The Detroit Pistons have an incredibly deep frontcourt.
After significantly upgrading their roster this offseason, the Detroit Pistons are ready to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in 2013-14.
They signed former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, a 2010 All-NBA defender, to a four-year contract. They also acquired Brandon Jennings, a career 17-points-per-game scorer, in a sign-and-trade deal from the Milwaukee Bucks.
In addition to all the new faces on the roster—eight in all—the Pistons have a new head coach, Maurice Cheeks. With so many changes in one offseason, the players had to use preseason to gain familiarity with a new system and one another.
A trio of injuries, the continued impressive play of Andre Drummond and several notable preseason performances have led to movement throughout the player power rankings.
Detroit's trio of big men sit atop the rankings, but which player deserves the No. 1 spot?
Siva is one of two players on the roster with a non-guaranteed contract.
15. Peyton Siva
The former Louisville point guard is a pesky on-ball defender and an intelligent player, but Siva was drafted No. 56 overall in June's draft because he lacks the size and jump shot to be an everyday NBA player.
Siva scored eight points in 15 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets during his first preseason appearance, but he also had five turnovers. Against the Chicago Bulls he finished with nine assists in 26 minutes, but shot just 1-of-7 from the field.
Even with injuries to Jennings and Rodney Stuckey, Siva will see the court only sparingly in the early part of the season. The Pistons would love to see him develop, but he could be cut if they need to make an in-season roster move.
14. Josh Harrellson
He has played just 43 games in two NBA seasons, but Harrellson's a big-bodied defender who has shown decent shooting range in the past.
During the 2011-12 season with the New York Knicks, he shot 33.9 percent from beyond the arc on 1.6 attempts per game. While Charlie Villanueva has been the Pistons' top-shooting big man in past years, Harrellson offers the same skill, and he's willing to play defense.
Like with Siva, Harrellson's non-guaranteed contract leaves him susceptible to a cut if the team needs to make room on the roster. And since he's more than two years older than Siva, Harrellson seems like the most likely candidate, should the situation arise.
A hamstring injury has kept Luigi Datome out of preseason play.
13. Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell was a second-round pick in 2013 like Siva, but his contract is fully guaranteed for the 2013-14 season.
The former North Texas forward has elite athleticism, but entered the league very raw on both ends of the court.
He has appeared in seven of the Pistons' preseason games, with his top performance coming against the Nets, with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Cheeks has played Mitchell almost 16 minutes per game during preseason, just two minutes less than Villanueva and four minutes less than Jonas Jerebko, the team's two other backup power forwards.
Mitchell will likely start the season behind them in the rotation, but he has a real opportunity to earn playing time if he takes advantage of his opportunities.
12. Charlie Villanueva
After what may have seemed like an eternity to Pistons fans, the five-year deal Charlie Villanueva signed in the summer of 2009 is now an expiring contract.
The 6'11" big man was brought in for his shooting, but he's done too little else in Detroit to earn consistent playing time during his four seasons with the team.
After averaging career lows of 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2012-13, Villanueva has been off to a slow start this preseason, shooting just 40 percent (10-of-25) from the field and 20 percent (3-of-15) from beyond the arc.
If he can find his shooting stroke, Villanueva offers the Pistons a stretch 4 who can provide some offense off the bench. If not, this roster is too deep for him to see the court.
11. Luigi Datome
Dumars signed former Italian League MVP Luigi Datome this offseason to help improve the team's outside shooting. But due to a hamstring injury, we have yet to see him in action wearing a Pistons uniform.
At 6'8" he will spend most of his time at small forward, but he can slide to the four against teams playing 'small ball.'
Datome's injury shouldn't keep him out too much longer. If his jumper is as good as advertised, he has the potential to move up the rankings when he's in the lineup.
Kyle Singler may start the season as the Pistons' starting shooting guard.
With three big men in their starting lineup, outside shooting is at a premium for the Pistons this season. Kyle Singler has shot well this preseason, so why is he ranked No. 10?
The simple answer is that he has brought very little else to the court.
Singler played 77 minutes through four games. In those four games he has nine turnovers and two assists. Through four games, Drummond, a center, is accumulating assists at a higher rate—one every 33 minutes, compared to one ever 38.5 minutes for Singler.
Singler plays both wing positions, but a .22 assist-to-turnover ratio is unacceptable for a player who may start at shooting guard. Last season, he averaged less than one assist while playing 28 minutes per game.
It can't be overlooked that Singler is shooting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from the arc through four games. And he looks like the front-runner to start at shooting guard with injuries to Jennings and Stuckey.
But if he's averaging just 2.3 assists and .5 assists per game, he is getting the job by default, not on his merits.
Will Bynum had a 28-point outing against the Miami Heat.
As the projected third point guard on the roster, Will Bynum won't always get the chance to play. But if preseason is any indication, he'll be ready to go when given the chance.
Bynum got a DNP against Israel's Maccabi Haifa in the preseason opener, but bounced back with 28 points and six assists against the Miami Heat. He shot 11-of-16 from the field in 46 minutes after being moved to the starting lineup with Jennings and Stuckey injured.
He showed his ability to run the offense against the Nets in their next game, racking up 11 assists while taking just five shots.
With the other two guards out, Bynum will get plenty of playing time backing up the 37-year-old Billups. But even when Jennings and Stuckey return, Bynum has value as an instant-offense guard off the bench.
Jonas Jerebko has shown flashes of improvement this preseason.
In the battle for backup minutes at power forward, Jerebko is the early leader.
After failing to see the floor against Maccabi, Jerebko had a 10-point, 12-rebound outing against the Heat. His net rating of plus-11 was eight points better than anyone on the roster.
After a six-point performance against the Nets, Jerebko was impressive against the Bulls, scoring 14 points in 25 minutes. His plus-12 net rating was ,again, a team best.
That's not to say that Jerebko was Detroit's top performer in either game, but it's worth noting that the team is playing better when the high-energy Jerebko is on the court.
Jerebko is more consistent than Mitchell and more experienced than Harrellson or Mitchell. At this point, a spot in the rotation is his to lose.
KCP has shown off his rebounding prowess in preseason play.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope appears to have the green light from Cheeks to shoot, he just hasn't knocked many of them down.
He has taken 48 shots in their first four preseason games—eight more than any other player—but he's made just 13 of them, or 27 percent. From three he's shot just 4-of-20, or 20 percent.
KCP's current inability to knock down shots may seem like more of a problem than Singler's inability to do anything but shoot, but there's reason to believe the rookie will straighten his jumper out: He was an excellent shooter in college. There is 2,293 minutes-worth of evidence from Singler's rookie season showing that he is little more than a spot-up shooter.
If you move past his shooting numbers, you see that the 6'5" Caldwell-Pope has averaged 6.5 rebounds through four games, the same as 6'11" Greg Monroe and 2.5 more than 6'9" Josh Smith. And this isn't just a coincidence—he averaged over seven boards as a sophomore at Georgia.
In college he also showed the ability to force turnovers, and he's had at least one steal in all four games.
KCP has gotten to the line more than three times per game so far, a rate only accomplished by 14 shooting guards last year. Again, he showed the ability to draw fouls at Georgia, attempting 5.3 free throws as a sophomore. When his jump shot isn't falling, his other skills will allow him to be a useful player on the court.
Rodney Stuckey is among the Pistons' injured backcourt players.
After playing arguably the worst season of his career in 2012-13, Stuckey broke his thumb in a car door after just one preseason game this season.
His lone performance wasn't exciting either, as he tallied just five points and three assists on 1-of-6 shooting from the field against Maccabi.
Despite the unlucky start, Stuckey remains one of the most versatile players on the roster, capable of playing three positions at times. He's also one of the few players capable of generating his own shot off the dribble.
What the Pistons need him to do this season is limit his outside shots—he's a career 28.8 percent shooter from three—and focus on attacking the basket. He averaged at least 5.4 free throw attempts in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but just 3.6 last season.
Stuckey has the athleticism to be a good fit when the Pistons want to get up and down the court with their young legs. But he needs to get healthy and prove he can also be a valuable player in half-court sets.
With Brandon Jennings out, Chauncey Billups may begin the season as the starting point guard.
Before the season began it was unclear whether Billups would spend his time on the court at the one or two. With Jennings' injury, he'll at least begin the season as the starting point guard.
At 37 years old and after two-straight injury-shortened seasons, the question now is what kind of workload can he handle.
Before the injuries to Jennings and Stuckey, Billups started against Maccabi and played 19 minutes. Since then he has registered three-straight DNPs, without an apparent injury.
It's only preseason, but there is reason to believe he's not capable of playing more than 20-25 minutes per night at this stage of his career, or if he's even capable of playing on a nightly basis for the Pistons.
Brandon Jennings has played just one preseason game due to a fractured jaw.
Jennings played a very good game against Maccabi in the preseason opener, but now he's out for at least three weeks with a fluke wisdom teeth injury.
He had 15 points, three assists and five steals in the game, shooting 4-of-8 from the field and making all six of his free throws.
Had he continued that level of play, the fifth-year point guard may have cracked the top three. Instead, his absence from the court leaves the Pistons thin at point guard.
When he regains his health, the Pistons can expect a player who has averaged 17 points, 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals during his career. He shoots threes well in the pick-and-roll, and is one of the few players on the roster capable of creating off the dribble.
Greg Monroe has struggled mightily in preseason play thus far.
Last season, Monroe was the Pistons' best player, averaging 16 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. With the acquisition of Smith and Drummond's development, he no longer holds that title.
He is still the team's best low-post scorer and passer, but Monroe has struggled mightily in preseason. He's averaged 12 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. He's also averaged nearly three turnovers per game.
Some of the issue may attributed to his adjustment to the move to power forward from center—the spot Drummond now occupies for the most part. Or it may just be a bad four-game performance.
But Monroe is too much of a liability to not produce at a high level offensively. He has never averaged a block per game in a season, and opposing centers had a PER of 19.6 against him last season (15 is the league average), per 82games.com.
Of their three bigs, Monroe appears to be struggling the most. For the offense to run properly, he needs to get on track before the regular season tips off.
Andre Drummond has been the Pistons' best player in preseason play.
If you could have purchased Andre Drummond stock one year ago, you'd be filthy rich today.
Leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft, Sports Illustrated labeled him a gamble, citing an NBA front-office man as saying "He's a project." Michael Lee of the Washington Post said, "He ... has the potential to disappoint on a grand scale." An Ohio.com writer cautioned that "he could be the next Hasheem Thabeet."
Instead, he averaged 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 20.7 minutes per game as a rookie. His 21.69 PER was second-highest among rookies (just .11 behind Anthony Davis) and 17th among all NBA players. He was among the 27 players who participated in a Team USA mini-camp in July (along with Monroe).
It's just preseason, but Drummond has been the Pistons' most-impressive player thus far. He's averaged 14.5 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just under 25 minutes per game. He was a small part of the offense as a rookie, averaging 5.7 field goal attempts per game; he's averaged 10 per contest so far in preseason play.
Another good sign for Drummond is that he's currently 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) from the line, after shooting just 37.1 percent last season.
Again, there have only been four preseason games, but they have been a very good four games. Drummond has gotten more involved in the offense, shot 57.5 percent from the field and contested shots on the defensive end. All signs point up for the 20-year-old center.
Smith will be a leader on both ends of the court for the Pistons.
The Pistons' biggest offseason acquisition remains at the top of their player power rankings, although Drummond may demand the top spot sooner rather than later.
At 27 years old, Smith is in the prime of his career. An elite athlete with the ability to play both forward positions, he will be one of their best players on both ends of the court every single night.
His ability to affect games in a variety of ways translates to the stat sheet, where he has career averages of 15.3 points, eight rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals. According to Basketball-Reference.com, only 16 players have had a season with the same averages (including Smith, who's done it three times). Four are current players, seven are in the Hall of Fame.
That's not to say Smith is a Hall of Famer, but it shows that he can change a basketball game in ways very few players can.
His preseason has been solid, if unremarkable. He's averaging 10.5 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists, and more than one block and one steal per game. The most notable thing is that he's shooting 48.3 percent from the field and has made six of his 12 three-point attempts.
Smith can continue to defer to younger plays offensively during preseason play, but the Pistons need him to be more assertive when the regular season starts.