Detroit Pistons on Their Way to Becoming a Consistent NBA Playoff Team Once Again
Since Stan Van Gundy has been hired as Head Coach of the Pistons, things have been looking up for the Pistons. Van Gundy has formed this team similarly to that of the Orlando Magic squad built around Dwight Howard, which involved a run to the NBA Finals. Pistons' star Andre Drummond is not at the same level as Dwight once was, but he certainly can get there with a more polished offensive game. He leads a starting lineup followed by Reggie Jackson running the point, a platoon of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks at the 2, a combination of Stanley Johnson and Marcus Morris at the wing, and Ersan Ilyasova at the power forward spot. Although the lineup has it's flaws, they are finally set to make a run for a high seed in the less than stellar Eastern Conference. But more importantly, they also have the road set for them to have long-term success.
Van Gundy is carrying over his success and style from the Magic to the Pistons, and he has the pieces to do it. He is installing a system in Detroit that will involve Drummond in the middle of the offense, and everyone else on the wing. Although this team does not have the three point shooting skills that the Magic had under Van Gundy, the main three-point shooters on the team involving Caldwell-Pope, Meeks, Morris, and Ilyasova will get plenty of looks from behind the arc. With an offensive system in place, look for defense to be Van Gundy's biggest focus and point of improvement moving forward. Andre is a rim protector who will be among the league leaders in blocks for years to come, but it's the team defense that is emhpasized. By the end of the year and in years to come, expect Stanley Johnson to step in and be the wing defender they need once he gets acclimated to the NBA speed. Van Gundy's offensive plan and defensive emphasis should be a combination that will only grow in the coming years, with Drummond being the main centerpiece on both ends of the court.
The Starting Lineup
With a starting lineup led by Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, there are many positive things to look at here. With Reggie Jackson at the point, expect an abundance of pick-and-roll plays between him and Drummond. If Jackson improves his shooting, especially from three point range, that pick-and-roll would be much more deadly, as defenders would be forced to go over the screen leaving an open lane to the hoop for Reggie. But where he stands right now, he is not a threat to hit from deep or from mid-range. His post all-star break numbers from last year are impressive though, as he averaged 17.6 points, 9.2 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. If he comes into the season with a polished jump shot, don't be surprised if those points per game go up. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks should combine to be a lethal 3-point threat at the shooting guard position, which should help space the floor for the rest of the offense. Although neither play is fantastic defensively, their shooting ability should be enough to give the team a boost. Stanley Johnson, the standout rookie from University of Arizona, may not start right away at SF, but at some point down the line he is bound to start seeing plenty of minutes. He should provide a strong all-around game, and his athleticism will definitely help the team in transition both offensively and defensively. Ersan Ilyasova can hit 3's as a stretch 4, but he has struggled his past two seasons in Milwaukee. He hasn't average more than 30 minutes in his career, and he hasn't played more than 58 games in the past two years. Expect him to tally a lot of three balls, but he is a defensive liability and should not be relied on heavily in the offense. Andre Drummond at the center position will be exciting to watch this year. With Greg Monroe gone, the paint should be much less congested and he'll have an opportunity to become the go-to scorer for the Pistons. His horrid free-throw shooting and inability to score outside the paint may hinder his overall scoring, but he will definitely be a force to be reckoned with near the rim. His shot-blocking ability is stellar along with his offensive rebounding, as he is a league leader in both those categories. Besides his free-throw shooting and tendencies to get into early trouble (3.5 Fouls per game last year), expect Andre to be one of the best centers in the league. This starting lineup has a lot of youth, which may cause for some delayed success this year, but good things are in store for them if they continue to play together and stick with the system.
With the Pistons being one of the youngest teams in the league once again, they will face their fair share of growing pains throughout the year. This could involve a foul-heavy Drummond, low-percentage shooting Jackson, or inconsistent team 3-point shooting. Along with their youth comes oozing potential, especially as Jackson and Drummond grow together. With Reggie locked up long-term and Andre waiting to be given his extension, this duo should be around for awhile. And with Stanley Johnson coming in as a highly respected rookie, he will most definitely experience ups and downs throughout the season as well. But with those ups and downs comes experience, and the more experience this group gets together, the better it will be for them. This year may not be the year they make it into the playoffs, but expect them to be up for there with the best in the East in the years to come. With Drummond at the core and a couple of strong surrounding pieces, the Pistons have the tools to become a competitive and successful team once again.