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Sunday, November 2, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 21. Detroit Pistons

Overall Win/Loss Record : 29-53,  fourth place Central Division

2014/2015 Projection: 38-44, fourth place Central Division, tenth place Eastern Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 101.0 (14th)
  • Points Allowed: 104.7 (27th)
  • Team FG%: .447 (20th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .470 (27th)
  • Team FT%: .670 (30th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .321 (29th)
  • Rebounds per game: 45.4 (3rd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.0 (19th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.9 (11th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.4 (12th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Josh Smith (16.4)
  • Rebounds per game:  Andre Drummond (13.2)
  • Minutes per game: Josh Smith (35.5)
  • Assists per game:  Brandon Jennings (7.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Andre Drummond (.623)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Kyle Singler (.830)  
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Jonas Jerebko(.419)  
  • Steals per game: Josh Smith (1.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Andre Drummond (1.6)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential::

  1. DJ Augustin (G)
  2. Caron Butler (F/G)
  3. Kyle Singler (G/F)
  4. Jonas Jerebko (F)
  5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G)
The Joe Dumars Era is finally over and gone are the constant coaching carousel, the tiresome excuses and the frustrating and often recklessly poor personnel choices.  Now both the Pistons and their fans can finally move on as they look to climb out the hole that Dumars had been digging for them over the past five years.  They will do so under new leadership where both the front office and coaching staff will finally be in sync simply because both divisions have fallen under the mandate of one person.  Stan Van Gundy has resurfaced after a two season long exile from the NBA and has come to the take the controls of a train that had run off its tracks and bring it back on course.  His plan for the team is simple: to bring this long struggling team back to its one time strong roots by returning it to the core values that made it one of the most respected and even feared franchises in the league . . .

These core values are the ones that fueled the reign of the Bad Boy Era Pistons that toppled the Magic/Bird regime in the 1980s leading to three NBA Finals appearances and two consecutive NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990.  They also were key in the team's resurgence to prominence in the start of the 21st century where they virtually dominated the Central Division and Eastern Conference making the Eastern Conference Finals an unprecedented six times in eight years, while reaching the Finals twice and returning as NBA Champions after a fourteen year absence.  These core values that sparked the greatest moments in franchise history and are paramount to any future success that the Pistons will ever have are none other than the "two Ds"-- that of Defense and Discipline.  Both have been severely lacking over the the past seven years after the previous regime shortsightedly and recklessly tore down a once strong foundation that could have remained a force in the league for another three or four years at least.  With his guidance and leadership that help bring struggling franchises as the +Miami HEAT and +Orlando Magic back into prominence, Van Gundy plans once again to reignite the engine of this once slumbering behemoth using the same fuel that had once flowed through its veins, but had been deprived of it for so long.

Fortunately for Van Gundy, he will not have to do any major repair or remodeling work with the current crew he has as despite as this Detroit team showed some promising signs despite its rather poor finish last season.  For starters, the Pistons did show its capability to show some sort of discipline and proved to be quite efficient on the offensive end as they ranked among the league's top teams in least turnovers committed and scoring as well.  The Pistons also showed an extremely high proficiency in rebounding, especially on the offensive end, where they finished third in the league in rebounds per game and first in offensive rebounds per game.  It was that steadily strong offensive play matched with their grit and determination on the boards that kept them in a majority of their games, but it was not enough as they lacked the most important ingredient that would have pushed them over the hump.  What kept the team from turning heart breaking defeats into hard fought victories was that it sorely lacked the effort and intensity on the defensive end to hold their opponents back when it counted and that is where Van Gundy comes in.

All he needs to do is just mesh the current strengths that the team already had with his defensive philosophy which certainly go seemingly hand in hand.  Instead of wasting all their energy climbing back into games and essentially trying to outscore their opponents, Van Gundy plans to use much of that wasted energy in preventing teams to get out ahead in the first place. It sounds extremely simple, yet is probably the most difficult to implement because great focus and discipline is needed in order to initiate maintain a strong and consistent defensive effort game in and game out.  Van Gundy certainly has the tools at his disposal to install his defensive schemes into the team as the Pistons have a wealth of size, length and athleticism that is more than capable to force turnovers, play physically in the paint and protect the rim.  That is why he did not spend the off season looking to massively overhaul the roster through trading his marquee players such as Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond, but instead chose to add complementary pieces that would complement and improve the pieces that he already had by making rather low key deals signing players who did not even appear on the NBA free agent radar.

He started by signing Jodie Meeks, whose arrival came with many a raised eyebrow because he came into the league as low second round pick and had spent most of his six year career bouncing around less than spectacular teams.  Meeks' last stint was on a +Los Angeles Lakers team where despite posting career high across the board last season, still finished with its worst record in franchise history thus tarnishing much of his value on the open market.  Yet, despite his questionable value, Van Gundy saw it wise to offer a player who had never earned more than the league minimum a major pay hike of 6$ million per year for three years.  He also signed DJ Augustin, who can be considered as comeback player of the year as he went from being almost out of the league to leading the +Chicago Bulls in scoring last season and helping carry the team to the playoffs last season.  Finally, He finished off the off season by signing 12 year veteran Caron Butler, a player who has a wealth of knowledge and experience to go along with a strong reputation as a strong defender and clutch performer.

What Van Gundy failed to do, however, was lock down the Detroit's most important off season goal--to re-sign the team's leading big man, Greg Monroe, to a long term extension--but, sadly it is doubtful to happen as negotiations has reached an unfortunate impasse.  Instead of choosing long term security and signing a contract extension that would pay him 12$ million for the next five years, Monroe choose to simply sign a one year qualifying offer which upon expiration will free him making him an unrestricted free agent.  That means that one his one year deal expires, he is free to take an offer and leave without worrying about Detroit being able to match any offer that he receives.  Monroe has already made it clear that he intends to test the waters in free agency and doubts that he will return in a Pistons uniform, mainly because of his concerns of being able to mesh with fellow big man, Andre Drummond.  So unless Van Gundy decides to trade him mid season or try to facilitate a sign and trade deal at the end of the season, the Piston will be most likely lose an All Star caliber player Monroe and be left empty handed.

Save for the Monroe drama, it looks to be a new day for a Detroit Pistons fan base that has had to endure suffering continual disappointment year after year as it looks to start over on a clean slate with a new coach, new front office and new direction.  He is no +Barak Obama, but Stan Van Gundy does bring a renewed sense of hope and although they do not appear to be anywhere where playoff ready, they will certainly shock plenty of naysayers coming into this new season.  And although he has not made any major moves thus far, it does not mean that there will not be in they near future because even Van Gundy knows that this Pistons team is far from being a finished product.  So expect a a much more competitive and hungry Detroit team that will not only play more focused and disciplined on both sides of the court, but with greater sense of purpose.  They may not make the playoff, but the Pistons will certainly make the Eastern Conference more interesting to watch--with a playoff picture that can be considered wide open save for two spots, look for Detroit to be one of the ten teams that will be fighting for the six remaining spots as well as be fighting for the eighth and final spot come May.