Monday, October 8, 2012

Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

Photo Edit by: Payton Wales

In this picture, you are looking at one half of the Pistons future. The other half? This guy:

In case you don't know who that is, that is Andre Drummond. After the draft, I believed the Pistons might have gotten the steal of the draft in Drummond if he indeed develops as surely the Pistons are hoping. Like Drummond, the Pistons are a work in progress with a veteran coach (Lawrence Frank) and some quality players (Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe) on the roster.

Detroit Pistons Roster - 2012-13

Team Roster
12Will BynumG296-0185Georgia Tech$3,250,000
5Austin DayeF246-11200Gonzaga$2,958,077
1Andre DrummondC196-10270Connecticut$2,356,320
24Kim EnglishG246-6200Missouri$473,604
8Jonny FlynnG236-0185Syracuse$3,414,720
33Jonas JerebkoF256-10231$4,500,000
7Brandon KnightG206-3189Kentucky$2,678,640
55Viacheslav KravtsovC256-11247$1,500,000
50Corey MaggetteG326-6225Duke$10,924,138
54Jason MaxiellF296-7260Cincinnati$5,000,000
32Khris MiddletonF216-7215Texas A&M$473,604
10Greg MonroeF226-11250Georgetown$3,217,680
22Tayshaun PrinceF326-9215Kentucky$6,764,045
25Kyle SinglerF246-8230Duke$1,000,000
3Rodney StuckeyG266-5205Eastern Washington$8,500,000
31Charlie VillanuevaF286-11232Connecticut$8,060,000
9Terrence WilliamsG256-6220Louisville$254,938

Additions: Andre Drummond (Draft), Kim English (Draft), Kyle Singler (Draft), Terrence Williams (FA), and Jonny Flynn (FA) and Corey Maggette (Trade from Bobcats)

Subtractions: Ben Wallace (retirement, Damien Wilkins (FA signed with Philadelphia) and Ben Gordon (trade to Bobcats)

If you are thinking that the Pistons haven't changed much, it's because they haven't. Other than adding Drummond, English and Singler through the draft, the other real momentous move of the off-season was to trade a protected 1st round pick and Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette. Why? Maggette's contract expires after this season, and Gordon's contract expires after the 2013-14 season. In otherwords, Detroit has enough flexibility to go out and play in the FA market if it so chooses. Will GM Joe Dumars and new Pistons ownership choose to do that? We shall see.

Greg Monroe
Greg Monroe has clearly shown through his first two seasons that he is clearly the future of the Detroit Pistons. Along with Drummond, Monroe stands to be the long term future. Unlike Drummond, Monroe is already a seriously producing big man who averaged nearly a double double on a Pistons teams that heated up as the season went along. After a shaky start at 4-20, the Pistons managed to go 20-21 the rest of the way and Monroe is a big part of that.

The greater question at this point is can Monroe take another step into All-Star performer every night? This season should go a long way (as with fellow 3rd year big man DeMarcus Cousins) in determining what Monroe's likely career trajectory is. Even if Monroe produces on a per minute basis as he did his sophomore season, there is a bright future for Pistons fans rooting for Monroe.

Andre Drummond
Since this is Drummond's rookie season, and Drummond is a long way from contributing and not likely to be the starter from the first day of the season, it is also true that Drummond is a big part of the Pistons future too. Because of that, while Jason Maxiell might get the nod over Drummond to start, Maxiell is also not likely to be a longer part of the Pistons future with only a year remaining on his deal. Which leaves Drummond's minutes, whatever they may be, a critical part of the Pistons season to see where they are at future wise. In the meantime, I'd be surprised if Drummond got more minutes than Andrew Bynum did at the beginning of his career.

If I were a Pistons fan, I'd hope for 75 games and 15 MPG for Drummond this season. Anything beyond that would be a significant bonus, and anything beyond that might mean that a lot of NBA teams underestimated how good Drummond could be. That said, I doubt Drummond receives more than 15 MPG right now. It seems too steep a hill for the 2nd youngest player in June's draft to climb at the moment. Andre Drummond is not as mature right now as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (the youngest player in June's draft).
Rodney Stuckey
Stuckey's career once seemed like it could culminate in (at least) several All-Star berths, but for the last few seasons has tapered enough and what remains is a solid NBA player who sometimes leaves quite a bit to be desired. On the other hand, Stuckey also posted his best TOV rate in his career, and posted his best WS/48 (that's Win Shares per 48 minutes) of his career too. If Stuckey can continue good health (Stuckey missed 11 games due to various ailments last season), and continue on the solid upward arc, the Pistons might have a solid SG for the future. Stuckey is one of a few veterans needed (Tayshaun Prince being the other) needed to provide the solid veteran presence the Detroit Pistons need if they wish to make the playoffs this upcoming season.
Tayshaun Prince
While Prince is a solid player who has never really been an All-Star, it's also true that Prince is a valuable member of what is an increasingly younger Pistons team that needs guidance and veteran know-how. While Prince is turning 33 next February, it's also true that Prince continues to produce at a reasonable rate for a veteran who is doing what he always does: Plays solid defense, score when needed, and do the little things that help the more prolific guys do their thing. That's been Tayshaun Prince his whole career. The question is now can the other young guys who are now in those roles actually provide those things instead of asking a guy like Prince whose strength is not balls out scoring to do that. If Prince can settle into his best role as a quality supporting cast member, it will mean the younger Pistons will have taken the reigns, and B) that the Pistons are a playoff team.
Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight, while being selected to the All-Rookie 1st team, did not have as good a season as the selection to the All-Rookie team might indicate. Knight was turnover prone, isn't a classic pass-first PG (although that's not as big an issue to me as it might be for others), isn't particularly efficient on offense, and on defense? No comment. Knight has the talent, but the question is whether or not Brandon Knight will develop into the player Dumars thought he would be when Knight was taken with the 8th overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft. How Knight performs this season, particularly in shooting (Knight did shoot 38% from 3 pt land last season which is pretty good), and in turning over the ball might determine how successful Brandon Knight will be in the coming years. In fact, other than Monroe and Drummond, Knight is the Pistons most valuable and important long term young player the Pistons need to perform well consistently if moving up in the standings is to happen. In fact, if the Pistons are to make the playoffs, it will largely hinge on Knight's continued improvement.
The Bench
The Bench which likely features Drummond, Jonas Jerebko, Corey Maggette, and Will Bynum could be a reason the Pistons have a chance to make the playoffs. Between that group is enough balance on two ends of the court to likely get enough production so that the starters aren't having to play mega minutes just to keep the Pistons in every game they are in. If the Bench can soak up anywhere from 80-100 MPG out of a possible 240 minutes every game, the Pistons should be in excellent shape to compete for a playoff spot. (If you took 160 minutes among 5 starters, that is roughly 32 MPG for each starter. There is no way that Jason Maxiell, for instance, is getting 32 MPG this season after averaging 22 MPG for the Pistons last season.)

Bynum's presence offers to be a significant addition to the G rotation should Brandon Knight stumble early or often. Jerebko is likely to be the bench relief for either Prince or Monroe depending on the situation, and I'm sure coach Frank will distribute minutes as needed or depending on the current situation (as all coaches do).
This team will go as well as Monroe, Stuckey, Knight and Prince can take it primarily. Additionally, because depth and production is always necessary in the NBA, the bench of Bynum, Maggette, Jerebko and possibly Drummond (if he is that far along) will be critical to how well the Pistons can perform as the season goes along.

Can the Pistons make the playoffs? I suppose they can. Other than the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls (yes they are making the playoffs IMO), Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, the East is wide open. Of the 3 remaining playoff spots, I would suspect that the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets grab them. So for the Pistons to make the playoffs, someone out of that group of eight must falter for the Pistons to get in the playoffs. Anything is possible, and I'm always hesitant to say no team can get in the playoffs before preseason has even started, but given how far the Pistons have to go to secure a playoff spot the likelihood of such possibility does not seem likely at this time.

On the other hand, given Detroit's flexibility in the 2013 off-season, it's quite possible that the real improvement internally is being seen for next off-season with the hopes that the young players currently on the roster (with another possible talented player in the upcoming draft) along with the cap room/flexibility the Pistons have could see real growth and long term improvement. There is a future in Detroit, but right now what exactly that future is still not yet clear. 

Do you disagree? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, in my email evilcowtowninc(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter (at)Kingsguru21.


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