The Detroit Pistons are one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
The team has won three championships: back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 during the Isiah Thomas ‘Bad Boy’ era, and a title in 2004 as a scrappy, defensive team that took down the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Since the days of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Co., the franchise has had trouble rebuilding.
The team lost to the eventual champion Boston Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals. Since, the Pistons have made the playoffs three times, getting swept in the first round on each occasion. This came most recently last season, as the Pistons were annihilated by the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
As Detroit is not a top free agent destination, the team made a big move in January of 2018, trading for Clippers star Blake Griffin. He, along with center Andre Drummond, are the main pieces the Pistons have going forward, though Drummond will be a free agent next summer.
Heading into 2018 Coach of the Year Dwayne Casey’s second season, what should the Pistons’ expectations be for the 2019-2020 season?
The team primarily lost role players in free agency, such as Ish Smith, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and others. In free agency, Detroit signed Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris, both to two-year contracts.
Last season, Rose played 51 games with the Timberwolves as their sixth man, averaging 18 points on 48 percent shooting, along with 4.3 assists.
Morris appeared in 58 games last season, splitting time in Washington and Oklahoma City, and experienced a statistical drop-off, averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds.
The Pistons also signed Michael Beasley, who most recently averaged seven points per game for the Lakers. After an MVP season in the BIG3 league, the team most recently picked up veteran Joe Johnson.
Depth Chart & Room for Improvement
With Griffin at the four and Drummond at the five, the Pistons have one of the best frontcourts in the NBA.
Griffin quietly put up great numbers last season. He averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game, along with 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Griffin, the team’s de-facto leader, went down with a knee injury towards the end of the season, and missed the first two games of the Bucks series.
Drummond is the NBA’s best rebounder, as he has led the league in rebounds per game three of the last four seasons. Last year, he also put up a career-high in points, with 17.3 per game to add to his 15.6 rebounds. Drummond averaged 1.7 both steals and blocks per game.
The Pistons should have decent depth at this position, as Thon Maker, Morris and Doumbouya will come off the bench.
At the point guard position, Rose will likely play sixth man behind Reggie Jackson. In his fifth season with Detroit, Jackson, a score-first guard, averaged 15.4 point and 4.2 assists.
The biggest hole in the Pistons’ roster comes at the wing position, as the team lacks a reliable scorer. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway have shown some promise, but largely put up pedestrian numbers, along with Bruce Brown and Tony Snell.
Detroit’s biggest challenge going forward is fixing their offense. While ranking ninth in three-pointers made per game last season, the Pistons ranked 21st in offensive rating. They ranked 25th in points per game, and 29th in field goal percentage.
The Pistons also desperately need help when it comes to shot creation and facilitating. The team ranked near the bottom of all assist categories last season. While the Rose signing may help them offensively, the Pistons are still left without a guard whose primary goal is to facilitate.
While they finished 41-41 last season, the Pistons still made the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference. They should be able to again next season, but can they move up from the eighth seed?
After Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, and Indiana there isn’t much of a clear ranking of teams. Toronto will take a step back without Kawhi Leonard, and could possibly blow it up. Brooklyn should be good, but who knows how Kyrie Irving replacing D’Angelo Russell will turn out on the court.
Detroit, Orlando and Miami will likely all be fighting for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds. While the team did have a solid offseason, and another year under Casey’s regime should help, the Pistons still have to improve their offensive game (they ranked 12th defensively last season).
Griffin and Drummond will carry a majority of the load yet again for Detroit, and a healthy Rose off the bench could help them greatly. However, the team made no major moves that make them a lot better at scoring or facilitating.
Unless the team packages some assets and acquires another star, the Pistons will likely have a similar record to last season. They could improve marginally, perhaps making their way to the sixth seed, but Detroit is still in the lower echelon of the East’s playoff teams.
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.