The 2016-17 season for the Detroit Pistons has become a stressful enigma. With a young roster struggling to gel and find continuity, they’re heading into the All-Star break with a 27-30 record.
Head coach and President of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy has been the mastermind behind putting this roster together. During his three seasons running the regime, Van Gundy hasn’t been shy on making necessary changes, especially at the trade deadline.
Given the current on-court struggles of the Pistons, there’s no question a lineup improvement is needed. However, don’t expect another splash by Van Gundy this coming deadline on February 23.
Coming into the season, Detroit’s franchise focal point was the pick-and-roll combo between guard Reggie Jackson and center Andre Drummond. Jackson missed the first 21 games of the season due to tendinitis in his left knee and hasn’t regained his All-Star caliber form. Last season, the 26-year-old was averaging a career high and team bests in points and assists but has now found himself as one of the hottest names in the trade rumor mill.
Jackson’s regression shouldn’t come by surprise given his injury, as well as an entire offseason for teams to gameplan for his style of play. Knee tendinitis is a recurring injury that continues to plague Jackson’s burst off the pick and roll. You also see more teams throwing more double-teams his direction forcing him to get the ball out quicker and take poor shots.
In terms of defense, that side of the ball has never been a strong suit of Jackson’s game. Now considering the knee tendinitis, that only makes life harder in a league full of dominant scoring point guards.
The team seems more in sync with pass-first backup Ish Smith on the floor, and they’ve expressed frustrations with Jackson on numerous occasions including the infamous team meeting in December and numerous public shots from Van Gundy.
Jackson has already been mentioned in trade rumors to Minnesota, and Andre Drummond has been reported as a trade option as well. Regardless of the rumors, don’t expect a big splash from the Pistons by the deadline.
Last season marked Detroit’s first postseason appearance since 2008-09. In the follow-up season, they’re currently in the eight seed and more than capable of moving up in the weak Eastern Conference. Teams in front of the Pistons like the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks have been just as inconsistent, and are beatable in a seven game series.
Sometimes too much activity from the front office comes off as desperate instead of logical. Blowing up a young team this early is a gamble Detroit doesn’t need to take at this moment, especially without getting equal talent in return.
When the team traded for Jackson in 2015, their former starter Brandon Jennings had torn his Achilles midseason leaving Detroit in dire straights of a new player. The Pistons aren’t currently facing anything of that magnitude. After giving Jackson a contract extension that offseason, he was deemed as a focal point of the franchise along with Andre Drummond.
Despite Drummond’s struggles defensively and at the free throw line, he’s still one of the best centers in the NBA averaging 13.9 boards and 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, which are both second-best in the league.
Reggie Jackson has also shown flashes of improvement. During the Pistons 6-3 February record, Jackson has shown his willingness to be a passer and better decision maker averaging only 1.3 turnovers-per-game. Detroit is at their best whether it’s Ish Smith or Jackson quickly moving the ball and getting their offensive weapons involved.
Outside of the on-court production, one of the biggest selling points for the Pistons is the new Little Caesars Arena. Trotting out a blown-up roster after hope and expectations of postseason runs will kill all excitement for the new venue.
So don’t expect any drastic changes coming from Van Gundy anytime soon. The team’s growing pains are evident but now isn’t the time for desperation. Detroit’s could use another veteran presence to help the young nucleus, but don’t expect it to come at the expense of moving Jackson or Drummond.