The Detroit Pistons fully committed to a rebuild at this Thursday’s trade deadline when they sent Andre Drummond across Lake Erie to Cleveland. Friday was the first chance to see the team in the post-Drummond era.
In the first game without their stalwart center, the Detroit Pistons held their own–yet still came up short–against the probably playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder. They lost 108-101 but were within four points in the last ninety seconds. Christian Wood and Thon Maker, both starters, shared the time at center, and they absolutely made the most of it. The pair combined for 46 points and 19 rebounds, accounting for roughly half the team’s totals.
Christian Wood was particularly stellar, slashing 27 points and 12 rebounds. He was one point and two boards shy of career highs. It was a fitting time for his sixth double-double on the year: one day after losing the man with the second-most double-doubles in the organization.
Notably, six of Wood’s twelve rebounds were offensive, and he added five assists as well (both career highs). He extended offensive plays, and the Pistons were +7 when he was on the court; it was one of Wood’s most effective games in his career. He played over 35 minutes for the first time ever, which will likely be the new normal going forward.
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While not as effective, Thon Maker had a more than capable game at center. In fact, Maker probably played his best game of the season, collecting a season-high 19 points in his eighth start. The distressing number for Maker was his plus/minus on the court. While far from a perfect statistic because of how many external factors affect this number, it is still indicative of the flow of the game and a player’s effect. For Maker, -16 was his lowest mark of the season.
It goes without saying the Pistons have young big men. Wood is 24, and Maker turns 23 at the end of the month. There is so much potential and room for improvement. They also had the benefit of working under Andre Drummond for a season, one of the game’s best active centers, regardless of public opinion.
Furthermore, they both have the ability to shoot from beyond the arc at least somewhat effectively, the growing trend for versatile centers. Will either one eventually be as dominant as Drummond beneath the rim? Probably not, but they do have the tools to be a solid frontcourt nevertheless.
The Detroit Pistons have 28 games remaining, and they may very well lose 20 of them. Some of them, like last night, will even be interesting in the fourth quarter, a winnable game on the line. If this is what we have to look forward to–watching young players develop in the absence of stars–the season will not be a total loss.