To start things off, the Pistons suffered a serious blow already this year with the injury to Reggie Jackson. It is expected that he will return this season, but Jackson will surely be missed early on. Still, this team is coming off a playoff berth as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference last season. There is much to be excited about in Detroit, especially when it comes to Drummond, but it won’t be easy to make a repeat run into the postseason.
The Eastern Conference is still extremely top-heavy, but the middle and the bottom of the conference are rising to become much more competitive. Excluding the 76ers and the Nets, 13 of the teams in the conference have a legitimate chance to make playoffs. Although highly likely it is the Cavaliers that represent the conference in the Finals, there is immense pride and experience that can be gained from making the playoffs. Without further ado, let’s see what the Pistons have in store.
With Jackson out for the next 6-8 weeks, Ish Smith will be taking over the duties of being the starting point guard. Having started all 50 games he played with the Philadelphia 76ers last season, he should be comfortable with the work load. He is a fairly decent scorer, 14.7 points per game last season, but he finds his niche in playmaking. Smith dished out around 7 assists per game, and that will be very valuable to this roster.
The former top-10 draft pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has developed into a respectable player. He has started every game for the Pistons in the last two seasons and is looking to improve yet again.
In his first 27 games with Detroit last season, Tobias Harris looked like he found a great place for him to be. He thrived as a secondary scoring option and with his size, he is very effective at both forward positions. With Drummond down low, Harris has plenty of room to operate and work all over the court.
For the first time in his career, Marcus Morris was a full-time starter last season. With this on his side, Morris delivered the best season of his career, getting his PPG over 14. With the balanced scoring the Pistons already have, it is unlikely that Morris will see another major increase in scoring, but his efficiency can see an uptick.
At the center position stands Andre Drummond, the focal point of the team. Drummond is one of the best centers in the league and his presence is felt tremendously on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. He has improved every season in the league and after grabbing 14.6 rebounds per game last season, it is not out of the question for him to go over the 15 a night mark.
Stanley Johnson does everything off the bench for Detroit. He is an outstanding defender and was very effective in his rookie season. For a 19-year-old, Johnson’s statistics were pretty good and his production should increase this season. His field goal percentage of 37.5% was rough, but that leaves room to move up.
With Drummond and Marjanovic manning the middle, a stretch-4 is the ideal fit in Detroit. And that’s where Leuer comes in. Perhaps the most underrated free agent signing this offseason, Leuer strikes the three at a 38.2% clip and averages a double-double over a per-36 minute basis.
Boban, Boban, Boban. Who doesn’t love Boban? The 7’3″ second year player is stepping into his role as Drummond’s back-up this season after signing with the team this summer. He didn’t have an outstanding rookie season, but a lot of that can be attributed to a limited number of opportunities. His per-36 numbers are great and if he can keep that production up, he’s in for a good year.
With Drummond and Boban on the roster, it is hard to imagine the Pistons struggling in the rebounding department. Their giant frames and strong ability to grab boards can only lead to good things in that aspect of the game. The Pistons finished 2nd in the NBA in total rebounds last season, and they add both Leuer and Boban to that roster.
They were also very good at limiting three-pointers by their opponents. They allowed a fair percentage from out there at 35.5%, but they didn’t let their opponents shoot many either. Teams that faced off against Detroit shot and made the second least threes in the NBA last season. With their interior and exterior defense, the Pistons could become one of the best teams in the league on that side of the ball.
When in the playoffs, free throw shooting is key, and the Pistons are horrible there. A lot of this can be attributed to the abysmal shooting of Andre Drummond, but a team 66.8% free throw percentage is just awful. They will need to pick this up in order to win close games and sneak back into the playoffs.
They could also do with making a few more three-pointers. They attempted a fair number of shots from deep, but only made 34.5% of them. Drafting Henry Ellenson and signing Jon Leuer are steps in the right direction, but they will need more production behind the arc from KCP and Stanley Johnson if they want to rise up the ranks in that category.
With the East getting better, it is hard to say where the Pistons end up this year, but they will probably finish on the edge of making and missing the playoffs. They won 44 games last season, and there isn’t much from their offseason showing that they will win more or less than that.
Depending on the health of Reggie Jackson, it will be difficult to get to the same level that they played at last season. I think that the team will likely finish with around 38-42 wins and miss the playoffs by a game or two. Adding playoff experience to a young roster would be good, but I just don’t see it happening for the second straight year.