Last season: 29-53, 4th Central Division (11th Eastern Conference), Missed Playoffs
Notable Acquisitions: G D.J. Augustin (free agent, CHI), F Caron Butler (free agent, OKC), G Jodie Meeks (free agent, LAL), G/F Cartier Martin (ATL), C Joel Anthony (trade w/ BOS)
Draft Picks: G Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado, 38th overall)
Notable Losses: G Rodney Stuckey (IND), F Charlie Villanueva (DAL)
Burning Question: How will Stan Van Gundy solve the Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond conundrum?
Simple, one of the three will be relegated to a role as a super sub at some point. Smith and Monroe seem to be the likely candidates considering Drummond’s relentless activity and tremendous ceiling. If either of them buys into a Sixth Man role, the Pistons might have one of the league’s toughest bench units.
A new world order is at hand in Detroit. As soon as the ball tips off in the Palace of Auburn Hills next week, Pistons fans are in store for the best season they have experienced in recent years.
And it is mainly due to the man they call Stan Van. Stan Van’s plan is to completely rework the culture with the Pistons around an intense defensive mentality and strong-inside out play. Not only does he have the personnel (Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings, etc.), he has the creative control to wheel and deal as the new President of Basketball Operations.
The immediate impact has already been felt. So far in the preseason, Van Gundy has sent perennial starters Josh Smith, Jennings and Monroe to the bench to begin the game. He’s searching for more floor spacing and shooting, so players like Caron Butler, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (avg. 5.9 ppg in 2013-14), D.J. Augustin, and Jodie Meeks will launch plenty of three-pointers.
It also means that one of either Monroe or Smith will come off of the bench as a devastating sixth man.
No offense to Maurice “I Gets Mo” Cheeks or John Loyer but Detroit finally has a powerful voice who demands a high standard from his players.
The key to Detroit’s success in 2015, however, will mainly fall on the backs of Jennings and Drummond. Jennings, an often maligned player due to his shoot first, second & third mentality, has shown flashes of brilliance as a playmaker. He had an 18-assist game back in January, which tied the franchise-record held by Pistons great Isiah Thomas.
Drummond, a double-double machine, has the ability to transform into a Dwight Howard-like presence in a couple of seasons. The tutelage of Howard’s former coach (Van Gundy) should do wonders for Drummond’s career.
Don’t count out Detroit for one of the final playoff spots in the East. If the past is any indicator for the future, Stan Van’s group will compete hard every night, bomb threes and win ugly.
It’ll be a work in progress initially but the Motor City could be revived by midseason.
Projected Starting 5:
The Film Room:
Some of the Pistons’ top players are suffering through a sort of identity crisis, if you will. For instance, three of their top guys, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and KCP, think they are sharpshooters.
To get better results from this trio, Stan Van should sit them down in film and show them tape of the following players:
Brandon Jennings needs to watch…Jason Kidd:
Like we mentioned earlier, Jennings is an above average player seeing the floor (avg. 7.6 assists in 2013-14). When motivated, he can dish out dimes in transition, half-court sets and on broken plays.
J. Kidd excelled as a pass-first PG who eventually developed into a respectable long range threat. If Brandon can tone down his chucking ways, it would lead to better shot selection and will open up more chances on the break and attacking the rim.
Josh Smith needs to watch…Scottie Pippen
If there is one guy in the NBA whose level of basketball IQ is in question, it’s Smith. We’re not saying he isn’t intelligent or skilled, he just doesn’t show it night in and night out.
Van Gundy should give him film on Pippen, one of the best and most versatile defenders on NBA history. Smith’s athleticism actually trumps Pip but he comes nowhere near him in terms of feel for the game and knowing how to pick his spots.
Though they have varying offensive repertoires, Smith can learn how Pippen used to play under control and not force the action on each possession. As a hybrid 3/4 (which Scottie would likely be in today’s league), Smith could do damage if he masters the intricacies of Pip’s game, on both ends.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope needs to watch…Rip Hamilton:
Hamilton, a 3-time All-Star and Pistons great, played tough defense and had a deadly midrange game. KCP, a “throwback player” in his own right, showed an in-between game in Summer League play this year, so the potential is there.
If he can learn how Rip used to get open coming off screens, it’ll make him that much more difficult to defend.
G/F Caron Butler: Butler still has a lot left in the tank. He averaged almost 10 points last year and was a key rotation player for OKC down the stretch.
Playing with the emerging Drummond and Monroe, he should get plenty of open looks from long-range.
Best Case: Drummond is named to his first All-Star team, Jennings is top-5 in assists, Detroit is top-10 in defensive efficiency and the Pistons sneak into the playoffs.
Worst Case: Smith, Jennings, etc. resort to their old, selfish ways, Van Gundy can’t get the lineups right in year 1 and the Pistons miss out on the playoffs for yet another season.
4th, Central Division (11th Eastern Conference), WIll Miss Playoffs
“I’ve got the power!”- Snap!