It’s finally back. DEEEEEEEEE-TROIT BASKETBALL!!! is here again, and the Pistons look to build on a successful 2015-16 that saw them get into the playoffs for the first time in seven years, only to be swept by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
As much as a sweep in any sport stings, that outcome was predetermined facing a juggernaut like the Cavaliers and will be small trivia once the rebuild in Detroit is finally complete. In just two seasons, coach and president Stan Van Gundy has taken Detroit from 29 to 44 victories, and has built a young, talented roster capable of sustaining and improving that success.
- The first step the Pistons took in improving after their playoff appearance was the drafting Henry Ellenson out of Marquette with the No. 18 pick and adding Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije in the second round.
- Guard Jodie Meeks was traded to Orlando for a second-round pick.
- The Pistons got free agency started by inking point guard Ish Smith to a three-year, $18 million dollar deal.
- Pistons signed forward Jon Leuer to a four-year, $42 million dollar contract.
- Pistons signed center Boban Marjanovic to a thee-year, $21 million dollar deal.
Reggie Jackson | 18.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 6.2 apg
Theman who runs the show for the offense will be sidelined for the first 15 games or so due to knee tendinitis.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | 14.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg
The Pistons quintessential “three-and-D” guy. If he can improve his play-making ability, KCP has the chance to be the second most valuable piece to the team moving forward.
Andre Drummond | 16.2 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg
The face of the franchise. The big man has improved in each of his first four seasons in the NBA, and still isn’t done molding his game yet. That’s scary.
Tobias Harris | 16.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.6 apg
Bringing Harris to Detroit might be the best move SVG makes in his tenure with the Pistons.
Marcus Morris | 14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg
Morris can do a little bit of everything, and has a shown tremendous and largely unexpected value to the Pistons since being acquired via trade two years ago.
Ish Smith | 12.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.5 apg
An effective starter for Philadelphia last year, Smith will lead the bench unit for the Pistons this year, and will have his chance to prove himself right out of the gates with Reggie Jackson missing the start of the season.
Stanley Johnson | 8.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 apg
As a rookie, Johnson’s energy and toughness earned him “fan favorite” status. Taking a big leap in his second year could accelerate the Pistons rebuild plans.
Aron Baynes | 6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.6 bpg
Perhaps the best backup center in the league, Baynes can be called on to put in some very effective minutes when Drummond doesn’t have it.
- Toughness: This Pistons team won’t back down from anybody. We saw as they played four very competitive games against the Cavaliers last year in the playoffs. Guys like Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, and Boban Marjanovic aren’t going to get pushed around by anybody as Stan Van Gundy looks to build a “Detroit tough” culture for years to come.
- Depth: What was really a debilitating weakness for the Pistons last year looks to be a strength heading into 2016-17. Adding Ish Smith and Jon Leuer was huge for a second unit that provided a significant drop off from the starters last year. However, a new bench squad that features Smith, Leuer, Johnson, Marjanovic, Baynes, and Bullock looks more than formidable.
- Three-point shooting: There’s a lot we can’t tell about this Pistons team on paper, but one thing we can bank on is that they won’t be a great three point shooting team. The best shooter on the roster is probably Caldwell-Pope and he hasn’t been able to find anything resembling a consistent stroke while he’s been in the league. In fact, the Pistons don’t have a single player on the roster that shoots the long ball at a clip that’s above 40%, and in today’s NBA, that’s a problem.
- Consistency: The Pistons were one of the streakier teams in the NBA last season, and could never quite keep their stride going once they hit it. That is expected to be of a young team, but now that the Pistons are a little more seasoned and have had more time to gel and develop, they should be a little more prone to peaks, and a little less prone to valleys in 2016-17.
47-35, 5th in Eastern Conference.
I think the Pistons are capable of more than 47 wins, seeing as how if not for two Memphis Grizzlies miracles, they would have had 46 wins last year, but Reggie Jackson’s injury is a concern, and while Ish Smith is more than capable of filling in as a starter, there will be a drop off. The Pistons also have a tougher division this year with the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Chicago Bulls all seemingly improving, and oh yeah, the Cavaliers are still in the division. Expect a better team on the court, even if they don’t get much better in the win column.