Following two straight non-playoff years, the Pistons made a coaching change heading into 2011-12, hiring former Nets head man, Lawrence Frank.
The change behind the bench failed to produce immediate dividends, as the team started 4-20, but Detroit rebounded, thanks in large part to Frank's new defensive schemes and went 21-21 to close the season.
Being Frank - Being as limited as the Pistons were offensively, Frank's defensive teachings were one of the only things keeping Detroit out of the Eastern Conference's basement. The team improved steadily and were able to overcome their offensive shortcomings by playing a dogged defensive style. Heading into 2012-13, the Pistons -- with Frank's coaching -- should, at the very least, be a tough team to play against and may be able to steal some games against more talented squads.
Can Brandon Knight make the leap in his second year as a pro?
Frontcourt Promise - One of the few highlights of an otherwise disappointing 2011-12 season was the big second year leap made by 6-foot-11 power forward Greg Monroe. The third-year Georgetown product improved by six points and over two rebounds per game from his rookie season and demonstrated his offensive versatility by adding an effective low post game to an already refined face-up ability. After Monroe's breakout season, the Pistons drafted Drummond with the ninth overall pick with the hope that he would eventually develop into a perfect defensive complement. If that happens, Detroit will have a frontcourt tandem the team will be able to build around moving forward.
Scoring Issues - With the trade of Ben Gordon to the Bobcats in the off-season, the Pistons dealt away one of their primary offensive threats. Gordon's departure means the bulk of the perimeter scoring load will be left in the hands of holdovers Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, along with newcomer Corey Maggette. Unfortunately, Maggette and Stuckey have shown they are volume shooters probably better suited to providing a spark off the bench and Knight is in the midst of learning to be a pass-first point guard. With that being the case, the Pistons will likely have to resort to a scoring-by-committee approach, again relying on their defense to keep games within reach.
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Potential for the future but an also-ran for now.
Greg Monroe has double-double points and rebounds potential at 42 overall.
Point Problems - Part of Detroit's struggles offensively last season were due to an inability to find a true point guard who could initiate the offense and get the ball to scorers in their sweet spots on the court. Detroit ranked 28th in the NBA in assists and was in the bottom five in the league in three-pointers made, as Stuckey and Knight showed they are more suited to being scoring guards than distributors. The plan going forward is to have Knight develop into the team's point guard of the future, but with the position being the toughest in the league to master, there will likely be more short-term struggles.
X Factor: Brandon Knight
The eighth overall pick in 2011 showed in his rookie season that he has the talent to be an effective NBA player, but the Pistons are counting on him to do more than put up points. His development into a pass-first NBA point guard will likely determine how quickly Detroit is able to ascend up the ladder in the Eastern Conference.
What to Expect
The Pistons finally seem to have a direction following three years of uninspired, inconsistent play. The team is fully committed to a youth movement and looks to have the proper coach to nurture its young talent. There will be growing pains and a playoff berth is probably at least a year away, but in Knight, Monroe and Drummond Detroit looks to have a solid core of players they can build around moving forward.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
The Pistons continue to collect small forwards, swapping Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette this summer.
This suggests that eventually a trade thinning their logjam is coming, but for now it's going to be more of the same for the Pistons.
Rookie Andre Drummond will be eased in slowly, because he is still terribly raw and inconsistent, but if he ever puts it all together he has all of the physical tools to team with Greg Monroe in an intimidating Pistons frontline.