The Detroit Tigers

by April 07, 2008

If someone has already written this, my apologies. I haven’t seen it, so I’ll assume I’m the first person in the entire universe to come up with this awesome theory:

The 2007-08 Memphis Tigers are the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Most of the hype around this Memphis team has understandably centered on its offense, this dribble-drive motion thingy that basically sounds like a gimmicky way of describing a team full of highly skilled kids who are willing and able to get to the basket whenever f*cking possible. It’s obviously working, too, though I’d argue that has more to do with the fact that, in Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts (who I must give Ben Osborne credit for bigging up relentlessly when he a slightly overshadowed high schooler), the Tigers have about the scariest college perimeter tandem I can remember. These guys are ridiculous.

But based on Saturday’s demolition of UCLA, it sure looks like the Tigers’ defense is what makes them so good as a team. This, obviously, is where my genius comparison does not work. Except that it does. Bear with me.

The ’04 Pistons were, of course, known as an amazing defensive team that was lucky to score 40 points a game. In fact, they had arguably the most efficient offense in the League: A sturdy, clever, super-clutch point guard who was happy to set guys up but could also drop 30 when needed; a relentless mid-range Reggie Miller clone at the two who seemed incapable of missing from 18 feet; a freakishly long three who killed with athleticism and spot-up threes.

Also, they had Rasheed Wallace.

Those Pistons were great defensively, but in the playoffs, it was their offense that most teams—especially the Lakers—couldn’t handle.

Flip that idea on its head, and you have the mirror image of the Memphis Tigers. And if you are confused by the physics of this exercise, shut up. Physics is for nerds.

Anyway. The ’04 Pistons were a great but probably slightly overhyped defensive team with a great and vastly underrated offense. The ’08 Tigers are a great but probably slightly overhyped offensive team with a great and vastly underrated defense. Is my point.

Beyond that, the comparisons are fun:

Derrick Rose is Chauncey Billups. Rose is averaging about 15, 5 and 5 this season. Chauncey averaged 17, 6 and 4 in ’04. Great offensive players who are even better than you thought. Both were more important than their numbers indicated.

Chris Douglas-Roberts is Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Ok, not really, but he’s at least a little bit of both of them. John Calipari has made the Rip comparison himself, but CDR’s length and matchup-nightmare status bring Tay’s ’04 breakout to mind. Plus, Chris is basically ambidextrous, echoing Tay’s unsettling lefthanded game. Also, these guys’ defensive length makes life hell for smaller opposing guards and wings, just like the Pistons’ perimeter guys did.

Joey Dorsey is Ben Wallace. This one’s too easy, as Dorsey’s 0-point, 15-rebound statline and disruptive defense against Kevin Love made abundantly clear. Joey’s also run his mouth more in the past 12 months than Big did in the first eight years of his career, but whatever.

Andre Allen is Rasheed Wallace. He’s not at all, actually, but he got himself suspended for the Final Four, so he must be a knucklehead. Hence, this comparison is flawless.

I could take the individual player comparisons farther—Willie Kemp is totally Lindsey Hunter! Look at their assist-to-turnover ratio! It’s so obvious!—but nobody really cares.

John Calipari is NOT Larry Brown, but he cites LB as a coaching mentor. So there’s that. Seriously though, Cal built this team himself, while LB inherited a team that was pretty much on the verge of winning something, then lucked into the midseason Rasheed trade. I try never to miss an opportunity to remind people of this. There, I’ve done it again.

Conference-USA is the ’04 Eastern Conference. Remember how the East’s overall weakness in ’04 was the reason so few people gave the Pistons a chance? As if they were playing the Western Conference All-Star team in the Finals, not just one talented but disfunctional conference champ? The Pac-10, ACC and Big 12 are all much much glamorous than C-USA, as they should be, and all of which has nothing to do with how the best team from one conference will fare agains the best team from another.

Worldwide Wes. You know what I’m talking about. Unless you don’t. In which case, it’s not important.

Feel free to add to this. Specifically, if you can figure out who the ’08 Memphis annoying superfan equivalent of Kid Rock with the ’04 Pistons is, you win $4.