During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each NBA team in the upcoming season.
The Two Factors to a Successful Detroit Pistons Season
The Detroit Pistons has been moving in an overall positive direction for some time now. Sure there were a few hiccups, but in general there was always movement towards a better team. This is year three of Stan Van Gundy’s tenure—eons in basketball time. Pistons have a make or break year on their hands. The first factor that will be critical for the Pistons is the leadership of Andre Drummond and his ability to sustain high performances from himself. The second factor is over achieving supporting cast. Sure, Reggie Jackson is a quality starter. He plays above and beyond the team’s needs, but he is the second fiddle. That isn’t a slight, that is an assessment that Drummond is the engine that makes this team go. Anyone who disagrees on the team needs to become more realistic. Everyone needs to fall in line behind Drummond. What will help Drummond in the long run will be how well his back up plays to sustain the leads Drummond builds and buy him quality rest time.
What Makes Drummond Tick?
For a stretch, Drummond averaged 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds per game, becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain 45 years ago to have 135 points and 135 rebounds. What makes Drummond tick is rebounds and points. He needs to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Pistons only job is to feed him. Amazingly this production wasn’t even an improvement from the year before, in 2014-15 he was grabbing, 49.3 percent of contested rebounds and in 2015-16 he grabbed 47.4 percent. He grabbed a few more uncontested rebounds (50.7 percent versus 52.6 percent).
To get more rebounds, Drummond simply made sure he was closer to the basketball more times (29.2 versus 19.2 the year before). It seems so simple, but fans should be happy to hear that, because it means it can and will happen again. The main reason that everyone should fall in line behind Drummond is because of his usage. In order for him to maintain his high scoring, his efficiency needs to rise a bit higher (he had a career high 62.3 percent in 2013-14) and his usage must increase.
Drummond isn’t used enough for a big man to average 20 points. The last guy to do it with low usage was Dwight Howard and before that Chris Webber. The chances are too slim. The Pistons are better off giving him the ball more. So if the Pistons want to win more they need to give Drummond the ball. Plenty of NBA teams wish their solution was that easy.
The New Over-Achievers
The next thing Drummond needs is for his team to become the league’s new over-achievers. The Pistons have below-average shoooting. Although, they have above-average on ball movement and passing. Which is the perfect ingredient for over-achieving, according to the Hawks. Tobias Harris, Jon Laur, Henry Ellenson and Marcus Morris will need to become the reliable three point threats for the season in order for the Pistons to reach their fullest potential. Luckily the Pistons find themselves in the perfect storm that made the Hawks great.
The Hawks had coaching, the right pieces and sharing. The Pistons have everything the Hawks had and more because they have a legitimate star. The Hawks were quick and used several weapons to sustain runs, the Pistons have several weapons and players who have proven they can take over games. The backups are similar enough to their starters that the game plan stays. This proved invaluable for the Hawks and Van Gundy knows how to use it here.
The risk the Pistons are taking is with their two rookies. Jon Laur is more NBA ready than Henry Ellenson. The Pistons rely on both to play quality minutes. Another new face, Boban Marjanovic will prove himself quickly. Boban can be trusted to fufill his duties, if the 3-pointers are timely and often, watch out NBA.
The Pistons don’t know how long this is going to last. They can hold on to the moment or let it pass by. The Pistons have made the most of their opportunity to capture a championship before (remember Chauncy Billups?). They even sustained that success. However, in this era of basketball how long will a chance last? Fans want them to be on the right side of history again.