Prediction: 11th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 29-53
Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Significant Additions: G Jodie Meeks (free agent), G D.J. Augustin (free agent), C Aaron Gray (free agent), F Caron Butler (free agent), F Cartier Martin (free agent), G Spencer Dinwiddie (draft)
Significant Subtractions: G Rodney Stuckey (free agent), F Charlie Villanueva (free agent), G Chauncey Billups (retired), G Peyton Siva (waived)
Projected Starters: C Andre Drummond, F Greg Monroe, F Josh Smith, G Jodie Meeks, G Brandon Jennings (5.5/10): Drummond continues to make incremental progress on all fronts and it's important to remember that he's only 21. I just don't believe that Van Gundy would've taken on such a monumental rebuilding task if he didn't see Drummond as a future superstar.
Monroe signed his one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, signaling a lukewarm market for him. He's a versatile scorer, but just gives back what he gets on the other end and you can't win that way.
Smith was signed to a disastrous contract and rumors had Van Gundy trying to move him for Rudy Gay, and it's still possible he'll be shipped out at some point. I think they'd have been better off just renouncing Monroe and moving Smith to the four, but it shows you how little they believe in the other wings on the roster.
Meeks is a slight upgrade over Stuckey. The Pistons desperately need outside shooting and Meeks hit 40.1% of his threes last season, compared to 27.3% for Stuckey. Meeks' career percentage of 37.6% is also far superior to Stuckey's 28.6%.
Jennings remains one of the worst starting points in the league and shot a miserable 37.3% last year. They signed Augustin, who saved the Bulls last year when Derrick Rose went down again, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if he supplants Jennings at some point.
Projected Reserves (4/10): Augustin at the very least should be one of the better backup points in the league and Will Bynum provides a defensive option as the third guy. It's probably not an endorsement of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (39.6% last year with a 9.5 PER), the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft that the Pistons signed Meeks rather than promoting him to the starting job, but KCP does have some defensive chops and might turn into a specialist in that respect.
There's a glut of bodies at the three between Kyle Singler, Luigi Datome and veteran signings Caron Butler and Cartier Martin. Butler has the best outside stroke of the bunch, but he's creaky. Datome was a disaster in his first year in the league and he'll return to Europe soon if his second isn't much better. Singler's the best of the bunch and he figures to play in lineups where Smith slides over to the four, but the Pistons really need a better option here.
Jonas Jerebko is a decent energy guy at the backup four, but he's a bit undersized, so really Smith is Monroe's backup. Aaron Gray was signed to be the third big behind Drummond and Monroe and he has some offensive skills but isn't of much use in his own end.
Coach/Front Office (7.5/10): Van Gundy is a top-notch coach so the Pistons are fine in that respect. He'll get the most he can out of Drummond and find a way to field a competent offense and coherent defense. My concern, obviously, is his lack of front office experience and whether he'll spread himself too thin taking on the personnel role as well.
I liked what they did in the off-season for the most part, given their cap issues. Meeks and Augustin should help their backcourt, and Gray provides some frontcourt help. What hurt them was the lottery balls not falling their way, forcing them to give up what would've been the ninth pick overall to Charlotte. My guess is that Van Gundy will keep looking for way to unload Smith, if he can get something of value back for him. I just don't see him as part of the solution there.
Team Rating: 54.5 (2.5x starters rating + 1.5x reserves rating + coach rating) x 2 = 54.5
Did You Know: The Pistons may not have a great team, but they lead the league in fantastic names. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Luigi Datome. Hasheem Thabeet. Jonas Jerebko. Jodie Meeks. Cartier Martin. Spencer Dinwiddie. Heck, their coach is named Stan Van Gundy. Just a fantastic assortment.
With that, here's my team of fantastic names culled from the other 29 teams around the league:
C Mason Plumlee, Nets
PF Nene Hilario, Wizards
SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
SG Victor Oladipo, Magic
PG Rajon Rondo, Celtics
C Jusuf Norkic, Nuggets
C Bismack Biyombo, Hornets
F Thaddeus Young, Timberwolves
F Quincy Pondexter, Grizzlies
G Thabo Sefolosha, Hawks
G Alexey Shved, Sixers
G Patrick Beverley, Rockets
Finally, here's the best way to improve the names of the league's All-NBA team.
C Joakim Jerebko
F LeBron Kirilenko
F DeMar Durant
G Hasheem Harden
G Patty Paul