Lions and Tigers and Pistons, oh my.
Lately Detroit’s basketball team has been an afterthought with the recent success of its hockey, football, and baseball team. Former Pistons great and general manager Joe Dumars acquired some critical pieces in a valiant effort for fans to "turn the other cheek" back towards basketball. Ex-Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks accepted the head coaching challenge to bring the storied franchise back to basketball glory.
Last season: The Piston finished with a regular season record of 29-53, finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Key Additions: Welcome back Chauncey Billups (LAC). Josh Smith (Atlanta), Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (R/Georgia), Peyton Siva (R/Louisville), Tony Mitchell (R/North Texas), Luigi Datome (R/Italy), Josh Harrellson (Miami).
Projection: 47-35 as a 6th seed in the East and 3rd in the Central Division.
Joe Dumars went fishing along Lake Michigan and was able to snag a disgruntled young buck in Brandon Jennings to be his point guard of the future. We all know the kid can light it up on offensively. I expect to see a transformation in his philosophy to be a facilitator and get his teammates more involved. This will be a huge test towards his team commitment. Since patience is a virtue, expect Jennings to continue to be perimeter oriented. When Monroe demands a double team, Brandon has the option to shoot if open, or penetrate. Pistons were rated in the last half of offensive team efficiency.
The other Lucky lefty brought in to join Monroe and Drummond down low is Josh Smith. I love the athleticism and the excitement he brings driving to the basket and blocking shots. As a capable scorer, Smith may not be the best player on the team, but he will have the biggest impact. Last year Detroit Basketball ranked in the bottom half of defensive efficiency. Defensively this team has potential to be great. Long and lanky athletes aside from Billups will make it difficult for any time to score down low. Think of Roy Hibbert’s impact of a rim protector in the playoffs last year. Smith was top 10 in blocks last season at 1.9 per game. Monroe and Smith were both in the top 20 in rebounds per game with 9 and 8 respectively. Drummond had 7.5 rebounds per game. Translation, it will be tough for opponents to out rebound the Pistons. If you protect the paint and rebound, you will win. The formula is as simple as that. Dare teams to beat you on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see Josh Smith play Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James straight up with all the help he will have behind him.
Bench play at this point is difficult to analyze. You have to imagine with the age and health of Billups, Stuckey will see "starters" minutes with the first unit. Rodney has to be the featured scorer in the second unit. Others have potential, but remain unproven to do it consistently. Will Bynum and Kyle Singler will also provide a lot of contribution to the second unit. Last year Singler showed some of his offensive tools driving to the basket and the mid range jumper. The bench by far is the weakest link on the team due to lack of depth. I would like to see a solid veteran
Central Division may be the best division to watch in basketball this year. Pacers come off reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and the Bulls welcome their former MVP back. Where does Detroit fit? I cannot image the Pistons finishing higher than 3rd in the Central. The East is much improved, but the bottom feeders are still going to be bottom feeding. Without a doubt, Pistons fans will be able to see some playoff action. This combination of players reeks of mediocrity. In year one of this group, they will be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. The lack of depth will bite them if a starter ever gets in foul trouble. Fouling is inevitable. Brandon Jennings will flourish by being more selective in his shots, instead of an isolation jumper. Expect his shooting percentage to be towards the best of his career. Is Josh Smith willing to have a similar "role players" mindset that was demonstrated in ATL? If the Pistons expect to be successful, Josh may be third or forth option on offense. Luckily his defense and rebounding Buckle up Motown, the ride may not be long, but it will be exciting to watch.