Here is my Pistons preview for the upcoming season. It will run with a bunch of other Pistons previews as part of the Blogger Previews series run by Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments.
Team Name: Check out the name tag.
Last Year’s Record: 39-43 (8th in the Eastern Conference)
Key Losses: Antonio McDyess (Free agent -- Spurs), Rasheed Wallace (Free Agent -- Celtics), Michael Curry (clipped), Amir Johnson (traded to Milwaukee), Arron Afflalo, Allen Iverson
Key Additions: John Kuester (head coach), Brian Hill (assistant coach), Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox, Ben Wallace, Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, Jonas Jerebko, not re-signing Allen Iverson, and the monies they got for trading Amir Johnson
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The Pistons were pretty busy during the off-season, as you can tell from the list above of the key losses and key additions. I guess you could start with not re-signing Allen Iverson, who was more of a problem than an answer last season, but that decision was actually made during the season and not in the off-season.
The bulk of the significant moves all came within a week's time following the draft. Just before the free agency period began, they fired Michael Curry. Then, on day one of free agency, they agreed to terms with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, the two most coveted free agents during the summer. Less than a week later, they hired John Kuester to be the new head coach. And bam, just like that, this team had a completely new look and feel to it.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Pistons' biggest strengths this year might actually be the team's biggest weaknesses from a year ago. Aside from a few players, last year's team was aging and played uninspired, complacent basketball. In just one summer, Detroit has transformed into one of the youngest teams in the NBA. With the added fresh blood, there will come an inherent passion to win that we haven't seen out of the Pistons as a collective unit in years (most notably during the ECF). John Kuester will stress an up-tempo style of play that the younger players will be able to excel at, especially each of the quartet of guards Kuester is capable of deploying in any given rotation. Never underestimate the strength of a team's hunger, especially Jason Maxiell's.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
I don't think it's any secret that Detroit lacks the big man to compete with the likes of Cleveland (Shaq), Orlando (Howard), and Boston (KG). As if it wasn't problematic enough, Detroit needed to compensate for the losses of 'Sheed and 'Dyess during the offseason, so they went out and signed Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox and brought back Big Ben. These are probably downgrades as a whole, but Detroit is also hoping Kwame Brown and Jason Maxiell step up and play added roles this season. All in all, while this does seem like a serious weakness, this could very well pan out nicely. Ben Wallace has shown already that he appears to have plenty left in the tank, looking similar to the Ben Wallace that first came to Detroit nearly a decade ago as opposed to the one we saw in Chicago and Cleveland. Kwame has looked significantly better than he did in years past and Chris Wilcox looks solid thus far, too. Either way, if these guys slouch, I think Detroit will be able to offset the negatives on most nights with their extremely talented back court. It just poses a serious problem against the big three of the Eastern Conference.
And with the added youth this season, Detroit brings inexperience to the table of weaknesses. John Kuester is a first year head coach and Detroit has a lot of new faces playing together for the first time, so there are going to be bumps in the road this season, for sure.
4. What are the goals for this team?
For any team, the goal should be winning a championship. Call it cheesy, PC, unrealistic, etc., whatever you want. I don't think Detroit is going to win a championship in 2009-2010, but they need to continue working toward that goal. They need to work hard to create the right team chemistry and play hungry on a gamely basis. Ultimately, after Joe Dumars makes that one or two final moves, this team is hopefully going to be a legitimate contender for the NBA Championship, as they were for seven of the last eight seasons.
5. What should the starting lineup be?
My gut reaction is Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, Villanueva, and Brown. Kuester has indicated recently that Ben Wallace could start instead of Villanueva. I wouldn't mind that flip-flop because it would have the Pistons starting the game with arguably their best defensive players on the floor, setting the tone, and then it makes the bench appear that much deeper. Unlike last year, the Pistons don't have any inflated egos to cater to, so I don't see any big problems arising from Kuester getting creative with his rotations. Assuming he gives Gordon and Villanueva ample time to get their scoring opportunities in, it doesn't really matter if that happens with them coming off the pine or not.
Projected Finish: 45-37, and that is a conservative projection. This team could flirt with 50 wins.