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DBB on 3: Predicting the Pistons

We’ve predicted the East and the West, and now it’s time for the Pistons.

Christopher Daniels

New NBA content is hard to come by these days, but we’ve got some good stuff right here. Sixteen, count ‘em 16 of our writers’ thoughts on three questions are waiting below.

Borrowing from the format we’ve used for predicting the East and the West, we asked our writers to predict how they see things shaking out for the Pistons this upcoming season.

Without further ado...

1. What storyline do you predict will dominate the Pistons headlines this season?

Steve Hinson: I really don't want to say hacking...but it's going to be hacking.

Jamie Delaney: Drummond not being able to stay in close games because of FT's. As is tradition. Optimistic Jamie hopes that the Pistons win enough to overshadow this storyline until playoff time but anytime we lose by 5 or less, this will be talked about. Either because he stayed in, got hacked, and missed. Or because he had to sit. It's the low hanging fruit storyline. Twitter will use it. Detroit Fox Sports will use it. NBA TV will use it. ESPN/TNT will use it. I don't like it either, you guys.

Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): Reggie Jackson's ascension into the ranks of elite Eastern Conference point guards. In year 2.5 in Stan Van Gundy's point guard MiracleGro system, with slightly more playmaking around him (thanks, Tobias Harris and KCP's internal development) and no need to play long minutes (thanks, Ish Smith), Reggie can improve his shot selection and his turnover percentage, start to draw more fouls, and become a more efficient player. This means he stops being compared to the Kemba Walkers and the Isaiah Thomases of the conference, and starts being compared to the Kyrie Irvings and the Kyle Lowrys.

Vincent Diringer: The Pistons are a top-4 team in the East. Based off of what we've seen in terms of expert opinions and power rankings, people seem to be sleeping on the Pistons, so I expect many, probably even some Pistons fans will be surprised at how well we do this year. Detroit vs Everybody.

Ken Wallace (revken): Andre Drummond will emerge as the most dominant big man in the Eastern Conference, exceeding last season's scoring and rebounding numbers and becoming a greater defensive presence.

Benjamin Gulker: Andre Drummond is not a true max player because free throws and clutch and stuff.

Justin Lambregtse: I think the storyline that will dominate the Pistons headlines this season is how far up the East they can rise. There are people who think they could be top 4, while others only see a marginal improvement and staying in the lower part of the Eastern Conference. I think the bench improvement should help a lot, but it will be interesting to see how the season turns out.

Devin Jones: Andre the Skyant will jump over everyone to lead the league in rebounds and double-doubles handedly, with an uptick in points per game and free throw percentage on his way to first team All-NBA. Second prediction: that nickname will not stick.

Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): The "pressure" on Andre Drummond to perform; it doesn’t look like the hack-a-Dre is going anywhere nor are late game free throw situations. For the highest paid player on the team to be substituted during crucial times isn’t a good look.

David Fernandez: Nationally speaking; Andre Drummond’s continued production, and elevation of his overall game. Amongst those closer to the Pistons; Reggie Jackson and his ability or inability to take the Pistons deep into the playoffs.

Ryan Pravato (Prava88): Andre's freebie shooting improvement. He's going to be around the 50% mark and people are going to be talking - and while they still might be laughing, we'll take 50% all day, every day here in Detroit.

Sean Corp: Is this team good enough without a major move? Fans and media are never satisfied, our best players have obvious flaws in their game and there is not really space to work around the edges anymore. There won't really be a grace period. People will begin asking the question -- can we win a title with Reggie Jackson and/or Andre Drummond?

Kevin Sawyer: Some team is going to go crazy and foul Drummond 37 times in a game, which will bring the hack-a strategy into sharp focus.

Glenn Metzger (GM26): Will they, or won't they: Will they grow up? Will Reggie take charge? Will KCP shoot better? Will Drummond make free throws? Will Stanley push to start? It may seem like a cop out to pick so many, but I don't think people will be talking about what the Pistons did, rather what they could do someday. Then our amazing writers will get to write articles about all the great things they've already done.

Ben Quagliata: The KCP contract extension or lack thereof. The rest of the lineup is so stable that he’s the one point of potential fluctuation and therefore there’ll be questions all season on whether he’s going to get a max-extension from the Pistons and whether he deserves it. These questions will vary in ferocity based on how well he shoots it.

Packey: I don't know if any one storyline is going to dominate over others, but you'll get a fair dosage of several familiar storylines, I'm sure -- "how good are these Pistons?" after more wins, "is Stan Van Gundy too hard on the players and are they growing tired of him?" or "Is Reggie Jackson good enough to lead a team?" after losses, "Why won't Andre Drummond just practice his free throws more or try them underhanded?" after he bricks a bunch and gets benched.

2. Which Pistons player do you think will most outperform expectations this season?

Steve Hinson: Thanks to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's improvements inside the arc and getting to the line, just a return to normal from three will get him some well-earned recognition - both among the fanbase and from around the league. He has the easiest route to outperforming expectations of any player on the team.

Jamie Delaney: I am bullish on a leap year from Tobias Harris. With a full offseason, plus training camp under his belt - I expect him to have a better understanding of his role and how to work w/ the other starters. I also think that the offseason has given SVG time to look at adding more plays specifically around his strengths. In Orlando he ran quite a few PNR's - I don't think we need him to do too much of that but it would be an intriguing wrinkle to see added to the offense.

Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): Ish Smith has been hailed as a overpay for a position of need, but this is literally the perfect situation for him. He gets to come in, attack the basket, get out in transition, and defend. He doesn't have to create too much of the secondary unit's offense (thanks, Stanley Johnson) and paint won't be as packed as it was in New Orleans and Philadelphia. Plus, the Pistons' bench was so moribund the second half of the season, his play will have an obvious impact on the success of the team.

Vincent Diringer: I think KCP is on the verge of a breakout season, I think Ish Smith is underrated and I think that the Jon Leuer signing is probably one of the smartest things SVG has done since being in charge. I also think all three of those players have a chance to outperform expectations this season. If I had to settle on one though… Ish. I think he is going to surprise a lot of people.

Ken Wallace (revken): I think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will improve his 3-point shooting beyond expectations, so that he is recognized as a real weapon in our attack.

Benjamin Gulker: Tobias Harris. He is primed for a career season after a full summer with the organization, but he has been mostly overshadowed by Drummond's max extension, bang a drum, and so on. He might be the Pistons' most potent weapon on offense.

Justin Lambregtse: I think Reggie Bullock is in a prime position to outperform expectations. He may or may not be in the rotation depending on if Stan Van Gundy goes with a 9 or 10 man rotation. If he can find a place in the rotation he becomes the best shooter on a team that isn't great at shooting, I think he could be a huge piece for the Pistons this year.

Devin Jones: I feel like Tobias Harris is getting a little lost in the shuffle with all the talks of Andre's superstardom, KCP's contract year and this officially being Reggie Jackson's team. But he quietly put up 16 and 6 after the trade last year, and I think a full year in Van Gundy's system will prime Harris for a breakout season. Second prediction: I'm going to yell "Tobe!" every time I hit a trashcan paper ball shot.

Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Ish Smith. The reaction to the signing has been somewhere between luke warm and meh resulting in low expectations. He can’t shoot. Ok, that’s out of the way. He can get to the hoop, he can push the pace, he can set up his teammates. Sounds like an ideal backup. I love the Smith deal so much that I’m going to petition DBB to refer to Ish Smith as "mophatt1’s Ish Smith" moving forward.

David Fernandez: This may be wishful thinking but I believe Stanley Johnson will take a major step forward next season. The three will fall more regularly, his court vision will improve while his turnovers decrease, and as a result his playing time and confidence will increase. Stanley will be one of the premier scorers on the second unit and he’ll finally get the attention that his fellow rookie classmates have already received.

Ryan Pravato (Prava88): I've been a big supporter of Boban from the get-go, but let's see Baynes buddy step it up and have a stronger season than last season, going from a dependable but limited backup center to actually a lethal weapon Stan can use with more confidence (you know, if Andre doesn't actually improve those freebies).

Sean Corp: I will proudly drive the Jon Leuer bandwagon this season. He is versatile in ways nobody else on the team is with his ability to play the four and five positions while also hitting perimeter jump shots. Last year, SVG was desperate for a reserve who could guard dangerous four and fives on the wing and he didn't really have it. While Leuer is not a great defender his combo of size and agility (relatively speaking) is a big upgrade over Aron Baynes, Anthony Tolliver and Marcus Morris when a large four-man or quick five-man is needed.

Kevin Sawyer: Stanley Johnson. He's young and he was pretty awful last year, but he seems to have the tools.

Glenn Metzger (GM26): The lack of excitement around Ish Smith from many around DBB almost comes off as an expectation that he'll just be Steve Blake: Part 2. My bold prediction is that he's going to be very good for the bench in the ways that we were hoping a healthy Brandon Jennings would be, and will end up being a valued contributor and fan favorite.

Ben Quagliata: Marcus Morris. I would say Tobias but there’s a fairly large expectation surrounding him to play a lot better than he did in his little stint with us last term. People, fairly I might add, wonder if his hot form at the back end of last season will translate into consistent production, and some people (myself not included) feel Stanley displaces him in the starting unit. I can see Morris starting the season in fine form and have some averages around the 16 and 6 range (as a high point, probably closer to 12-13 and 5-6).

Packey: Ish Smith. Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson have plenty of room to grow, but I feel like expectations are already high for those two. They are the bigger, more talked about names. There are a lot of low expectations for Smith, though, and I think he will fit in a lot better than many think despite poor shooting numbers.  I'll sign "mophatt1’s Ish Smith" petition.

3. Which Pistons player do you think will most underperform expectations this season?

Steve Hinson: Andre Drummond's getting a lot of accolades. But if he continues to his poor scoring efficiency and mediocre defense, his star will start to dim mighty quickly. And I really don't see what his path to becoming an efficient offensive player this season looks like, aside from suddenly becoming really good at things he's just never been good at.

Jamie Delaney: I just don't see us using Boban more than Baynes. I know he's an insanely large human that can give big guys fits, but MEAT was a damn good backup C. I just don't see us using Boban outside of games against the Hawks, Clippers, Thunder, and Miami. Given the fact that the Pistons paid $21 million for Boban, I think it will qualify as an underwhelming performance when he's not the go-to C off the bench.

Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): Aron Baynes might lose his backup spot to BOBAN in training camp, and won't be called on to play next to Andre in double-big lineups due to Jon Leuer's addition. Leuer's potential as a small-ball center also cuts down on potential lineups for Baynes. If this is the case, look for Jeff Bower and crew to start shopping him (along with the Pistons' 1st rounder in 2017) to wanna-be playoff teams in need of size; maybe he finds a home in Dallas next to fellow Aussie Andrew Bogut or North of the Wall backing up Jonas Valencuinas.

Vincent Diringer: I feel as though there hasn’t been enough hype around players for there to be a bar set in terms of how well we expect them to play. Everyone on the roster has a clear-cut role and a minimum expectation. So, I don’t really expect anyone to underperform per se, but I do expect a couple players to have little or no meaningful involvement in the team, notable Henry Ellenson, Michael Gbinije and whoever our third-string PG will be.

Ken Wallace (revken): I think Aron Baynes will have a weaker season due to Drummond playing more and Leuer soaking up some minutes at center.

Benjamin Gulker: Andre Drummond, but that's because the expectations are probably wrong. I expect - and hope - that his role as a scorer will decrease a little bit in favor of Tobias Harris, and potentially other emerging young players like Stanley Johnson and KCP. Coupled with limited minutes in crunch time, I expect (unwarranted) disappointment as the result of people expecting him to do things he isn't good at and underestimating the value of his strengths.

Justin Lambregtse: I don't really see anybody really under performing too bad this year, but if I have to pick I would say Tobias Harris. I think he will still be a great player for us, but I think he might regress a bit in his 3 point shooting and hover around 30-32% from 3.

Devin Jones: Not because I think the guy's a bum, but I think the Stanimal's expectations are a little too high. I expect improvement, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of player that will make the full "leap" in year two. He'll be more productive than last year, but he's still too young to expect a breakout. Second prediction: I'm probably going to be wrong.

Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Andre Drummond. I don’t see him regressing by any means so expect the same raw numbers. It’s the offensive efficiency and overall defensive impact that remain a rollercoaster and until those are answered, it’s going to be hard to live up to highest paid Piston, ever.

David Fernandez: I’ve been an Ish Smith naysayer since we’ve signed him, and it has nothing to do with his contract. Smith walks into the season as our premier back-up point guard, and I don’t think he’ll hold that position all season long. My doubts are strictly due to his inability to space the floor, and his ability to dribble the air out of the ball. He hasn’t found an NBA home yet, and I don’t think that will be in Detroit.

Ryan Pravato (Prava88): Nobody talks about Marcus Morris much. His play doesnt flash sexiness -- I guess key cogs aren't usually sexy anyhow. No matter, he's going to have a solid season, though his shooting numbers will decrease some from last season -- and I think it will be 3pt shooting. Probably won't matter much, Marcus is the dude in Detroit anyway.

Sean Corp: Andre Drummond. I don't think he's in for a big regression, and, in fact, think he could see a boost in efficiency with less on his (hairy) shoulders from an offensive standpoint. But there are no magic cures when you're the NBA's worst free-throw shooter, and with a maximum contract come maximum expectations. He'll still be one of the best centers in the NBA, but when he hits 2-of-1o free throws and sits the last three minutes of the game people will start hollering he's not living up to the hype.

Kevin Sawyer: Henry Ellenson. That he got big minutes and was featured on offense in college is testament to the fact he can charm coaches. My fear is that he gets more playing time than is warranted.

Glenn Metzger (GM26): I just don't see Stanley Johnson making the huge leap everyone thinks he will. Don't get me wrong; I want him to do it and I think he will eventually, but I think his rise is going to be more gradual until he breaks into the starting lineup. I also see that happening at the beginning of a season, rather than supplanting another player in the midseason. If he pushes Morris out of the starting lineup this October though I'll retract this opinion.

Ben Quagliata: Ish Smith. I wasn’t a massive fan of his signing at the time and while I have softened slightly I still don’t feel 100% confident in him, especially if no one else on the bench proves to be a consistent enough shooter (Reggie Bullock, Jon Leuer, Stanley Johnson). This is a little unfair as Smith’s success is partly determined by the players around him but if they aren’t shooting well the defence will collapse and Smith will unfortunately suffer with no space to operate.

Packey: Reggie Jackson. Expectations for the starting point guard are always high and Jackson played at another level defensively during the playoffs, but I don't see that carrying over consistently into the regular season.


You made it through! What are your thoughts on these three questions?


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