The Detroit Pistons need role models.
I don't mean they need to sign up for mentoring programs for their after school activities. I mean the young men that play for Detroit need to have players to model their games after. They need to have an end product in mind when going through the everyday motions of developing their respective games.
The Pistons are in an enviable position. They are loaded with young, talented players that all have loads of potential.
That being said, there are myriad directions that young players can take, not all of which are good.
Young players need other players to model their games after. There is a lot of value in using someone to compare yourself to ideally. Would Kobe Bryant have become as great of a player he is had he not had Jordan to mimic and idealize? Probably not.
Here are 10 players that the Pistons 10 youngest players should model their games after.
Ideal Comparisons: Rod Strickland/Tim Hardaway
Okay, so technically this is a comparison between three players, but bare with me.
Some might scoff at the inclusion of Strickland; he truly has not seen his name survive the test of time with any type of affinity.
Most viewed him as a selfish guy that never full realized his potential. Most of that, in my opinion, is based on the unrealistic expectations of the New York media, but that is a battle for a different day.
Strickland was exceptional at getting to the rim and setting up his teammates. He was about the same size as Knight with similar physical attributes. He was, however, lacking a strong three-point shot.
This is where Hardaway comes into play.
Hardaway is typically known to fans for either one of two reasons. Older fans recall his amazing quickness and his killer-crossover dribble (also known as the UTEP two-step). Younger fans remember the aging player that had a great three-point shot and was a solid backup point guard.
However, somewhere in the middle is where Knight should be shooting. He lacks Hardaway's amazing quickness from early in his career, but has bigger size than the 6'0" point guard. He lacks Strickland's feel for the game, but has a much better jumper.
Knight needs to improve his ability to get to the hoop, as well as his distribution skills while continuing to improve on his already adequate three-point range.
Ideal Comparison: Arron Afflalo
Sure it seems strange to compare English to a player that Detroit themselves gave up on, but the comparison is apt nonetheless.
Both were saddled with the dreaded "not overly athletic" tag coming out of college. Both were considered fairly one-trick ponies. And both are considered marginal NBA talents.
That being said, there is a lot to like about both players. English was originally considered something of an afterthought by Pistons fans due to his draft position (second round). But during the Summer League, English showed some real promise, and more athleticism than was originally thought.
English needs to model his game after Afflalo's. Afflalo was able to rise above his own humble beginnings (late first round) and built a spot for himself in this league based on hard work and active defense.
English can shoot the ball, but needs to develop the defensive side of his game. He has a solid frame, and needs to use that to become a good on-the-ball defender.
Ideal Comparison: Latrell Sprewell
Everyone and their mama has been calling Rodney Stuckey the next D. Wade for years.
There is only one problem with that: Stuckey is not nearly in the same class as Wade.
Sure, I would love to tell you that Stuckey just needs to follow the lead of Wade and look to score like the Heat guard. He could utilize his athleticism in getting to the hoop, and improve his deep shot.
But guys like Wade don't come around every day, or even every decade. Instead, Stuckey needs to focus his skills on someone a little closer to him in talent, Latrell Sprewell.
Sprewell, early in his career, was the prototypical slasher. He could get to the hoop at will, had a good mid-range game and was a solid, albeit streaky, outside shooter.
Stuckey is a little bigger than Sprewell in his upper body, and as a result he could become a better defender (truth be told, he already is). He also should eventually become a good finisher, something that eventually wore down Sprewell's slight frame.
But Sprewell in his prime averaged around 21-24 PPG, and that is where Stuckey should be aiming.
Ideal Comparison: Shane Battier
Kyle Singler and Shane Battier share a similar background. Both were four year players at Duke that were known as glue guys that would do anything that the team needed in order to help their squad win. They also were known as underwhelming athletes, but made up for it with determination.
Singler really needs to model his game after Battier. Over the years, Battier carved out a nice niche for himself in the league as a good defender and an underrated three-point shooter.
Sure, Singler has a long ways to go before he can get to Battier's level. That being said, he has never been a disappointment at any level, and he has the mental makeup to find just that niche.
Ideal Comparison: Karl Malone
This one may seem to be a reach, but stick with me here.
Think about the strengths of each of these guys. Both are excellent rebounders, both had strong mid-range jumpers and both are exceptional passers for big men.
Their weaknesses are similar as well. Both struggle with athletic big men, both are below-average shot-blockers and both generally do not play above the rim.
True, there are some strong differences as well. Malone was an elite scorer and Monroe has a long way to go until he reaches that level. Malone was great at running the court and his stamina is legendary. He also was much stronger than Monroe, although a couple inches shorter.
But Monroe has shown a lot of similarities to Malone so far. The one thing that has eluded Monroe thus far that Malone had for nearly his entire career was an elite point guard. John Stockton's success is so closely tied to Malone's that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other.
If Brandon Knight can develop his skills to be even a severely poor man's Stockton, the sky is the limit for Monroe.
Ideal Comparison: Joel Przybilla
Here in Portland, Oregon, Joel Przybilla is called the "Vanilla Gorilla".
He is loved for being an energy guy that loves to do the dirty work. He makes his money as a rebounder, low-post defender and all-around glue player.
Ideally speaking, he is the model for Slava going forward. The Pistons don't need Kravtsov to be a dominant scorer. In fact, they really don't need much offense from him at all. What they need from the big Eastern European is rebounds, blocked shots and low-post defense.
Some might see this comparison as slightly underwhelming. In fact, Przybilla only twice in his career averaged over eight rebounds per game and only twice averaged more than two blocks per contest.
When Pistons fans saw tape of Kravtsov, many saw a future defensive stopper that would be averaging double-doubles. These expectations are greatly exaggerated.
That being said, Kravtsov, like Przybilla, will likely see his contributions as those measured beyond the box score.
Ideal Comparison: Detlef Schrempf
Jonas Jerebko is in somewhat of a no man's land career-wise. He isn't quite big or strong enough to be a power forward, and he isn't quick enough to be an elite small forward.
In a lot of ways, this makes him somewhat of a man without a country.
However, it really doesn't have to be that way. Jerebko needs to choose to model his game after someone that faced a similar challenge 20 years ago.
Detlef Schrempf was a dynamic scorer and rebounder that found his niche in the early 90's as a super sub. By coming off the bench and looking for his shot, he was able to carve out a nice career that saw him play until he was nearly 40.
Where Jerebko needs to model his game after Schrempf is with his shooting. Jonas needs to improve his shot from long distance, and look to take advantage of his quickness when bigger defenders try to close out on him.
Sure, it is a long-shot that Jerebko will reach Schrempf's status. But at the very least he will see his career last much longer and be more successful if he tries to play like the famous German forward.
Ideal Comparison: Richard Hamilton
Here are a few things that people have said about Middleton: great mid-range game, deceptive athlete, exceptionally thin.
Have you heard these descriptions before?
Rip Hamilton made a career out of running around screens and knocking down shots. He also eventually improved his three-point shooting, and even became a decent scorer off of the dribble.
Middleton is far from a finished product and is sure to be a project for Detroit. But if he can find his niche along the same lines as Hamilton, he could have a long and productive career.
Ideal Comparison: Danny Granger
Okay, so I am on record as saying that the Pistons need to cut ties with Austin Daye, and do so quickly. In my view, he has proven himself to be a bust that the Pistons can no longer afford to keep around.
That being said, Daye could still prove himself to have value for future teams. The point is that he needs to model his game after someone that also started out slow but has become a very good player in this league. Daye needs to look to Danny Granger.
Granger, like Daye, entered the league rather underdeveloped physically. He was a thin kid without a clearly defined position to play at the professional level.
But whereas Daye has floundered and seen almost all of his numbers recede since his rookie year, Granger flourished and improved each of his first four seasons.
Granger is predominantly a perimeter scorer that relies on his length to get his shot off at will. He can get to the hoop with a variety of moves, but that is basically a byproduct of his ability to score from deep. Granger is not generally viewed as an overly strong defender, but his length allows him to be a solid team defender.
It would be the stretch of all stretches to assume that Daye could become even half the player Granger is. But by actually having a type of role model to look up to, Daye could finally kick his career out of neutral and finally realize some of his potential.
Ideal Comparison: Dwight Howard
Andre Drummond is a truly difficult player to assess in comparison. On the one hand, his physical attributes make him a potential beast in this league. On the other hand, his game is still so raw it is hard to know which direction his career will take.
Some have thrown out the name Amare Stoudemire as a potential comparison for Drummond. And sure, it would be nice to see Drummond develop into that type of dynamic offensive player. But Drummond appears to be a player that, at least initially, will be a defensive-minded player that specializes in blocking shots and rebounding.
Stoudemire is perhaps the worst defensive big man in the league, making that type of comparison useless.
Howard is a much more apt comparison for Drummond.
Initially, Howard was an offensively limited big man with ridiculous athletic ability that manifested itself in strong rebounding and blocked shots. But slowly, Howard developed those other aspects of his game and is now the best center in the league by quite a lot.
Saying Drummond could develop into Howard is laughable at best. Drummond has loads of potential, but is likely closer to a future Serge Ibaka than Howard.
But while it appears likely that Drummond could become similar to Ibaka numbers-wise at least initially, Howard is a better player to model his game after. Ibaka could still develop an offensive game like Howard's, but as of yet he has not shown even a glimmer of that type of game.
Howard is a more ideal comparison for Drummond.
Now will he get there? Probably not. But like Daye and Granger, if Drummond can even scratch the surface of his potential like Howard, he will become a perennial All-Star.