Indianapolis — The three-game road trip makes a pit stop in Indy, where the Pistons will try to get their second win this season over the Pacers and sweep the season series over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
Despite the loss to the Bucks, the Pistons are showing that they’re not going to get blown out without some fight in the second half. Last season, many of their double-digit deficits would have turned into a malaise that resulted in a 20-point loss.
Not so much, this year.
“We’ve done it four or five times this season already,” guard Avery Bradley said. “That shows what kind of team we are and how deep we are as a team.”
It’s a huge development in their maturity and will be something to watch as they try to keep pace with their 10-4 mark and stay among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s this week’s Pistons Mail Satchel:
■ Question: What do you think of the Pistons doing more dribble handoffs this year as opposed to traditional pick and rolls?
■ Answer: It’s been one of the biggest developments of the season. Most importantly, it’s gotten Andre Drummond involved as the initiator and has kept him engaged on the offensive end. That’s critical, when he’s no longer getting plentiful post touches and is able to show his passing ability and use his size to set screens on the dribble-handoffs (DHOs).
More than anything, it simply frees up space for a shooter to get off a shot without the defender being able to get around the Drummond screen. In the Miami Heat victory Sunday, Drummond and Bradley ran the DHO to perfection, with Bradley hitting at least four or five jumpers from the elbow because he had that space from the defense.
The other key piece is that it allows them to run less pick-and-roll — they still run a significant amount — but it’s like a pitcher adding a changeup and giving a hitter something else to think about and plan for. Teams are going to figure out how to defend it better, as the Milwaukee Bucks did on Wednesday night, but it’s a step forward to see them running other offense besides high pick-and-roll.
■ Q. What are the chances a team will willingly trade for Jon Leuer? — @ThatGuyGayle
■ A. It all depends on the offer. At the start of the season, Leuer had a defined role as the backup center behind Drummond and a lanky inside defender who can guard some of the tougher stretch power forwards. That’s a change from last season, when he was coveted as a rangy big who could extend defenses with his 3-point shooting and the Pistons could take advantage of the mismatches.
Leuer has missed the last six games because of a sprained left ankle and the Pistons have been able to surge without having him in the lineup. Eric Moreland is developing into the role as backup center and Anthony Tolliver has become the preferred power forward with those same coveted traits of outside shooting and tough defense.
That’s not to say that Leuer is now obsolete, but if the right deal came along, it would be something for Stan Van Gundy to consider, especially given that Henry Ellenson can’t find any playing time because of the logjam at the position.
■ Q. Do you think we can see Kennard start this year? — @TheRealSugar99
■ A. In a word, no. He plays the same position as Avery Bradley, whom the Pistons are trying to woo into a long-term contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. The only other consideration would be to have Kennard play in a three-guard starting lineup, but that isn’t likely in a starting role. Even when Stanley Johnson was injured and missed three games, Van Gundy chose to go with Reggie Bullock instead of Kennard.
Kennard is just a rookie and there’s no point in trying to compare him to other first-round picks and the playing time or production they’re getting. He’ll have his time to shine and has shown in a couple of instances off the bench that he can play in the league. Barring injury, he won’t play ahead of Bradley and it’s unlikely he’ll play in front of Johnson either.
A happy medium would be some consistent minutes off the bench and then work forward from there.
■ Q. Let’s say Julius Randle no longer has a role in LA. Could pistons trade for him and would he fit? I personally think so. And what’s Greg Monroe’s value on a possible return back to Detroit? — from Its_UncleJay_2U
■ A. Van Gundy was very complimentary of Monroe’s work ethic and professionalism and it seems that Monroe, who was traded to Phoenix in the Eric Bledsoe deal, could be available if the Pistons are interested. Monroe would bring a veteran presence that could be an asset — and for all those reasons, it’s likely the Pistons have reached out to at least gauge the Suns’ interest.
As for Randle, it’s a different question. They already have a power forward they can’t find time for and they’re trying to develop, in Henry Ellenson. Yes, Randle is further along in his development, but it’s not clear that the Pistons are looking to bring in another young player. If I had to handicap the two choices, Monroe seems more likely, though there’s no guarantee of anything.