Pistons season preview brings hope

For the first time in a long time the prognosis for the Pistons season looks optimistic.  With a big free agent splash, continued development of the young studs and a solid draft has led to a lot of local and national buzz about this team.

First, the Pistons won the bidding war for free agent Josh Smith with a 4 year, $54 million contract.  Next came the NBA Draft, where Joe Dumars surprised everyone by taking shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the 9th pick.  Detroit also picked up potential lottery pick Tony Mitchell in the second round (37th) who fell due to lack of consistent play during his time at North Texas.  Peyton Siva barely made the roster after being drafted 56th overall, but more on him later.

Chauncey Billiups made his return to Detroit as well this offseason, signing a two-year deal with the team as well for depth at both point guard and shooting guard.  Dumars then made another deal, trading Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravstov to the Milwaukee Bucks for Brandon Jennings.  The team then signed Jennings to a 3 year, $24 million contract to complete the transformation of this team.

Add all of this to the current core of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and this team should be at the very least, exciting.  This could either be the Lob City version in the East, or a poor shooting team that can’t break 80 on a give night.  First, a little more in-depth at each position.

POINT GUARD

Brandon Jennings was brought in to be the point guard of the near-distant future with the three-year deal.  But he will start the season injured for the first week of the season due to an issue with his wisdom tooth and a hairline fracture of his jaw.  Jennings will need to become more of a distributor than a shooter on this team for the Pistons to have any success.

In his place to start the year will likely be Will Bynum.  Bynum has the ability to be instant offense if his shot is on, and if it’s not he can be a mess on the court.  Siva is the third point guard and has a chance to get some real minutes the first few games without Jennings to show the coaching staff what he can bring the team.

Chauncey Billups will play both guard spots and will be a calming presence late in games with the ball in his hands and still has the potential to hit the big shot.

SHOOTING GUARD

The starting position should be Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope’s at the end of the season, but as he develops the role should go between himself and Chauncey Billups in the starting five.  KCP has the potential to be a great three-point shooter and a lock-down defender once he learns the NBA game.

Rodney Stuckey will also get some time at the shooting guard position as long as he is still on the team.  Dumars will likely look to move him to anyone that would take him right now.  He is also injured after getting his thumb caught in a car door and breaking it, not a good sign for his season already.

SMALL FORWARD

Josh Smith is better as a stretch-four, but with Drummond and Monroe he slides into the three for the Pistons.  Smith took a lot of bad shots as a Hawk and will need to play closer to the hoop to have success.  His presence with the other bigs could call for a major spacing issue for the team, but with his talent it is a chance that Joe and the Pistons had to take.

Backing him up currently is Kyle Singler, another 3 and D type player as well. But the wild card of this group is Italian League MVP Luigi Datome, considered one of the best shooters in the Italian League.  Datome has been out all of the preseason with a groin injury so Pistons fans and management will have to wait to see him in his eventual debut.

POWER FORWARD

Greg Monroe looked like a superstar in the making after his rookie season but his numbers were stagnant last season.  Monroe has a lot of talent and a ton of heart, but his limitations will hold him back.  He isn’t a great athlete and he doesn’t defend all that well, but he has a great basketball IQ and is one of the better passing big men in the game.  He worked this offseason on developing a jump shot outside the paint and if he can become consistent it will be a real weapon on this team.

Jonas Jerebko is the main backup, a stretch-four who plays even less defense and can’t rebound real well, but he has a decent shot and again a lot of heart and smarts.  Rookie Tony Mitchell is an athletic freak who can jump out of the court.  He admitted not giving his all during his time at North Texas, which caused this lottery-pick talent to fall to the second round.  If he can be nurtured and developed he could be a great steal for the Pistons, and hopefully having a non-guaranteed contract will continue to be a motivating factor.

CENTER

Andre Drummond is the second best center in the NBA, barely a second to Dwight Howard.  At age 20 his ceiling is still incredibly high and the Pistons have barely scratched the surface of this guy.  He still doesn’t have much of a shot and can’t hit a free throw to save his life, but he has all the talent and time in the world to develop those skills.

What he does have is an incredible amount of athleticism, great defensive talent, high basketball IQ and a desire to be better.  The Pistons will go as far as Drummond will take them, that’s what the best player on the team is supposed to do.  If he can stop taking bad fouls that cost him time on the court and start to hit some free throws so a Hack-a-Drummond policy doesn’t start late in games, then this team has a chance to be great.

Josh Harrellson is his backup, a big bodied guy who can take up space in the lane and do the dirty work the team asks of him.  Monroe could slide over to play the five if Drummond has to exit early, which would allow Josh Smith to slide to the four.  Hopefully for the Pistons this isn’t a scenario that happens often if this team is going to be successful.

COACHING STAFF

Out with Lawrence Frank after two seasons and in with Maurice ‘Mo’ Cheeks.  This is the third head coaching stop for Cheeks, after time with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers.  His current record is 284-286 as a head coach, but he has had a lot of experience as a former player and assistant coach under Larry Brown and Scott Brooks.

Cheeks added former Piston Rasheed Wallace to his coaching staff as an assistant to help tutor the young bigs on this team.  I’m sure coach Sheed will be just as vocal as Sheed on the court, so here’s hoping it doesn’t cost the Pistons anything.  At the very least it should be entertaining to watch.

PREDICTION

The Pistons have gotten a lot of press for becoming one of the favorite teams in the league with the offseason additions.  Hopefully those fans get what they are expecting and this team plays to the best of its potential.  I think that this team can challenge Indiana and Chicago for the top of the Central Division… but will ultimately finish below them both.

I think the Pistons will finish as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and win the first round matchup.  It will be great to see some important basketball towards the end of the season again and hear the Palace loud again.  But what do you think Pistons fans, will this be the season that the Pistons head back towards the top?  Let us know what you think about tonight at DetroitSportsBloggers.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

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