The Detroit Pistons were one of the most active teams in the league this offseason. After a string of disappointing years that followed the dynasty that came with players like Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, and both Ben and Rasheed Wallace, Joe Dumars and the rest of the front office went to work to get the franchise back on the path to wins. Bringing in Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups through free agency, as well as Italian Luigi Datome and acquiring Brandon Jennings via a trade with Milwaukee in which they gave up Brandon Knight could be upgrades, but all of them have their flaws. If the Pistons hope to return to the days when Larry Brown was leading them from the bench, egos will have to be checked at the door and offensive sacrifices will have to be made.
The biggest move this offseason was the signing of Smith, creates a potentially potent front-court. With talented young players Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond already firmly entrenched on the block, Smith adds a versatile player to act as a counter. Smith has the ability to play on the block himself as well as occasionally shoot the three. When he gets closed out on too hard he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim as well. His athletic ability leads to impressive dunks over essentially anyone in the league when he gets to the rim. The length and leaping skills that Smith has, lead to blocks, steals and rebounds; a fantasy players’ dream. Putting a player like Smith with a very good passer for a big man in Monroe means that Smith can focus on just playing on the offensive end and not worry about being a facilitator. During his career, Smith has averaged just 3.2 assists to go along with 2.5 turnovers. Taking the ball out of his hands in decision making positions will be a good thing for him and the team as a whole. A player like Drummond may have room to grow as a post player, but there is obvious talent to go along with an incredible physique. Smith should be able to play off of Drummond very well, getting open jumpers when Drummond kicks the ball back out and utilizing pick and rolls at times with Smith’s driving capability and Drummond’s ability to catch and finish. This could be a deadly combination at their size. However, Smith will need to accept a somewhat lesser offensive role and not put so much pressure on himself to become an All-Star. In Atlanta he would press and take shots that were not open, leading to empty possessions and the previously mentioned turnovers. There are some quality offensive players in Detroit and Smith is a talented defender when he puts that effort in. It will be in the best interest of the team for him to let the points and shots come to him within the flow of the game and become a true defensive stopper.
Brandon Jennings is another talented player the Pistons brought in this offseason to boost the 22nd ranked offense from last season. Jennings is a high volume shooter however, with poor percentages at 39% from the field and 35% from three. Those numbers should give fans a reason for concern when it comes to the overall offense in Detroit. With Jennings having the ball in his hands more often than not as the starting point guard, he will need to cut his 15 shot attempts per game if that dreadful ranking is going to be improved upon. If Jennings can check his ego as mentioned before, the Pistons will be better off in the long run. When there is a time to step up and be the leading scorer for this team, Jennings has shown the capability to be that player at times. When he goes into chuck mode, it has been detrimental to his teammates. Signing a veteran player like Chauncey Billups could have a great impact on Jennings. Billups is an unselfish player and has lead an undervalued Detroit squad to a title in the past. A mentor like him will help Jennings come to the realization that it is best for the team to pull back on his shot attempts and distribute the ball to the other capable players, and once again, find his offense in the flow of the game. With his ability to drive and finish, he should be getting to the free throw line and capitalizing on those essentially free points. The aforementioned big men will benefit greatly from a guard penetrating and dumping passes off to them for easy dunks and lay-ups. This not to completely put down Jennings game, he is a talented young player as mentioned, and has the ability to be that lead point guard the Pistons have been searching for since Billups left the first time. It is time for him to play within an offensive scheme and get others involved.
The rest of the roster in Detroit has plenty of talent as well. Jonas Jerebko has shown flashes of being a very good wing scorer and rebounder, but there is not a big sample size from him to project much right now. Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a chance to be a very good scorer and shooter off the bench. He was a very good player over his career at Georgia and made an unimpressive team a challenge to the other SEC schools. With the other bench guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum adding their scoring punch, the back-court positions look to be solid for the Pistons, at least when it comes to putting points on the score board. There is a need for someone to step up and be a distributor this season and one of these guards needs to adjust their games and fill that role. Rookie post player Tony Mitchell is a freak athletically and has the potential to be a good rebounder in the league, but with the other frontcourt players in the Motor City it is hard to see where his playing time will come. Italian import Luigi Datome is a long wing shooter and scorer with the ability to finish at the rim as well. He has improved steadily over his ten year career overseas and should be able to contribute points off the bench as well to a team that already ranked 7th in the league in that category last season. Kyle Singler came back from his stint in Spain last year and was a solid bench contributor as well, averaging 8.8 points and 4 rebounds per game. With those players rounding out the roster, the Pistons could see a better season than they have recently, if their stars live up to the expectations.
In the end, the success that will come to Detroit this season will be up to the new additions of Jennings and Smith to go along with the rest of the starters. There is a lot of gelling this team will have to undergo with players so offensive minded and selfish at times. If they can check their egos as stated above countless times, this Pistons team could battle for one of the bottom three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. In reality, they have not shown much in their career to give the hope that they can put the good of the team ahead of themselves. Projections for win totals contrast greatly, anywhere from the mid to upper thirties to a few games above five hundred if everything falls into place. The variables are just too much to have confidence in this team meeting their peak right now.