Which of the Detroit Pistons will be ranked No. 1?
The Detroit Pistons got off to a slow start this season, but improved play by a number of players has helped to right the ship in December.
Many of the players responsible for that turnaround have moved up in this edition of Detroit Pistons Power Rankings, while continued struggles and injuries have led several players to go the other way.
Each player is ranked by his season performance as a whole, with extra attention given to his play in recent games. After the first six weeks of the NBA season, which Piston deserves to be ranked No. 1?
*All statistics compiled from NBA.com and updated as of Dec. 8 unless otherwise noted.
15. Peyton Siva
The Pistons have four veterans on the roster who spend at least some of their time at point guard, so it's not surprising that rookie Peyton Siva has barely seen the court this season.
He's struggled in his limited playing time, with just two points and two assists while turning the ball over 10 times. He has shown some promise on the defensive end, tallying five rebounds and three steals.
14. Tony Mitchell
After a promising preseason, Tony Mitchell has played less than any Piston in the early going, with just 21 minutes in seven appearances.
Over half of his playing time came in the Nov. 11 game against the Golden State Warriors when Mitchell tallied 13 minutes. He finished the game with three points, three rebounds and an assist without turning the ball over. Solid performances like that when he does get on the court will help him earn more playing time in the future.
13. Luigi Datome
The Pistons signed Italian forward Luigi Datome in the offseason to be a sharpshooter off the bench. Unfortunately, he has been unable to find his outside touch in the early season.
Datome has started the season shooting just 20 percent from behind the arc, well below the 39.4 percent he shot his final season in Italy. His inability to knock down shots has seemingly been the reason for his recent cut in minutes; Datome has played a total of seven minutes in the past nine games.
12. Josh Harrellson
Josh Harrellson didn't play a single minute in the first eight games of the season, but he hasn't had a DNP since Nov. 19 against the New York Knicks and should continue to see minutes as the team's third center.
When Harrellson is in the game, he brings an element to the Pistons that their other centers don't have: a three-point shot. Nearly half the field goals he has taken this season have been from behind the arc, and he has made 5-of-11 so far in the early season.
After Andre Drummond picked up an early third foul against the Chicago Bulls, Harrellson came into the game and had 10 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 13 minutes. More performances like that will help Harrellson get more consistent playing time in the future.
11. Charlie Villanueva
Charlie Villanueva has seen very inconsistent playing time to begin the season, but he's been a very effective offensive player when he has gotten on the court. He's averaged nearly five points in less than eight minutes per game and has a PER above 20, albeit in a limited sample size.
The high point of his season thus far was a two-game stretch at the end of November against the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. Villanueva scored a combined 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting in 25 minutes in the two games, both Pistons wins.
After starting 73 games as a rookie in 2009-10, Jonas Jerebko has seen his role with the Pistons shrink for the third consecutive season.
Jerebko has played just 7.4 minutes per game in the early season, less than half of what he averaged in 2012-13, when he averaged a career-low 18.2 minutes.
He's performed reasonably well when he's played: He has a PER near the league average, and he's holding opposing power forwards to a PER of 11.2 through 14 games, per 82games.com. But with the addition of Josh Smith in the offseason and Andre Drummond's increased role, Jerebko has been pushed out of the rotation.
Jerebko has seen a bit of an increase in minutes recently—he's played at least 10 minutes three times since Nov. 27 after reaching that total just once in the first 14 games. It is yet to be seen whether that trend will continue.
In the season opener against the Washington Wizards, Chauncey Billups showed flashes of his former self, tallying 16 points and five assists with just one turnover. Unfortunately for the Pistons, he has yet to have another impressive performance.
Over the next six games he scored no more that five points, shooting 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) from the field and 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) from the arc during that span. And he hasn't played since then with a knee injury.
Billups wasn't expected to be the same player he was in 2008, when he last played for the Pistons, but his play in the early season has been by far the worst of his career. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Billups is averaging just 8.6 points per 36 minutes. His previous career low was his rookie season, when he averaged 14.5 points per 36 minutes.
Billups is likely to return from injury soon. His play will have to be improved greatly if he is to continue averaging over 20 minutes per game.
Like Billups, Will Bynum played a very good game in the season opener against the Wizards. And like Billups, Bynum has struggled with injuries and poor play since the beginning of the season.
In the first two games of the season, Bynum shot 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) from the field, scoring 37 points and adding 11 assists. Since then, he has shot 15-of-66 (32.6 percent) in eight appearances.
Overall, Bynum's play on the offensive end has been decent; his 14.63 PER is nearly the league average. But for a player who makes his living as an offensive player—opposing point guards have a PER of 19.3 against him this season, per 82games.com—Bynum needs to be more efficient to be a difference maker for the Pistons.
After starting 74 games as a rookie, Kyle Singler has become an important two-way player off the bench for the Pistons in his second year.
Singler has held opposing small forwards to a PER of 13.3 through 14 games, per 82games.com. He doesn't force many turnovers, but he works hard and is willing to do dirty work for the Pistons.
On the other end of the court, he's shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc, better than the 31.8 percent the team is shooting overall. He's also been excellent at finishing near the rim, shooting 29-of-42 from within five feet of the basket.
Singler isn't great at handling the ball and rarely facilitates for his teammates—he has just 11 assists in 451 minutes this season—but he knows his role and rarely turns the ball over (also 11 on the season). He's a very consistent option off the bench for coach Maurice Cheeks.
The Pistons' most recent first-round pick has become an important part of the team earlier than expected, and he'll be even better when he can find his jump shot.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has started in all but five games he's played this season, playing over 23 minutes per contest. He's proven to be a valuable wing defender, holding opposing shooting guards to a PER of 10.9 (per 82games.com) and averaging a steal per game.
But offensively he simply has struggled to find his shooting touch, making just 37.6 percent of his field goals and 30.2 percent of his threes.
His play has improved of late, so there's reason to be optimistic about his offensive potential. In December he's shot 15-of-29 from the field (51.7 percent) and 5-of-10 from three. Continued play like that will help KCP take on an even bigger role for the team.
Rodney Stuckey has yet to start a game for the Pistons, but he has been one of their most important players this season.
After arguably the worst season of his career in 2012-13, Stuckey has been excellent in the early season. He's shooting a career best from the field (46.9 percent) and from the arc (34.5 percent) and is averaging 15.4 points per game, his highest average since 2010-11.
Stuckey, who has closed most games for the Pistons this season, has been one of the best reserves in the league. The way he's playing, he is on the short list of candidates for Sixth Man of the Year in the early going.
"Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said from the time he took his new job that he wanted to get Stuckey re-engaged," wrote MLive.com's David Mayo. "And the mercurial combination guard has played early this season with an off-the-bench verve which will propel him into Sixth Man of the Year consideration if it continues."
The way Stuckey has played off the bench has been tremendous for the Pistons, a team that lacked depth last season. His ability to continue playing at such a high level will be huge as the season continues on.
Prior to the season Josh Smith was ranked No. 1 in these power rankings, but in just six weeks he has fallen three spots.
The experiment to play him at small forward next to Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond has been a struggle thus far for Smith. While the other two guys have played well down low together, Smith has been unable to fit into his role in the offense.
Smith is currently shooting just 38.7 percent from the field, the lowest of his career. He's also taking 4.6 threes per game and making just 27.5 percent of them. Of the 188 shots he has taken from beyond five feet of the basket, Smith has made just 27.1 percent.
"You know what happens when you put Josh 20 feet from the basket?" asks Grantland's Bill Simmons. "He says to himself, 'Hey, I'm open!' It's like leaving your kids unattended around Halloween candy. There's just no upside."
Part of the issue is that Cheeks has been unable to find enough ways to get Smith the ball in positions where he can attack the basket. But Smith is also taking far too many deep jump shots and failing to hit very many of them.
There have been many reasons for the Pistons' recent success, and a big one has been the play of point guard Brandon Jennings.
In the month of December, Jennings has been excellent, averaging 21.3 points and 8.3 assists. His best performance of the young season came in Chicago as he shot 12-of-22 from the field, scoring 33 points and adding five assists in a 17-point win over the Bulls.
Jennings has been the team's best offensive player thus far, leading the Pistons with 16.9 points and 8.2 assists per game (his previous career high is 6.5). He's also shooting better from the arc (36.8 percent) than everyone but Harrellson.
Jennings has been a dynamic scorer for his entire career, but the Pistons have to be excited about his recent improvement in running an offense and finding his teammates.
While Greg Monroe is also adjusting to a new position, his move has been much smoother than Smith's.
The big man has seen his scoring dip slightly after moving to power forward, down to 14.5 points per game from 16 a year ago, but his field-goal percentage is up, and he's averaging fewer turnovers per game.
The biggest plus for Monroe has been on defense, where he's proven to be much more effective against power forwards than centers. This season opposing 4s have posted a PER of 12.6 against him, while centers have had a PER of 16.4, per 82games.com. In 2012-13, power forwards had a 16 PER against him, while centers posted a PER of 19.6.
While Monroe doesn't have the athleticism to ever become a dominant defender, he has made noticeable strides to improve on that side of the ball. The move to power forward appears to have helped his cause.
While it seemed inevitable that Andre Drummond would eventually become Detroit's top player, his rise to the top has come sooner than expected.
The second-year big man has had no trouble adjusting to an increased role after starting only 10 games as a rookie. He's averaged 13.3 points and 12.9 rebounds in the early season in 32.6 minutes per game. He's also adding 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest.
Drummond's gaudy numbers have placed him high on a pair of NBA leaderboards. His 63.0 field goal percentage is tops in the league, and his rebounding average has him only trailing Kevin Love (13.6).
The 20-year-old still has plenty of work to do as he continues his development. He needs to continuing working on his post moves while drastically improving his 37 percent clip from the line.
Overall, Drummond has been quite impressive. Even since December started, he can boast performances of 31 points and 19 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers and 24 points and 19 boards against the Milwaukee Bucks. No other player on the roster has shown the ability to dominate a game to that extent.