Basketball is a game of matchups. Certain players just work better together than others. Whether it be a great back-and-forth on the perimeter, a nice pick-and-roll pairing or an alley-oop combo, the world of basketball is teeming with great teamwork.
The Detroit Pistons are a team that has been up and down this season, and a huge part of their development has been figuring out which players pair best together.
Certain pairings have been unmitigated failures. Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler do not work well together. Nor do Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye.
But other groupings have had a lot of success.
Greg Monroe and Kyle Singler
Singler is a smart player. What he lacks in athletic prowess and jumping ability, he makes up for with smart cuts and good angles.
Greg Monroe is a player who isn't bursting with natural athletic ability. Sometimes he appears stiff and almost Tin Man-like, but he is a great passer, especially from the high post.
What I like most about this pairing is how versatile it is. When the Pistons put Monroe in the high post, Singler always knows when to cut to the hoop. He has a knack for selling his defender on this move and gets himself in position to help the squad.
Singler's cuts are like dessert for Monroe's dinner. The big man loves to find his teammates for easy hoops, and this is evidenced by his statistics. A lot of Monroe's numbers have either gone down or stayed the same this year, but his assists have shown marked improvement. He is up nearly one whole assist per game, and a big part of that has been Singler and his ability to get easy buckets.
Additionally, when Monroe operates in the low post, Singler puts himself in the big man's line of sight on the perimeter, giving Monroe an exit strategy from downtown. If Monroe encounters stiff defense, he can kick it out to Singler and for a three-pointer.
Brandon Knight and Jason Maxiell
Brandon Knight is still a work-in-progress. He will have a run of two or three excellent games where he pushes the ball up the court and pressures the defense.
Then he gets on the national stage in London and scores next to nothing.
The jury is still out on whether he can be a point guard in this league, but there is no doubt that he can score.
One of the keys to his scoring this year has been his knack for finding big men willing to give up their bodies for screens. Knight sells the pick-and-roll really well and often will run his defender square into the waiting arms of the screen.
Maxiell, in particular, is the perfect pick-and-roll complement. He has a wide frame that swallows up smaller players and the quickness to either roll to the hoop or leak out on the elbow.
Additionally, Maxiell has improved his jump shot to the point where he is money from 15-18 feet, especially straight up.
This allows Knight to either run right into the defense and get the hoop or draw the foul or to kick back to Maxiell for the jumper or hit the big man down low.
Andre Drummond and Will Bynum
Perhaps the best pairing on the team, Will Bynum seems to just know where Drummond is. More than any other guard on the roster, Bynum has a unique knowledge of how to feed the big man and get easy hoops.
Perhaps this is a testament to the amount of time these two have spent practicing together in the second unit; Bynum really has never had this type of big man to work with.
Game after game, these two work magic together.
Drummond is the perfect big man for small guards looking for assists. He is huge and athletic, making him a perfect screen option to swallow up opposing guards, and he has such raw ability around the hoop, which makes him a great target for lobs and alley-oops.
Nearly every game you can expect a highlight reel-worthy alley-oop from Bynum to Drummond. Bynum has a feathery touch on his passes and is, without question, the Pistons' best distributor. Bynum also has tremendous court-vision, although he doesn't always need it when it comes to Drummond, as the big man is just so much larger than everyone else on the court.
Although Bynum sometimes forces the ball to Drummond, the rewards outweigh the risks with this duo.
Charlie Villanueva and Andre Drummond
Drummond is quickly taking over from Monroe as the franchise player for this team. He is a freak athletically and is always looking to score near the hoop.
Charlie Villanueva has been largely a disappointment in Detroit since signing a huge free-agent deal prior to the 2009 season. He is too soft to play down low, and he can't rebound or play defense to save his life.
Additionally, Villanueva usually has terrible body language, making him a perfect target for fans' ire. Personally, I used to call him Charlie "don't call me hustle" Villanueva. Shameless, I know but this is a full-disclosure article.
That being said, Villanueva has finally found his calling, and it has taken the talented Drummond to bring it out in him.
Villanueva has always been a good perimeter shooter. The problem has been that defenders could take this away from him with tight defense. And when the Pistons don't have a low post threat, that is exactly what happens.
But with Drummond on the court, this frees up a lot of space outside. Defenses don't like to give Drummond too much space down low as this can lead to highlight-reel dunks. Nobody wants to be on somebody else's poster.
This allows Villanueva room to operate. As a result, Charlie is knocking down a career-high 39.4 percent of his three-pointers.
You can see the difference in Villanueva's game when Drummond is in there. The rookie takes away the pressure on defense and on the boards, letting Villanueva concentrate on knocking down triples, which he is finally doing for this team.
Luckily for Detroit, Villanueva is finally proving useful.
Austin Daye and Andre Drummond
In the same way that Drummond has helped Villanueva, he is doing the same for Austin Daye.
In fact, the argument could be made that Drummond has been an even bigger help for Daye.
Daye had a miserable last year. His statistics were down in nearly every category, especially his shooting. He shot a pathetic 32 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc.
At the beginning of this year, it appeared that Daye was bound for yet another weak season. But then coach Lawrence Frank decided to insert the slender big man into the lineup with Drummond, and Daye found his way.
He is finally showing his worth, providing excellent shooting off of the bench. Daye is shooting a career-high 46.8 from the field, as well as a scorching 51.5 percent from three-point range.
Daye has a quick release and long arms, meaning that he can get his shot off with ease against nearly all defenders. But with Drummond in the game, he is given even more room to operate. The result has been brilliant shooting.
Obviously the book has not been fully written when it comes to Daye. He is a restricted free agent after the season and it is anyone's guess whether or not he returns to Detroit. But at the very least, he has shown that he can actually play in this league.
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