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Detroit Pistons Report Card: Early Grades for Team's Key Players

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2014

Detroit Pistons Report Card: Early Grades for Team's Key Players

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    In all honesty, things are not going especially well for the Detroit Pistons.

    They are in a relatively tough division, and it appears they may in fact be the worst of the group. In fact, there are only two teams in all of basketball that have worse records than our beloved Pistons, who are a meager 2-6.

    True, there have certainly been bright spots this season, and this team is certainly playing with more effort than last year's model. But they are still miles away from being even a solid basketball team.

    I know it's early, but here are the letter grades for all the Detroit Pistons and their coach, Lawrence Frank.

Greg Monroe, Center

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    We are starting with Monroe because he has been by far the biggest bright spot for the Pistons in this young season.

    Monroe is playing, at least from the offensive end, miles above where he was last year. He has improved his footwork, his conditioning and even his jumper.

    He is still grabbing a lot of rebounds, especially from the offensive end, and has become a virtual lock for double-doubles.

    Currently, he is leading the team in both categories: 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

    That being said, he still needs to work on his defensive mechanics. Too often he is getting overpowered by stronger players, or out-manuevered by more athletic players.

    Perhaps Monroe is not ever going to be an elite defender. But at the very least he can become a serviceable one.

    Grade: A-

Jonas Jerebko, Power Forward

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    There is a lot to love about Jonas Jerebko's game. He hustles on every play, he is incredibly athletic and he plays unselfish team basketball on the offensive end.

    Jerebko plays particularly well in conjunction with Monroe, giving the Pistons one of the more talented big-men tandems in the game.

    That being said, he still is probably better served coming off the bench, as he isn't truly a small forward or a power forward.

    More than anything, I love the fact that Jerebko rarely makes dumb plays. He constantly finds himself around the ball, and he puts himself in smart positions on defense. He rarely wastes movements, playing very efficiently.

    Currently he is averaging 10.9 points and just over seven rebounds per night.

    The only complaints I have so far is that he continues to struggle with foul trouble, and his free-throw shooting is pretty bad (58 percent).

    However, those things can be addressed with time.

    Grade: B+

Tayshaun Prince, Small Forward

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    During the offseason, I applauded the Pistons for re-signing Prince. I am now regretting having written that article.

    Some point out, though, that Prince has been injured and is playing like a shell of his former self.

    His defense has rapidly regressed, and so has his offense.

    He is currently averaging less than nine points per game, while shooting just over 36 percent from the field.

    As of now, it appears that re-signing him was a huge mistake.

    Grade: D-

Ben Gordon, Shooting Guard

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    Ben Gordon, right now, might be the Pistons best distributor.

    He routinely has been finding teammates, especially down low, and he no longer seems tentative with his shot.

    Gordon is tied with Monroe for the team-lead in scoring, while dishing out just over three assists per game.

    He still is struggling from the field, but his three-point shooting is up to over 40 percent.

    His defense is never going to be stellar as he doesn't have good instincts. But he at least has shown more effort on that end of the court.

    Grade: B-

Rodney Stuckey, Guard

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    *****Spoiler Alert*****

    All Rodney Stuckey apologists should just skip to the next slide.

    So far, Stuckey, not Prince, is the biggest disappointment on this team, and they both represent upwards of $13 million per season that so far is being wasted.

    Stuckey recently has been hampered by a groin injury, but that has actually been some good news as it is freeing up valuable minutes for rookie Brandon Knight.

    Stuckey plays solid perimeter defense, and it is true that that aspect of his game has been invisible during the last two games he missed.

    But offensively, Stuckey appears to have regressed. He is currently shooting 32 percent from the field, to go along with just over 10 points per game.

    He continues to exhibit very selfish play regardless of position. When you factor in the fact that he is a point guard and he is only averaging four assists per game, you really have to wonder what is going on in his head.

    Stuckey continues to have the problem of driving to the hoop with no apparent idea of what to do once he gets there.

    In fact, Stuckey may be the worst finisher on the team.

    The good news is that he is sure to lose more minutes to Knight as the season moves forward.

    The bad news is that at this point, his trade value is being very stunted.

    Grade: D-

Brandon Knight, Guard

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    Heading into this season, it was expected that Knight was going to have growing pains. All rookies typically do—especially point guards.

    So far, it has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for Knight.

    This much is clear, he is certainly better when he is attacking the hoop. In fact, he might be one of the best finishers on the team already.

    His shot remains a work in progress, as it might be one of the ugliest we have seen since Shawn Marion.

    Defensively, he plays with a lot of effort, but he still needs to keep from wasting movements. His pick-and-roll defense in particular is woefully lacking.

    He is, however, the third-highest scorer on the team, averaging just over 11 per contest, to go along with three assists and three rebounds.

    It appears that Knight may have a bright future.

    Grade: B-

Jason Maxiell, Power Forward

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    Jason Maxiell, at this point in his career, is what he is. He is a big body that can give you a rebound or two and will help with interior defense.

    That's about it.

    Currently, he is averaging 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in about 17 minutes.

    Grade: C-

Austin Daye, Small Forward

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    As of now, Austin Daye reminds me of Bambi walking on ice. He is gangly, uncoordinated and confused.

    That may be a little unfair given the fact that Daye's minutes haven't been as consistent as they should be; but at best Daye seems lost on the court.

    Daye is currently averaging just over two points per game, while shooting a disastrous 21 percent from the field.

    Daye needs to step up in a hurry in order to justify his draft position. As of now, he appears to be, like Stuckey—regressing.

    Grade: F

Will Bynum, Point Guard

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    So far, Bynum has been a non-factor for the Pistons.

    He is averaging about six points and two assists per game while playing about about 17 minutes per contest.

    Grade: C-

Ben Wallace, Power Forward

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    It is tough to watch Ben Wallace these days.

    He no longer has the quick feet that he used to, nor the great leaping ability. At this point, he is a shell of his former self, and it appears that this may indeed be his last year.

    That being said, he probably is still the best interior defender and he certainly still has quick hands and great instincts.

    Grade: C-

Damien Wilkins, Small Forward

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    Like Michael Curry before him, Wilkins is occupying the position of reserve small forward/model citizen.

    Wilkins makes few mistakes on the court, while playing solid defense and solid if unspectacular offense.

    Given all of the characters on this team, and the lack of cohesion, Wilkins so far has been a relatively pleasant surprise.

    Grade: C

Charlie Villanueva/Vernon Macklin, Power Forward

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    Villanueva and Macklin are on two separate ends of the spectrum, though both have not played enough to warrant a grade.

    Macklin is an unknown, a big-bodied rookie that people are excited to see. In my mind, Macklin could develop into a Don Reid-type of player, which the Pistons sorely need.

    Villanueva, however, is the soft-as-butter big man who, by all accounts, has been an absolute bust since joining the Pistons.

    In fact, he is so deep in coach Lawrence Frank's doghouse that he doesn't even play in blowouts. Villanueva, if he doesn't turn it around in a hurry, will likely get the Amnesty Clause in his near future.

    Grade: Incomplete

Lawrence Frank, Coach

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    On the one hand, Frank's team is losing—and losing badly.

    On the other hand, they appear to be playing hard.

    This team just doesn't have a lot of talent, but Frank is trying his best to get his team in the win column.

    He is still trying to figure out his rotations, so I will be gentle with my grading.

    Grade: C

Joe Dumars, President

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    Dumars has had a tough go of it so far.

    The players that he re-signed are having the worst years in their careers.

    Meanwhile, his team still has glaring needs up front, and he still isn't sure he has a point guard on the roster.

    He has whiffed on trades so far to get a big man or two, and plenty of free agents who he didn't even try to sign are having good years elsewhere.

    Dumars really needs to turn this thing around in a hurry.

    Grade: F

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