So, I got to represent DBB on SB Nation’s Limited Upside preview podcast, which was a very cool moment for me, and I hope an educational moment for you guys. The podcast hit all the beats you’d expect from a season preview:
- What the hell happened last year?
- Is Reggie Jackson any good?
- Thinking about trading Andre Drummond?
- Why isn’t Stanley Johnson better?
- Stan Van Gundy on the hot seat?
However, there were a few nuggets of opinion and information that I didn’t get a chance to express in the podcast, so you guys get a special look into all the unnecessary prep I did.
Tobias Harris: Underappreciated but not undervalued
With the (understandable) hangups about Reggie Jackson’s health, attitude, style of play, and ability, it’s very easy to forget that Tobias Harris should be featured more heavily in Detroit’s offense (especially as a ballhandler in the PNR). Losing Marcus Morris’ reliable-but-inefficient isolation possessions frees up a sizeable chunk of offense that Stan would be wise to dump in Harris’ lap. If Harris is given the freedom to attack and collapse the defense consistently, his sub-optimal three point shooting (last year 34.7 percent, career 33.2 percent) matters less.
Maybe the combination of an active Tobias and an active Reggie could even pull the Pistons out of the team FTA cellar - anything’s possible.
A lot of the Pistons’ potential lies in what Boban Marjanovic will look like with more minutes. If he plays 1500 minutes this season, is he the Per-36 Destroyer of Worlds the NBA has seen the last two years?
Will he even get to 1500 minutes if his physical inability to show and recover on PNRs consistently becomes too much for Stan? If Andre struggles from the free-throw line (almost a given), will Stan feel confident closing games with him?
I’ve been down on Boban because his limitations are so obnoxiously apparent and his domination has come in such limited spurts. A shade over 800 career minutes doesn’t tell you a lot about what a guy will do when he’ll nearly double that in a single season. I hope, for the Pistons’ sake, it works out, but I’d prepare for more Leuer-at-center lineups than we’ve seen in the past.
Best Case Scenario:
The podcast went a little long by its previous standards, so there wasn’t really space to do a best case/worse case scenario. After reviewing the schedule and evaluating the team’s offseason, my best-case scenario for this team remains 50 wins on the nose. That story would a play out a little like this:
The 50-win Pistons’ resurgence has been led by Andre Drummond’s remarkable defensive progression, Reggie Jackson seceding partial control of the offense while remaining one of the best clutch players in the NBA, and Stanley Johnson’s rapid development into an above-average shooter while teaming with Avery Bradley to make life hell for opposing perimeter players. This April, Detroit will host a playoff series for the first time in a decade - firmly establishing Stan Van Gundy as the man driving the sports-crazed Motor City.
I almost teared up a little reading that. Alright, lets rip that nice image to shreds:
Worst Case Scenario:
This teams’ floor is 34 wins, and this ugly eulogy:
After a disappointing record of 22-33 going into trade deadline, the wheels fell off in the Motor City. Reggie Jackson, still not quite the player he was in 2015, was traded to the Knicks for Courtney Lee and Chasson Randle. Andre Drummond, whose energy waxed and waned like the tides, was traded to Sacramento for Skal Labissiere, Kousta Koufos, and Vince Carter’s expiring contract. Avery Bradley, after multiple rumors about his unwillingness to return, was traded to the Thunder for Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant. Firmly ensconced in a rebuild around the underperforming Stanley Johnson, solid but unspectacular Luke Kennard, and the still-too-young Skal, Stan Van Gundy stepped down as President of Basketball Operations at the end of the season.
Well, I’m sad now.
Detailed Season Prediction
Fortunately, my actual prediction for the season is slightly more rosy: 42 wins and a playoff spot in the moribund Eastern Conference.
42 wins could be enough for the No. 6 seed, or it could only snag the No. 8 seed. Either way, the Pistons should make the playoffs. Whether that’s enough to keep this group together is another matter entirely.