Who's New: F Stanley Johnson (draft), F Ersan Ilyasova (trade), F Marcus Morris (trade), C Aron Baynes (free agent), G Steve Blake (trade), G Reggie Bullock (trade), F Danny Granger (trade), G Darrun Hilliard (draft)
Who's Gone: F Greg Monroe (free agent), F Tayshaun Prince (free agent), F Caron Butler (trade), G John Lucas III (free agent), F Shawne Williams (trade)
Off-season Grade: C+.Monroe never meshed quite right with Andre Drummond but he was their most reliable inside scorer. Both Ilyasova and Morris might fit better on the roster. They're gonna need Johnson to give them something right away.
2015-16 Slogan: "Let's build a f---ing ball...club."
What Else Is New?: Not much with the Pistons, other than they're gonna have a new alternate jersey they're calling "Detroit Chrome." I call them "grey."
Your Likely Starters:
C Andre Drummond
PF Ersan Ilyasova
SF Marcus Morris
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PG Reggie Jackson
On the surface, it would appear that Drummond plateaued a bit in his offensive development last season. His field goal percentage dropped over 100 points. But Stan Van Gundy encouraged him to expand his offensive arsenal, and Drummond's attempts from 3-10 feet rose from 17 percent the year before to 29 percent of his overall field goal attempts. Drummond's never going to be Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing, but Van Gundy is willing to suffer through growing pains for a year or two so that his big man will have more game than, say, Dwight Howard. 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds a night from your 21-year old center is nothing to sneeze at, but Drummond's free-throw shooting remains an embarrassment. If he can't boost that to around 60, he'll never be taken seriously as a star.
With Monroe off to Milwaukee, Drummond will get almost all the inside touches now. Fortunately for him, he should have more room on the floor with Ilyasova in the lineup. The rangy Turk is a streaky shooter, injury prone and his rebounding has tailed off in each of the past four seasons, but pairing with Drummond should be mutually beneficial. He never had anyone like him with the Bucks.
Morris comes to the Pistons a bit disgruntled, separated from his twin brother Markieff. He's a bit of a tweener and a fringe starter. If Johnson, a natural small forward, shows anything early on, he'll take over the job and Morris will be used as an energy guy off the bench, which is his ideal role anyway.
Speaking of fringe starters, last season KCP showed marginal improvement in a couple of areas, like three-point shooting and cutting down on his fouls. But he still stand out at anything despite being given a much bigger role in the offense last year. If he doesn't come out of the gates hot he's going to lose minutes to Johnson too, and don't be surprised when Van Gundy uses Jackson and Brandon Jennings in the backcourt together when the latter gets healthy.
I wasn't a fan of the Jackson trade for the Pistons when they made it last year and I liked the $85 million extension they gave him even less. John Wall noted, dismissively, that Jackson makes more than him now. To be fair, Jackson played pretty well for the Pistons, and nearly averaged 10 assists per game for them despite never having a reputation for being a distributor. He does have extensive experience playing alongside a point guard, of course, and I'm intrigued by what he and Jennings can do together as twin combo guards mixing and matching.
Your Likely Bench:
G Brandon Jennings
F Stanley Johnson
F Anthony Tolliver
C Aron Baynes
G Jodie Meeks
G Steve Blake
F Danny Granger
G Reggie Bullock
Jennings was enjoying the best season of his career when he ruptured his Achilles midway through the season. He was recently cleared to resume basketball activities according to one report, but it'll still be a surprise to see him before 2016, and even then it'll take a month or two for him to play the rust off. The Pistons thought so highly of Johnson that they picked him over Duke's Justise Winslow. It may not mean anything, but he was excellent in the Orlando Summer League. Tolliver is strictly a one-dimensional player and his value is totally dependent on how well he's shooting threes. We'll see how not having Monroe in the post affects his chances. Detroit picked up our dear Baynesie for three years and $20 million and that's pretty good value with the cap set to skyrocket. "The Big Banger" has improved with more playing time the past couple years and he should thrive against the lesser bigs of the Eastern Conference. Meeks was a disappointment with the Pistons last year after playing really well for the Lakers in 2014. He's another guy who can get major minutes if KCP continues to fizzle. Blake and Granger are washed, but can be good mentors for the youngsters.
Your Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Van Gundy picked the Pistons because he wanted full control, but also because he believes in Drummond's potential. He's a proven coach and as a long as ownership is patient with him, I think he'll eventually build a winning team over there, perhaps even a contender. Van Gundy knows better than anyone that you need shooting and pace in today's game, and while they've added a little bit of that, he took a major gamble with Jackson. He really, really needs the Johnson pick to work out.
Bottom Line: The Pistons don't quite look to me like they have enough to make the playoffs, though I wonder what they can get for Jennings in trade once he proves he's recovered. If Drummond takes his game to the next level and plays like an All-Star, they can certainly sneak into the playoffs, but I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of a 10th place finish and a 35-47 record.
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