- One match-up to watch early with the Hawks is how they fare against bigger SF's like Marcus Morris. The lesser half of the Morrii only went 6-19 but he was killing Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver in the post and he was basically shooting over the top of them like they were chairs. DeMarre Carroll was really the Hawks only big wing who could match up 1-on-1 on D and stretch the defense from the three-point line. This will be a big deal for them all season and we'll get another great look when they have to play Carmelo Anthony on Thursday.
- The Hawks wing rotation is really the biggest question mark about this season and Bazemore didn't really do much when given the first crack at the starting spot. He's real athletic but he's an inconsistent shooter (0-3) who plays out of control a lot (4 turnovers on 0 assists) and he's undersized for the SF position (6'5 200). I think they really like the duo of Lamar Patterson and Thabo Sefolosha off the bench which means Bazemore is the guy who could end up losing minutes if they decide to give either Tim Hardaway Jr. or Justin Holiday a chance at filling in for Carroll.
- I'm probably burying the lead with Patterson, who looked really good in his NBA debut as a 24-year old. You obviously don't want to take too much away from one night but he just has the game of a Hawks/Spurs type player and I would not be surprised at all if he holds down a rotation spot all season. He was a do-everything player at Pitt (17/5/4 on 44/38 shooting) but he fell into the 2nd round because of the concern that he wasn't athletic enough to be a SG and he wasn't big enough to be a SF (6'5 225). The thing about him is that he's got a great feel for the game and he knows how to move the ball, how to take good shots and how to play in a system like Atlanta's. He's also got a sneaky long wingspan (6'11) and as long as he's going to hit 3's, he can use the threat of that shot to open up the rest of his game. The key for him is how he's going to hold up on D because he isn't a great athlete. He's the opposite of Bazemore in a lot of ways.
- Who the Hawks have as their 3rd and 4rth wings is going to be really important because they aren't going to get a lot of defense from Korver and they aren't going to get a lot of offense from Sefolosha. If they aren't careful with who they have out there, they could have a lot of fairly punchless offensive line-ups or groups that have a hard time stopping anyone. They will play a lot of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder together but that could really compromise them on D against bigger teams on the perimeter. They tried to have Teague, Schroder and Korver in the 4Q and the Pistons responded by bullying them with Marcus Morris on the wings. Carroll gave them plus offense and plus defense and that's going to be tough to replace especially since they have two one-dimensional guys in Korver and Sefolosha who are going to get a lot of minutes.
- The other big addition in the Hawks line-up this season is Tiago Splitter and he had a decent showing in only 16 minutes. He fits in pretty seamlessly with Atlanta likes to do even though he isn't a great outside shooter because he knows how to play within himself and how to move the ball and find the open man in their system. My main concern with him in this game is how poorly he finished around the rim. He had a hard time going up strong and he took a lot of silly finesse shots in the paint. I still would rather he have gotten more than 16 minutes more than giving 8 minutes to Mike Muscala, who I'm not convinced is an NBA-rotation player.
- When Muscala went down with an ankle injury in the 4Q, they brought in Mike Scott as their 4rth big man and he gave them a whole different element on offense. He's a much more explosive player and he gave them more floor spacing and a catch-and-shoot threat from 3 as well as a guy who could attack a close-out and be a threat to score. He's not great on D but I'm not sure Muscala is either and Muscala is more of a 20-foot shooter without the quickness to be a threat on the drive. I'd rather have Scott out there spacing the floor and opening up the paint for the other big man.
- The other big Hawks related storyline from this game was the play of Dennis Schroder, who was absolutely tearing up the Pistons defense whenever he was out there. He had Steve Blake on skates all night and he was doing whatever he wanted against him with the ball in his hands. He had 20 points in only 24 minutes of action and he is going to murder 2nd string PG's all season. The other big key for him was that he went 2-5 from 3, which allows him to play off the ball and makes him such a more valuable player. If he can be a consistent three-point shooter, he's going to push Jeff Teague for minutes and he's going to need to be a starter in this league sooner than later. He's so quick and dynamic on both sides of the ball that it's going to be hard to keep him on the bench. The problem is that him and Teague can only play so much together, especially without Carroll.
- Millsap and Horford did their usual thing all night, although Horford struggled with Drummond's size on the boards. There were a couple times when Drummond just pushed him under the rim and got easy putbacks. However, he did completely stone Drummond in the post, although I'm not sure who that says more about. Millsap absolutely killed Ilyasova on the block to start the game and that's going to be a storyline to watch in Detroit all season long. Do they have anyone who can actually guard the better 4's in the NBA?
And now for some notes about the Pistons.
- Ilyasova had a good game but I wonder how much value he really adds to this team as a stretch 4 instead of them going smaller and more athletic with Morris and Stanley Johnson at the forward spots. Anthony Tolliver missed the game to be at the birth of his child and he's going to need minutes and I feel like Ilyasova is the least versatile and the least capable defender of the three forwards who played on Tuesday so he's the most obvious candidate to get his playing time cut.
- Stanley Johnson didn't have great efficiency numbers but he looked GOOD for a guy making his NBA debut. He doesn't look out of place at all - he's a 19 year old with an NBA body whose physicality is going to be a problem for a lot of teams this season. Maybe the most impressive part of his game was the way he made plays out of the pick-and-roll, as he had 3 assists on 1 turnover for the night. The difference between the amount of space he is playing in with Detroit and the amount of space he had at Arizona was night and day and he could actually be in a scenario where the NBA game is easier for him than the NCAA game.
- The debate between Johnson and Justice Winslow was fascinating all season at the NCAA level and it will remain so in the NBA because they are both so similar as players. I think where Johnson could end up having the edge is size because he could theoretically slide all the way down and play as a small-ball 4 ala Draymond Green which would allow him to operate in a lot more space than the much smaller Winslow when he's playing as a 3 or a 2. The real difference between their production at the college level was that Coach K had Winslow playing as a 4 next to shooters and Sean Miller had Johnson playing as a 3 next to non-shooters. The key for both these guys is how efficient they are going to be on offense and it's always easier to be more efficient on offense when you are sliding down a position.
- I don't know how much Detroit will use these line-ups this season but the group that I'm really intrigued by would be something like Reggie Jackson - KCP - Reggie Bullock - Stanley J - Drummond. That's a really fast group who can spread the floor, put up a lot of 3's and get out and run in transition. And while Stanley J should be fairly effective next to Marcus Morris, every little edge in space he can receive will make him a much better player. I think his ceiling could be as a more offensive explosive Draymond Green although he may not have the wingspan at 6'11 to be a full-time 4 like Draymond at 7'2.
- KCP was another guy who looked fantastic in all the extra space he was playing in with the SVG system. He's going to get a lot of open shots so it's just going to be a matter of how many of them he's going to knock down. It is a make or miss league but you want to see him diversify his game as much as possible so that his value isn't totally dependent on his 3P%. He did do a good job on Kyle Korver on D. He's long and fast so he should eventually turn into a pretty decent defender and at that point his ceiling becomes just how efficient he can be as a shooter. He certainly has had no compunction about firing up shots early in his NBA career but he hasn't been all that efficient about it. Let's see what he can do playing in the Coors Fieuld of NBA offensive systems.
- The one thing that was real noticeable about Reggie Jackson in this game was just how freaking big he is for a PG and how much he towered over Teague and Schroder. He used his size to bother those guys on both sides of the ball all night. The Hawks system is based on getting their guys in a lot of space but it really doesn't matter if they can't exploit the 1-on-1 match-up because they are going up against a guy who is a lot bigger and a lot faster than them. It's all about shot selection with the Pistons because they got a lot of open shots on Tuesday and still only shot 38.5% from the field. They were able to use their length and athleticism to bother the Hawks on D and that's where they are going to have to hang their hat on a lot of nights this season.
- The exact opposite of Jackson was Steve Blake because he just could not keep up with Teague or Schroder at all. They absolutely demolished him on D and his inability to keep his man in front of him was one of the primary reasons why the Pistons bench got killed in the plus/minus all night. Watching this game really showed how much they miss Brandon Jennings and if he comes back healthy he could give them a Teague + Schroder dynamic with him and Reggie Jackson.
- Aron Baynes did a lot of Aron Baynes things but I couldn't help but watch him and think they could have had Kyle O'Quinn for the same amount of money. I love the core ID of who the Pistons are but they have made a lot of uninspiring moves on the margins that could end up costing them. What KOQ could do as the backup 5 in this system is eye-popping, although I could say that with him and a lot of teams. He is crazy underrated and he was a huge pick-up for the Knicks, which could be important for the Pistons if they end up having to compete with New York for a playoff spot.
As a huge optimist on both the Pistons and the Hawks this season, I was really looking forward to this game. Atlanta's lack of size was a great match-up for Detroit and they missed a lot of open shots so there's only so much you want to take away from this game. The concerns I have with the Pistons going forward are their efficiency and their bench (at least until Jennings gets back) while the main thing I'll be watching with the Hawks is what they can figure out with their wing rotation.