By Max Cohen
The first thing that stands out is getting Reggie Jackson back. I am not one that thinks that Reggie is a great NBA point guard, but in the Eastern conference he isn’t terrible. Getting him back definitely gives our offense a jolt. In 2015-16 he averaged 18 points and 6 assists, which is what our offense needs after Ish Smith’s 9 and 5 season last year. Speaking of Ish Smith, love the guy as a backup point guard, but that’s it, nothing else. The guy shot 27% from three point territory in 2016-17, #notmy2017NBA. Moving onto Mr. Hairy Shoulders, Andre Drummond, he must get better. Last season his points per game dropped from 16.2 to 13.6. Granted, he did take 2 less shots per game, but when Reggie goes down in the middle of the season, you gotta demand more touches. Personally, I don’t think Dre is that talented of an offensive player, but with his physicality alone, he can bully his way into a few extra points per game. I was watching a video that was trying to distract from his poor offensive showing last season and displayed that he shot 7% better from 0-3 feet within the basket, but he also attempted 10% LESS of those shots last season as opposed to 2015-16. And what did he do with that extra 10% you may ask? He started shooting more from 3-10 feet and 10-16 feet, oh what joy!
One aspect of the Pistons last year that was evident was their lack of good defense. The one player that stood out at times was Marcus Morris. At points his big body and quickness could slow down some of the best players in the league, including Lebron James, but as a whole they sucked. Tobias Harris has the physical capability of stepping up defensively, but I don’t think that will happen. Tobias has always been more of a polished offensive player, but if he can give up some points to play better defense, it will lead to greater success for the Pistons. Although there were only six teams that gave up more points than Detroit; they were also bottom ten in creating turnovers, steals and blocks during the season. The defense never helped the offense get into a groove, and that hurt them throughout the year. The five Pistons lineups that played the most minutes last year averaged at least five less points than their opponent each game. This is not okay. Hopefully the addition of Avery Bradley will help. There’s no question Avery Bradley is one of the best defenders in the league (his fellow co-workers would vouch for that), but one player cannot change a defense. In the 2016-17 season Andre Drummond averaged 1.1 blocks per game. 1.1, the same number as 36 year old Pau Gasol. Those are bum numbers. If the Pistons defense wants to take a step up, both Bradley and Drummond must pull their weight. And especially Drummond because the Pistons assumed starting four right now, Jon Leuer boasts a whopping career 0.3 blocks per game. If Bradley can contain one wing player and Drummond can protect the paint, I think the Pistons can easily take the next step defensively, which not only helps that side of the ball, but will propel the offense.
PG- Reggie Jackson
SG- Avery Bradley
SF- Tobias Harris
PF- Jon Leuer
C- Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, Ish Smith, BOBAN
For the Eastern Conference, based on talent alone, I don’t hate this lineup. Obviously, there is a clear lack of shooting, but hopefully Kennard helps that. Two keys for the Pistons to be any kind of contender this year are: team chemistry and improved Stanley Johnson. Last year, I thought team chemistry was absolutely terrible. I think once they were 30 games into the season and two games below five hundred they didn’t believe the team was working out. Now this year’s team isn’t much different from last, but I think Avery Bradley is a great guy to have in the locker room. He was on the Celtics through their rebuild and eventually their growth to the number one seed in the conference; so he knows all different types of locker rooms. I think if team chemistry stays relatively positive throughout the year, then we will see an above five hundred Detroit basketball team. Stanley Johnson also has to take a leap. We all know he is an amazing athlete with above-average defensive skills, but his offense is still poor. This is Stanley’s make or break year in the NBA. He took a huge step back in his sophomore season. So now he must prove if he can be an important off the bench piece who can make big shots or just another defensive minded player who has trouble with his jumper. If Stanley can just get back to his rookie season numbers, with a little improvement, that will be crucial to this team’s success.
I believe the Pistons will be better than last year. With a weaker conference and some new guys in the locker room, Detroit should be able to crack last season’s 37-45 mark. Barring any major locker room conflicts I think this relatively young team will get along, like we saw in 2015-16, and begin to enjoy playing together again. Trading for Avery Bradley was clearly a great move and drafting Kennard was an alright move to improve the team's shooting struggles (although I would’ve drafted Donovan Mitchell). Also, acquiring Anthony Tolliver again, my favorite Piston, is never not a good idea. Overall, if it’s clear in January that the team is not improving I think they should begin to shop Drummond or Harris and see the best offer they can get. Many stupid trades occurred in the NBA during the offseason and maybe the Pistons could capitalize on a dumb GM sometime before the all-star break. Hopefully, this won’t happen and us Piston fans can continually watch a 40-45 win team for years to come, yay!