NBA CENTRAL PREVIEW: DETROIT PISTONS

By: Robert Magobet

Never forget: DETROIT BASKETBALL!

Now with that out the way, let’s get to business. The Detroit Pistons have the most question marks in a tantalizing Central Division for the upcoming 2015-16 NBA season.

For the Pistons, if questions are answered in the affirmative, fans can expect another year ending in a stalemate, but not really. If the pieces in this puzzle don’t fit—or can’t come together because of chemistry issues—this club is lucky to leapfrog a diminishing Indiana Pacers squad in the Central Division.

Detroit Pistons enthusiasts can expect security, the security of knowing your team is in a rebuilding age, so they must trust the process. Firstly, let’s take a look at head coach Stan Van Gundy and his philosophy.

According to Bleacherreport, Stan Van Gundy won 259 games in just five seasons with the Magic and took the team to the NBA Finals in 2009. So the notion Van Gundy knows how to build a respectable franchise is very much one held in high regard.

“Once he got here, with what was already going on, he could only do so much in a short time, but I think as the years go by it’s going to continue to be just more and more Stan—his imprint on it, the type of guys that he likes, more of just his demeanor and mentality,” said Pistons director of player development Quentin Richardson (via Detroit Free Press.)

Embed from Getty ImagesPiston fans should consider Van Gundy’s plan. Let’s compare his old Orlando Magic team to this year’s Pistons.

Van Gundy adopted his style in Orlando by using Dwight Howard to hold down the fort but also adding pieces like Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, and J.J. Redick, players who could shoot, stretch the floor, and open up driving lanes. The plan was simple: pass the ball down low to Howard or roll Howard to the rim—if that fails, kick the ball out to one of those leering snipers.

What did Van Gundy do to have the aforementioned Pistons comparable to a very competitive 2009 Orlando Magic team? As soon as he touched down in Motown, Van Gundy waived underachieving power forward Josh Smith, a move raved by Detroit faithful. He provided an explanation.

“We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of others players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future,” Van Gundy said in an NBA.com press release.

Calculated and uncalculated situations have planted the seeds for a Stan Van Gundy-esk team.

Greg Monroe, a solid power forward who averaged 14.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 0.6 blocks when playing for the Pistons, was in the top 30 in player efficiency with 21.2; however, he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks, a Central division foe.

Brandon Jennings, an upbeat, creative, ball-handling, scoring point guard, ruptured his Achilles tendon in January according to the Detroit Free Press—this propelled the Pistons to trade future second-round draft picks, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler for Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson.

Embed from Getty ImagesThe offseason transpired, and along came Ersan IIyasova, a power forward that can hit from downtown, who had been traded from the Milwaukee Bucks for former Pistons’ Caron Butler and Shawne Williams.

The Pistons signed Aron Baynes, and acquired power forward Marcus Morris, small forward Danny Granger, and shooting guard Reggie Bullock via a trade with the Phoenix Suns.

In the 2015 NBA draft, Pistons took Stanley Johnson with the eighth overall pick. Doesn’t this look like a new and young team?

Their roster is intriguing with young talent. Aside from Jennings and maybe Jackson, this team doesn’t have notable names that have proven they can provide on a consistent basis.

Detroit’s projected starting five for next season—Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Andre Drummond, and Ersan Ilyasova—have never played an entire season together.

According to Detroit Free Press, the team coming in has one of the youngest teams in the NBA with an average age of 25.4.

Two of the five starters, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova, are completely new to the team, let alone the starting lineup. However, two of the current starters, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, were in the top 75 of players who play at least 20 minutes a night, with a player efficiency rating of at least 17.2, according to basketball reference. Stats like that will give you hope if you’re a Pistons fan.

Still, how will these productive players fit in a Van Gundy mold?

Andre Drummond, a center drafted in 2012, is an athletic rim protector in the middle, much like Superman Dwight Howard. Averaging 13.8 ppg, 13.5 rpg, and 1.9 blocks per game at the age of 21 isn’t too shabby.

Drummond should work on his offensive skill-set by practicing his post-up fundamentals–if he does this–he will become a first year All-Star.

Embed from Getty ImagesAccording to NBA.com’s Synergy stats, Drummond scored only 0.69 points per possession last season. He is last among players whom posted-up 200 plays. This is very comparable to Dwight Howard, who also had to work exceptionally hard on his post-ups to get to where he is today.

The Piston’s perimeter shooting is better on paper. IIyasova and Morris can create space with their touch as shooting power forwards. Put down Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and, Jodie Meeks as players who can hit from downtown.

Reggie Jackson’s jumper isn’t consistent, but he was brought into push the tempo, run the pick-and-role, drive, and kick. Jackson can push the tempo like Jameer Nelson, but he can’t shoot as well.

But, Pistons’ fans should get ready for the relentless pick-and-roll machine of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. The new shooters on the Pistons aren’t the splash brothers, but expect a healthy dose of these shooters when defenders collapse on Jackson and Drummond.

Brandon Jennings is a player who can push the tempo and shoot; however, his me first mentality and lack of defense isn’t comparable to Jameer Nelson. Jennings won’t be available when the season starts. Growing concerns on how the crafty point guard may handle the backup point guard role behind Jackson remain imminent.

With all of the changes, it doesn’t take rocket science to note the Pistons have the potential to have a ceiling lower than any other team in the Central.

What does all this mean? It means unreasonable Piston fans may run amok. Reasonable fans see the changes Stan Van Gundy made merely as putting his imprint on the franchise, a process that is inevitable for something great.

The unreasonable fans will disdainfully see the changes to a team which has discernible holes. Considering the Pistons went 32-50 in a weak Eastern conference last year, with all the changes, these kinds of fans may look at the team with disgust and believe the team has a more than likely chance of ending up in the lottery in the 2016 NBA draft.

Overall, this team is still in the process of adopting Stan Van Gundy’s style of play. They are well on their way to accomplishing this with their exciting style of basketball—however—with this newly revamped roster— ruminating Piston fans can expect this team to stay at the bottom of the Central, while hopefully not adhering to the mindset of a rum-dum. This process will take a few years. With that being said, never forget: DETROIT BASKETBALL!

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