Even with another season of missing out on the postseason, the Detroit Pistons showed signs of promise for the future last season.
A strong core of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, though filled with inconsistent play, is what head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy used this summer when making moves for the team.
The biggest move Van Gundy made was the drafting of small forward Stanley Johnson out of Arizona. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he is a big body that can get to the hole. He averaged 16.2 points per game in the Summer League, and was considered by many to be the top player amongst his peers over the summer. His production did not stop once the preseason hit, as he averaged 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Johnson’s biggest weakness is his jump shot, but he has shown signs of improvement. His ceiling is high, and at worst he is a workhorse on both ends for the Pistons. Van Gundy made a move that will not only pays off in the future, but this season.
Van Gundy not only took to the draft to change the team, but through the trade market. In June, he traded Caron Butler and Shawne Williams for Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. This move fits Van Gundy’s three-point shooting system to surround Drummond, as Ilyasova is a stretch-four.
A quieter move was the trade for veteran Steve Blake who will be able to take on a leadership role, along with more three-point shooting. Though Blake has been injured, his return will be vital, yet under-the-radar.
One trade that can go either way was the addition of Marcus Morris from Phoenix. Morris, another shooter, has been known to have periods of struggle on defense. This is not necessarily what the team needs, as they ranked 21st in defensive efficiency last year, according to ESPN. However, Morris has a chip on his shoulder from not being able to play with his brother, Markieff, for the first time in his career. This motivation could be good for the team, or it could be awful, as seen by his erratic play leading to foul trouble.
The team made various other moves that included acquiring shooting forward Reggie Bullock and center Aron Baynes. Neither are expected to make large impacts, but could potentially see increased time if an injury occurs. These moves still add to Van Gundy’s vision of the team.
When the team acquired Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City, it was yet to be seen how the young point guard would handle being a starter. Jackson delivered, proven by his average of 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game with the Pistons. This is about what should be seen from him, as he has yet to show signs of being an elite player.
It seems Jackson has the starting job as former starter Brandon Jennings recovers from injury. Even when he returns, Jennings is expected to come off the bench, or play the two-guard spot.
This team has the chance to potentially sneak into the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. Drummond will continue to form into a star, if he is not one already, so his production is expected to be the same. The questions will linger around the play of Jackson, and whether he and Jennings can play together. Another issue could be the learning curve of Stanley Johnson, as he navigates being an NBA player.
If all of these issues come together for the Pistons, the eighth seed could be Detroit’s. However, the East is slowly improving, and it might take one more year for the Pistons to be with that group. Another missed playoff season may be here, but be patient Pistons faithful, the future is bright