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Don’t look now - the Pistons are good again

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s only been two games, the Pistons have certainly given fans some reasons to be excited about the season ahead. Without wasting any time, let’s just get right to it.

Reggie Jackson is Healthy

While he’s a bit rusty, Reggie has played about 30 mpg and he hasn’t been terrible. He got a bit ball dominant late against the Wizards, but also keyed a big comeback with 11 points in the 4th quarter. Were it not for a few very questionable calls by the men in stripes, the Pistons could have left D.C. with a win.

In the opener against Charlotte, Reggie did a great job of sharing the ball. In both games, he’s been attacking the rim and has converted some tough shots in the paint - a sign that he has his burst back. He also has six steals in two games.

There’s a long way to go, but at this point he’s looking more like Good Reggie from 2015-16 than Bad Reggie from last season.

New & Improved Andre Drummond

The per game numbers don’t show it yet because he’s been in foul trouble, but while he’s actually been on the court, he’s played smarter and with more effort (according to my eye test). His post-ups are mostly gone, the dribble hand-offs are a much better way to use his skill set and he’s averaging three (3!) assists per game in 24.5 minutes of action. His usage is down, his rebounds are up (12.5/game in 24.5 minutes = roughly 18 per 36 minutes), his turnovers are down and he’s playing more like he did before The Post-Up Experiment began.

Oh, and he’s 3-3 from the FT line. 19-23 if you count the preseason. While he may not keep up that pace, the days of 38% appear to be long gone. Hack-A-Dre, too.

That’s HUGE.

The Kids can Play

Both Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard made impressive debuts and appear to be legitimate NBA players, especially on the offensive end. Not only have they been hitting their shots, they’ve played with confidence and poise.

Kennard just looks like a guy who’s ready to play basketball on any level. He’s smooth, he doesn’t hesitate and he plays with a calm confidence at all times. (Totally unrelated note: Donovan Mitchell is shooting 22% through two games and has a negative PER.)

And while Stanley Johnson had a dreadful shooting game in the opener, there’s a reason he played 40 minutes (defense). With these three players all 21 and under, the Pistons have some solid pieces in place for the present and future… and if they keep playing like this, they’ll also be valuable assets when the next Paul George or Jimmy Butler hits the trade market.

Tobias is a Star

Okay, maybe that’s jumping the gun. But Tobias Harris can score efficiently and the Pistons need to keep finding ways to put the ball in his hands. He (not Reggie) should have the most shot attempts, and the sooner SVG figures out how to make that happen, the better it will be for this team.

The Pistons are Deeeeep

Quick bit of self-promotion for reference: I rode the pine on my high school baseball team at Detroit Catholic Central, but halfway through a midseason game, the coach let me pinch-hit and I cracked the first pitch over the center field fence. As I rounded third base, the opposing team’s coach said “what are they feeding those boys?”

The Wizards must have had a similar reaction watching Luke Kennard go off for 11 points in the first half of his first NBA game. Wasn’t he 5-5 at one point?

The Pistons have 13 legitimate players who are all worthy of rotation minutes. That showed against the Wizards last night. When the teams went to their bench in the first half, the Pistons reserves came in and put up 30 points. The outscored the Wiz 38-22 for the game. While every Washington starter played at least 34 minutes, only one Pistons player did so (Tobias). The other Detroit starters were between 26-33.

Anyone remember the 2015-16 bench that routinely surrendered leads? Remember Old Man Blake running the show? Remember KCP and Marcus Morris leading the NBA in minutes per game? And that team won 44 games.

The roster has come a long way since then. With a healthy Reggie, the starting five should be even better than that year’s group, and now when they go to the bench, they’ll have an advantage on most nights.

Oh, and their two best 3PT shooters (Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock) haven’t even dressed yet. Good times.

They’re Playing "The Right Way"

Kudos to Larry Brown for that one.

While they’re still prone to stretches of bad offense, the ball has certainly been moving a lot more. They’ve played with good effort on the defensive end, and even Reggie has been respectable on that end.

Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson and Langston Galloway are all very pesky defenders, and it appears to be contagious. The team has 26 steals in two games, after averaging a paltry 7.0 per game last season. That’s pure hustle and effort, which makes this a team worth rooting for again.

Let’s hope the Pistons keep doing what they’re doing. If they keep this up, it’s going to be a fun season.

Now, how about some Boban against the Knicks?