On Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets, Jason Maxiell was thinking in bunches of "six." The Pistons starting power forward, Maxiell's hustle-energy, soft mid-range jumper, and power-dunks earned him six rebounds, six blocks, and a season-high 18 points. Quick math, what's "six" multiplied by three? But what's most impressive about Maxiell's numbers is that, unlike previous seasons, he's been putting up comparable numbers to Tuesday night's stat-line in nearly all of the Pistons 24 games this season.
Maxiell is averaging 8.7 PPG, 1.7 BLKPG, and 6.7 REBPG in the first 24 games of this young season. Totals which are significantly higher than his career average of 6.1, 0.8, and 4.3. (respectively)
Maxiell has had 11 games in which he's scored 10 or more points, and three games where he's been at or over the 15-point mark. He's snagged 10 or more rebounds three separate times, with seven or more rebounds in six games. But what has given Maxiell a new type of "staying power" in the NBA's scope of relevance is the way he's taken his shot-blocking up a notch this season. Three games have seen Maxiell defend the glass with five or more blocks, six times has Maxiell recorded three or more blocks, and he's had a block in all but six games this season. That means Pistons fans have seen a Jason Maxiell block in 75-percent of the games this season. No wonder he's developing nicknames from Pistons commentator, George Blaha like "The Sultan of Swat." Nicknames that have been collecting dust since…Ben Wallace.
Don't freak out. We're not saying Jason Maxiell is the next Ben Wallace. Comparisons based on "potential," and that use the word "next" are usually reserved for young players. While this is Maxiell's best statistical season, it's also his eighth in the league. But because Maxiell's eighth season with the Pistons is shaping up to be his career best, why not compare Maxiell's first 24 games this season to the first 24 games in Ben Wallace's eighth season?
Ironically, Ben Wallace's eighth season was also his best as a professional– the 2003-2004 season. Besides the fact that the Pistons won an NBA Championship that year, Ben Wallace put up some ridiculous numbers in the 2003-2004 season. Wallace averaged 9.5 PPG, 3.0 BLKPG, and 12.4 REBPG for the 2003-2004 season. Through the first 24 games Wallace was averaging 9.25 PPG, 3.4 BLKPG, and 12.3 REBPG. Going further into the 24-game stats, Wallace had seven games with five or more blocks. "Big Ben" had only six games in the first 24 where he didn't grab at least 10 rebounds in the contest. Really, the only area where Jason Maxiell can compare is in the point column. Wallace only had 10 games with at least 10 points, Maxiell has 11 of those in the first 24 games this season.
So what was the point of this article? According to the stats, Maxiell at his best is only half the player Ben Wallace was. The point is to lend some perspective in regards to this current Pistons team, perspective that goes beyond Jason Maxiell.
Looking at the roster, there are only three players that could "potentially" be a part of a future Pistons NBA Championship team: Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond. (We're allowed to use the word "potential" with these three) Every other player on the roster is expendable, and as the season continues to take shape, Joe Dumars needs to realize that. Knight and Drummond are developing nicely so far, but it's way too early to say whether either of the two will ever be capable of being the number-one option on a deep, playoff-run team. Greg Monroe is a solid player, but at best would be a second option on such a playoff team.
Jason Maxiell is in a contract year, and really has no trade value because of that. But similar players, like the long-tenured Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey need to be dealt. In a trade, both players would most likely have value in the eyes of any GM looking to add solid bench support to a team that might be one or two compliment players away from making noise in the playoffs. The Pistons are in the midst of a re-build, and if it's going to work the Pistons must trade their remaining "Glory Days" players while they still have a hint of value around the league.
This article was a way of pumping the breaks on the "Sultan of Swat" shouts that come with no hint of sarcasm. While game day telecasts sing the praises of the Pistons roster, deal out nicknames, and talk about every little match-up the Pistons are "winning" while the score board says differently. George Blaha and Greg Kelser are Detroit basketball staples and are two great basketball minds, but fans need to truly understand where these Pistons players stand compared to the basketball product that used to take the Palace floor. The team is 7-17, and while there are bright spots on this team the only spots that should be reserved are the ones for Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.
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