5 Things Every Fan Needs to Know About the Detroit Pistons for 2013-14
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GM Joe Dumars made a variety of moves to acquire young, athletic players this offseason—some with problematic histories. He's put himself on the line by betting that their talent will overcome those red flags and questions, and the hope is that they will become excellent on-court fits. Regardless, the Pistons are a team to watch in 2013-14.
Granland's Zach Lowe explained why NBA fans are so interested in this Pistons team:
The Pistons are the NBA’s new League Pass darling. Everyone wants to see the Andre Drummond dunk fest, and how three guys who need the ball — Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe — will coexist in lineups that will struggle for spacing. The Pistons have somehow become the most captivating non-contender while acquiring two big-money players most fans seem to find frustrating more than anything else.
Nobody knows what to expect from the Pistons, and that is what makes them so captivating. And even if they aren't successful, at least people will be watching.
5. Offseason Moves
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The Pistons front office was among the busiest in the league this offseason, adding eight new players to the roster and hiring a new coach, Maurice Cheeks.
In June they drafted three players: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva.
KCP is a shooting guard from Georgia, with prototypical size and range for an off-guard. With shooting at a premium in Detroit, he should play right away.
Mitchell is a forward from North Texas with incredible athleticism and upside. Siva started for three years at point guard for Louisville and won the national championship in 2013. However, neither of those two players will see significant minutes this season.
The biggest free-agent acquisition of the summer was former Atlanta Hawks forward, Josh Smith. He is one of the best athletes in the league and will start at small forward.
Also, Chauncey Billups signed a two-year deal to return to Detroit. He was an All-Star with the team before being traded in 2008 to the Denver Nuggets.
Former lottery pick Brandon Knight was sent to Milwaukee in a sign-and-trade deal for Brandon Jennings, who agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with Detroit. Jennings is an ultra-quick point guard with a great handle and excellent range. He is prone to questionable shot selection and a lack of focus defensively, though.
The Pistons made the most interesting international signing of the summer as well, agreeing to a two-year deal with Italian League MVP Luigi Datome. He was acquired to improve the team's outside shooting—he made nearly 40 percent of his threes last season—but he also has good size and athleticism for a small forward.
4. A New Coach
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In what has become somewhat of an offseason tradition in Detroit, the Pistons signed a new head coach. This time, the man they hired was Maurice Cheeks.
Cheeks—the team's fifth head coach since 2008—had spent the previous four seasons as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He has had two previous NBA head coaching jobs with the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trailblazers, but his career coaching record is 284-286.
Cheeks was one of the best point guards in league history, however, playing over 15 seasons. He ranks fifth all time in career steals and is 11th in assists, and his knowledge of the game should help Jennings develop.
Cheeks played at West Texas State in college. One of the most famous moments of his coaching career was helping a 13-year-old girl sing the National Anthem after she forgot the words.
3. Notable Games
The Pistons' offseason moves have given some extra meaning to a number of their Eastern Conference games this season.
Their season opener is at home on Oct. 30 against the Washington Wizards, and the game doubles as Billups' first regular season game in a Pistons uniform since 2008.
Smith will make his first return to Atlanta—where he played his first nine NBA seasons—on Nov. 20. The Pistons play the Hawks in back-to-back games, too, with another matchup occurring in Detroit on Nov. 22.
On Nov. 25, they will face-off at home against the Bucks, Jennings' former team. Jennings will make his first return to Milwaukee on Dec. 4.
Jason Maxiell will make his first return to the Palace as a member of the Orlando Magic on on Jan. 28. Maxiell was drafted by the Pistons in 2005 and played his first eight NBA seasons with Detroit.
2. Frontcourt Talent
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Even before signing Smith, the Pistons had an exciting group of bigs. Now, they have more frontcourt talent than nearly any team in the league.
Monroe, the fourth-year man from Georgetown, averaged 16.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season with a PER above 19. He played most of his minutes at center in 2012-13, but this season, he'll spend more time at the 4.
Drummond, who is garnering comparisons to Dwight Howard, is expected to take on a bigger role after averaging just 20.7 minutes per game as a rookie. Even at 19 years old, he showed glimpses of how physically dominant he can be by averaging 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes last season, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Smith is most productive at power forward, but he is expected to start on the wing to make room for Monroe and Drummond. He is an elite athlete who finishes at the rim better than nearly anyone. He is also an excellent passer and can defend at a very high level when motivated.
The three will give the Pistons a big man rotation that few teams can match. The hope is that they will be able to score and defend from the inside-out, especially as many other teams become more perimeter-oriented.
1. Win-Loss Projections
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The Pistons won just 29 games a season ago, but the roster was greatly improved this offseason. Their win total will certainly go up, but with an improved Eastern Conference, not all experts are convinced that they can make the playoffs in 2014.
USA Today liked the Pistons to finish with the No. 7 seed in the East. The 41-41 record they projected would be their highest win total since the 2007-08 season.
HOOPSWORLD was rather bullish on the offseason moves, predicting a 45-37 record and a No. 6 seed in the East:
The additions of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are enough to inspire confidence in a significant turnaround for Detroit.
Bleacher Report's own Dan Favale predicted a 42-40 record, good for the No. 7 seed. While he has them slated as a playoff team, his confidence in them is tentative at best:
Adequate point guard in hand, playoff tickets can't necessarily be punched right away. Depending on how well the pieces in Detroit fit, the Pistons could still have some ample reshuffling to do.
The Pistons are projected to be a borderline playoff team, and they will have to play consistently all season long in order to make the postseason, especially against Eastern Conference foes.