The Detroit Pistons finished four games out of the final playoff spot in the East last season and underwent a regime change, moving on from Stan Van Gundy.
Change was the order of the day off the court for the Detroit Pistons this offseason, as they moved on from team president/head coach Stan Van Gundy after four seasons in neutral.
The Pistons were just 152-176 under Van Gundy and made the playoffs once, getting swept by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round in 2016.
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The Pistons are operating without a general manager, with senior adviser Ed Stefanski handling the personnel decisions for the club, with younger executives Malik Rose, Pat Garrity and Sachin Gupta taking on assistant GM roles.
Stefanski added reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey to the mix, hiring the former Toronto Raptors coach who was 320-238 in seven seasons in Toronto and led the franchise its first three 50-win campaigns, including 59 victories last season.
Andre Drummond had perhaps his best all-around season in 2017-18, though it was lost on a club that was just 39-43 and missed the playoffs by four games.
Drummond averaged 15.0 points and a league-leading 16.0 rebounds per game, adding a career-high 3.0 assists to the mix to go with 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals in 33.7 minutes a night.
And he finally figured the foul line out. After shooting just 38.1 percent over his first five NBA seasons, Drummond canned 60.5 percent of his free throws last season. It’s not Rick Barry, but it is a huge improvement and renders moot much of the intentional fouling he used to see.
But Drummond was an old-school center, a classic big man in a changing NBA that emphasizes spacing and 3-point shooting much more than a massive big man slowing backing his way to the rim.
So it was with great curiousity that Drummond began posting videos this summer of himself taking shots from behind the arc. He told the Detroit Free Press that he’s not just fooling around with the long ball.
“I don’t do stuff (on the court) just to have fun. If I’m taking those shots, I’m working on it for the upcoming season. Those are shots that I’m gonna be taking.
“I make at least 200 corner 3s every day before I leave the gym. I’m getting them up. I’m getting the same shot up over and over again, so I’m getting more comfortable with it. It’s been great so far.”
Drummond is 5-for-30 from long range in six NBA seasons, including 0-for-11 last season.
That change of space could be big for the Pistons, who were fifth in the NBA in 3-point accuracy last season at 37.3 percent, but just 16th in attempts.
Reggie Bullock emerged as Detroit’s best 3-point shooter last season, but valuable floor-stretcher Anthony Tolliver took his 43.6 percent shooting from deep to the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency.
The big addition last season was Blake Griffin, acquired in a blockbuster trade that would have made more sense had he been the last missing piece for a contender.
Griffin was solid, averaging 19.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 25 games after the trade, shooting .433/.348/.784 while airing out 5.4 attempts from deep per game.
Griffin made the All-Star Game each of his first five seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, but has faded from the voters’ consciousness as injuries have limited his availability of late.
Griffin has missed 92 games over the last three seasons with a variety of ailments that included a quadriceps problem, a balky right knee, a right big toe injury that requires surgery and the infamous broken hand sustained in 2016 in a fight with a member of the team’s equipment staff.
The Pistons have been busy this season, even with limited cap space, adding bargain free agents in Glenn Robinson III and veterans Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia.. Detroit also got Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown in the draft.
The X-factor for the Pistons could be the development of a couple of recent first-round picks who have had little impact thus far, Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson, and whether last year’s first-rounder, Luke Kennard, can build on a decent rookie season.
39-43, ninth in Eastern Conference
103.8 PPG (22nd), 103.9 OPPG (8th)
107.2 Offensive Rating (19th), 107.3 Defensive Rating (10th)
Team Leaders (minimum 42 games/82 made 3-pointers)
Scoring: Tobias Harris 18.1 PPG
Rebounding: Andre Drummond 16.0 RPG
Assists: Reggie Jackson 5.3 APG
Steals: Andre Drummond 1.5 SPG
Blocks: Andre Drummond 1.6 BPG
3-point shooting: Reggie Bullock 44.5 pct.
Andre Drummond (All-Star Game)
Bruce Brown, G
Reggie Bullock, G-F
Jose Calderon, G
Andre Drummond, C
Henry Ellenson, F
Keenan Evans, G (two-way)
Langston Galloway, G
Blake Griffin, F
Johnny Hamilton, C
Reggie Hearn, G (two-way)
Reggie Jackson, G
Stanley Johnson, F
Luke Kennard, G
Jon Leuer, F
Zach Lofton, G
Zaza Pachulia, C
Glenn Robinson III, G-F
Ish Smith, G
Khyri Thomas, G
Bruce Brown (draft), Khryi Thomas (draft night trade, Philadelphia), Glenn Robinson III (free agent, Indiana, July 7), Jose Calderon (free agent, Cleveland, July 7), Zaza Pachulia (free agent, Golden State, July 13), Keenan Evans (undrafted free agent, two-way, July 15), Johnny Hamilton (undrafted free agent, July 28), Zach Lofton (undrafted free agent, Aug. 10).
Jameer Nelson (free agent), Anthony Tolliver (free agent, Minnesota, July 7), Dwight Buycks (waived, July 7), Eric Moreland (waived, July 8), James Ennis (free agent, Houston, July 13), Kay Felder (free agent, Toronto, Aug. 20).
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Against the Brooklyn Nets
Last season (home team in CAPS)
Jan. 10: Pistons 114, NETS 80
Jan. 21: Nets 101, PISTONS 100
Feb. 7: PISTONS 115, Nets 106
April 1: Pistons 108, NETS 96
Oct. 17: at Detroit
Oct. 31: at Brooklyn
March 11: at Brooklyn
Projected Depth Chart
C: Andre Drummond, Zaza Pachulia
PF: Blake Griffin, Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson
SF: Stanley Johnson, Glenn Robinson III, Khyri Thomas
SG: Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Bruce Brown
PG: Reggie Jackson, Jose Calderon, Ish Smith
The Pistons are still a sort of mixed bag, young players who haven’t found their way and veterans who are what they are and not getting any better.
How far this team goes will depend on Andre Drummond’s play and the health of Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson.
The biggest weakness with Detroit is simply a lack of shooting and that they’ve gotten little return on first-rounders Stanley Johnson — a lottery pick — and Henry Ellenson.
And even though their health is important to the team, Griffin is in a steep decline in production over the past several seasons, while Jackson is never going to be more than an average/slightly better-than-average starter at the point.
It wouldn’t be a shocker to see Glenn Robinson III supplant Johnson at some point at the 3, particularly if Johnson can’t progress from his career shooting marks of 37.0 percent overall and 29.5 percent from 3-point range.
But it’s hard to look at the mid-sized three of Drummond, Griffin and Jackson and see a team doing much more than treading water. That might be enough to sneak into the playoffs in the East, but it won’t help the franchise in the long term.
Projected Record: 38-44