The Detroit Pistons have made big changes this offseason.
The Detroit Pistons have made big strides toward returning to the postseason with their moves so far this offseason.
It started on draft night, when they selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a prototypical shooting guard with the range to improve the team's outside shooting immediately.
To complete their moves, the Pistons brought back former All-Star Chauncey Billups and rolled the dice by acquiring Italian League MVP Luigi Datome.
This summer they have continued to add talent to add to their young core but also filled out the roster with high-character veterans. GM Joe Dumars may still have moves in store, but the current Pistons roster looks ready to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Kravtsov has shown improvement during summer league play.
Viacheslav Kravtsov didn't get much of a chance to play as a rookie in 2012-13.
The Ukrainian center appeared in just 25 games for the Pistons, averaging nine minutes per contest. In that limited sample size he averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds.
Offensively, he plays exclusively near the rim—45 of his 46 field goals were within five feet of the basket. He was effective from there, however, shooting 71.7 percent from the field.
He is on the Pistons' summer league team, appearing in just two games so far. He has played well in his chances, though, with 20 points and 11 rebounds in just under 40 minutes.
As long as big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are on the roster, there just aren't minutes for Kravtsov to play at center. Expect him to be at the bottom of the rotation again this season.
Middleton needs to improve his jumper to become a rotation player.
Khris Middleton had one excellent summer league performance before getting sidelined with an ankle injury.
Middleton has a chance to stick on the roster again this season, but he will need to improve his outside jumper in order to get meaningful minutes. He shot 31.1 percent from deep as a rookie, but that is not good to play anything more than garbage time.
Unless he has drastically improved his range, Middleton will be near the end of the bench this season.
Villanueva is a good outside shooter but doesn't bring much else to the table.
For the first time in four years, Charlie Villanueva can offer some trade value for the Pistons—as an expiring contract.
He was signed in 2009 along with Ben Gordon to give Detroit a pair of sharpshooters to build a contender around. Instead, they have had four consecutive lottery appearances to show for the signings.
Villanueva isn't completely worthless as a player; he is a career 34.6 percent shooter from three and is particularly effective from the right side. He also takes care of the basketball.
The problem is he's a poor rebounder and shot-blocker for a player who is 6'11". He's also never been a good defender and has struggled with conditioning.
Villanueva can have some on-court value if he's paired with Drummond or Smith, two excellent defenders and rebounders. His shooting range can stretch the floor and open up the paint for other players. But his biggest asset for the team will be as trade bait.
Jerebko needs to improve his outside shot to stay in the rotation.
In 2009-10, Jonas Jerebko had a promising rookie campaign, averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. He had the talent and athleticism to develop into a very effective stretch 4.
Instead, a series of injuries has left him as a borderline rotation player.
Jerebko's shooting numbers have dropped each of the past two seasons—he's now down to 44.9 percent. He also has never improved his three-point percentage, which is just 30.1 percent.
He isn't effective on the defensive end either. Opposing power forwards post a PER of 22.9 against him, per 82games.com. That number would have ranked 13th in the NBA, right between Blake Griffin and Amare Stoudemire.
The addition of Smith has likely pushed Jerebko out of the rotation. He just doesn't do anything well enough to justify the 18 minutes per game he played in 2012-13.
Bynum was re-signed to be the Pistons' third point guard.
The Pistons have brought back their third-string point guard, Will Bynum.
The 30 year old had the best season of his career in 2012-13, which played a big role in his return. He averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists, shooting 46.9 percent from the field.
Bynum doesn't always make great decisions with the ball, but he has the Nate Robinson-like ability to come off the bench and score in bunches. He plays with tons of energy and isn't afraid to take big shots.
His biggest weakness is that he's a huge liability on the defensive end. At 6'0", he gives up plenty of size in nearly every matchup. Opposing point guards posted a PER of 18.1 against, per 82games.com.
Bynum has the rare ability to come off the bench cold and change the momentum of a game. That alone makes him valuable to the roster. But beyond his ability to score, he doesn't bring much else to the table.
For the second consecutive year, Dumars has brought in a relatively unknown European player during free agency. According to ESPN, Italian League MVP Luigi Datome is set to join the Pistons on a two-year deal.
They wanted to improve their outside shooting, and Datome fits that mole.
The 6'9" forward averaged 16.6 points last season, shooting 47 percent from the field, 41 percent from the arc and 92 percent from the stripe.
It is difficult to say how he will adjust to the NBA, but he will absolutely be able to stretch the floor and knock down open jumpers. And in his highlight tapes, he runs the court and plays above the rim.
Without seeing his defensive ability or his ability to compete physically against NBA athletes, Datome is being ranked conservatively as a player who is strictly an outside shooter. But he is the one guy who can skyrocket up the power rankings.
Singler was over-matched as a starter during his rookie year.
Kyle Singler was one of the least efficient starters in the NBA last season.
Of the 94 players who averaged at least 28 minutes per game, only Avery Bradley had a lower PER (8.89) than Singler's 10.02. And Bradley was on the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team.
That is not to say that Singler can't be a solid NBA player. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.0 boards as a rookie, shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from the arc.
Defensively he didn't hurt the Pistons. Opposing small forwards posted a respectable PER of 15.9 against him, and he held shooting guards to 13.5, per 82games.com.
At this point in his career, he is best suited to come off the bench in a three-and-D role. He is already an excellent shooter from the left side of the floor—improving his shot from the right side will make him an elite sharpshooter.
Singler can be very good for the Pistons in the right role, and he will absolutely be in their rotation this season. But he cannot be in the starting lineup if they expect to contend for the playoffs.
Fan favorite Chauncey Billups will be welcomed back to Detroit with open arms.
After six seasons in Denver, New York and Los Angeles, Mr. Big Shot is back in Detroit.
Chauncey Billups may not be same player he was when he was shipped unceremoniously to the Nuggets, but he will still play a major role for the up-and-coming Pistons.
In addition to playing valuable minutes at both guard spots, he will bring leadership and 16 years of NBA experience to one of the youngest teams in the league.
There may not be a better player in the league to mentor third-year guard Brandon Knight.
Both 6'3" point guards left college as underclassmen. Each struggled in their first two seasons to find the balance between finding their own shot and looking for teammates.
Take a looks at the numbers:
Billups' second season: 13.9 points, 3.8 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 38.6 field-goal percentage
Knight's second season: 13.3 points, 4.0 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 36.7 field-goal percentage
Who better to learn from than a five-time All-Star, a player with two NBA All-Defensive Team selections?
If he can stay healthy (Billups has played just 42 games over the past two seasons), he can absolutely help the Pistons on the court. He will help stretch the floor, and his career 89.4 free-throw percentage will help to close out games. But his biggest value will come from his basketball knowledge and locker room presence.
Caldwell-Pope is the newest member of the Pistons' youthful core.
The Pistons used the No. 8 pick on Caldwell-Pope, who will have the chance to start at shooting guard.
The 20-year-old averaged 18.5 points as a sophomore at Georgia, second only to Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson (20.1). He shot 37.3 percent from the arc on seven attempts per game and will help the Pistons improve their 18th-ranked three-point shooting.
Even at 6'5", he led the Bulldogs in rebounding with seven per game. He won't be asked to do that for the Pistons, but he has averaged over three boards per game so far during summer league.
In Orlando he got off to a slow start but has erupted the past three games, averaging 18 points and five rebounds. During that stretch he shot 47 percent from the field and has gotten to the line 19 times.
Summer league results aren't necessarily indicative of regular-season success, but it is very promising to see him play so well as their top option from the outside.
If the Pistons are a playoff team, Caldwell-Pope has the opportunity to be a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Stuckey can be one of the NBA's best sixth men if he returns to his 2011-12 form.
The Pistons need Rodney Stuckey to bounce back after a tough 2012-13 season—arguably the worst of his six-year career.
His 11.5 points and 3.6 assists were the lowest since he was a rookie. His field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages were all down from 2011-12.
Most telling about his struggles was his inability to get to the free-throw line.
In 2010-11 he averaged 5.4 attempts per game, 25th in the NBA. His 5.8 attempts per game in 2011-12 put him in a tie for 15th. He dropped all the way to 50th this past season, getting to the line just 3.6 times per contest.
With Brandon Knight and Jose Calderon on the roster, Stuckey played the majority of his minutes at shooting guard in 2012-13. And in doing so, he stopped attacking the basket.
With a mediocre jumper (he is a career 28.8 three-point shooter), he is a player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective.
At shooting guard he averaged 17.2 points per 48 minutes, with an 11.4 PER and an effective field-goal percentage of 44.3, per 82games.com.
At point guard, those numbers jumped to 28 points per 48 minutes, a 22.5 PER and an EFG of 50.5 percent.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like he'll get a chance to run the offense this season. With Knight, Billups and Bynum on the roster, almost all of his time will be spent at the 2.
Stuckey is a better player than his 2012-13 season showed, and he'll benefit from the improved talent on the roster. He just won't be at his best without the ball in his hands.
Brandon Knight will get the chance to prove he can play point guard with a much-improved roster.
Unless Dumars makes another big move, it appears that Brandon Knight will get another chance to prove he can be the Pistons' starting point guard.
After last season's acquisition of Jose Calderon, Knight spent the majority of his time at off-guard, where he was miscast as the team's No. 2 scoring option.
There is no question he has offensive talent—at age 21, his career scoring average is 13.1. His career average from three is 37.3 percent, and he is particularly good from the top of the arc and the right corner.
But in his first two seasons he's been asked to carry too much of an offensive load, which has really hurt his efficiency.
In 2012-13 he averaged 4.0 assists and 2.7 turnovers, for an assist/turnover ratio of 1.48. According to ESPN Insider, his 20.4 assist ratio ranked 70th among the 82 qualified point guards.
Knight isn't expected to ever become Steve Nash, but if he is the long-term answer at point guard, he needs to improve his decision-making and cut down on the turnovers. Their much-improved roster should help take pressure off of him to create his own shot.
On the defensive end, he is already an above-average player, with his length and quickness giving offensive players issues. According to 82games.com, opposing point guards posted an average PER of 12.4 against him, and shooting guards were held to a 9.7.
When he plays alongside Caldwell-Pope, Smith and Drummond, the Pistons will have one of the most athletic defensive lineups in the league. They have the length and quickness to play a swarming defensive style, similar to that of the Miami Heat.
Knight is still raw and may not be a pure point guard, but he's the most talented guard on the Pistons roster. His ability to run their offense effectively will be a huge factor in their quest to make the postseason.
Drummond is a raw talent, but his physical gifts are undeniable.
Andre Drummond's summer league performance so far shows his great potential, but also shows how raw his talent is.
In four games so far, the 19-year-old center has averaged 17.5 points, 15.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. But against primarily first- and second-year players, he's shot only 47.1 percent from the field and averaged five turnovers from the game. He's also shot only 26.7 percent from the line.
Drummond is 6'10", 270 pounds and an elite athlete. Those tools alone make him a force on the defensive end, where he can dominate the boards and block shots.
His skill on the offensive end trails well behind, and he can only really score at the basket. He shot 60.8 percent from the field, but 318 of his 342 shots came from with five feet of the hoop, per NBA.com.
A continued concern for Drummond is his inability to shoot even 50 percent from the line. In his lone season at UConn he shot 29.5 percent, and as a rookie with the Pistons he shot 37.1 percent.
Drummond is an exciting young player and will form a fantastic defensive front line with Smith. The rate of his development will play an enormous role in Detroit's quest to again become a contender.
Monroe is already one of the best offensive big men in the NBA at age 23.
The Pistons' best offensive player in 2012-13 was Monroe, their third-year big man.
At just 23 years old, he is one of the most promising post players in the league. He already has an array of post moves, averaging 16.0 points per game with a PER of 19.5.
In his three seasons, he has developed into one of the best post passers in the league, averaging 3.5 assists per game (up from 1.3 as a rookie). Among qualified big men, only Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin and David Lee averaged more.
At 6'11" and 250 pounds, he is one of the league's better rebounders on both ends. His 9.6 total rebounds ranked 11th in the league and his 2.9 offensive rebounds ranked 14th.
Monroe's offensive talent is mitigated by his ineffectiveness on defense. Despite his size, he offers very little rim protection, blocking less than one shot per game.
Per 82games.com, he gave up an average PER of 19.6 against opposing centers, and 16.0 to power forwards. He gave up 0.93 points per play on post-ups, which ranked 211 in the league, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Monroe just turned 23, so he has plenty of time to grow as a player before he reaches his prime. But he needs to become at least an average defender to be seriously considered for the All-Star game.
Smith (left), is one of the most athletic big men in the league.
The best player on the Pistons roster is Smith, their big free-agent signing.
The former Atlanta Hawk is an elite athlete in the prime of his career, and he has the talent to positively impact the game on both ends of the court.
Smith has been criticized for his shot selection throughout his career. He often settles for long-range jumpers despite being a mediocre shooter.
Regardless, he averaged over 17 points per game last season—more than anyone else on the roster. He finishes at the rim better than nearly anyone, shooting 70 percent from within five feet of the basket.
He also distributes the ball very well for a big man, averaging 4.2 assists per game. His ability to pass out of the high post and act as a point-forward will add a new dimension to the Pistons offense.
His athleticism makes him an incredibly versatile defender, with the strength and quickness to guard four positions. He also helps to protect the rim as a weak-side defender, averaging 2.1 blocks over his career.
Smith has All-Star-level talent and is an impact player on both ends of the court. Monroe and Drummond are both excellent young players, but Smith is more complete than either at this point.