Starting Five: PG Brandon Jennings, SG Rodney Stuckey, SF Josh Smith, PF Greg Monroe, C Andre Drummond
Key Bench Players: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PG Chauncey Billups, PG Luigi Datome, G/F Kyle Singler
Notable offseason additions: Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Chauncy Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luigi Datome
Notable offseason subtractions: PG Jose Calderon, PG Brandon Knight, PF Jason Maxiell
FACT OR FICTION: With the additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, the Pistons will earn a playoff spot in the East.
FACT. This team looks much different from last year, and, before we get into why or what that means, lets just understand that different is better for Detroit. Last year was ugly. Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Pistons had 1.5 NBA caliber players on the roster in Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince (Prince doesn’t weigh enough to count as 1 player). The hope was that Andre Drummond would prove to be NBA caliber too. Well, Drummond struggled with some back problems, but he certainly showed plenty of potential. Then he dominated the Summer League, posting 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.0 blocks while shooting 51.2% (generally, summer league stats are worth little, but as a Pistons fan I’m allowed to say things like “Did you see Drummond this summer? Incredible. Definitely having a breakout season, 25/15 at least. The Pistons are so exciting, you gotta watch. Probably the 3 seed in the East”). So back in July, even with Prince gone and Jose Calderon in Dallas, the Pistons already had two NBA caliber players. Wild.
And then they signed a third? And traded for a 4th? You mean Detroit’s expected starting lineup includes at least four players who….are actually considered starters? This is our best season in four years and we don’t even have to play it.
Josh Smith made the most headlines, signing a 4-year, way-too-many-million dollar deal and clogging up the paint nicely for a team that already has two talented bigs in Monroe and Drummond. Smith will play the 3-spot, use his passing skills to feed Monroe on the block, and keep defenses honest with his outside shooting. That’s the good part. The bad part is Smith doesn’t have any passing skills, and while he’s good at
shooting attempting 3s, he’s good at missing them too. But you can’t be mad at Joe Dumars. He had a bad team so he went and signed a good player (at the very least, Smith is a good defender, a quality any team is happy to have). J-Smoove doesn’t seem like the best fit for the building process that had already begun, but he’s a big name who adds some defensive versatility, hope, and probably a handful of highlights.
And Dumars didn’t just bring in the big name, he brought hope to a depressed fan base with several other promising moves: the signing of Luigi Datome, Italian League MVP and sharpshooter, trading a disappointing Brandon Knight for a potential All-Star PG in Brandon Jennings, and signing veteran Chauncey Billups. Datome won’t be a 30 min/gm player, but he provides shooting that this team needs desperately (and he looks like Joakim Noah but he does things people like). Billups wasn’t brought in to play tons of minutes, but he’s a well-known and well-liked leader whom Detroit fans will love having back. Plus a young, erratic Jennings will benefit just from being around a guy like Chauncey.
Mo Cheeks is in as the new head coach – Lawrence Frank was a good coach in a bad situation; he had no chance. Once Jose Calderon left as a free agent, the Mo Cheeks move was far from inspiring. Yes, Cheeks did some good work helping to develop a raw Russell Westbrook, but expecting him to do the same with Brandon Knight seemed like a stretch. Now, with the Knight/Jennings trade, Cheeks seems more like a step forward than a step sideways. And if you still want to dislike Cheeks, fine, but he did just add Rasheed Wallace to his staff. Wallace is a lot of things, a good coach may not be one of them, but won’t it be exciting to take the over on Sheed breaking his record 41 techs in one season? “Josh Smith is a disaster but Sheed’s got 23 T’s and it its not even Valentine’s Day!”
The bottom line: Joe Dumars has stirred up plenty of questions: Can Smith play the 3? Can Jennings be a pass-first PG? Can the Monroe-Drummond-Smith trio stay on the floor as a productive unit? If a young girl has trouble singing the National Anthem at a Piston’s home game, will there be someone in the arena to help? No one knows if this team will shine or stink and honestly, Piston fans don’t care. Why? Because they aren’t the only ones asking the questions. Instead of reading about Detroit’s training camp on nobodycaresaboutthepistonsbutus.com, fans can read about it on ESPN. USA Today ranked the Pistons as the 6th most watchable team going into this season. We are almost relevant again!
Best case scenario: Sheed forces the NBA to extend the “X Technicals and you get suspended” rule to coaches, Monroe thrives at his natural position (PF), and Smith and Jennings turn into the team-oriented players Atlanta and Milwaukee wanted them to be. The talent works well together and Detroit surprises a week Eastern conference, earning the 5th seed and winning a playoff game on their home floor.
Absolute Apocalypse: Smith and Jennings want to be play hero-ball, limiting Monroe’s game greatly and leaving no room for a balanced offensive attack. A disappointing record leads to some quitting on the defensive end, Dumars gets fired, and the fans demand Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drops the “-Pope.”
Expected outcome: A 42-40 record is good enough for the 7th seed, and while it doesn’t seem impressive to anyone outside of Detroit, Piston fans can see that this team is committed and talented. There are a few good years on the horizon.
3rd in the Central, 7th in the East.
Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series: