— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 31, 2015
Great Start for the Detroit Pistons! What Next?
by Hank Rearden
The Detroit Pistons have started the 2015-16 NBA season with an unexpected 3-0 start. The 2008 Piston team was the last to go 3-0. They ended up 4-0 and slipped on a banana peel (trade sending Billups and McDyess for Allen Iverson), which threw the franchise into a tailspin. Back to present-day, two of the teams they beat, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls, were in the top three in the Eastern Conference standings last year. Detroit also played the first two games as a back-to-back. They are turning some heads, however, they are far from reaching their potential. The following are positive changes to expect during the season that many hope will project them into the NBA Playoffs:
1. Team Familiarization: This is a retooled team. Only Dre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (KCP) were starters a year ago. Adding Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline and Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova over the summer have added 3 new starters. It will take time for the starting lineup to gel. Over half, eight of the fifteen, of the Piston players were not on the team a year ago. As the team plays through the season, they will find each others preferences and become more aware of abilities.
2. Injured Players: Last year’s starting point guard, Brandon Jennings, appears to be returning to the lineup in December. Back-up shooting guard, Jodie Meeks, injured his right foot and is expected to be out three to four months. This is the same injury that Kevin Durant had last year. Despite these injuries, the Pistons are not skipping a beat. Just think about how much depth they will have when both players are healthy.
3. Rookies: Nineteen-year-old, Stanley “Stanimal” Johnson, was the first round draft pick this year. He has been projected to win the Rookie of the Year Award, despite being picked 8th. Every rookie has a substantial learning curve. It will be interesting to see if Stanimal takes Meeks’s minutes and threatens to crack the starting line-up towards the end of the season. Second-round rookie Darrun Hilliard is not expected to get many minutes. He is currently considered a project that may show some value in the future.
4. Further Player Growth: It is common for players to fine tune a particular skill through the off season. Hiring a shooting coach was a huge upgrade. Dre Drummond has already shown an improvement in his free throw shooting (FINALLY!!). Jackson has had his perimeter shooting stroke analyzed and rebuilt. The Pistons have an average age of 26.0 years. Anthony Tolliver (30), Joel Anthony (33) and newcomer Steve Blake (35) are the only players in their 30s. Most of the players have not hit their prime yet! Growth is expected with every young and healthy player.
5. Future Trades: What will happen when Brandon Jennings comes back from injury in December? He is currently in the last year of his contract. Does this mean he is trade bait to upgrade another position? Is he the third head of the 3-headed guard monster, including Jackson and KCP also? Remember that the Bad Boys Pistons had Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Vinnie Johnson. Vinnie didn’t start, but could have started with most any other team. Is potentially keeping Jennings for the long-term coach Stan Van Gundy’s way of protecting against future injury, meanwhile providing significant depth at the guard spot? When Jodie Meeks comes back, it most likely will be after the trade deadline. He will provide depth at the shooting guard spot into what we hope is the NBA Playoffs. With all the depth that is evident, why wouldn’t Van Gundy look for a possible trade? He could add a couple players together and get an upgrade in return. Van Gundy has made some very crafty trades since taking over general manager duties.
Let’s hope the similarities to 2008 Piston team stop with a 4-0 start. The Piston fan base will not tolerate another tailspin!
When will this year’s Pistons team lose their first game?
What will happen after Jennings comes back?
What position will Van Gundy upgrade throughout the year with a trade?
Who will be considered trade bait?