It's the summer. Everyone's optimistic about their team's chances. Every fan thinks their team is a playoff team, even those that will be positioning themselves for the lottery by mid-December. That was us last year, remember?
But on an individual basis, there is a lot to like about this year's squad. No Josh Smiths. No question marks about where players fit in. No one on the trade block. Probably not 20 players logging minutes for the team.
We'll be going more in depth for previews on individuals and the team as we get closer to the season, but it's a good time to check in for a pre-preseason stock watch.
As has gained notice throughout the offseason, Stan Van Gundy finally seems to have his personnel in place - and no one has more to gain from this than Reggie Jackson. Some may argue that Drummond does, but he was already on a path to being one of the top big men in the league. Meanwhile Jackson was toiling as a mediocre combo guard. There is pretty much no doubt that Jackson will surpass his season average of 14.5 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds from last year, the only question is by how much.
If he plays like he did evened out through his full time with the Pistons, he'll get some All-Star attention. If he plays like he did with Monroe out and a stretch four in his place, he'll get some MVP attention. Either way, get Jackson on your fantasy basketball team and win your league (just like I did the DBB league!).
Dre took a step backward last year, thanks in a large part to attempts to get him involved through the offense as a post up player. But after getting his own personal point guard at the trade deadline in Jackson, Drummond took off. Before the All Star break, Drummond averaged 12.6 points on 49 percent true shooting, 12.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. After the break, it was 16.1 points on 52 percent true shooting, 14.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
It was still a drop down from his scoring efficiency in his previous two years, but still a giant leap forward in the right direction. This should be the year Drummond earns his first of many All Star game appearances.
For the first time in his career, Morris is a presumptive starter. That alone should help him to some career best numbers. But he's also a great fit for the roster that Stan Van Gundy has built. He offers the versatility to start at small forward or slide down to power forward without giving up anything defensively over the other options at the four in Ersan Ilyasova or Anthony Tolliver. Also, the system is well suited to his strength in the catch-and-shoot, where he shot 37 percent from three last season.
Personally I'm not sold that Morris is much more than a Villanueva-esque player, but even Charlie V's skills would bode well in what's being asked from this role in this season. Don't look for some crazy returns out of Morris, but he'll have some value.
Get in on the ground floor folks. The guy who called a "big mistake" for the Pistons to take with their 8 pick by the likes of ESPN's Chad Ford has already raised some eyebrows in the Summer League. He's only 19 years old, which means he's in for some struggles at times this season. But Johnson is a perfect fit for the Pistons and it won't be long before he's talked about as one of the best players in this year's draft. YHIHF.
SVG seems to really like him. Or at least I assume that SVG handing him a $20 million contract means he really likes him. You don't give guys $20 million unless you really like them, right? So he's probably in for an increase from his previous career high of 1,120 minutes from last year.
Baynes brings a lot of things this team needed with the loss of Greg Monroe. Bulk and toughness in the paint, rebounding, even a decent jump shot.
Steve Blake, Darrun Hilliard, Adonis Thomas
Here are a couple of penny stocks worth taking a swing on. Blake can really shoot the ball and you might not have noticed that he played a fairly significant role on a 51 win team last year. For a guy who's on his third team of the summer already, that's a decent value.
As a four-year college player, Hilliard may be closer to being ready to contribute than most rookies picked in the second round. Thomas, on the other hand, has been getting his seasoning in the D-League. Both are fighting for a roster spot, but at just 22 years old their age and upside should give them the leg up over their competition. If that happens, they'll represent the depth on the wings - and it wouldn't take much for them to sneak into the rotation.
Pros for KCP's stock: At 22 years old and in his third season in the league, he's primed for a breakout season. He finished last season 14th in the league in three point shots made.
Cons for KCP's stock: He hasn't made any significant steps forward in his scoring efficiency and, despite looking great on the eye test, the numbers don't love him defensively. Van Gundy has eliminated every holdover from the Joe Dumars era except Drummond, Caldwell-Pope, and Brandon Jennings - and the last one looks to be in his final season in Detroit. KCP has competition from several SVG guys. If he doesn't improve on last season, he could be challenged for his starting job.
Meeks may see others start to dip in on his minutes, but he'll still enter the season as the team's most efficient scorer from the wing. If he repeats last year's injury troubles or one of the youngsters makes an unexpected push for playing time, Meeks could be trade bait. But odds are that he'll finish at least even with last season, probably a bit better.
Ilyasova may seem like a sure-thing buy. He's set to be the power forward in an offense perfectly suited to his game. But he comes with question marks. His health. His rebounding. His consistency. Ilyasova should be pretty good, but it'll be tough for him to match his peak that he saw in 2011-12. Most likely, he'll match last year's season with just more minutes.
The Tolliverse may have been a fun place last season, but it really didn't make all that much of an impact. He finished the season shooting just 36 percent from three and, despite a couple of 40+ percent seasons, he's still just a career 35 percent shooter from behind the arc. He's a streaky shooter. He's also tons of fun to watch, plays with energy, and seems to bring a great attitude.
Tolliver's stock may be the most volatile on the team's. If Ilyasova struggles with performance or injuries, he could find himself the team's starter. There's also a number of scenarios - such as Johnson earning extra minutes to push Morris as the primary backup power forward or the two big man lineup of Baynes and Drummond getting extra time on the court, just to name a couple - where Tolliver could drop out of the rotation.
Dinwiddie's stock may not show much for this season, but his is a long-term stock. Even if he hasn't found his shot yet in the NBA, there's still plenty to like about the 6-6 point guard who flashed some nice passing ability last season. This may be a season where most of his playing time comes in Grand Rapids, but if he can use it as a chance to get back to his efficient scoring he had in college, he should be in the rotation next season.
You hate to do it, but you know it's the right call. His stock will never be as valuable as it was on January 24, 2015 before he ruptured his Achilles against his former team in Milwaukee - at least, it won't be with the Pistons.
This season is all about getting back to full speed, serving as a spark plug off the bench, and maybe upping his value for a trade into a starting role somewhere. If things go perfectly, he might wind up in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation. But that's a big change from leading his team back from the dead and into the playoff race.
Everyone loved Joel Anthony's cameo appearance last season. But it was clear that he'd be overmatched as a primary backup this season. Last season he had 33 DNP-CDs, and would likely have had more if not for Greg Monroe's dubious late season injury. This year it will be more.
Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger, Cartier Martin
You might be tempted to hold on to Reggie Bullock, just in case he catches on in the preseason. But let's be real. The guy has a 46 percent true shooting percentage. In case you're not familiar with that stat, it's awful. None of these three are likely to win a spot with the Pistons, and Granger's the only one who might catch on with a team somewhere in the NBA next season.