After winning just 29 games in 2012-13, the Detroit Pistons front office used the offseason to acquire players who would boost the overall talent level of the team.
General manager Joe Dumars used the draft, free agency and a trade to bring eight new players to the Pistons. Three of those players are expected to start, and two others will see significant minutes off the bench.
The new-look Pistons finished preseason play with a 4-4 record, but a rash of injuries has kept many key players off the court. Due to that, we have yet to see how this team will mesh when they're at full health.
*All stats were obtained from NBA.com unless otherwise noted. Salary information obtained from HoopsHype.com
For the fourth consecutive offseason, the Pistons found themselves with a top-nine draft pick. In a post-draft press conference, Dumars said their goal heading into the draft was to find a legitimate two-way player on the perimeter.
"We are basically desolate at the wing positions. We have to upgrade the wing athletic shooting. Just don't have enough of it. Just don't have enough wing, long athletes."
And with the No. 8 pick they found that kind of player player in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
At 6'5" and 205 pounds he has the body of a prototypical NBA shooting guard, and he has shown very good athletic ability. He has quick hands and rebounds the ball exceptionally well for a wing—he averaged over five boards per game in preseason. Only three qualified shooting guards hit that mark in 2012-13, per ESPN.
Where KCP has struggled in his brief NBA career is in shooting the ball—something he was drafted specifically to do. In his second (and final) season at Georgia, he averaged 18.5 points on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 37.3 percent from beyond the arc as the Bulldogs' lone double-digit scorer.
In eight preseason games he was held to just over nine points per contest, shooting 32.5 percent (26-of-80) from the floor and 25 percent (8-of-32) from three. He shot above 50 percent from the field just once, going 6-of-10 for 13 points in the finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The shooting numbers are quite awful, but there shouldn't be too much concern at this point. KCP has a great jump shot, and his shot selection so far has been mostly good, he just hasn't knocked down his shots. Every shooter goes through slumps, and it has been only eight games.
More important is the fact that he has proven that he can be a useful player on the court even when his shot isn't falling. He won't be a defensive liability against most opponents, and he'll provide the Pistons a boost on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. With the assumption that the shooting woes will be short-lived, KCP appears to be just the kind of player Dumars was seeking.
The Pistons used their two second-round picks to draft Tony Mitchell, a power forward from North Texas, and Peyton Siva, a point guard from Louisville. They play at the Pistons' two deepest positions, but both players have a chance to stick with the team.
Mitchell is a long, athletic player whose skills are still extremely raw. In the second round, the upside in selecting him far outweighed any potential risk. In preseason he showed flashes of promise—he had a 10-point, 10-rebound game against the Brooklyn Nets—and similar play in the regular season could earn him some playing time.
Siva was picked with the No. 56 overall selection, and while players drafted that late rarely make NBA rotations, point guards have had decent success in recent years. The Sacramento Kings found Isaiah Thomas with the No. 60 pick in 2011, and in 2007 the Milwaukee Bucks took Ramon Sessions with the No. 56 pick.
Siva is just 6' and shot below 30 percent from the arc his final three seasons at Louisville, but he can provide very solid on-ball pressure and by all accounts will be a strong locker room presence. As the fourth point guard on the roster, he may spend big chunks of the season in the D-League, but Siva should get the chance to develop all season long.
Offseason Acquisitions: B
After making two cap-clearing trades since the end of the 2011-12 season, Dumars used the Pistons' cap space to add talented veteran players. The big question is how well all the players will fit together.
Signing Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract is a good deal for a borderline All-Star player who can impact a game in multiple ways. But he'll be forced to play a lot of small forward next to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and Smith is a much more efficient player near the basket.
Brandon Jennings clashed with coaches in Milwaukee and can be a defensive liability, but he's the best point guard the Pistons have had since Chauncey Billups was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2008. And at $8 million per season, he actually may become an underpaid player if he continues to improve at the rate he did in 2012-13.
Speaking of Billups, he's now back with the team he helped lead to the 2004 NBA Championship. His athleticism has declined rapidly since leaving Detroit, but he's still an incredibly smart player and one of the most respected guys in the entire league. He'll get time at both guard positions, but it's his leadership that will benefit the Pistons the most.
Luigi Datome was one of the players that had many people excited, but a hamstring injury kept him out for the entire preseason. The undrafted rookie won the Italian League MVP in 2013 and should provide the Pistons with plenty of outside shooting. It remains to be seen if he can defend NBA small forwards.
Due to a jaw injury to Jennings, the Pistons projected starting lineup of Jennings, Billups, Smith, Monroe and Drummond played together just once during preseason, against Israel's Maccabi Haifa. There's no doubt that the new players will make the Pistons a better team, but there are still question marks with each new player.
Preseason Performance: C+
The Pistons' 4-4 record in preseason was not terrible, especially considering two of the losses came against the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. But injuries and mediocre performances by key members of the roster has made this a fairly forgettable preseason.
On top of the injuries to Jennings and Datome, Rodney Stuckey broke his thumb in his car door and Charlie Villanueva suffered a minor back injury.
Smith averaged 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in preseason, down from his career averages of 15.3 points and eight boards. He also had 3.4 turnovers per contest. He'll be expected to make much bigger contributions in the regular season.
Monroe struggled at power forward after spending most of his minutes at center in 2012-13. He scored 14.8 points per game, but shot only 40 percent from the field and only grabbed six boards per contest after averaging 9.6 in 2012-13.
The Pistons did earn an 11-point win over a Nets team that only lost one other exhibition game, and Smith's game-winning three to beat the Timberwolves let them finish preseason play on a high note. They hope they can carry that into the regular season.
*Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons for B/R. Follow him on Twitter.
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