This is the most excitement that has surrounded the Detroit Pistons since Chauncey Billups' first stint with the team.
Detroit's media day was filled with talk of talent and expectations, but also of competition for playing time. Overall, it felt like a change in culture for a franchise that has lacked direction for half a decade.
The spacing issues are overblown
Since the Pistons signed forward Josh Smith in free agency, there have been questions about his fit with fellow big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Popular belief is that the Pistons will struggle offensively when the trio shares the court. None of them have shown a consistent outside jumper, and the thought is that defenses will be able to clog the paint and bog down their offense.
New head coach Maurice Cheeks doesn't expect it to be a problem. In a question and answer session with the Detroit News, he said it shouldn't be a concern, "I'm hoping to have three big guys finish [games]."
Smith expanded on those thoughts, telling NBA TV that they've already been working together to ensure it's not an issue during the season (begins at the :46 mark).
Chauncey Billups wants to play point guard
Pistons' Chauncey Billups: 'I always consider myself a starter' http://t.co/NmO1zzdj8j— Vincent Ellis (@Vincent_Ellis56) October 1, 2013
If he does move to shooting guard, Billups wants to have the ball in his hands frequently.
"Even if I do play it, I would like to be able to make some decisions out there," he told NBA TV.
In the Q&A session, Cheeks didn't name Billups as a point guard, just Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum and Peyton Siva. For Cheeks, Billups has to prove that he can still play the position after two injury-riddled seasons in Los Angeles.
There are big expectations for Andre Drummond
The newest Pistons players are excited to play alongside Drummond and his rare combination of size and athleticism.
Josh Smith: "I'm excited to play with Drummond. Having a shot blocker, knowing the last line of defense isn't always you..."— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) September 30, 2013
Smith, who has averaged over two blocks per game in his nine-year NBA career, will combine with Drummond in a very imposing defensive frontcourt. Drummond sees the potential of such a young and athletic team.
"You look at our starting lineup, it's nothing but athletes," he said, via Mlive.com. "So we're going to run a lot of guys out of the gym is what it looks like."
Billups sees him as a future star in the league.
Billups on Drummond: "I see a star in the making. He’s gonna be a special player for a long time." #Pistons— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) September 30, 2013
Those sentiments echoed the buzz around Drummond this offseason. After an excellent rookie season and a solid showing with Team USA, Drummond has drawn comparisons to Dwight Howard and been picked as the "most promising center in the NBA."
The Pistons veterans are in agreement.
At this point, the Pistons are still a team of uncertainty.
There are eight new players and a new head coach. The starting lineup will feature three big men, and possibly two point guards. Everyone involved will have to answer questions from the media about spacing and chemistry until they are proved to be non-issues.
But even with all the question marks, this is a team filled with talent. It's a team that can make the playoffs this season, and the players believe it.
It's also a team of players that seems to genuinely like each other. Smith talked about spending time this summer with his fellow bigs. Drummond and Siva have raced go-karts together.
The team is still a ways from competing for a championship, but that is expected with just two over-30 players on the roster.
Going forward there will be challenges. Monroe is eligible for a contract extension, and fellow 2010 draftee DeMarcus Cousins just re-signed for $62 million. With Smith already big-time dollars, and Drummond marked as "untouchable," Monroe may not be part of Detroit's long-term plan.
There's also the issue of developing from a playoff-level team to a championship contender. There are several young, intriguing players on the roster—but can they develop enough to push the Pistons into the East's top tier?
Those problems will have to be dealt with down the road. For now, there is optimism in Detroit.