After a disappointing 2012-13 season, the Pistons cut ties with head coach Lawrence Frank and cleaned house. They brought in some key veterans, led by forward Josh Smith, and added some good young talent in the draft and in the international free agent market.
With plenty of young talent left over to build on from the last two seasons, and a productive off-season, new head coach Maurice Cheeks should have plenty to work with after coming over from the Thunder. Let’s take a look at how the young Detroit Pistons club is shaping out for the 2013-14 season.
Points Per Game: 22th
Points Allowed Per Game: 18th
Rebounds Per Game: 13th
Point Guards: Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum, Peyton Siva – Grade: B-
Adding Brandon Jennings is a bit of a head-scratcher considering he ranked 31st out of 32 qualifying point guards with a paltry .399 FG% last season. That’s actually an upgrade over his .394 career FG%. His 6.5 APG are solid but hardly elite. Even his 17.5 PPG is significantly below what his potential was when he was drafted. In any case, it’s unlikely that Jennings gets to play his usual 35 MPG with so many bodies in the backcourt rotation. This is a guy who’s gotten by on volume on an offensively-challenged Bucks team and is not the guy who will propel the Pistons into the playoffs.
Bynum may not have the name value of Jennings but he’s far more reliable. He was a strong rotation player last season, playing 19 MPG and averaging 9.8 PPG, 3.6 APG, and shooting 47% from the floor. That extrapolates to 19 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 2.2 3PPG per 36 minutes – better than Jennings. He’s a reliable vet and should be a big part of the backcourt this season.
I liked Siva a ton in Louisville but his court leadership and stellar defense is unlikely to make up for his lack of shooting prowess. Still, he’s a true point guard and could be a big part of the Pistons in the future, but likely not this season.
Shooting Guards: Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Grade: C+
At 37, Billups is returning to the Pistons after a couple of years on the Clippers. Far from the player he was in his last go-around in Detroit, Billups has managed to play just 42 games over the last two seasons and played just 19 MPG last season. His .402 FG% and .367 from three-point range is a far cry from the numbers he put up when he was in Detroit the first time and he’s clearly an aging, declining, injury-prone guard that is not likely to be a big part of this offense with so many younger options. Sure, he’ll get his opportunities to play but he’s hardly a guy you have to get into the game.
Stuckey is another guard that struggles with his shot, shooting just .406 from the floor last season. He added a few assists and steals here and there but he’s not the 16.6 PPG shooter we saw a few years ago and another guy who is likely to get squeezed for minutes with the new additions and rookies in Detroit. He’s also coming off of thumb surgery and won’t be available for the start of the season.
Caldwell-Pope is a guy to watch this season. The eighth-overall pick in this year’s draft, he was the SEC Player of the Year last season in Georgia. He averaged 18.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 SPG, and shot a solid .373 from three-point range. He’s making a run at a starting job in the preseason but will likely start the season on the bench. Still, if he can shoot better than his .415 FG% in two seasons in Georgia, he could be a serious backcourt threat.
Small Forwards: Josh Smith, Kyle Singler, Luigi Datome – Grade: A-
Smith was a good get for the Pistons and is a steady and reliable contributor on offense and defense. His 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.8 BPG, and 46.5% shooting are all right along the lines of what we’ve seen from him his entire career and I would expect more of that this season. The only negative in his game is his sad 52% free throw shooting last season and three turnovers per game but he more than makes up for it.
Singler was pushed into a starting job in his rookie season but certainly didn’t impress. His .428 FG% and .402 in the second-half is far from what you’d expect from a forward and he contributed nothing elsewhere. You can’t write a guy off after his rookie season but we just didn’t see it last year, maybe he’ll develop into a serviceable rotation player this season.
Datome is an interesting player to watch. He won the Italian League MVP last season, averaging 16.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG. He shot 51.5% in Italy and 39.4% from deep, averaging almost two three-pointers a game. It’s always guesswork when these guys transition to the US but he has the size and shooting ability to be a big part of this offense. It’s unclear how he’ll fit this season but the comparisons to Danillo Gallinari are already there.
At 23, Monroe is one of the more underrated big men in the league. His 16 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG are all very solid but we’d like to see him get that 48% shooting back over 50%. We’d also like to see fewer than three turnovers per game. Other than that, he’s a very reliable player on both sides of the ball and continues to grow.
Villanueva is a rare power forward that shoots deep balls but that still doesn’t excuse his 38% shooting from the floor. Nor his 55% free throw shooting. Nor his lack of production on defense. He was solid for a few years in Milwaukee but he’s not a good bench player anymore.
Jerebko is another guy we’d like to see more from on both sides of the ball but his 7.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 45% shooting translates to 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. He struggled a bit early on last year but averaged a solid 9.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and shot 50% from the floor after the All-Star break and continues to develop as an NBA player though he’ll likely always be a rotation player.
Over two seasons at North Texas, Mitchell averaged 13.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.9 BPG, and shot 49%. Yeah, that’s pretty darn good. If he came out after his freshman year, he could have been a lottery pick but questions about his maturity dropped him into the second round after his sophomore year. He’s not likely to be a big part of the team this season but he could be a steal for the future.
Drummond’s rookie season was slowed by injury problems but the kid looked nothing short of special. At just 19, Drummond averaged 21 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, and shot 61% from the floor coming off the bench. That translates to a phenomenal 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. His 37% free throw shooting is laughable but he’s a force to be reckoned with in the paint and just turned 20.
Harrellson didn’t get too many opportunities on the Knicks or Heat but he should in Detroit. He’s barely played any minutes but his limited production in 43 games extrapolates to 10.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, and 1.5 SPG per 36 minutes. Hopefully some additional minutes can give the 24-year-old a chance to shine.
Coach: Mo Cheeks – Grade: C
After serving as an assistant on the Thunder for the last four seasons, the former Sixers and Trailblazers coach is back in a head coaching job. Cheeks has led his team to a record over .500 just twice in his coaching career and those were his first two season as a coach. The Blazers were also bounced in the first-round both times. He’s probably a better assistant coach than head coach but there is a lot of talent to work with an his experience on a winner in Oklahoma City could be useful in building a contender here.
Team Grade: B-