Culture of Hoops

2016-17 NBA Preview: Detroit Pistons

Image Courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Image Courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Atlantic: Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | New York Knicks | Philadelphia 76ers | Toronto Raptors
Central: Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Detroit Pistons | Indiana Pacers | Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast: Atlanta Hawks | Charlotte Hornets | Miami Heat | Orlando Magic | Washington Wizards
Pacific: Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacramento Kings
Northwest: Denver Nuggets | Minnesota Timberwolves | Oklahoma City Thunder | Portland Trail Blazers | Utah Jazz
Southwest: Dallas Mavericks | Houston Rockets | Memphis Grizzlies | New Orleans Pelicans | San Antonio Spurs

Presenting an NBA preview of the Detroit Pistons that looks at the potential highs and lows for this coming 2016-17 NBA season.

What’s Good… Stan Van Gundy. The guy has a plan that’s been successful in the past and all he needs are the right pieces to fit into the puzzle – limit opponents’ three-point shots, stifle opponents’ transition points, and, of course, rebound the heck out of the ball. Notice how it’s all about defense. Notice even more that before SVG came aboard, the Pistons were ranked 25th in defense per Defensive Rating; in his first season, the team jumped to 19th with the trend continuing last season in Van Gundy’s second season, going up to 12th-best defense in the league. The wins also went up during that period of time – 28 to 32 to 44. Will the trend continue? Hard to bet against SVG.

Another thing that’s pretty, pretty, pretty good… youth. All of the following players are 26 or younger: Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris; and Marcus Morris just turned 27 years old. Umm, yeah, that’s not a bad core of youth at all.

What’s Bad… Yeah, that youth thing. The core group noted immediately above, got swept by the eventual NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of last season’s NBA Playoffs. Of course, you have to take bumps in the postseason before you eventually figure it out, hopefully, and take that important step of getting to the next round. However, when you’re not an efficient scoring team, as well as a pretty bad perimeter shooting team, unable to take advantage of your big man’s developing post skills, and said big man can’t hit free throws when he gets fouled (yes, we’re talking to you, Drummond), well, it’s going to be hard to take that step forward.

The X-Factor… Stanley Johnson is probably being asked to take a big jump in only his second season in the NBA, but his progress will be an important key for the Pistons. Johnson is only 20 years old, but he was also an eighth overall pick and if he’s going to average playing about half of the game, he’ll need to shoot a lot better and be a lot more efficient. His 8.7 PER (15.0 being about average) is really bad. Like, really bad. The thing that stinks for the Pistons is that Johnson is an excellent defender and they could use him in that area, but they’re forced to sit him because, offensively, he’s not much of an asset despite the 8.1 points he averaged for the season. If Stanimal can make a jump in his offensive skill set, it will significantly affect the team’s success.

Bet On… The new hacking rules won’t matter as much when it comes to Drummond. Unless he starts to shoot a lot better than in the 30s, teams will still get to the Pistons big man, and Van Gundy will likely have to sit him at the end of close games, removing his important defensive presence. A full season of Tobias Harris will make a difference, especially if he shoots as well as he did in 27 games with the team last season. The acquisition of Jon Leuer during the offseason will provide an impactful element off the bench, along with Ish Smith to a smaller degree.

The Crystal Ball Reveals… The Pistons will jump into the top 10 of defenses, improve by a couple of wins, be very competitive in the first round of the playoffs, and if they move on, lose in the second round. It’s process, but there will be progress.

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