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5 Burning NBA Questions: The Central Division

By 03.01.12
Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving (photo. D.L. Anderson)

Honestly, despite their recent string of games (since starting 4-20, they’ve gone 8-5) where they at least resembled a professional team, the Pistons are waiting for next year. I figured by this point in the season – 37 games in – Greg Monroe‘s numbers would’ve tailed off. But he’s actually improving, and after last night’s 20-rebound night, he’s putting up 21 points, 12.6 boards and 3.4 assists a game in his last five.

The Pistons’ question is can we build around a finesse center who doesn’t play defense? Whereas the offense is infinitely better (plus-6.9 per 100 possessions) when the former Hoya is manning the high post as one of the best point centers since Vlade was chain smoking and flopping, Detroit mans up and defends SO much better without Monroe. I’m talking a difference of 9.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s not a gimmick. That’s not a small sample size. That’s not even a tiny enough difference to suggest a statistical oddity. That gap is wider than Strahan‘s teeth.

Rodney Stuckey is stuck between being the NBA’s most overrated player and it’s most underrated. But his time as a franchise cornerstone is over. The Pistons have one player to look at in these final 29 games: It’s Greg Monroe. Is he the man who’ll bring back the fans in Motown?

[RELATED: 5 Burning NBA Questions: The Northwest Division]

Is there a smoother player in the NBA than Kyrie Irving? Spin moves, crossovers… last night, he had Iman Shumpert‘s feet nailed to the hardwood on a between-the-legs dribble. He’s scoring 18.5 points a game and has a shooting percentage line that looks damn near Nash-ian: 48/42/87.

But his assist rate is dwarfed by another rookie, Ricky Rubio (36.6 to 21.1). And he’s averaging 5.1 dimes a game, which is less than Chris Paul (7.8), John Wall (8.3), Derrick Rose (6.3) and Russell Westbrook (5.3) all had as rookies.

Irving’s always been a scorer, even back in high school. During his senior year, the two best teams in the nation (St. Pats/Findlay Prep) squared off at my undergrad alma mater in what’s still considered one of the best high school games in the last 10-15 years. With Tristan Thompson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cory Joseph all playing, Irving didn’t take it over by playing point guard. He separated himself by dominating the ball and ruthlessly attacking the rim, over and over.

Unlike some, I have absolutely no problem with scoring point guards; I’d never trade Westbrook. But Cleveland does have a problem if Irving is going to be surrounded by players like Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi, all of whom average less than two dimes a game and look like they haven’t created a shot since high school. As a team, their assist rate is tied for No. 21 in the league despite having one of the best young guards in the league, and their turnover rate is in the top third. That explains their 42 percent shooting.

The Cavs must find out if they need more playmakers to put beside Irving.

What are the major question marks each team faces?

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