The fourth installment of the Detroit Pistons season breakdown sees them matched up against the new look Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks made the playoffs a year ago, but their team’s roster has seen a major overhaul this offseason. The Bucks swapped point guards with the Pistons (Jennings for Knight) and also added guard O.J. Mayo to the mix. Even as of yesterday, the Bucks were still making moves when they acquired two-time All-Star forward Caron Butler from the Phoenix Suns, who will likely start at the small forward position.
The Bucks franchise has struggled for decades. The team just hasn’t seemed to find their way out of mediocrity and it has showed. Despite the struggles, the team does have a promising frontcourt that consists of Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders and a pretty talented young bench.
Last season, the Pistons took three of four meetings against the Bucks.
How will the team’s with retooled rosters match up this season?
Let’s break it down.
Projected starting lineups:
Detroit- Brandon Jennings
Milwaukee- Brandon Knight
These two players were traded for one another this offseason. Both point guards, particularly Jennings, were in desperate need of a new situation. Jennings became a distraction in Milwaukee and was obviously disgruntled with the team. Jennings having a clean slate in Detroit will give him the fresh start he needs and should elevate his overall game.
Knight has struggled so far in his career being a natural point guard. Knight isn’t a great passer and doesn’t seem comfortable at that spot. In Milwaukee, Knight will have less pressure leading his new team since the Bucks seem to be in mediocrity/rebuilding but not rebuilding mode…like usual. This will give him extra time to try and hone his craft and learn on the job, something the Pistons weren’t willing to wait for.
Jennings was an obvious and immediate upgrade for the Pistons and should really control this matchup in the series.
Detroit- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups?
Milwaukee- O.J. Mayo
Mayo came into the league with high expectations, but hasn’t quite lived up to the bill. Mayo, at best, is a middle of the pack shooting guard, but signing with the Bucks could really rejuvenate his career. Mayo has averaged 15.2 points per game throughout his career on 44 percent shooting and will give the Bucks a nice three-ball threat. On a young, retooled roster, Mayo will have the opportunity to carry the brunt of the load offensively and that could serve him well.
The Pistons shooting guards will match up well with Mayo, but Mayo will still be the best shooting guard on the floor. This is the only advantage the Bucks should have on the Pistons in the starting lineup, so I expect the Bucks to try and take advantage of Mayo’s scoring ability.
Detroit- Josh Smith
Milwaukee- Caron Butler
Another new position, yet again different faces filling them for both teams.
Smith is younger and more athletic than Butler. What Butler brings to the table is a veteran presence and floor leader for a young Bucks team. Butler, 33, is coming off a pretty good season with the Clippers where he averaged just over 10 points per game, but as the years have gone on his minutes have decreased and efficiency has dropped.
Smith should dominate Butler, who isn’t a great defender and doesn’t have the overall game Smith does.
Detroit- Greg Monroe
Milwaukee- Ersan Ilyasova
Two power forwards with two completely different styles and skill sets. Monroe is more of a bruiser and Ilyasova is more of a skilled big man. Ilyasova, as a stretch four, can really shoot the three ball. Monroe isn’t a great defender, so Ilyasova stretching the floor and playing a lot on the perimeter could prove to be tricky for ‘Moose’.
Monroe will own the physical side of the matchup from the post and will have to try and keep the matchup between the two there.
I believe the Pistons will play Smith at the power forward spot primarily against the Bucks because Smith matches up much better against Ilyasova. Smith exceeds Ilyasova athletically and would give him fits on both ends of the floor.
Either way and each matchup still favors the Pistons.
Detroit- Andre Drummond
Milwaukee- Larry Sanders
Sanders is a dynamite defender out of the post and perennial shot blocker. Drummond is well on his way to becoming that same sort of post defender for the Pistons. Both Sanders and Drummond are terrific athletes for big guys and are their team’s energy source who eat up the boards at a high rate.
On the other hand, don’t expect a whole lot of offensive production from either player unless it’s by way of a dunk. Sanders and Drummond have room to improve on the offensive end of the floor and will have years to figure that out in their respective cities since both are being groomed as the future.
This particular matchup is interesting, but I’ll take Drummond since this year will be his coming out party. Drummond will turn a lot of heads this season.
I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: the Pistons have one of the deepest benches in the league and it got even better this offseason. The Bucks had a decent bench a year ago in terms of offensive production, but had one of the best in terms of rebounding (fourth), blocked shots (third) and overall efficiency in the league. They also went out and added guard Gary Neal and forward Zaza Pachulia (for an egregious amount of money, I may add) who will further add to the bench production along with Jon Henson, Carlos Delfino and Ekpe Udoh.
I foresee the bench matchup being quite even this season, but, the Bucks bench should see much more playing time this season in comparison with the Pistons.
Detroit- Maurice Cheeks
Milwaukee- Larry Drew
Cheeks and Drew are both entering their first season with their new teams. Drew had a successful run in three years with the Atlanta Hawks garnering three straight playoff appearances, but the team decided to go in a different direction when his contract expired. Cheeks has had similar success in spurts and is inheriting a team that could be the most talented he has head as a head coach in the NBA. Cheeks’ stint in Oklahoma City as an assistant will only help his future success as a head coach once again. Being a part in building a young and successful franchise may have been contagious and hopefully he can bring that same momentum to the Motor City.
The Pistons will sweep the season series taking all four games. The Pistons overall talent pool far exceeds that of the Bucks. The Pistons starters will control the matchup and the Bucks will need a strong bench effort each game to try and counter that attack.