There is no way a team can get better after losing its best player, right? That’s not always the case. The Denver Nuggets were better for a while after they traded Carmelo Anthony. But for the Detroit Pistons, losing Greg Monroe to a division rival is going to hurt a lot, but I see this team coming together in the next year or two.
Monroe was a very good player for the Pistons, but he wasn’t a superstar. Heck, he might not even be considered a “star,” by some. The Pistons shouldn’t worry, though, because they had a solid draft and were able to add some pieces to round out their roster.
First, it all starts with Andre Drummond. While he isn’t Hakeem Olajuwon on offense, he might become Bill Russell-esque on the defensive end. He was a force last season on his way to averaging 13.8 points per game, 13.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. While those are solid numbers, he shot just 51.7 percent from the field and the Pistons only won 32 games. I see him making another giant step in the right direction this season and he might average 15 rebounds per game.
Once Josh Smith was released, the Pistons played a lot better basketball, including winning 12 of 15 games, and going 27-27 the rest of the season. Drummond had a huge hand in that. Even with point guards Reggie Jackson and Brandon Jennings out with season-ending injuries, the Pistons put together a strong finish.
Drummond was at the heart of that.
In the offseason, the Pistons re-signed Jackson and it looks like he will become the starting point guard for the Pistons. They traded for Ersan Ilyasova and drafted Stanley Johnson. From what I saw in summer league action, Johnson has a chance to become a solid/great defender and he might become a huge threat on offense. I really liked what I saw from him and I hope he puts in the time to develop into something special.
As for the backcourt, it seems that the Pistons are sold on Jackson, and they proved it by giving him a huge $80 million contract over five years. While head coach is one of many jobs for Stan Van Gundy’s, I think the sample size wasn’t big enough to reward Jackson with this mega-contract. I say that because I think Jennings still has something left in the tank, even after tearing his Achilles. I believe Jennings could start for a lot of teams in the NBA, but he has become a volume-scorer and is best suited for a role on a team that allows him to use his offensive prowess to exploit second-team defenses. Jennings will become the sixth man for Detroit, but I could see him playing more minutes than Jackson, especially if Jennings is hot from the field.
I still think the Pistons are a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, one thing they have going for them is that they are in the Eastern Conference. With that being said, I would still be surprised if they made a playoff run in 2016. I think a few too many teams in a better position to make the playoffs than the Pistons.
I think the Pistons will win between 27-31 games in 2016. If they can get their backcourt figured out and Jennings settled into his new role, I believe that Detroit’s offense, which ranked 18th in points per game last season (98.5), will improve. Like I stated earlier, I think Johnson will play a huge role this upcoming season, and I think he could become a very good player. This team still has Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks, so Johnson might be more of a defensive player in his rookie season.
But it will all start with Drummond. I hope he has put in a lot of time on the offensive end this summer so he can start becoming a strong force on both ends of the floor.
The Pistons might not make the playoffs this season, but their future is looking very bright.