As training camp quickly approaches and we finish up our Kool-Aid Stand series, the irrational optimism about the DetroitIt Pistons is at an all-time high (unless you are a part of the “Doom Squad”). It is time for me to spew some hot takes about the Pistons for the upcoming season.
I did this exercise last year, and you can read that article here to see how I did. Keep in mind that these are bold predictions and are supposed to be over the top. Don’t get mad at me when they are correct.
With all that being said, let’s hop into five bold predictions for the Detroit Pistons for the 2018-2019 season
1. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will both be All Stars
This prediction is not all that bold due to the current lack of star power in the Eastern Conference. The East is obviously the inferior conference, but I have always felt like it gets talked down on a bit too much. It’s not the Eastern Conference’s fault that there are more competently run big market teams in the West that attract all the Superstars.
With LeBron James now moving West, there are an underwhelming amount of superstars left in the East. There are all star shoo-ins like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard, but beyond that it is pretty wide-open.
Despite how polarizing of a player Andre Drummond is to many NBA observers, he does get some respect when it comes to the All Star voting. He has made two All Star teams in his career, including last season when he was an injury fill-in. It still counts and it shows that he at least received enough votes to be in the running as an injury replacement.
As for Blake Griffin, he was once one of the more marketable players in the NBA. As injuries have piled up a bit over the years and him now residing in Detroit, the appeal of Blake Griffin as a marketable athlete has decreased a bit. However, he still has a pretty good following and he is likely to be the featured player of the Pistons offense. The opportunity is there for him to put up crazy numbers and make his sixth All Star appearance.
If both players stay healthy, which is only a real concern with Blake Griffin, the Pistons should be an improved team. If they can stay in the playoff race into the All Star break, it is very likely that both players are named as All Stars. It would be the first time the Pistons have multiple All Stars since Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace were named All Stars in 2008.
2. Andre Drummond will shoot over 35 percent from three
The likelihood of a player going from being the worst free throw shooter in the league with absolutely no shooting ability outside of the paint to a 35 percent three point shooter is something straight out of NBA 2K19 after spending $100 of VC to improve your player. I went conservative with my first prediction, so why not take a jump on to the crazy train?
There is still a lot of mystery on how many three-pointers Andre Drummond will shoot this season. He has been working on it all offseason, but again, the only basis we have on his outside shooting in his career has not been very good. It is easy to make open threes in a gym with people like me guarding you. It is a completely different animal to do it in an NBA game with some of the greatest athletes flying out at you to contest your shot.
The reason for this optimistic prediction is due to the fact that I don’t think Andre Drummond is just going to be chucking up threes. If you read the Dwane Casey interviews that Laz covered in this article, it sounds like the three point shot is going to be used as more of a reward for Andre Drummond and not a regular part of his game. They are going to be something that comes within the flow of the offense and I only see him taking maybe one a game. I could see him taking about 100 three-pointers over the course of the season, which means he would need to make 35 of them. It is crazy to think that is possible, but if they are all open shots I think it is possible.
This is probably my boldest prediction and the least likely to happen, but I can say I called it when it does (it’s going to happen, stop being in denial).
3. Luke Kennard finishes top three for Most Improved Player
Based on the interview series mentioned above with Dwane Casey, it sounds like Luke Kennard is going to be coming off the bench. I have no issue with this as long as his leash is a lot longer than Stan Van Gundy’s. There are going to be mistakes and a few growing pains because I feel like Luke Kennard didn’t get the minutes he deserved as a rookie. That is part of the reason for this prediction.
My hope and prediction is that Luke Kennard becomes the featured player of the Pistons bench unit and is given free rein to do what he wants to get buckets. No more hesitating to shoot, no more being scared to make a mistake and ride the bench, no more restraints. I want Luke Kennard to be unleashed on bench units, and in the process receive some votes for the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
As I mentioned above, the fact that he only played 20 minutes per game and averaged a modest 7.6 points per game helps him a lot in his pursuit of Most Improved Player. The voters are going to look at a number of factors, but the main one for most of these awards is more pointz. If Luke Kennard can be more aggressive with his shot, get close to 30 minutes per game off the bench, while maintaining his efficiency, he should see a huge uptick in his scoring which will help him in receiving votes for this award.
4. Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin combine to play 140 games
I said that my prediction on Andre Drummond’s three-point shooting above was the most outlandish, but this one might actually be. It may seem like 140 games is a lot, but that would be 70 games for each player. I am not expecting either Reggie Jackson or Blake Griffin to play all 82 games, neither player can be realistically expected to do that at this point. However, with Arnie Kander and his black magic injury prevention methods back on board, plus a new training staff, I could see Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson staying relatively healthy.
This prediction could be a bit more bold and predict neither player to get hurt, but that is not happening. This prediction still allows room for a minor injury from each player and it also doesn’t specify how many games each player will play. One of these guys could play all 82 games while the other struggles with injuries.
It is kind of sad that a prediction for two important players of 140 games played could be considered bold, but that is the current state of the Pistons.
These two players are the most important players on the team, but they also have the most checkered past when it comes to staying healthy. The Pistons season hinges on the health of Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin, so why not try and be optimistic about it?
5. The Pistons will be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference
This is a pretty realistic prediction if the above prediction comes true, but even with perfect health, the Pistons will still have a tough fight to becoming a top four seed. You already have the holdovers who are likely to stay near the top of the conference in Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto. You also have young teams that got better like Indiana and Milwaukee. There are also teams who made it last year and could be better than the Pistons like Miami and Washington.
However, outside of the top three teams, there isn’t a team that is definitively better than the Pistons when they are healthy. Indiana and Milwaukee could be good, but they also have flaws to their rosters just like the Pistons do. It is not inconceivable to see the Pistons pass up those teams and find themselves hosting a first round playoff series as a top four seed. They would most-likely be the number four seed in this scenario because I don’t see them passing up the top three, but injuries are a thing and so many other things could happen.
The East has a few top tier teams and then the rest of the conference is relatively equal. There is an opportunity for the Pistons to put themselves firmly into the mix.