The Detroit Pistons haven’t been in the Playoffs since 2009, where they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and have been dismissed as a second-tier, bottom-dwelling team ever since. After multiple offseason misadventures and trade blunders, the Pistons relieved Joe Dumars of his duties as Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager shortly before the end of season, and appointed Stan Van Gundy as his successor.
The hiring of SVG was somewhat of a shocker for Piston and NBA fans alike, with the decorated coach choosing a team which barely managed to win 29 games over a playoff teams like Golden State which finished 51-31 in what many people thought was a down year for them. Van Gundy has a plan for this Pistons squad, and pundits and fans around the Association have likened the situation in Detroit to his previous coaching job in Orlando, where he coached a terrific offensive and defensive team centred around a young defensive stud – Dwight Howard. The comparisons between Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard are numerous, and with a bevy of underused and poorly coached players surrounding the young bigman, Van Gundy has a team in Detroit which could arguably be better than the squads he coached in Orlando.
The Pistons are a young team brimming with talent, but poor coaching and personnel changes have meant that they drastically underperformed in 2014. Van Gundy won’t have an easy job ahead of him as he tries to deal with Josh Smith’s ego and Brandon Jennings’ shot selection whilst grooming the fan-favorite bigman tandem of Drummond and Monroe into becoming an offensive and defensive force in the League. SVG’s first matter of business would be to surround himself with people who will buy into his vision and look to properly manage the team - which he has started doing. He would then need to turn his concerns to the roster and determine whether or not the current set of players at his disposition fit his playbook. Players like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Kyle Singler, Josh Harrellson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could definitely feature well in SVG’s offensive and defensive schemes, leaving him to determine whether the remaining roster can play a role in the team’s future. It will definitely be an interesting offseason.
That being said, how long until this team can contend? Four years? More? Less?
Personally, I believe this team could contend in the Eastern Conference Finals by 2016 and could be a darkhorse candidate for the NBA Championship by 2017. Much like the early 2000 Pistons, this team suffered through some dismal seasons before becoming relevant again thanks to their defence and coaching, two areas I think could find their way redefining this current Detroit team. I am in no way comparing the current roster to the hallowed 2004 Championship team, although some of its members are currently involved in the rebuilding of the Organization. The way the 2004 Pistons played together is something I doubt I will ever see again, their complete defensive dominance of other teams continues to make me giddy, and whilst I believe this Pistons squad can make some noise on both sides of the ball, I don’t want to compare them to what is arguably the best lineups in team history. I want them to form their own identity, one that will define them for coming years, one that I hope, will be laden with success.
This team alone had the potential of being a fifth seed in the lowly Eastern Conference this year, but poor coaching and even poorer play doomed them to another lottery. Stan Van Gundy has a lot of work in front of him if he wants to return this team to its past glory, the road ahead isn’t very clear, but hopefully it’ll end up leading this team and this city back to relevance.