In an attempt to regain relevance last year, the Pistons signed Josh Smith to a 4 year $54 million contract. This immediately sparked a little debate about the purpose of such an exercise as the team already had a very good PF in Greg Monroe. Smith can also play SF but he has always excelled as a somewhat smaller 4, and the organization seemed very committed to developing its young center Andre Drummond.
The Smith Small Forward experiment pretty much blew up as soon as the season began. Something about Smith’s love of shooting 3 pointers doesn’t really go with his awful numbers as he finally averaged 26% from deep on the season. Perhaps heartened by all of these chucks, new PG Brandon Jennings also began throwing them up and the Pistons quickly collapsed into an absolute brick-fest and the 2nd worst 3 point shooting team in the league. The idea that 3 huge guys in the frontcourt would make up for this shortcoming by packing the paint and scaring off driving guards also quickly blew up and Detroit ended the season with the 26th ranked defense. Let’s just say I didn’t watch a lot of Pistons games.
There’s some new stuff going on in Motor City this year though. The major news item was the team finally prying Stan Van Gundy out of the sportscaster circuit and instating him as head coach (thankfully ending the rumor cycle that every team in need of a new coach is interviewing Van Gundy). SVG was regarded as a smart tactician and a refreshingly honest guy during his tenure in Orlando and there is some speculation that he may be trying to rewire this team around Drummond in a similar way to Dwight Howard and that Finals team.
This means, THANK GOD, some 3 point shooting. The Pistons signed Jodie Meeks to a pretty ridiculous contract, snagged DJ Augustin from the Bulls, and called Caron Butler away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pistons will also have another year of Italian marksman Luigi Datome, though he was used sparingly last season.
It definitely remains to see how this will work out. Drummond is an explosive force and led the league in rebounding, but he has very little post game and does not begin to come near the offensive juggernaut Howard was in Orlando. Van Gundy has expressed the interest in building out Drummond’s skill set, but those are not moves you learn overnight.
The team may also have to contend with another year of Smith at the 3. After a long, Bledsoe-like summer of restricted free agency Monroe was finally brought back to Detroit, albeit on a 1 year qualifying offer. The sooner Detroit can move him to another team and whatever they get in return will go a long way in determining how good this team will be. The Pistons were definitely hard to watch last year, but Van Gundy is a great coach and may be able to transform this team.
X-Factor = Andre Drummond
Drummond got to spend the summer with some of basketball’s best young talents during the FIBA World Cup. Even without that scoring touch, he did manage to qualify for the final roster and will likely benefit greatly from the experience. After a dominant season of rebounding and crashing down putback dunks, any further improvement should be enough to show Detroit that they have their franchise center.