During free agency this summer the Pistons made two big splashes in hopes of seeing the franchise regain the championship form it has seen a few times in its history. The first signing, Josh Smith from Atlanta, really fills a need for Detroit. Smith is a super athletic wing and a well known name for most professional basketball fans, something that they have needed since Ben Wallace moved onto Chicago and Chauncey Billups was traded. The other big move made was the trade of Brandon Knight and some other ancillary parts in return for Brandon Jennings. Jennings is the move that could make or break the Pistons hope for that return to prominence, as he will be the player controlling the ball more often than not. He will have to make some adjustments to his game from what we have seen from him throughout his short career however if the playoffs are going to return to the Motor City.
The adjustments Jennings will have to make come in terms of deferring to teammates at times and becoming a better distributor of the basketball. While in Milwaukee, Jennings was mostly a score first point guard to go along with Monta Ellis in the backcourt. During his career Jennings has averaged 5.7 assists per game to go along with 2.4 turnovers in just over 34 minutes per game. For a point guard these are not the numbers one would expect, even with his role in Milwaukee as a part of the one-two scoring punch with Ellis. In Detroit he will most likely be counted on to control the ball once again, as Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum are not starting point guards on the level of Jennings and though Billups has returned, he is not the player he was during his first stint with the organization. Peyton Siva was brought in as well in the second round of the draft but he is not going to see much playing time over the other guards on the roster. The rest of the talent in Detroit needs the ball as well.
Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are all players that will need to see touches for the Pistons. We are all aware of Smith’s great athletic ability, catching lobs for dunks and chasing down players from behind for blocks, but he is not the catch and shoot type offensive player that can get Jennings out of jams that Ellis could, preferring to go one-on-one and control the ball himself. If he does not see the touches he is looking for on the offensive end he has let his frustrations be heard in the past. Jennings will have to look to defer to Smith if they are going to work well together. Monroe and Drummond are not the type of players that Smith has been in his career, but they both deserve their fare share of shots as well. Monroe has the potential to be a very good mid to high post player in the league. Playing in Georgetown’s Princeton offensive, he became a very good passer, has decent range on his jump-shot and a growing variety of post moves, even though this is not his strong suit right now. With Monroe becoming a restricted free agent at the end of the season, he could be looking for an increased offensive output as well. Drummond is a young and raw yet very talented center out of Connecticut. He is a very good fit in the post with Monroe’s passing ability. Drummond can play down low and Monroe can play at the free throw or higher and dump the ball down to Drummond without anyone being cramped. Jennings will enjoy having Drummond in potential pick and rolls, with his catch and dunk ability at least on par with Smith. While Drummond still has plenty of room to grow offensively, if he doesn’t get the touches he needs that growth will not come. Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is another player that could see enough playing time to demand shots in the offense. He could be that catch and shoot player that Jennings will need when he inevitably gets himself into trouble driving the ball. KCP was the main offensive threat for Georgia last season but in the league he has the potential to be a very good shooting guard, taking some pressure off of the players I mentioned previously.
Overall the fit for Jennings is not a great one on paper. Bringing in a shoot first point guard to a team with other mainly offensive minded players is not going to mesh very well. If Jennings is going to keep his teammates happy and contribute to a balanced offensive attack, he will have to make changes in his game. The big question is can he realize that these changes are in the best interest of the group as a whole or will he try to do too much to justify the contract he got from the organization? This is by no means a slight on Jennings’ ability as a player. He is a very good scorer and if he was put in a situation where he could focus simply on just that he could be a great offensive player. However it seems that he will be looked at to run the team in Detroit and it just does not fit his talents. While Brandon Knight may not have shown his abilities as a distributor during his time with the Pistons, averaging around four assists per game, he would have been a better fit for this team than Jennings. He has shown improvement in the league at running a team and eventually could grow into a proto-typical lead guard. In the end, it is up to Brandon Jennings himself as to whether this trade works out. If he realizes that running the team from a playmaking stand point is the better option than trying to score for him, then the Pistons could meet their potential and fight for playoff positioning this upcoming season. If not, the Pistons could be stuck in the quagmire they have been for the past few years.