The Detroit Pistons have been one of the most active teams in the NBA this offseason. Of course, that shouldn’t surprise anybody who suffered through the marginal talent base and boring, uninspired basketball on display in Motown the past few years.
But after a whirlwind offseason, Detroit is definitely ready to take a big step forward. The Pistons will feature four new starters on Opening Night, including the team’s big free agent signing – Josh Smith. The Smith signing had many NBA observers scratching their heads, and when president Joe Dumars traded for talented but jumper-happy point guard Brandon Jennings, the rumble of questions just got louder.
Jennings and Smith will start alongside the young frontcourt duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and a shooting guard to be named later. Other new faces include the returning Chauncey Billups, Italian League MVP Luigi Datome and lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the floor, and Maurice Cheeks and Rasheed Wallace on the coaching staff.
Will this new roster be enough to propel a team that hasn’t won more than 30 games since 2009 into the playoffs?Who knows. But the Pistons should be a heck of a lot more fun to watch.
The team is a rare mix of supreme talent and questionable fit. If it works, the Pistons could challenge for a five seed in the Eastern Conference. If it fails, Dumars will be looking for a new job. This season might not be pretty, but the Pistons should be on the top of everyone’s League Pass must-watch list. And here are five things to watch for.
1. Josh Smith’s shot selection. Smith is a talented player being asked to play out of position at small forward. It could lead to lock-down defense on the perimeter and a great passer on the wings. But it could also reinforce all the bad habits that prevent Smith from realizing his potential.
And Smith’s biggest flaw by far is his penchant for hoisting long twos and 3-pointers while only connecting at a 30 percent clip. With Drummond and Monroe owning the paint, Smith is going to want to settle for jump shots. Cheeks and the rest of the coaching staff cannot let him.
2. Andre Drummond’s ascension. On a per-minute basis, Drummond was having a historic rookie campaign before a back injury sidelined him. Going into his second season and poised to see a big bump in minutes, the 7-foot, 290-pound 20-year-old could cement himself as a dominant force as early as this season. Or he could regress from great to just very, very good with obvious flaws in his game.
Those flaws – no post moves, no jump shot, horrific free-throw shooter – are being somewhat overblown. Tyson Chandler has proven how effective a big man can be on offense without any post moves, and with Drummond’s rare athleticism, there is nothing wrong with just being a block-and-dunk machine. But Drummond set the bar awfully high for himself, and NBA watchers are curious what he can do for an encore.