Previewing the 2016-17 Pistons: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, bench depth

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The Detroit Pistons have made great strides since Stan Van Gundy took over back in 2014, taking the team to their first playoff appearance last season since the 2008-09 season.  The Pistons were the No. 8 seed and faced off against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ended up sweeping Detroit and went on to win the NBA championship.

The Pistons may have been swept but gained valuable experience. This year, Pistons fans have a lot to be excited for in this young and hungry team. Here’re a couple of reasons to be excited about the upcoming season.

Emergence of Stanley Johnson

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Stanley Johnson was drafted No. 8 overall by the Pistons back in 2015. Johnson, being one of the younger players in the draft at age 19, Van Gundy planned on having Johnson be a project for the young Pistons team. Last season, he provided some important scoring coming off  the bench, averaging 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game. Possibly one of the more fascinating stats about Stanley happened during the playoffs against the Cavaliers, where he was hitting 52.2 percent of his shots from the field, including a cool 60 percent from downtown, compared to the regular season where he was just shooting 37.5 percent from the floor and a tick above 30 percent from three-point land.

With another year of developing his skill set, Stanley Johnson could be looking at his breakout season in the NBA.

Added Depth

While the Pistons may have their starting five set, we will be seeing a few new faces coming off of the bench this season. Pistons were able to acquire a backup point guard Ish Smith, who last season played with the 76ers, averaging 12.6 points per game while hitting shots at a clip better than 41 percent. With Reggie Jackson being injured to start the season, Pistons will be expecting Smith to play a huge role for them early in the year. Pistons were able to snag the Spurs fan favorite Boban Marjanovic this off-season as well. The 7-foot-3, 291-pound Marjanovic will provide the Pistons with some much-needed size off the bench. With his incredible post play and rebounding, he has all the critical attributes for backing up Andre Drummond.

While many fans are looking at Smith and Marjanovic to make the biggest impact off the bench this season, one guy to not forget about is power forward Jon Leuer. Leuer played with the Phoenix Suns last year, averaging 8.5 points in 67 games. Leuer is a very accurate shooter, knocking down nearly 48 percent of his attempts from the field over his five years in the league. Another quality about Leuer is the ability to shoot the three, shooting .382 last season, he will be one of the most reliable Pistons off the bench.

Rookie Henry Ellenson

The Pistons have had a ton of talent when it comes to their first-round draft picks — Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Stanley Johnson are all first-round picks who currently play important roles on the team. This year, the Pistons drafted a 19-year-old out of Marquette University, Henry Ellenson.

Ellenson is a power forward with a very impressive offensive skill set. His only season in college he nearly averaged a double-double with 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. His ball handling skills are very impressive, and he possesses a very smooth three-point stroke. He has a budding post game, with great hands and a soft touch, it will only be a matter of time until he becomes a force down low.

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Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy is one of the most exciting coaches to watch in the league. He is very animated and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Pistons fans know they can trust Van Gundy, who hasn’t missed a beat since taking over the Pistons back in 2014. He always gets the most out of his players. No matter who Detroit is up against, Van Gundy will always give the team a chance to win.

Pistons fans can always feel confident in every player when they step out on the floor.

Looking Ahead

This season will be the most important season since Van Gundy took over. We have a great starting five, but the bench held them back last season. Now with the moves made this off-season, the Pistons have a much deeper roster from top to bottom. Being in a weak Eastern Conference, do not be surprised if Detroit is able to improve on that No. 8 seed from a year ago and perhaps climb into the top six, or the top four even.