Re-tooled Pistons showing signs of life
(The Sports Network) In the 2013-14 season, the Detroit Pistons will boast a new coach, new free-agent prize, new borderline All-Star point guard and a returning team legend.
Mo Cheeks earned his third different head coaching gig after President of Basketball Operations, Joe Dumars, canned Lawrence Frank in the offseason. Cheeks has a career mark of 284-286 and was recently an assistant for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Josh Smith was considered by most to be the second-best free agent on the market after Dwight Howard. Smith, a versatile, but enigmatic forward, inked a four-year, $54 million deal to complete a long, athletic front court. And, man, did Smith sound like he loved Detroit from the start.
Brandon Jennings was acquired in a trade for Brandon Knight, who played admirably in two seasons with the Pistons. Jennings got three years, $24 million from Detroit to try and get the Pistons to the postseason.
And the principal catalyst to Detroit's championship run from almost 10 years ago, Chauncey Billups, signed a very team-friendly deal to try and teach these young guys how to win ball games.
This new group will play alongside Greg Monroe, a talented big man, and Andre Drummond, a talented even bigger man. The Pistons drafted Kentavious Caldwell- Pope, considered by some to be the best two guard in the draft.
There is plenty of talent in Detroit and improvement is expected. It might take time to fully integrate the new personnel and a good start will be needed.
Almost any start will be better than last season's 0-8 beginning.
Who's In/Who's Out
Key Additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luigi Datome, Josh Harrellson, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva
Key Losses: Jose Calderon, Brandon Knight, Jason Maxiell, Kim English, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Khris Middleton
The frontcourt is incredibly big and long.
Smith carries career averages of 15.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.1 bpg and 1.3 spg. He is incredibly talented, but can grate on a coach. His 28 percent three-point shooting average is pathetic, but it doesn't stop him from jacking up long-range bombs. Smith attempted a career-best 2.6 three-point attempts a game last season. If Cheeks and Wallace can contain Smith to some degree, he'll be a huge asset. Smith is a plus-defender when he wants to be and a great help defender.
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Monroe has averaged 15.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg over the past two seasons. He's played in and started every game but one during that time frame. The Pistons have been tough to watch over the last two seasons, but Monroe hasn't. He's a potential All Star and is a free agent at the end of the season, so a monster year is very possible.
Drummond looked dynamic at points in his rookie campaign. He got derailed by injuries, but posted respectable numbers of 7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 1.6 bpg. Drummond made the All-Rookie second team and he exceeded expectations in season one.
At guard, Jennings can score at a really impressive rate. He's averaged 17.0 ppg and flirted with 20 a night two seasons ago.
The Not So Good
Jennings isn't a great shooter (39 percent and 35 percent from three-point range), and he's not a great distributor (5.7 apg over his career). Jennings won't need to score at the rate he did in Milwaukee and maybe Cheeks, a borderline Hall of Fame point guard, can make him a better floor leader.
Billups will probably start alongside Jennings, at least in the beginning. But he admitted when he signed with the Pistons that he didn't enjoy playing two guard while with the Los Angeles Clippers, so who knows how that will work. One can't imagine he takes the starting point position from Jennings.
As much as Billups doesn't want to be a nostalgia trip, the Pistons don't want him impeding Caldwell-Pope's development either. With Detroit being a playoff contender, it will need Billups in the lineup and at 37 with some injury issues in recent years, that may not be likely.
What To Expect
With five teams penciled in the postseason in the Eastern Conference, Detroit could easily contend for one of the three remaining spots. They have enough talent in their starting lineup and off the bench at the wing slots to make the playoffs.
Detroit has the potential to be a special team defensively, especially up front. Smith is a good defender, and Monroe is adequate. Drummond could be a difference-maker at the center spot and as a rim protector.
The Pistons won't break past Miami, Indiana, New York, Chicago, Brooklyn or even Atlanta likely, but Detroit will compete to be be the best of the remaining lot.