Team Name: Ahem, Detroit Pistons
Last Year's Record: 32-50, 12th in the Eastern Conference (6 GB of No. 8 seed)
Key Losses: Greg Monroe, Arnie Kander, Veteran Presence
Key Additions: Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Steve Blake, 'chrome' jerseys
What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Typically, when one of your best players enters unrestricted free agency, there's some drama for goodness Grant Hill's sake. It sure didn't feel like the one redeeming and grossly under-appreciated player on the Pistons for the last five seasons was on the free market and about to turn his back on Motown and take his talents to ... Milwaukee. That's mostly because in Stan Van Gundy I trusted.
Sure, it was all but a foregone conclusion when Monroe opted to sign the qualifying offer the summer before and there was plenty of time to brace for his departure. And yeah, Van Gundy packed Monroe's bags and sent Caron Butler and Shawne Williams to deliver them when SVG traded for stretch-four Ersan Ilyasova a few weeks in front of free agency. But there was always this feeling in the air that no matter what happened, it would all be okay. Ultimately, Monroe went out with little fanfare.
Van Gundy also lessened the blow of losing never-an-All-Star Monroe by acquiring Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and All-Star Danny Granger from the Phoenix Suns the same day the team renounced Monroe's free-agent exception rights and he signed with the Bucks. SVG wasted zero -- or less than zero -- time in replacing Monroe. Out with the past and, to borrow the Bucks' hashtag, #OwnTheFuture. Van Gundy was using his first offseason after his first full season building his team the way he wanted it around the younger, bigger, better and cheaper (for now) big man. The way that produces wins, I imagine. (I typed that plural word as the team has one win in four preseason games.)
Simply, Van Gundy didn't see Monroe as part of the future core with Andre Drummond, certainly not like Van Gundy did Reggie Jackson, who SVG anointed the point guard of the future upon getting him from Oklahoma City at the trade deadline. Van Gundy backed that up by signing the restricted free agent to a five-year, $80 million contract. That was a significant move.
In between the moves replacing Monroe, the Pistons drafted Stanley Johnson out of Arizona with the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft, a one-time controversial urge of a move that has already been blessed by the Pope. If Johnson performs during the season at the level he's displaying in meaningless games thus far, he could be the most significant move of the Pistons' offseason.
What are the team's biggest strengths?
Part of Van Gundy's way is strong three-point shooting. Ilyasova, Morris, Johnson, and incumbent guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks can all shoot the three ball. If Jackson continues to improve there, look out. Even if Jackson doesn't improve, look out. The Pistons will be bombs away, shattering franchise three-pointer records they've already broken since Van Gundy took over -- and more.
There to clean up any misses will be the 22-year-old Drummond, perhaps the best offensive rebounder ever. Drummond has also been working on his post-up game, so he figures to be even more of an impact on the offensive side of the ball. It remains to be seen if he has been working to improve his defense...
What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Defense. Self-inflicted gunshot wounds in their large, slow feet.
Van Gundy actually thought it was important to pass on to his team this valuable lesson: Don't do what the Detroit Lions do, one of the worst franchises in all of sports, like that's not already mother wit in the family. But that's a telling lesson if it had to be given. The Pistons still have a ways to go in protecting the ball and finding their defensive identity, something Van Gundy's admitted. For every game the Pistons put up 110-plus points this season, there will be games in which the Pistons turn the ball over too many times and have too many lapses on defense. A lot of negative pieces added up don't usually make positive, and that's what the Pistons have on the defensive side of the ball.
What are the goals for this team?
In working toward their ultimate goal of making the playoffs and becoming legitimate contenders, the team has to buy into Van Gundy's principles. The team has taken the right steps in changing the culture by saying the right things and doing things to help build team chemistry, but now they have to take it to the floor and present the only thing that matters: results. They may not come right away, but steady improvement toward an ultimate goal of the playoffs should certainly be the goals for this team. #goals
Will Stanley Johnson win Rookie of the Year?
I think he's got a pretty good shot despite what the oddsmakers are saying. As of Tuesday morning, he was still a +1250 long shot, the same as Mario Hezonja, which means if you put $100 on him and he won the award, you'd get $1,250 plus your money back. Right now Jahlil Okafor and Dangelo Russell are the favorites, and Stanley came in above both of those names on this list before the NBA draft. Even after a rough fourth preseason game, Johnson is still standing out above all:
If you're a gambler, get your bets in now.
Okay, how many wins for this team?
41. The preseason should never be a straight-up indication of anything, but it's clear the Pistons still have a bit of a ways to go. I'd liken my prediction to me sipping the punch that Hypnowheel spiked. Out-of-touch "experts" think the Pistons are undoubtedly bound for the lottery again and then there are smart fans who believe the Pistons could win up to 50 games (And what a time of year it is to believe your team can win 50 games!). I fall more in between Vegas (33.5) and the more optimistic, not too far off from that site known for being pretty good at predicting things, so why not basketball things too (38). This is a straight up guess on my part, and I'm most confident I'll be wrong. No matter what, I do think that, yes, however many wins the Pistons have, it will be good enough for them to make the playoffs.
What do you say, DBB?