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On the NBA Beat Ep. 22a: Dan Feldman Gives Pistons a “Coin-Flip Chance” to Make Playoffs

Hovering just around .500, the Detroit Pistons are probably the streakiest team in the NBA this season, amassing long winning and losing streaks alike. However, for all the team’s inconsistency, Detroit remains in the thick of the playoff race. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk joins the show to dissect Andre Drummond’s historic dominance, Detroit’s team-building strategy under Stan Van Gundy, Reggie Jackson’s continual growth and so much more. Choice excerpts are below:

4:25-6:00 On Andre Drummond’s free-throw shooting and where he fits in the modern NBA:

“I think a lot of fans get worked up on, ‘How could you give a max contract to a guy who makes 40 percent of his free throws?’ I just think it’s just nitpicking one thing because it’s so easy to diagnose… It’s so much harder to assess the other things he does well that I think the free-throw shooting has taken an outsized part of assessing his game… But it’s so helpful to have one guy you can run the pick and roll with, who can finish at the rim, who can defend the rim. He really fits as this modern center if you have the pieces around him. He’s definitely someone you can build around.”

7:15-8:05 On the short- and long-term effects of acquiring Tobias Harris at the trade deadline

“It’ll take some adjustments to make him an ideal fit in this system. He’s going to have to become a better 3-point shooter, and I think he can. He’s been somebody who’s been streaky. But I think once there’s a comfort level… in the long run, this could really work… It was probably the biggest steal of the trade deadline week.”

13:35-14:45 On the Pistons’ strategy of acquiring key players via trade

“When your goal is more modest, I think it’s a strategy that makes a lot of sense. But if you’re really trying to break through and become a contender, you need to get a star or more. I think the Pistons are on the right track with Andre Drummond; the issue is how do you get a second star?…It’s a good strategy for right now for what their goals are, but if their goals get higher… at some point, you’re going to have to reevaluate.”

15:40-16:05 On Stan Van Gundy’s general principles on offense:

“Everything in Detroit starts with a [Reggie] Jackson-Drummond pick and roll. The ideal is to get Drummond rolling to the rim and set him up for a lob… and then they like to get shooters to space the floor around them.”

16:45-17:13 An explanation for the Pistons’ league-worst assist percentage this season: 

“[Everywhere other than Jackson], they have below-average passers for their position. The ball has to be in Jackson’s hands so much. He dictates everything. When defenses are able to take that away from him and put pressure on him, there’s really not a second playmaker on the court, and that’s where they run into trouble sometimes.”

17:58-18:23 On Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s defense:

“It wasn’t that long ago when Pistons’ fans were really overrating [Caldwell-Pope’s] defense, because he was their first good perimeter defender in years… but he’s gotten better at that end. I don’t know if there’s a player who’s defended Stephen Curry better this season.”

27:00-27:15On the importance to the organization of making the playoffs this season

“Making the playoffs is probably important to the owner. It’s important to Van Gundy because it’s important to the owner. But as far as the importance to the team’s development? It’d be nice. It’d be good to get that experience. But I think it’s OK if they fall just short this year because they’re continuously on the right track.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod