After a long playoff-less stretch of 173 days without a game, the men from Motown will return to action at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday, October 6. Over a span of three weeks they will play eight games as they tune-up for a regular season that will open for them in Atlanta on Tuesday, October 27. So what should the fans be looking for? How about an 8-0 run as a prelude to a return to the playoffs?
If we imagine that preseason games are a predictor of regular season success, perusing last year’s results is a sobering experience. Detroit went 7-2 in October of 2014, downing eventual playoff teams Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee, and narrowly losing on the road to Washington. By comparison, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors went 6-2, with their only postseason-caliber victim being the Los Angeles Clippers.
So Pistons’ fans should not focus too much attention on the scoreboard results of the upcoming contests. More importantly, this will be an early opportunity to see how well the summer’s new additions fit in with returning starters Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson. It’s likely that Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris will join them in the opening line-up. Fellow newcomers Aron Baynes, Steve Blake (once he is cleared to play again) and rookie Stanley Johnson should also see significant playing time, while Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver and Spencer Dinwiddie vie for regular roles. It’s too soon for Brandon Jennings to see any action, though he may start doing some drills before preseason ends.
While the wins and losses will not really matter, no fan wants their team to lose – unless the goal is tanking. But even that aim is meaningless now (win all you can while you can, 76ers!). So as a DBB warm-up for the 2015-16 season, let’s preview the eight preseason games and make our initial projections of which squads will rise to the top.
Game 1 (Tues., Oct. 6): Pacers at Pistons
After missing the playoffs for the first time in four years, Indiana (38-44 last season) saw major changes this summer. They sent center Roy Hibbert to the Lakers, lost David West to the Spurs, and added Monta Ellis in free agency. The most important plus factor should be getting back a healthy Paul George. Rookie big man Myles Turner is an intriguing prospect. Former Piston Rodney Stuckey returns as a key reserve. These teams split their four games in 2014-15.
Game 2 (Thurs., Oct. 8): Nets at Pistons
Brooklyn (38-44) was the eighth seed in the East, losing in the first round to the Hawks. Their most significant loss was starting point guard Deron Williams, who was waived and signed a contract with Dallas. The expectation is that Jarrett Jack will take his place. They retained center Brook Lopez and power forward Thad Young, and Joe Johnson returns for the final year of his contract. The Pistons’ Stanley Johnson will get to greet his former Arizona teammate, rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (RHJ doesn’t roll off the tongue like KCP, does it?). The Nets won two of the three matches last season.
Game 3 (Sat., Oct. 10): Pistons at Bucks
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Ilyasova, as he returns to the city where he began his NBA career. Milwaukee (41-41 last year) will feature two starters who first played for Detroit in Greg Monroe and Kris Middleton, both who were rewarded with mega-million deals this past summer. (If they had only held on to Caron Butler, Brandon Knight, and Shawne Williams, they could have fielded an All Ex-Pistons Team!) Milwaukee also added Greivis Vasquez to help Michael Carter-Williams run the point. Former Buck Brandon Jennings will watch the game from the bench as he rehabs from the Achilles rupture he suffered at the Bradley Center on Jan. 24th, and current Buck Jabari Parker will likely sit as he recovers from knee surgery that interrupted last season for him. The Bucks won three of four against Detroit last season.
Game 4 (Tues., Oct. 13): Pistons at Pacers
Rematch! Assuming that Detroit humbled their nemesis from Indianapolis a week earlier at the Palace, we can expect the Pacers will desire revenge. If the reports that Paul George will play some power forward are true, watching how Stan Van Gundy counters that move could be an intriguing subplot. Expect Morris and Johnson to both get a crack at quieting the two-time All-Star, who only played six games in April after breaking a leg in the summer of 2014. Drummond should be able to dominate in the post.
Game 5 (Wed., Oct. 14): Pistons at Bulls
The preseason would not be a true warm-up for the real games without a back-to-back, so Detroit gets to hop north about 200 miles to the shores of Lake Michigan to face Chicago (50-32). There were no major changes to the Bulls’ roster as they maxed-out Jimmy Butler, but they bid farewell to Coach Tom Thibodeau, replacing him with Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State. Derrick Rose is out due to a facial fracture caused by a stray elbow. Rookie power-forward Bobby Portis will likely see far more minutes tonight than he will during the regular season, given Chicago’s crowded frontcourt. Detroit won half of the four matches in 2014-15.
Game 6 (Sun., Oct. 18): Pistons at Spurs
What’s not to like about a Sunday matinee in sunny San Antonio? Baynes gets to be welcomed back by his former fans and comrades, and perhaps sample some Texas BBQ. It will be mostly the same old Spurs (55-27 last year), except that Tiago Splitter was traded to make room for four-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Kawhi Leonard was retained with a max contract, Danny Green stayed put on a team-friendly deal, and David West climbed aboard for relative peanuts to hunt for an NBA title. The main reason this game is on the schedule is so SpursfanSteve will have a good reason to stop by for a chat. Each squad won once in last season’s series.
Game 7 (Wed., Oct. 21): Hornets at Pistons
After four straight road games, Detroit gets to enjoy some home cooking and swat some
bugs Hornets. Charlotte (33-49) made some offseason efforts to improve its abysmal three-point shooting (league worst .318 percent) by trading for Nic Batum and drafting Frank Kaminsky. The Jeremys (Lin and Lamb) and Spencer Hawes may also help stretch the floor, giving Al Jefferson more room to abuse opposing bigs in the post. No matter what happens, Pistons’ fans will get another excuse to express their eternal hatred for Michael Jordan. These teams split their four games last year.
Game 8 (Fri., Oct. 23): Hawks at Pistons
Atlanta (60-22) lost a valuable starter to Toronto in DeMarre Carroll, and Kyle Korver may still be recovering from offseason surgeries. Paul Millsap returns after signing a generous new contract, and Tiago Splitter will reinforce the frontline alongside Al Horford. Tim Hardaway Jr. was acquired from New York to reinforce the shooting. These two teams will play again for keeps in Atlanta four days later. The Hawks won the first three contests in 2014-15 before Detroit finally broke through on the last day of March.
Vote for how many wins you expect the Motor City’s finest to rack up, and share in the comments what you hope to see from the team and individual players in these eight games.