Every year a new star comes out of nowhere or a new team rises to the top of the conference (unless you are the Cavs or Warriors). Preseason is where the Kool Aid tastes the best and the most outlandish prediction can seem not so outlandish.
Every team has the same record, and you cannot tell me that every team does not have a chance at winning it all. The Warriors aren’t THAT good (yes they are).
Could Tobias Harris become a star? Could Andre Drummond become the player we all hope he can be? Will the Pistons get homecourt advantage for the first round?
Before we get started with training camp, preseason, or the regular season, let’s take a look at some realistic, yet also crazy predictions.
Tobias Harris will average over 20 points per game
This prediction is highly dependent on the role that Tobias Harris has with the team this season. He could be a starter or he could be coming off the bench. Whether he starts or comes off the bench won’t have too much effect on his ability to score, as he averaged 15.9 points as a starter in 2015-2016 and 16.5 points off the bench.
However, he shot much better off the bench, where he shot 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from three point range. Some of this could attributed to Ish Smith getting him the ball in better spots than Reggie Jackson due to Jackson being injured.
None of this touches on why Tobias Harris could increase his scoring average to almost four points higher than it was last season. The reason for this prediction is pretty simple, and it is field goal attempts. Tobias Harris no longer has to compete for touches with Marcus Morris, who will be replaced in the lineup by the low usage Stanley Johnson. Marcus Morris averaged 12.7 field goals last season, a career high, while Stanley Johnson only averaged 4.7 field goal attempts last season and 8.2 as a rookie when he actually had a regular rotation spot.
If Stanley Johnson does in fact start, expect him to get closer to his 8.2 mark he had as a rookie, but this still leaves about 4-5 field goal attempts that will need to be redistributed. Expect players like Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley to see an uptick in their field goals. Plus, with Reggie Jackson’s status still up in the air, you could see Tobias Harris take on more of a role as a focal point.
Due to Harris’ efficiency and the inefficiency of the Pistons offense, expect him to get a heavy dose of touches and increase his scoring to over 20 points per game.
Andre Drummond will have a true shooting percentage over 60 percent
This one might be a bit of a stretch as he has only done it once in his career (technically it was 59.9 in 2013-2014, but that counts). There has been talk of Stan Van Gundy wanting Andre Drummond to “play like DeAndre Jordan.” If this is something that actually happens and is not just smoke, then this prediction is completely realistic.
DeAndre Jordan is a player who also struggles at the free throw line to the tune of a career mark of 43 percent (that is better than Andre Drummond’s sad 38 percent mark for his career.) However, DeAndre Jordan has had a TS% over 60 every season since his age 22 season of 2010-2011. He even had a 67.3(!) TS% last season.
DeAndre Jordan doesn’t utilize a post game, just lob finishes, rim running, and offensive rebound putbacks. If Andre Drummond follows this mold and eliminates most, if not all, of his awful post game, this prediction is not that unrealistic.
It would make Andre Drummond a player who is more worth his contract and would likely lead to greater success out of the team, especially if he makes a jump defensively.
It will be on both Stan Van Gundy and Andre Drummond to make sure that this happens. The post game experiment needs to end, or needs to be cut back significantly.
The Pistons will finish as a top four seed
This one is the ultimate Kool Aid prediction. There is no guarantee that the return of a healthy Reggie Jackson elevates the Pistons to a better record than their 44-38 mark in 2015-2016. That record still would have left outside the top four in the East last season, but hear me out.
The East is going to be bad. With many stars from the East heading out West, there are going to be a lot of bottom feeders. Teams like the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets did not do that much to improve and teams like the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks are going to take huge steps back. The Pistons will have plenty of opportunities to feast on bottom-feeders and improve their record, if they are up to the task.
Obviously the teams at the top will also get to feast on these bottom-feeders as well and improve their record. But outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and maybe the Washington Wizards, there really is not a fourth team that stands out. The Toronto Raptors are aging, and might take a step back. The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat probably overachieved a bit. The Philadelpia 76ers and still young and the Charlotte Hornets underachieved last year just like the Pistons.
If Reggie Jackson comes back healthy, and the addition of Avery Bradley plus more three point shooting improves the Pistons like it should, they have a shot at being a top four seed. A lot needs to go in their favor, but don’t piss in my Kool Aid.
Reggie Bullock will start 25 games or more
I am firmly in the camp of Stanley Johnson and Tobias Harris starting at the three and four, respectively. I think Jon Leuer will work better off the bench and was way over his head as a starter last season. Tobias Harris is not ideal defensively at the four, but I like his ability to create some mismatches at power forward. I think Stanley Johnson’s low usage and solid defense will be a nice asset to have in the starting lineup.
However, if Johnson does not improve as a shooter even if he is not getting a ton of shots, the Pistons will not have a great offense. This is where Reggie Bullock comes in. Stan Van Gundy said that Bullock would get some minutes at the three during his introductory press conference. If Johnson struggles to get his shot figured out on offense, I could see Bullock being inserted into the starting lineup.
He would be a slight downgrade defensively, although he does have the size to defend small forwards and is also not a terrible defender. However, his shooting and cutting could be a welcome addition to the starting lineup. He would encourage more ball and player movement, and add another reliable shooter for the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick-and-roll.
Reggie Bullock might not be able to handle heavy minutes at the three, but he could start and rotate between the two and three during the rest of the game. This is something that would obviously happen later on in the season. Bullock will be suspended for the first five games of the season, plus Johnson should be given a decent amount of rope to hang himself before a change is made.
Van Gundy has to use a bit more lineup creativity this season. He cannot stick to a strict nine-man rotation and he needs to replace struggling players in the starting lineup while not moving the best players, like Tobias Harris, to the bench.
Luke Kennard will be a regular part of the rotation
This may not be completely out there in terms of boldness, but the Pistons do have decent depth at guard. Players like Jackson, Ish, Langston Galloway, and Bradley are expected to be mainstays in the Pistons rotation. That leaves few minutes for players like Bullock, Luke Kennard, and maybe a bit of Johnson to fight over.
With Johnson and Bullock expected to play a decent amount of minutes at small forward, that will leave an opportunity for Kennard. If he comes to camp hitting his shots, Van Gundy will have no choice but to find minutes for him. The narrative that Van Gundy doesn’t play rookies is tired and not true. Johnson averaged 23 minutes a game as a rookie and was the sixth man on a playoff team. The reason Henry Ellenson did not play a lot as a rookie is because he was a raw player who was more of a developmental piece. Kennard is regarded as a pro-ready shooter, and this team needs shooting.
The status of Jackson makes this prediction even more likely. As of the writing of this article, he was still not cleared for full basketball activities and is not going to do two a day practices during camp. This means that he may not be a full participant in every game this season, which cuts the point guard position to a rotation of Ish and Galloway. That will clear a decent amount of minutes backing up Bradley, which I think Kennard will seize with his ability to hit shots.
Some of these predictions may seem like something out of the loony bin. Keep in mind these are BOLD predictions, and maybe none of them come true. But it is more fun to drink the Kool Aid then to talk about how disappointing this season is going to be.
What are some of your bold predictions DBB? Which one of these predictions could you see happening? We will have to revisit this one when the season concludes.