The Detroit Pistons go into this season in good shape, and it can be boiled down to Stan van Gundy the GM finally producing a roster that Stan van Gundy the coach will be pleased with. From the mess he walked into, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe is gone and Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Ersan Ilyasova are in. Now player for player, pound for pound, that may look like an overall loss for the Pistons, but on closer inspection, it certainly isn’t. Let’s start with those who left the Motor City, Monroe and Smith. The latter was often forced to play Small Forward in Detroit and even when he was playing Power Forward he struggled immensely to shoot the basketball. Monroe also was played out of position, an old-school Centre forced to play Power Forward, he simply could not guard the speedier and better shooting players at that position defensively, whilst offensively, the spacing with he and Drummond often sharing the paint was somewhat diabolical. Clearly this is a case of addition by subtraction for the Pistons.
Van Gundy last season added to this team Jackson, Johnson and Ilyasova. The Reggie Jackson trade and the ensuing contract (5 years $80 million) were widely critiqued around the league, and rightfully so for a man who had been a career backup (started in 20% of his 245 games for the Thunder) and had never shown to be an efficient shooter or scorer (career 43%FG and 29%3PT). However, from what we’ve seen so far, the move has paid off, with Jackson and Drummond showing brilliant chemistry and having an offensive rating of over 114 when the two shared the court without Greg Monroe last season – a number that would’ve been good enough for first in the league by more than five points had it been spread over the entirety of the season. Now clearly it was a small sample size, but that’s a good sign for the Pistons.
They also added Ersan Ilyasova, a career 37% 3 point shooter who will serve as an excellent floor spacer for Andre Drummond. They also added Stanley Johnson who was the pick of the rookies in the Summer League and looks poised to start in the NBA from day one. The 2009 Magic made the NBA Finals under Van Gundy in a team structured very similarly to this one.
Drummond is clearly Dwight Howard, the resemblance in the two players is astounding. Both are rim protectors, athletic freaks and great roll men off the pick and roll.
Ersan Ilyasova will play the Rashard Lewis role, spacing the floor from the four position, whilst Reggie Jackson will be able to run the pick and roll in a similar vein to Jameer Nelson. Add to this shooters such as KCP, Granger, Jennings, Meeks, Morris and Tolliver and this team could be surprisingly successful.
They don’t actually have that far to improve to make the playoffs this season, as they went 27-27 after waiving Josh Smith (they were 5-23 before Christmas) and have improved this offseason. Stan Van has also done the little things right, namely getting Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger and Marcus Morris for nothing in a salary dump during the Suns pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. Look for Detroit to be unexpectedly good this season, I’m huge on them as a playoff surprise.
Projected Record: 43-39
My Predicted Wins: 39-44
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