By: Opinionated MJ
Everybody has an opinion about the Detroit Pistons for the upcoming year. I don’t agree with any of them but the positive ones. The ones that talk about Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson becoming first time All-Stars. The one about Stanley Johnson being a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate. The ones about Stan Van Gundy finally having a team that represents his build. Then I hear the negativity. I hear that we won’t make the playoffs. I hear that the Reggie Jackson signing wasn’t a good signing. I hear that Brandon Jennings accepting coming off the bench may be a “lie” in order to appeal to coaches, players, etc. I hear that Drummond will be exactly like Dwight Howard and won’t learn any more moves and be a hustle, pick and roll, and points-from-offensive-rebounds player ONLY (Yeah I made that up). I hear that people dismissing us and saying we can’t get it done. Pessimism is unattractive.
First, let me address the Reggie Jackson signing. Who would’ve been better or available for us going forward? Rondo? Russell Westbrook in 2 years? WHO? Answer me that then also answer if Detroit is a target market for free agents going forward. I believe that we can get a big time player in free agency. We’re one Superstar away from being a very good team. Lets say Drummond, Jackson and Johnson become a big 3, Detroit will be a contender for sure. We can have a homegrown superstar instead of having to sign one. It would’ve been nice to land LaMarcus Aldridge. I think if we would’ve landed Carmelo in free agency last offseason, we would’ve been fine. Stan like his teams to shoot and he’d find a way to insert defense around Carmelo to fill in for his “deficiency” doing so. I’ve seen him play defense, he only wants to defend big time players, you know, LeBron, KD, etc. I’m accepting of the Reggie Jackson deal because there is no one else available and more importantly, HE PLAYS DEFENSE. When Westbrook, Curry, Harden, and others come to town, who did we have to defend them? No one. He also averaged about 17 and 9 during his time in a Pistons uniform thus far. So I’m not upset at all. Coaching is everything.
Next up, Stanley Johnson. The kid says he’s ready to see LeBron. He went up 1,000 notches in my book for this statement. We didn’t have anyone to defend LeBron, Carmelo, KD, now we do. He can also defend different positions AND he is strong. He’s not little, he’s not weak, he’s not scared. I wanted Winslow but when I took a deeper look at him and watched him during the summer league, I fully accepted the pick and I think we have a player who should have been top 5 in the draft. Once he grows into his role and grows as a player under Van Gundy, he will be a force. Mark my words. I don’t know his ceiling but I know it’s high. He can facilitate, shoot, post, pick and roll, defend, rebound, the kid can do it all. Only thing is that he’s a rookie. So he’ll burst onto the scene, then he’ll possibly encounter a rookie wall. Once he breaks it, he’s going to become something special. He’s already embraced the city and as a hometown Detroit kid and a Piston fan, I’ve embraced Stanley Johnson. Good things will come from him. Stay tuned!
Now to Drummond. We know that he’s in control now that Monroe is gone. This is now Drummond’s team to lead. He has embraced that and has already seemingly become a vocal leader and understands that he’s the man now in Detroit. With Jackson facilitating and having shooters around him to give him more space on the floor, it’s time for him to show his growth. I particularly paid attention to his work with Monty Williams from the Team USA practices from last year and he helped Drummond develop post moves. He was pushing Drummond to do more with his game. If Williams helped Anthony Davis, I’m sure he’s able to help Drummond develop in such a short period of time. Let’s also not forget what Van Gundy did for Dwight Howard. Giving certain players the green light allows them to develop in a way that they couldn’t otherwise. He has geared this team towards Drummond, just time for him to step up now. I expect to see him have his best season yet with no Monroe and Smith hogging up his space and touches.
Lastly, our depth and our coach. We have a lot of stretch shooters, decent defenders, and a coach that knows how to make it all fit together. With Morris, Tolliver, Meeks, Cadwell-Pope, Jennings, a few bigs to get a few fouls, I think we have the build of a playoff team for sure. Weak Eastern Conference full of teams with potential (Celtics) and a few teams that have retooled (Pacers), we should be able to find ourselves in the top 5-6 teams of the east. I see it shaking out top to bottom with Cavs, Heat, Bulls, Bucks, Hawks, Pistons, then you can insert two teams after. They’ll have losing records anyway so just take your pick. Just don’t sleep on the Pistons this year cause we are set up to make a run to the 2nd round and maybe the Conference Finals depending on how the seeds fall. Don’t be surprised if we’re able to become the weakness of a Miami, Chicago or Cleveland team with our playing style and depth. We will surprise a lot of people this year. Low expectations but loads of hidden upside. We won 32 games last season, just think about what would’ve happened had we traded or released Josh Smith before last season began. Should leave you confused with what we’ll be able to do. Last time Van Gundy achieved his build, he coached a team to the NBA Finals with ONE Superstar type player, a strong guard, and a bunch of players that can stretch the floor. The formula is proven and still fits and applies to today’s run and gun style.
Prediction: 45-37, 5th or 6th seed in playoffs. Be on the lookout for a possible big trade for us that could put us in the 50 win range.