Cleveland at Detroit
Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV: NBA TV
Spread: CLE -8.5
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Stan Van Gundy is revamping the Pistons defensive culture that it once thrived on. And that’s been an easier task with a dominant Andre Drummond emerging. Drummond and the Pistons are 8.5 point underdogs in Cleveland tonight.
Bettors will be wise to consider the Pistons covering this one. Cleveland has been mediocre all season and the Pistons are still a dangerous team, even considering Brandon Jennings is out for the season.
Drummond is too big, to strong, and too athletic for most NBA bigs to have any kind of chance against. Unless it is against the likes of Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan, Drummond will have access to every rebound. He’s currently averaging 13 per game, to go with 12.2 points and 2.74 blocks/steals per game.
The Pistons were dealt a big blow when Brandon Jennings tore his ACL and went down for the season, but this is a backcourt featuring an already above-average defender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the backcourt. The Pistons are able to employ more half court traps, and both Greg Monroe and Drummond are good pick and roll defenders. This seeming minutia is a key factor in the Pistons’ revival. Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin can hold this team together, but NBA oddsmakers think otherwise in favoring the Cavs by 8.5 points.
But the single biggest factor was being able to part ways with Josh Smith. Smith was a disruptive influence and took a lot of horrible shots. That takes teammates out of games, and the Pistons realized the mistake they made when Smith was signed to a max-deal. Most analysts said there was no way Smith was worth that kind of contract; and well, they were all correct about that. Filling the “void” (the shots, in reality) that Smith left has been Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin.
Both guards are capable of filling it up, and Meeks hit nine threes in the contest on Dec 30 vs Orlando. The Pistons are on the verge of being a good ball club, but without its star player in the backcourt, it’s difficult to imagine this team being much of a threat. What makes it all the more devastating is that Jennings was coming off a 26 assist, 25 point game against Orlando (again), and was looking as though he was ready to take the next step as a premier 1-man in the Association.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still kind of plodding along despite the acquisition of the league’s premier talent LeBron James. The Cavs are 25-20 and on pace for a 45-47 win season. That certainly does not scream contender, but with LBJ doing his thing in the postseason, the Cavs will be the team no other wants to face.
The real reason the Cavs have underachieved lies in the talents of Kevin Love. Love was a 20/20 regular during his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves and led the NBA in rebounding, but this season the former UCLA Bruin is averaging just 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. His PER is under 20, and he’s shooting just 34.1 percent from three, a former three-point shoot out winner. Love is also just 43.3 percent from the floor and is becoming almost a liability given that the Cavs keep waiting on his typical production.
Kyrie Irving remains an effective guard, but it’s unclear how he will blend with James long-term. Irving is still averaging nearly 21 points per game while dishing out 5.2 assists per contest, but his points per shot have fallen to 1.26 while he’s also hitting just 38 percent from behind the arc.
The acquisition of J.R. Smith will not help with the shooting woes, and Smith is prone to taking some of the worst shots in the NBA. Of recent additions, the best has been Timofey Mozgov, who figures to be a big part of the Cavs interior rotation and help solve some of the missing Love production.
Mozgov has seen 27 minutes per game through his first eight starts with Cleveland while averaging nearly a double-double (9.8 points and 9.0 rebounds) and blocking 1.2 shots per game. He’s exactly what the Cavs needed to replace with Anderson Varejao having prematurely declined due to the blood clot in his lung two seasons ago.
Tristan Thompson remains somewhat enigmatic, at times looking like a future All-Star and at other times looking as though a D-Leaguer could school him. The Cavs will have issues with depth, and this team still has to be structured more around James. Acquiring a different free agent and letting Kevin Love walk after next season may not be out of the question, at all.