Here is my Pistons preview for the upcoming season. It will run with a bunch of other Pistons previews as part of the Blogger Previews series run by Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments.
Team Name: Check out the name tag.
Last Year’s Record: 27-55 (successfully didn't make the playoffs)
Key Losses: 55 of them, and then, Kwame Brown and Chucky Atkins.
Key Additions: Greg Monroe (draft), Tracy McGrady (free agent), Terrico White (draft)
1. What Significant Moves were made during the offseason?
I'll try to make the Pistons offseason sound as
busy wordy and exciting as possible. I joke about it not being as busy as we'd have liked it to be, but it was probably Dumars' best summer in years.
The draft came first. Many, if not most, have opened up to (read: forgotten about the Pistons winning meaningless games late in the season and causing them to drop in the draft leading to...) the ultimate selection of Greg Monroe. He's relatively big, he can pass, he can score, and he's not a project. He'll contribute right away and that's, well, super-cool to me. He has the ability to really open up the floor for the guards, who are the real strength of the Pistons (see No. 2).
Terrico White in the 2nd round was somewhat of a surprise draft pick because most fans were still expecting Dumars to go big considering the abundance of "undersized" already on the roster. Everybody knows or read that Terrico is somewhat of a freak athlete, but still scoffed at the idea of him as a basketball player because, "wahhh, he's another guard!!!!1" (That's taken verbatim out of my live Gournal). Then, in an effort to not necessarily win over anybody, but to tell his doubters to go Darko themselves, he clearly, and impressively, won an impromptu rookie slam dunk contest (while his shoes were untied) and was subsequently voted most athletic rookie by the same fellow rooks (by more than twice the percentage of votes the next rookie received, who was not named John Wall -- Wall only received the third most votes). He's the kind of athlete that almost makes you hope that the ten guards in front of him have injury problems again just so you can see what he's capable of doing on the court, because, otherwise, we're probably not going to see anything out of him at all. If he's able to flash any of his athletic ability whatsoever, the draft pick could still wind up being a significant one.
As expected, the Pistons then re-signed Ben Wallace and Will Bynum. Wallace came first after briefly deliberating retirement. At 36-years-old, it's hard to expect Wallace to be as good as he was in his DPOY years, or even last year, but if we openly doubt him and still act pissed off that he left for the Bulls in '06 as much as we can, maybe he'll play like he has something to prove again. That seemed to work great last year.
The best move of the summer, though, was re-signing Will Bynum for $9.75 million over three years. In today's market, Bynum could've arguably been worth twice that and thus no longer a Piston (losing Bynum would've made the Terrico White a better pick, too), but people are stupid and Dumars used that to his advantage to re-sign Bynum.
And then the Pistons signed Tracy McGrady. Anytime you can sign a two-time NBA scoring champ for pennies on the dollar, I think you have to do it, assuming he's not named Allen Iverson. McGrady has had major injury problems the past two years, but he's only 31. He's determined to make a comeback, so he could potentially make a significant impact for the Pistons, either in winning games or helping Dumars execute a bigger trade before the deadline.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Pistons are stacked at the wing position, which should make for a lot of fast-paced, scoring opportunities. The problem is that a lot of those wings see themselves as scorers, so they'll have to be conscious of distributing the ball evenly. With the addition of Monroe and a realization from several returning players that moving the ball is actually a good thing, the Pistons have the ability to turn that into one of their biggest strengths, too. It'll take some work, though, because the Pistons were 26th in assists per game last year.
I said this in last year's preview and it didn't really pan out, but the Pistons are hungry to prove naysayers wrong. You can't underestimate a team's desire to win in being a huge team strength. The Pistons were flat out embarrassing last year, so don't think for a second that the returning squadrons have shrugged it off like they have nothing to prove this year. The Pistons have talked a big game this offseason, and that's as useful as a poopy flavored lollipop, but for once, I think they might really translate it into outworking their opponents.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
The team's biggest weakness is not a secret. Everybody who follows the Pistons knows that their biggest weakness is
not having a superstar in a superstar world, no, their ankles, no, it's not having a legitimate man in the middle. The Pistons are full of out-of-position players, but their biggest shortcoming, heh, is at the classic center position. 2004 Ben Wallace would probably suffice, but 2010 Ben Wallace is a shell of his former self. Greg Monroe can handle some of the big man duties, but he's ideally a PF. To compensate, the Pistons will once again have to double-down and that will undoubtedly lead to struggles rotating back to the perimeter. From my observations, this is a major reason why opponents shot 38% from downtown last year, the 2nd highest opponent three-point percentage in the NBA.
Speaking of 3P%, the Pistons were dead last in that category last year at 31%. That's pretty sad, and it looked worse considering their two shooting guards shot below career totals (Gordon: 32% compared to a career 40% and Richard Hamilton: 29.7% compared to a career 34%). This is one area the Pistons will definitely improve upon, especially since the two worst three-point shooting guards, Stuckey and Bynum, supposedly spent all summer putting up trey bombs.
The other most glaring weakness that carries over from last year is the intangible of inexperience. Coach John Kuester is only in his second season as a head coach, but only had 11 games to work with his entire lineup last season, so this is essentially his rookie season coaching this team. With some added depth and some players never having played together before, it's going to be a difficult task at times to get everyone on the same page and that will ultimately lead to some unpleasant results along the way.
4. What are the goals for this team?
I had a cheesy answer last year, but I'll say it again -- the goal should always be to win a championship. That should be the team's goal. From a fan's perspective, of course I'm always rooting for a championship, but I'm a little more aware than hopeful. I'd say a major goal for the Pistons should be to stay healthy, for one. If not for simply winning more games, Dumars can't do his job properly if he has to deal with results skewed by injuries.
Since you can't really help prevent injuries sometimes, I'd say the next goal is to play to the team's strengths. The Pistons are relatively young, they can run, and they can shoot. There's an offense conducive to that, but I can't put my finger on what it's called... Anyway, the Pistons play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA and for what? To let Stuckey set up the offense at the top of the key, drive and shoot less than 50% within three feet of the basket? This team should be hitting the outlet immediately after rebounds and pushing the tempo, moving the ball around, every possession. Stuckey's insisted as much. This team has the talent to be an interesting and fun team to watch. There is absolutely zero reason why they should fall in the bottom left of this index (boring and bad). They might not be good, but this team shouldn't be as boring as it has been in the past (to non-Pistons fans). For Jod sakes, this really isn't the Minnesota Timberwolves, not even close.
Lastly, a goal should be to put-up or shut-up. If the Pistons don't meet desired results, I don't want to be reading on Twitter how they will be better, when they obviously don't come through. We've heard the players say it, now go and do it. If you can't, then don't make these empty, PR-happy promises. As fans, we've heard it loud and clear, we know the effort is being put in. It's time for results now.
5. Will Rip and/or Tayshaun be on the roster at the end of the season?
The last question is made up by the previewer. I started getting really sweaty trying to think of something unique, so I went with the most unoriginal question, which everybody wants answered right now. I don't have the answer and I'm willing to bet that Dumars doesn't either. In an ideal world, the Pistons shock it and win 45-plus games, making Rip and Tayshaun instrumental to any type of playoff push (and the said 45-plus wins). That probably isn't going to happen, so the decision will hinge on what kind of return Dumars is capable of receiving for one or both of the long-time Pistons. As we all know, Tayshaun is an expiring contract, so he becomes increasingly more valuable to teams looking to shed salary before 2011 free agency, but that also makes his expiring valuable to the Pistons who may want to extend Stuckey and hopefully make a play for restricted free agent Marc Gasol. If I was held at gunpoint and had to pick only one of the two that will be traded, I'd say Rip (and would probably get shot). Most of the rumors have centered around Rip, and Rip only, and it makes the most sense considering the guards galore make up of the roster. Of course, Rip also has arguably one of the worst contracts in the NBA, so he'd have to really pique the interest of a contender or somebody really desperate. I'd still put all my potato chips on him being dealt before Tayshaun. (And then I can write a really awesome story about how ironic it is that Prince is the last Piston from the 2004 championship squad to be traded or leave, even though he was the only one not voted into the All-Star game in 2006. Before you remind me that Ben Wallace is still on the Pistons, remember that he left for a little while!).
Projected Finish: Looking at my prediction from last year automatically triggers my gag reflex, so I promised myself I would err on the other side of 40 wins this year, if for no other reason than to not publicly embarrass myself again. 100% healthy, I still think the Pistons are a playoff team, without Monroe and McGrady. I can feel it all the way down in my plums, but, because I have this promise to myself, they'll have to be the first playoff team to win 36 regular season games since the '03-'04 Celtics to prove my plums right. 36-46. How did I pull that number out of a hat? Easy. I simply added last year's Win Shares together (a perfect 28 after taking out Kwame & Chucky) and added 8, which happens to be my third favorite number. Three is the number of championships the Pistons have won, so it worked out perfectly. Basic NBAsabr101.