As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Detroit Pistons, who last year had a record of 29-53 and did not make the playoffs.
Team: Detroit Pistons
Coach: Maurice Cheeks
General Manager: Joe Dumars
2012-2013 Record: 29-53
Place in Conference: 11th
Leading Scorer: Greg Monroe, 16.0 PPG
Key Additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Luigi Datome and Maurice Cheeks
Key Loses: Brandon Knight
In a Central Division where every team made some sort of change, the Detroit Pistons may have made the most drastic. By swapping Brandon’s with the Bucks (Knight for Jennings) at the point guard position, the Pistons may have upgraded the position but at to-be-determined cost. They also added Josh Smith, the ultra-talented but difficult Josh Smith. They also replaced Lawrence Franks with Maurice Cheeks at head coach and also brought on Rasheed Wallace (yes – that Rasheed Wallace) as an assistant coach. This new look Pistons squad – with its gargantuan frontcourt, score-first point guard and new head coach – should be one to watch. Even if they don’t make the playoffs and there are more growing pains than big victories, a new era has begun in Detroit.
Strengths: The Pistons biggest strength may be their frontcourt and the flexibility it provides. Between Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith the top-three can either enable the Pistons to go big with all three of them on the floor or play smith at the four and use a smaller lineup. They also have some versatility in the backcourt, where the not only added Jennings but Chauncey Billups as well. They could either play those two together or use Billups to push/check Jennings.
There are also some intriguing names on the Pistons bench that I am looing forward to seeing compete at the NBA level. Tony Mitchell, a rookie from North Texas, was one of the favorite mid-level prospects and they should be able to bring him along slowly behind the trio mentioned above. And their top pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, should fit in nicely as either the starting two or one of the first players off the bench, especially if he can get in scoring groove early. Lastly, there is the wild card named Luigi Datome, a former Italian league MVP at small forward, if he sticks in the rotation right away, could the Pistons even more lineup versatility.
Weaknesses I really worry about the spacing on this team, especially when they decide to go big. Smith has the ability to shoot jumpers, but he’s not always consistent, while Drummond and Monroe are bar far more effective near the basket. Plus, the collectively free throw shooting of Drummond, Monroe and Smith is abysmal. The latter two both shoot in the 60 percent range, while Drummond bricked a woeful 37.1 percent last season. Late in games, they could be vulnerable to hacking when the game is close. Also, what kind of Jennings will show up? Will he be shoot first, knucklehead Jennings or will he show maturity and start distributing the ball more on a team where the bigs need consistent touches? And will the new imports – namely Caldwell-Pope and Datome – be able to come in and be effective right away? Lastly, Monroe and Drummond – especially Monroe – are horrid defenders. And with Jennings not a great defender himself, I see the Pistons being vulnerable to the pick and roll game These issues could define the Pistons season.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
I remain skeptical of this Pistons team. Will they be able to use Monroe, Smith and Drummond at the same time for long stretches? Will Jennings actually be an improvement over Knight? I see too many issues and question marks to confidently say this team will be anything more than average. However, due to the weakness of the Eastern Conference, I see the Pistons sneaking into the playoffs, with Drummond improving greatly and becoming a force in the middle. But, with all the question marks, this team could just as well be a disaster.