games against Chicago, Cleveland and Orlando in the next week.
Playing rotations should become more clear this week.
News: Andre Drummond is putting up regular-season numbers in the preseason, averaging 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in three games, two against high-level NBA competition.
Views: For someone who doesn’t get plays run for him aside from pick-and-rolls, he sure has found the ball in prime positions to score so far. One thing that’s underrated about his game is his ability to move to open spots on the floor, specifically in the crowded paint.
He even hit a 10-foot hook shot, something he’s attempting to add as a dependable move this season.
“Andre Drummond, in the third quarter, was running on the floor and getting those lobs,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “He had one or two post moves, but it wasn’t something we ran for him. I think Rasheed Wallace has been doing a good job working with him.”
With Josh Smith and Greg Monroe likely to get first dibs on touches, Drummond won’t get many opportunities to work on a growing low-post game. But with Smith and Monroe being able, willing passers, Drummond can find sweet spots in defenses for easy scores.
Since he appears to come out early in quarters to slide Monroe and Smith to their more natural positions, Drummond could be an option on the second unit in second quarters if there’s a need for scoring.
And it sounds like an early prediction of averaging 10 points this season is a conservative estimate — especially if he can make his free throws. The 39 percent shooter last year has made nine of 12 in three games (75 percent).
News: Chauncey Billups has appeared in only one exhibition thus far. At age 37, the team looks to monitor his early workload.
Views: It wouldn’t be surprising to see Billups in five games or fewer this preseason. Cheeks has been very differential to Billups and his standing, living up to Cheeks’ proclamation of being a veterans’ coach. No need to risk Billups’ health, especially when the team wants to evaluate second-round pick Peyton Siva.
Billups still will be in the running to be a starter opening night, especially as Rodney Stuckey recovers from injury.
News: Cheeks said he intends on playing four guards in a regular rotation, not five. Assuming Stuckey’s thumb injury heals without having to miss significant time, someone will be the odd man out.
Views: If you guessed “Will Bynum” in the game of musical chairs, you’ll have to try again. Cheeks is fond of his aggressiveness and was a big proponent of the franchise re-signing Bynum this summer. After a rough early start against the Heat, Bynum has taken care of the ball and put on a scoring show Thursday with 26 points. He played facilitator Saturday with 11 assists and just one turnover.
First-round draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could start the season on the outside looking in. His defensive intensity is well-noted and he has had a couple Tayshaun Prince-esque “chase down” blocks, but he hasn’t found his shooting eye in games yet, making just one of his first 16 3-point attempts — with his attempts proving he’s not bashful.
Kyle Singler has certainly cemented himself as a rotational player with his versatility at shooting guard and small forward, especially as Gigi Datome gets healthy and acclimates himself to the NBA game
And if Cheeks is indeed a “veterans’ coach,” it means rookies Datome and Caldwell-Pope have to go above and beyond to start the season getting significant minutes.
News: Cheeks hasn’t said if his rotation will be nine players or 10 but that whenever he makes a decision, he’ll roll with it to give players a chance to keep their jobs.
Views: The biggest battle appears to be between Charlie Villanueva and Jonas Jerebko for minutes at a backup forward spot.
If there were ever two players who offer totally differing skill sets, it’s Jerebko and Villanueva. Cheeks wants his players to do well what they do best. For Villanueva, it’s his shooting ability at his size, but so far he has struggled with what he believes are dead training camp legs.
“If you’re a shooter, you have to shoot,” said Cheeks, in reference to having a short or long leash come the regular season.
With Villanueva’s expiring contract and being potential trade bait, one would think he’s in line for the first opportunity, but if Jerebko can show an adaptability to play and defend both forward spots, it’ll be interesting.