With so many news agencies and fan reporters grading teams at the halfway point, we decided to offer our grades during the All-Star break. It's a time when the local press takes their vacations or follow the All-Stars in Las Vegas. With that said, five of our forum members have once again taken to the task of sorting through the single game performances and trends to present you with a look at the Detroit Pistons through the early portion of the season. Here are their findings. Chauncey Billups Overall grade: A max: A- Yet again off to one of the best seasons of his career as he continues to balance scoring with getting his teammates involved. Rarely has a bad night. Even if his shot is off he finds other ways to help the team win. Has stepped up in his leadership role. dba: A- Not quite the marksman from behind the line this year as last (39% vs 43%), Billups still leads the team in scoring efficiency (1.5 points per FGA). Assists are slightly down, but boards, steals, even blocks are up compared to last year. No better measure of his value though is how poorly the team plays when he isn’t on the floor. jammertime: A Clutch performer and the leader of this team. You can’t ask for much more out of your field general than CB’s assist to TO ratio. Other than being a bit too quick to jack up a 3, he tends to be a bit too selfless at times. I’d like to see him drive his man a bit more and use his strength to the team’s advantage. Dumars4Ever: A- An all-star season, with the second best numbers of his career for points and assists per game (both were career bests last year), and once again right at the top of the league in assists-to-turnover ratio (#3). The injury decisively demonstrated how valuable he is, as the team struggled terribly in almost every single game that he was out. His defense still seems short of what it could be, but about 90% of the other teams in the league wouldn't mind having this guy running the show for them. Luke Slippywalker: B His absence made it clear just how important he is to the team but lapses in focus and some questionable decisions put some blemishes in his overall solid play. His lack of speed is showing up more and more as an issue and his three point shooting has taken a dip. On the other hand, no one makes the Pistons offense run as smoothly. Rip Hamilton Overall grade: A max: A Most solid and reliable player we have. Don't know where we would be without Rip. dba: A From the best three point shooter in the league to a few percentage points below his career average, what a difference a year makes. But, Rip is a better rebounder this year and is getting to the line nearly three more times a game. The increase in techs is worrisome, but he is the one guy who comes to play every single night. Other than down one assist per game, his stats this year match the championship season. jammertime: A Rip just brings it night in and night out. Mr. Hustle is by far the hardest working Piston. The best pure shooter on the team although his ball handling/dribbling skills leave a bit to be desired. I love his chemistry with Tayshaun. Dumars4Ever: A- Another all-star season for Rip as well, averaging a career high in points. His FG% is slightly down from last year, but he's getting to the FT line a lot more, a trade-off that I'll take any day. He's still kind of turnover-prone whenever he ends up handling the ball in any sort of traffic, but aside from that, there isn't much to complain about. Luke Slippywalker: A On a team where plays, quarters, even entire games have been mailed in, Rip Hamilton has not only maintained a consistent level of focus and intensity, he’s upped his level from last year. He’s leading the break, crashing the boards, cutting through the lane and knocking down jumpers. The guy takes a beating from opposing defenses every night and he keeps going at it. Rip for team MVP. Tayshaun Prince Overall grade: B max: B+ Off to a pretty good season and has been improving on some of his weak areas lately like rebounding. Very solid player, could be doing more. dba: B For me, the enigma of the team. Everything stat I look at shows him better this year than last (rank of 12 in Sprocket Points among SFs vs 21st last year), but he is still only at or even a bit below his numbers from the championship year. If a championship is in the sights, the team doesn’t need Prince better than last year, it needs him to be better than 04/05. Is he settling for being an upper middle SF when he could be in the top five? jammertime: B Prince is a good all around contributor but I was hoping for a bit more consistency from him this season. When he’s aggressive, he’s almost unstoppable. When he’s passive, he’s almost invisible. His stamina is a bit of a question mark for me. Dumars4Ever: B+ The numbers say that he's having a career year in several statistical categories--points and rebounds per game, plus a noticeably higher percentage on 3s (42% vs. 34-36% in each of the last 3 years). And we still get the occasional highlight reel block with him flying across the lane. Still, it seems like he disappears in some tough games where they need more production from him. Maybe that's not a totally fair assessment, but it's the impression I've gotten so far this season. Luke Slippywalker: B Like Rip, Tayshaun has stepped up every aspect of his game. He’s rebounding, blocking, and scoring a slight tick above last year’s stats. However, at some point, he has to move from Mr. Intangible to Mr. Tangible. Rasheed Wallace Overall grade: B- max: B- We all know what Sheed is capable off so there is no excuse to only be avg 12.6 PPG ( at the time I wrote this). I am still giving him an above passing grade considering the extra work he has had to do on the defensive end. Has stepped up his rebounding and has been turning it up offensively since Webber arrived. That technical foul count is starting to gather around him like a dark cloud making me wonder how many games he will miss to suspension. dba: B- Been a tough shooting year for Sheed, down across the board. But he has made a conscious effort to move inside (33% of FGA from 3 vs 41% last year) and his 35% shooting from there isn’t bad (better than Kobe, Vince, & LBJ). His rebounding is up 1.5 a game and his combined steals and blocks (2.6 per game) far and away leads the team, as does his communication on both offense and defense. jammertime: B Will it be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Sheed is our X factor. Like Tayshaun, when he’s on (or when he wants to be on) he’s unstoppable, but when he’s off (or not into it) he hurts the entire team. Dumars4Ever: B Sheed started the season quite well, with 6 double-doubles in the first 12 games, but then he went 2 months before getting his next one. Lingering effects from the ankle injury in the playoffs last year seemed to be bothering him for a while, but he's looked better of late, particularly since CWebb came to town. He's done a pretty solid job stepping up on the boards in Ben's absence, and he's actually taking fewer 3s per game than last year, though he's also taking fewer shots overall. If he can stay healthy, a motivated Sheed in the playoffs should be a handful for anyone the Pistons face. Luke Slippywalker: C++ Blame it on the bum wheel. Blame it on having to do the dirty every night. Sheed gets some pluses to his grade for his post Webber signing performances. But the Pistons needed Rasheed to play big and he ended up chucking 3’s and bricking most of them. Still a great post player but not so as a help defense guy , he’s been a early season disappointment. I am sure the full season grades will reflect a better overall game from the mercurial forward. Chris Webber Overall grade: B+ max: A Has done everything asked of him so far and more. A very pleasent surprise for me so far. I knew he would be better than Mohammed but did not think he would be making this kind of an impact. Makes all the other Pistons so much better with his passing and unselfish play. Could be the key to getting us back in the Finals. Still early but it looks like Dumars has done it again. dba: B Too few data points to be very sure, but CWebb has shined more often than not. When the offense flows through him the team moves to another level. When a big mobile center gets the ball against him it can get a little bit ugly. jammertime: B+ Could Webber be this year’s Sheed trade? Solid FG% since joining the team. Webber gives the Pistons their Fab 5 back. Great passer. He doesn’t get an A because he’s as slow as Bill Davidson. Dumars4Ever: B+ The Pistons have mostly looked great since CWebb came to town, with his excellent passing and veteran craftiness around the basket giving up a much-needed jump-start to the starting five's offensive production. He's still slow and sometimes exploitable on D, as per the Bucks game against Bogut (I didn't see it, going by the game thread for that one) and the loss to the Spurs at the Palace. But this team is an ideal fit for Webber, and aside from a healthy Miami team, the Pistons with CWebb are the team to beat in the Eastern conference playoffs. Luke Slippywalker: B+ For a team sagging under the weight of its own complacency, C-Webb was a nice shot in the arm. His basketball IQ and scoring ability makes the Pistons what they were talking about in the offseason: a true 5 man offensive threat. However he lacks mobility and his defense is suspect. Nazr Mohammed Overall grade: C max: F Don't know what else to say. He was brought in to be the starting center. Not even asking for heavy mins, just start games and contribute for 20-30 mins. He has failed. Perhaps Dumars should have seen this comming bringing in this turnover prone - bad defensive/passing center. dba: C- Best FG% on the team, second best in points per FGA, outrebounds Sheed on an equal minutes basis, but would foul out of every game if he played 36 minutes and would lead the team in turnovers if he played Billups’ minutes. Seems like a nice guy, but doesn’t bring the skills needed to start and doesn’t bring enough energy to make a difference off the bench. Seems like that would have been obvious before the $30 mil. jammertime: C I go back and forth on my feelings about Nazr. True he isn’t very good, but is that really his fault? Most of the reasons I don’t like him are out of his control. It wasn’t his fault Ben left, it wasn’t his fault that Joe replaced Ben with Stone Hands Mohammed and it wasn’t his fault that he got a 5 year deal for being tall. Dumars4Ever: C Not much more than a 20-minute per game stopgap in a center-by-committee scheme, Nazr has fallen completely out of the rotation since CWebb came to town. He's an occasionally decent finisher around the rim and an OK shot-blocker, but his questionable hands and inability to stay out of foul trouble make it hard to keep him on the floor even when there isn't a better option around. Not that there was ever a chance that he would be any sort of real replacement for Ben, but he hasn't been that good a fit in Detroit, and he might be gone by the end of next week. Luke Slippywalker: C I never saw how bad Nazr was but I heard about it nightly. He lost his starting job then lost about all his minutes. Nazr is a very good opportunistic scorer on a team that does not create those opportunities. On defense he’s displayed the same traits that got him benched in San Antonio. However, he’s proven that he is still a pro and is ready to go when called on. We paid a veterans price tag for a work in progress. If we intend to keep him, he needs to be developed like the rest of the bench so he can contribute when the chips are down. Antonio McDyess Overall grade: B- max: B- He saved his job recently when he finally decided to play decently. As much as he gets overlooked sometimes he is still an important key for the Pistons in the post-season. dba: C- The notorious slow start reached near legendary length this year – only in the past month have we started to see a real contribution from Dice off the bench, leading to lights out shooting lately (17 for 23 in the last three games as of 02/11). He is rebounding well, particularly on the offensive end, but 40 is way too many turnovers and 3.1 is way too many fouls for 20 MPG – together the turns and fouls yield on average more than five opponent points per game. I hope the good streak continues, but we’re grading the first 41. jammertime: C- OK, I get that McNice is a slow starter, but this season was a bit much. If he wants a ring so bad, he’ll need to bring more. He’s starting to come around now. Dumars4Ever: B Dice had his usual slow start this season, but his scoring average has increased in each month, according to a stat that was shown on TV the other night. He's been dealing with some more nagging injuries, some back and rib problems, but while his scoring is down overall from previous seasons, his rebounding has still been pretty solid. As usual, staying healthy is probably the biggest issue for him. Luke Slippywalker: B If the grades reflected the last 3 weeks, he’d get an A but ‘Dyess has struggled early with his shot. Still has problems moving his feet on defense and relies on reaching. Apparently this is the same thing as last year. Carlos Delfino Overall grade: B- max: B- His game has been comming around. Still, with his talent we should not be looking around for a 3rd anything anymore. Off to a good start this season for him but he could be doing so much more. dba: B At 16 MPG, he is getting the chance to play (20 would be better, but…). His FG shooting is about the same as last year, but he’s better from 3 and a lot better from the FT line. More comfort from more minutes could bring that up some, but it seems clear he will never be a scorer. However, he outrebounds Prince and Hamilton on a equal minutes basis (by a lot), passes the ball well, and has only five fewer steals than Prince in 906 fewer minutes. He needs the right role, but has played well. jammertime: B- I like what Delfino brings and it looks like Flip is finally starting to not hate him as much. He’s a solid rebounder and energy guy off the bench. If he can get his shot to drop consistently and continue to gain confidence, he could be our 6th man in a year or two. Dumars4Ever: B In the first season that he's been in the regular rotation, Delfino has been pretty consistent in bringing various intangibles off the bench, usually a mix of some defensive plays, deflections, hustling for loose balls, etc. His poor shooting is frustrating: he has a good pure stroke, but as Roscoe often points out, his percentage is still bad because his mechanics break down way too easily. Still, I think he's earned a decent grade for using his athleticism to provide those intangibles in the 16 minutes per game that he's been getting. Luke Slippywalker: C+ Great rebounding. Very good defense. Terrible shooting. Right now he’s hitting some of those shots so I’d give his recent performance a B but you can’t ignore all those 1-6 shooting nights. He does do a lot of intangibles like move the ball, move without the ball and put pressure on the wing but off the bench we need him to hit shots. Flip Murray Overall grade: D max: F Failed in his mission to be the 3rd guard. I can't believe Hammond once referred to him as the new Vinnie Johnson. Perhaps they put him in a position to fail by asking him to play smart and avoid the TO's. Just not in his game. dba: D Talk about never getting into the groove. Flip hasn’t shot more poorly in years and is down across nearly all categories. He never seemed to figure out the offense or how to run it, but at least didn’t turn the ball over. Whatever was supposed to happen hasn’t. jammertime: C- I had much higher hopes for Flip Jr. but he just sucks. Flip is a SG all the way. There’s nothing PG about him. Larry Brown would be rolling over in his grave if he were dead. He avoids a D because he's still fairly young and his contract is short and cheap. Dumars4Ever: D HQ's bete noire got a chance as the main backup combo guard earlier in the season, and he got to start when Chauncey was injured, but he finally ended up playing himself out of the rotation. His occasional penetrating ability and quick hands are unfortunately not enough compensation for his ugly jumper, poor basketball IQ, and crappy defense. His best contribution to the Pistons might end up being his reaction to the MLE contract offer that Joe unwisely presented to him this past off-season, which he even less wisely passed on before eventually having to sign for a lot less than that. Luke Slippywalker: D Inconsistent as a bench guy behind Billups, he got an opportunity to do his thing when Billups went down and proved that he’s not the guy to run Saunder’s offense. His tendency to work for his own shot put him in the doghouse with the fans and the coaching staff. His defense wasn’t much better. In fact, it was worse. Jason Maxiell Overall grade: B- max: B- I like the season he has been having so far. Still lots of room for improvement. Hard to understand how he can dominate the glass one game and come out the next like he does not have a clue. Still need a lot more PT to find his game. Mark this guy down as a keeper. dba: B At least to an extent the Brahma has been turned loose and rims around the league are cowering. JMax has played within himself and shown a nice maturity on the court, on both the offensive and defensive ends. He is developing a decent shooting touch for those rare times when he isn’t shaking the building. He has also been a terror on the offensive boards (JMax and Delfino account for 14% of the Piston’s offensive boards – JMax 8% in 4% of team minutes). He can also disappear however. jammertime: B- When the guy is in the same arena as the basket he’s looking to slam. His rebounding leaves a bit to be desired, but did I mention that the kid attacks the rim as if it killed his momma? Dumars4Ever: B- Everyone's favorite power dunker brought some great production and terrific energy when he first got some minutes off the bench, but his sub-par rebounding and inconsistent production have cost him more minutes of late. I hope he can get back in the rotation at some point this season, but it seems like he has a ways to go in terms of being crafty enough to be a consistent contributor. Luke Slippywalker: B Maxiell turned Seattle on its ear and made them tap out then got planted on the bench while Flip tries to find minutes to play the guy. He brings energy and thunder dunks but where is the rebounding? The one time black hole has learned to pass albeit reluctantly. Lindsey Hunter Overall grade: C max: Incomplete Due to injury dba: C- Sitting out 19 games probably hasn’t helped the 36 year old Hunter get into the flow. Pressed into service as the back-up PG, Lenz is shooting better than Flip from two, but worse from 3. (Other than that Flip has better numbers across the board.) Hunter still brings disruptive defensive energy in short stints, but the days when he can be productive running a team for 13 MPG seem to be gone. jammertime: C I was tempted to give him an incomplete for missing so many games, but it probably didn’t make much of a difference on his stats. He is what he is, an old, situational defensive specialist that should never touch the ball on offence. This team needs a true backup PG so Hunter can stop pretending to be one. That’s not a shot at Hunter, I actually really like him. But like Murray, he’s playing out of position and over his head Dumars4Ever: C You gotta love his hustle and effort, and he can still make some noise on D, but man is he a liability on offense. Let's remember that he has (I think, I remember hearing this in the last couple of seasons) the lowest FG% in playoff history of anyone who's ever played in the NBA (31% for his career). The offense grinds to a halt with him at the point. It seems like he can still contribute OK if someone else is handling the ball; maybe the bench could be more effective on O with Delfino playing point forward. I'll always love Lindsey for his effort and for being such a likeable guy, someone you can really enjoy rooting for, but I don't think he's been that much of an asset on the court since winning a ring with the Pistons in '04. Luke Slippywalker: C Hasn’t been as effective on defense as last year and has been a lot worse on offense. He’s still an important piece but for God’s sake, get the ball out of his hands. Dale Davis Overall grade: B- max: C+ Had some good games there for a while when it was looking like he would be a factor this season. Still can't knock him too much. Never complains and gives us much needed depth up front. Better not let him get too rusty as Flip may be calling on him in the post-season. dba: Incomplete Looked good a time or two, and not all those were in a suit. Maybe he can still contribute for more than a couple of minutes at a time, maybe not, maybe we'll never know. jammertime: B I like what Davis brings to the table; toughness, shot blocking and rebounding. He just doesn’t get a chance to bring it very often. Dumars4Ever: B The Big Tazer has done a pretty good job hitting the boards and thugging it up when he's gotten some PT, although he's been on the bench for a while now. One thing he needs to stop doing when he gets in there is shooting jumpers from around the foul line, which he ALWAYS misses--there's a reason other teams leave him open from there. From what we've seen of him this year, it looks like he can still be helpful against Shaq in the playoffs. And you gotta love that play where he threw Nenad (I think) to the ground against New Jersey without getting called for anything, which Roscoe claimed to have rewound and watched at least 5 times on the game tape. Luke Slippywalker: B- When he plays, he gets the job done. Defensive presence. Rebounding. I wish he would play more but we have too many bodies in the frontcourt. Will Blalock Overall grade: C max: C Not too impressed but he still is potentially in the mix at some point in the future. Held his own somewhat against other NBA points when given the chance. I really do not expect to see Blaylock get more serious PT this year. dba: C- Pressed into service before he was ready, Blalock played like a late second round pick. But, he did manage to provide the same number of assists per game as Hunter in similar minutes. He doesn’t seem to me to have the quickness someone his size must have to stay in the league. jammertime: Incomplete Blalock did get some burn when CB was out, but I didn’t get to see any of those games, so it’s an Incomplete from me. Why isn’t he in the D League again? Dumars4Ever: C Will showed some decent handles when he got a chance to play earlier this season, but he had no jump shot at all, and very little ability to finish in the lane. I hope he can at least stay in the league, but I don't know if it's going to be here. He'll be expendable if the Pistons draft a PG this off-season, which I'm guessing they probably will do. Luke Slippywalker: C- Got an extended look while Billups and Hunter were out but proved that he needs time in the D-league. Pushes the ball well. Passing is ok. Scoring is not at NBA level at all. Could be a good backup in the future but right now is merely an asset for the future. Ronald Dupree Overall grade: B- max: B- Could give him an Incomplete Isn't this what most of us expected? He was brought in for depth only as an insurance policy. And thats what he has been doing so far. dba: Incomplete Probably plays hard in practice and always sits at the end of the bench without complaining. And wouldn’t hurt all that much if an injury forced him to play some. jammertime: Incomplete SuperDNP is a nice dresser. Dumars4Ever: C (I guess? What can you grade this guy for?) What, you gonna hate on the wardrobe? This man knows how to dress when he's on the bench! Which is, well, every single game... On a serious note, there was a brief period where Flip was putting Dupree in the game as a defensive sub in the final seconds of some quarters, and even the final seconds of some close games, but that seems to have been a brief thing that didn't last very long. Luke Slippywalker: B Who else can sit at the end of the bench so well. Amir Johnson Overall grade: Incomplete max: Incomplete Has not played yet when the game has mattered. dba: Incomplete Either the next big thing or out of the league in two years, but most likely somewhere in between. He’s shooting 100% from the field and would average 31 boards a game projected up to Wallace’s minutes. Seems like a nice kid even if his height seems to vary by inches a week. jammertime: Incomplete Incomplete because he hasn’t played and also because other team’s scouts may be reading this… Dumars4Ever: Incomplete He still never plays, but apparently he looked good in his brief D-League stint. Luke Slippywalker: A I haven’t seen anything bad from him. In fact, I haven’t really seen him at all. Flip Saunders Overall grade: B- max: B Been doing a good job juggling things with all the changes. I like his evolving zone/man-man D mix. Pistons have been playing great lately and it will only matter in the end. I do still have hopes for this year. dba: B- 24 and 17 after 41 games, 6 and 1 since doesn’t seem too shabby for a team losing the four time DPOY. The starters still play too many minutes, but the bench is getting some development, and I’m not sure even the algebra of Solomon would break up the six big men / 96 big man minutes per game logjam. Everybody can’t play. I have to call the zone an unqualified success and the offense ain’t shabby either. jammertime: B- Their record isn’t bad, but I still don’t like Flip as a coach. The only way I even notice Flip at the games is because of his neck tick. No in-game adjustments, no control over his players, horrible use of timeouts, atrocious rotations/bench usage and he has a big ugly nose. Dumars4Ever:B- In terms of the rotation, Flip has made a couple of adjustments for guys who didn't play much in previous seasons--Delfino is consistently in the rotation now, and JMax has at least gotten a chance. Nazr and Flip Jr. are completely out, after being in it for several months, and there's still the question of whether Dale will play at any point before meeting Shaq in the playoffs. There might be some more adjustments if Joe can move one or both of those guys in the next week. As far as the starters' minutes go, Rip, Tay, and Chauncey are averaging 1-2 more minutes per game than last year, but Sheed is averaging 1 minute less, so that's sort of a wash. Overall, I think Flip has done an OK job with the rotation, although the team's effort has been inconsistent. This starting lineup has a pretty good chance to succeed with his system, and they've mostly played very well since CWebb came to town. But we know that it's all about the playoffs, and until we see this team play up to its potential and at least reach the finals, the coach can't get higher marks than this. Luke Slippywalker: C+ I get the impression that the plays aren’t run to empower the players, the players play to empower the playbook. We don’t play guys to shake things up or exploit mismatches, we play guys to make the system work. Its all about the system. The offense is not as efficient as it was last season but its effective enough. The team has shown a variety of attacks and the bench is getting some burn. The defense can shut down Wade and Lebron. Rather it can discourage either from getting to the basket. I want him to stop yapping about playing time and just get on with it.