Can you smell that? Right now, in 30 arenas across North America, hardwood floors are being waxed and buffed in anticipation of the 2010-11 NBA season. As part of the annual CelticsBlog/SBNation series of previews, we're doing our own waxing and buffing here at DetroitBadBoys. Here's our take on the Detroit Pistons 2010-11 season ahead.
Team Name: Detroit Pistons
Last Year’s Record: 27 and... *sigh* 27 and 55
"Key" Losses: Kwame Brown, Chucky Atkins and hopefully Charlie's Chunk
Key Additions: Greg "The Moose" Monroe, Terrico "The Dunk" White and Tracy "The Knee" McGrady
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
If you ignore The Trade That Never Happened, this was actually a solid summer for the Pistons. After a year-and-a-half of questionable, borderline boneheaded moves out of Detroit's front office, this summer signaled a return to sensibility. What did Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons accomplish this offseason?
Dumars used the 7th pick in the 2010 draft to select Greg Monroe of Georgetown, a move that addressed Detroit's glaring lack of a frontcourt offense. Monroe may not have the same ceiling as DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors, but his skill will pay dividends for a team that couldn't buy a bucket in the post last season. In the second round of the draft, Dumars nabbed Terrico White, a high-flying athlete who has already dunked on you before you finished reading this sentence. The bizarro twist to these picks? Monroe, slated as a center, is known for his passing. White, potentially a point guard according to Pistons PR, wants to show off his shot blocking this season. Wait a minute...
Beyond the draft, Dumars made solid decisions in free agency. He extended the Benaissance for another two years, inking Ben Wallace to a contract worth not much more than the vet minimum. He gave Will Bynum one of the most fair contracts issued this summer, not spending a penny more or less than what the little fella should have earned. While Joe still had the mid-level exception in hand, he opted instead to issue a flyer to Tracy McGrady, the two-time scoring champion who had been crippled by back and knee injuries. In the off (like, very off) chance that McGrady stays healthy, the Pistons could luck into some real talent.
No, the trade Pistons fans were hoping for didn't happen. But if you've been paying attention to this team, you've been hoping for that trade long before this summer began.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
This roster's biggest strengths are twofold: i) wing depth and ii) the potential for ball movement.
This roster has more wings and guards than a presidential visit to Hooters. Get it? If the President were to visit Hooters, he'd have a lot of secret service guards with him, and Hooters has some grossly-underrated wings. Wings and guards. ...Anyway. The Pistons have six players on the wing capable of 30 point nights. Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady-- any one of those six players can light it up on any given night. Now if only there were minutes to go around that did not involve playing them out of position...
The Pistons ball movement was abysmal last season, but this roster presents some real opportunities for a fluid team offense. The greatest factor for improvement is Greg Monroe, whose scoring and passing stand to make a difference in 2010-11. Last season, with Charlie Villanueva injured and ultimately out of the rotation, the Pistons frontcourt offense was mostly based on close-range cuts to the basket and cleanup for the guards. Without Villanueva, Detroit didn't have a frontcourt scorer, and even with him that one option was not enough. This season, having two players who can present a skilled frontcourt offense and make plays for themselves will open up passing options for Detroit's glut of guards.
Beyond even Monroe, Detroit is fielding a team of surprisingly solid passers. Wallace and Villanueva are both underrated as passers, Tracy McGrady and Tayshaun Prince have shown a lot of skill as point forwards and Richard Hamilton has been one of the top passing 2-guards in the league. If Detroit's coaching staff can take advantage of these many points of distribution, things should get a lot easier on the team's point guards-- both of which have been less than adept in this department.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Where to begin? First, every one of Detroit's players are either a) stuck between positions, b) under-sized or c) past their prime. The only exception there is Villanueva, but one could make the case that he's a PF that plays like a small forward. Sure, positional purity is not a player requirement in the modern NBA, but it's deeply valuable on a roster level. Cross-positional players can give your team a lot of flex, but a roster made up entirely of these players yields a building with no real foundation.
Detroit's defense isn't terrible, but it is a concern in the season ahead. When your best defender is 36-years-old and plays the league's most physically demanding position, your defense is hanging by a very thin thread. Beyond Ben Wallace, Rodney Stuckey is an underrated perimeter defender, Jonas Jerebko is a solid option when defending small forwards, Tayshaun Prince can still be a stud in certain match-ups and Greg Monroe could be a quick study under Wallace. But until we see this team on the floor, the defense should be a concern going into the season.
Beyond that, the team had a lot of other weaknesses in 2009-10, but I expect most to improve. Three-point shooting, free throw shooting-- the dips last year were largely an aberration, and they should work themselves out if we can field a healthy roster.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Develop chemistry, move the ball and pick up the pace. This summer, a lot of Detroit's players bemoaned a lack of chemistry in 2009-10. The injuries led to a lot of player rotation, and the player rotation prevented the team from developing chemistry as a unit. If the team can stay healthy, the lineups should stabilize and the players will develop an on court rapport.
Move the ball and pick up the pace! As discussed above, this roster now has a lot of potential for ball movement, and it is up to the coaching staff to utilize this in effective ways. This team should no longer play at the slowest pace in the league, it should take advantage of the high flying scorers it signed last summer as well as the speed of its point guards. Move the ball, pick up the pace and never forget the factor on which this franchise was built-- defense.
5. What is the identity Joe Dumars has established for this new generation of Pistons?
To those new to these previews, the fifth question is asked by the bloggers themselves. I ask this because I still do not know the answer. In the last decade, Dumars built a team of no-name, grind-it-out, defensive-minded players. It was a team in the true sense, a group of five starters that played as a truly cohesive unit, where five-were-one and one was never above the five.
Sure, that team was also one-in-a-million, arguably the best defensive team to have played the game (this is where Spurs and Celtics fans drop bombs in the comments). But you could honestly opine for hours about that squad's identity. So what is the identity of this new team, what is it that Joe Dumars is building?
When Joe signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon last summer, you could go ahead and write off "defense" as being the identity du jour. Perhaps he's going for the run-and-gun style, a departure from the grind-it-out half court game that used the full shot clock. Coach Kuester showed no signs of that last year, and it's not likely to change so long as Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace are starters. It's not the superstar and supporting cast identity, because so far this team is only made up of a supporting cast.
So what is Joe Dumars building here? Is there something to this team that could ever contend? I don't like thinking about this, because when I shut my eyes and think as hard as I can, all I see...
No need to end this on a sour note, however. This coming season will be an improvement over the last. If the team can stay healthy, the record will bump into the 30s. If Greg Monroe is the NBA-ready player that Dumars has him pegged as, his involvement could lead to a healthier offense in 2010-11. What's your take? What do you expect for the season ahead? Join the conversation in the comments.
Predicted Record: 35 - 47