The Critical Improvement Each Detroit Pistons Youngster Must Make in 2012-13

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2012

The Critical Improvement Each Detroit Pistons Youngster Must Make in 2012-13

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    The Detroit Pistons are finally on the upswing.

    For years, Pistons fans have watched their team squander opportunities to develop young players due to myriad factors ranging from a need to win now with veterans to a lack of patience.

    However, those days are through.

    The Pistons have no choice but to play their young guys this year, for no other reason than they don't have any other options.

    The Pistons have some solid veterans, but they are not on the verge of championship contention. They also have a somewhat apathetic fanbase at the moment and have nothing to lose by running with their young guys.

    The good news is that Detroit has drafted wisely over the past three years, and so it has some solid young talent.

    Here is what each of the young guys will need to do this year in order to improve.

Greg Monroe

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    Greg Monroe's development has been nothing short of spectacular.

    Last year, he improved in nearly every category, and made a solid case for an All-Star berth (which did not come).

    That being said, he still has a long way to go before he gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the elite big men in the league.

    Biggest need for improvement

    Monroe needs to work on his aggressiveness. Too often, he let himself get taken out of games last year.

    True, he needs help from the distributors in order to get his offense going, but a lot of that comes from being vocal on the court, and working on his footwork and positioning.

    With the addition of Andre Drummond and Slava Kravtsov, Monroe should be able to shift at least some of the time to the power forward spot, and give up a lot of his defensive responsibilities.

    If all goes to plan, Monroe could become an offensive facilitator from the high post, and use his passing ability to open up the offense. 

    But more than anything, the offense needs to involve him on every play. If I were Monroe, I would watch about 100 hours of tape on Patrick Ewing and Tim Duncan, and do all you can to mimic those greats.

    The Pistons need 20 points and 10 rebounds per game from Monroe starting this year and running through the next decade.

Brandon Knight

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    Brandon Knight had a solid rookie season, but there is still much to improve upon if he wants to join Kyrie Irving amongst the elite point guards in the game.

    Where he needs to improve

    Knight needs to penetrate. Flat out, he needs to get to the hoop.

    He already has shown that he can shoot from deep, but now he needs to show that he can get his teammates involved.

    The good news for Pistons fans is that he led the Orlando Summer League in assists this year.

    This year, he needs to drive and dish, or drive and finish on a consistent basis.

    By breaking down the defense, good things will always happen. Either you score, get fouled, or open up an opportunity for a teammate.

    The Pistons can live with turnovers in the process, but he needs to show that he can consistently get to the rim.

    Ideally, Knight will score about 15 points per night to go with at least seven assists per contest.

Andre Drummond

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    The Pistons seemingly struck gold again this year in drafting Andre Drummond.

    Had Drummond been allowed to enter the draft prior to his lone season at Connecticut, he probably would have been a top three pick, if not number one overall.

    He had an up-and-down college career, but most would argue that that wasn't entirely his fault.

    Where he must improve

    The biggest knocks against Drummond are that he lacks instincts on both ends of the court, he can be somewhat passive on the boards, and he is prone to disappear for large stretches of time.

    There is no question that Drummond is raw, but there is also no question that he is supremely talented physically.

    Where Drummond needs to focus his development at least initially is on the defensive side of the ball.

    He showed flashes of being a good defensive contributor during the Summer League, but he also gave some ammo to the skeptics.

    He committed too many fouls, he didn't always take the proper path to the hoop for boards, and he often was a step late getting to the ball.

    This all comes down to fundamentals. He needs to focus on footwork on defense and bring a high level of intensity on every play.

    The best thing for Drummond would be to spend the rest of the summer and the fall working with Ben Wallace.

    Wallace was the king of defensive instincts, and that is where Drummond's focus should be.

Kyle Singler

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    Kyle Singler was drafted a year ago by Detroit in the early second round, but spent all of last year in Spain due in large part to the NBA lockout.

    Coming out of college, there were a few points of contention in regards to Singler.

    He lacks elite athleticism, struggles at times with his shot, and might not have the speed to be an everyday small forward.

    Where he needs to improve

    Singler looked pretty good during Summer League play.

    He looks stronger and quicker than he did in college, and his shot looked pretty good from deep.

    If he is going to become a regular in the Pistons rotation, he will need to continue to improve that shot.

    Singler has already shown a nose for the ball and good instincts on the offensive side of the ball, but he will need to show that he can cover small forwards at the next level.

    Since he lacks ideal foot quickness, he will need to make up for that with physical play and anticipation.

    I still think he projects to be a situational player, much like a Brian Cardinal or Trent Tucker, but he should have a long and productive NBA career.

Kim English

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    Kim English had an excellent career at Missouri, where he averaged over 11 points per game for his career, shooting nearly 40 percent from three point land.

    He fell in the draft largely because at Missouri he was a one-trick-pony and few teams would commit a high draft pick for a guy that is seen as just a spot up shooter.

    Where he needs to improve

    English needs to model his game largely on Arron Afflalo. He should aim to be a strong ball defender and use his size to his advantage.

    English can shoot; that is far from disputed.

    But the only way he is going to get time on the court is by proving that he can do more than just shoot.

    If he can consistently play tough defense, he has a shot at becoming Rodney Stuckey's primary backup either this year or next.

Jonas Jerebko

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    Jonas Jerebko was a second round pick a few years ago and burst on the scene as a high energy guy that Pistons fans could get behind.

    He plays hard everyday, and has good rebounding instincts and excellent athleticism.

    Where he needs to improve

    Jerebko needs to figure out exactly what he wants to be as a player.

    Does he want to be a small forward, or does he want to be a power forward.

    If the answer is small forward, he needs to work on his on-the-ball defense and three point shooting.

    If the answer is power forward, he needs to bulk up and learn to play with his back to the hoop.

    The answer probably is still undetermined, and this year he will probably be an energy guy off the bench yet again.

    But in order to take the next step as a player, he needs to commit to one path and see it through.

Slava Kravtsov

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    The Pistons made a bit of a splash this off-season when they signed a seven foot Ukrainian.

    Well, "splash" may be a bit of a stretch, but it is a good move nonetheless.

    In fact, Kravtsov may prove to be a bigger contributor this year than Drummond.

    He is older, has been playing professionally for years, and has the size to become the first or second big man off the bench for the Pistons.

    Where he needs to improve

    It is tough to suggest that someone that has yet to play a game in the United States needs to improve, but all reports point to Kravtsov needing a lot of work offensively.

    He is routinely referred to as raw, yet physically imposing.

    He has good athleticism, but not the quickest of feet.

    So it is tempting to point to these issues as things he should improve upon.

    Personally, I could care less if he can't score in an empty gym.

    Kravtsov needs to play standout defense, and impose a physicality down low. He needs to take pressure off of Monroe on the defensive side of the ball, block shots, and rebound on both sides of the ball.

    Sure, these are seen as strengths of him already. But this isn't the European League. He needs to show that he can do those things in this league.

Khris Middleton

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    Khris Middleton was on track during his first two seasons at Texas A&M for a breakout junior year.

    But he definitely took a step back and saw his draft stock slip as a result.

    Some have compared him to a shorter Kevin Durant, and while that is probably a stretch, he has shown a good scoring mentality and a long frame.

    Where he needs to improve

    Middleton is not stepping into a great situation.

    The Pistons already have their starter, Tayshaun Prince, and his primary backup in Corey Maggette.

    They also have last year's second round pick Kyle Singler plus Jonas Jerebko who plays both forward spots.

    Add to that Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye, and you have the makings of a tough situation for Middleton.

    That being said, Maggette is in the final year of his contract and does not figure into the team's future.

    Prince is on the downside of his career, and Singler is unproven.

    The best bet for Middleton is to be aggressive. He needs to be aggressive taking the ball to the hoop, aggressive playing defense on the perimeter, and aggressive in going for loose balls and strips on help defense.

    Middleton needs to outplay Daye, and force the Pistons to deal their former first round pick.

Rodney Stuckey

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    Rodney Stuckey has had quite an up-and-down run with Detroit.

    He came to the team as a first round pick out of a small school, and provided a boost for a contending Pistons team off the bench.

    He eventually was anointed as the starting point guard of the future, which led the Pistons to deal fan favorite Chauncey Billups.

    The problem is that Stuckey isn't a point guard, but rather a scoring shooting guard.

    Where he needs to improve

    Stuckey took a big step forward last year. He matured, and did a great job of deferring to rookie point guard Knight.

    This year, Stuckey needs to become a big-time scorer.

    He has the talent to get to the hoop at will, but he doesn't always finish well.

    With Knight focusing on distributing, and with Maggette coming on board to help with perimeter defense, Stuckey should have the energy and opportunities to turn into a borderline elite scorer.

    A good goal for Stuckey could be 20 points per game.

Austin Daye

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    To say that Daye has had a disappointing career would be a drastic understatement.

    Daye has regressed in nearly every aspect of his game since entering the league, still has not gained the needed weight to become a true forward, and lacks the consistency of effort to find regular minutes on this team.

    I almost skipped writing on Daye here since I think his days in Detroit are numbered.

    Where he needs to improve

    Where do I begin.

    He needs to bulk up, as right now he doesn't even have enough strength to play small forward, let alone power forward.

    He needs to play with a sense of urgency and act as though he actually cares about his NBA career. Daye is an immature player both physically and mentally, and hasn't shown nearly enough dedication to his craft.

    He needs to improve his outside shooting, which at one time was considered a strength but last year he saw his three point shooting drop to 32 percent.

    He needs to improve his defensive, offensive, and rebounding instincts, and use his length to make shots difficult for opponents.

    In all honesty, I think Daye needs a change in scenery, and might not be with the team come November.