The Detroit Pistons aren't short on talent. That's why, following a miserable 29-53 campaign, they elected for changes in the front office before concentrating on the depth chart.
Chief among those moves was the hiring of Stan Van Gundy as the team's head coach and president of basketball operations.
"Stan is a proven winner in our league," said Pistons owner Tom Gores in a statement, via NBA.com. "He instills his teams with passion, purpose and toughness. He is a great teacher who will help our players grow and develop."
Since that move in May, Van Gundy has continued to build his specialized staff, hiring general manager Jeff Bower and assistant GM Brian Wright from the Orlando Magic.
On-the-court moves have been centered around depth. Rodney Stuckey bolted for the Indiana Pacers, but Van Gundy and Co. have added a solid backup point guard in D.J. Augustin, as well Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler and Cartier Martin to fill out the perimeter.
While the future of both Josh Smith and Greg Monroe is still unclear at this point, Van Gundy already has the Pistons looking up after six consecutive losing seasons.
According to Vegas Insider, the Pistons are at 300-1 odds to win the NBA championship and 100-1 to win the Eastern Conference.
When: November 17, 7:30 p.m. ET
This might be the Pistons' most even matchup of the season, according to Las Vegas. However, there's quite a bit more going on here thanks to Van Gundy's history in Orlando.
Stan the Man's tenure with the Magic did not end well. Here's a guy who brought the team five playoff appearances and one trip to the Finals in five seasons. But when things went sour with Dwight Howard, he was unceremoniously "relieved of his duties."
That was more than two years ago, but don't think Van Gundy has forgotten about the ugly breakup. Even if it's just for the first meeting, he'll want to get some revenge on Alex Martins and his former team.
On the court, it's an intriguing matchup. The Magic feature a tantalizing young group of players, ranging from rookies Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon to burgeoning young stars Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic.
The Pistons are a bit older, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie and especially Andre Drummond are all brimming with potential.
Neither team is expected to serve as a legitimate contender in 2014-15, but you'll be getting a good look at the future of the league in this one.
When: November 10, 8 p.m. ET
Sure, the rivalry may no longer come close to the late-80s, early-90s, Bad Boy Pistons vs. Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. But this is an important test for Detroit.
While LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers will receive most of the attention, the Bulls are going to be very good in 2014-15.
Last season, with Derrick Rose sidelined for nearly the entire year and Carlos Boozer struggling through the worst campaign of his career, Chicago still managed to finish 48-34, fourth in the East.
That's a testament to Tom Thibodeau's defensive system, which allowed just 97.8 points per 100 possessions, second-lowest in the league, per NBA.com.
The only thing missing was an offensive punch, but that's no longer the case. Rose is healthy, Pau Gasol has been signed to replace Boozer and last year's most-prolific collegiate scorer, Doug McDermott, should provide a nice boost off the bench.
Detroit took one against Chicago last year, a 92-75 win on the road in December. If it could find a way to split the season series, that would be massive.
November 10 is the first matchup, but these two teams also meet on national television (ESPN) on April 3 at 8 p.m. ET.
There have been no big-name additions, but Van Gundy had a clear plan this summer, and he stuck to it.
Last season, the Pistons shot a woeful 32.1 percent from beyond the arc, which was better than only the 19-63 Philadelphia 76ers. Van Gundy, in an attempt to mimic his successful Orlando teams that spread the floor so well, has quickly quelled that problem.
Augustin (40.1 percent from deep last season), Meeks (40.1 percent) and Butler (39.4 percent) all hit at least 1.8 treys per contest a year ago while Martin (39.1 percent) knocked down 1.0 in just 14.7 minutes per game.
Detroit's spacing will be much improved in 2014-15.
The other major problem concerns the frontcourt rotation. Smith does not work at the 3. He's forced to the perimeter when on the court with Monroe and Drummond, and that resulted in 26.4 percent three-point shooting on an inexplicable 3.4 attempts per game last season (easily a career high). His PER and true-shooting percentage were both the worst of his career, per Basketball-Reference.com.
To maximize Smith, perhaps he should be brought off the bench as an ultimate utility man. Contract aside, Smith can be the most maddening player on the roster, and likely the most frustrating Piston in a very long time.
Coming off the bench and giving him starter’s minutes, when he’s engaged and effective, balances out the floor — and the worry about whether he’s a small forward or power forward falls to the wayside.
There are a total of 96 minutes for the power forward and center positions. Each of Smith, Monroe and Drummond could log more than 30 minutes without having to play all three on the court at the same time, when they are least effective.
Improvement is on the horizon for Detroit, but if Van Gundy opts to bring Smith off the bench or move him for other assets, I wouldn't be afraid to add a couple wins to the total.
Playing in a suddenly stacked Central Division (12 games against the Cavs, Bulls and Pacers is not ideal), though, it's going to be difficult to get to .500.