Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Detroit Pistons Season Preview

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CHICAGO, USA - MARCH 22: Reggie Jackson (1) of Detroit Pistons in action during the NBA match between Chicago Bulls vs Detroit Pistons at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on March 22, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Detroit Pistons were projected to be one of the most promising young teams last season. After failing to make the playoffs once again, they are looking to turn things around and become a force in the Eastern Conference. With many young Eastern Conference teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat improving, the Pistons will have their hands full trying to be relevant. Here is the 2017-18 Detroit Pistons season preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Detroit Pistons Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

The Pistons didn’t end up having the successful season that many predicted last year. With that being said, they did show some small flashes of brilliance throughout the 2016-17 season.

A bright spot for the Pistons last season was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The young swingman averaged 13.8 points and shot 35 percent from three-point territory. His effort on defense was also vital for the Pistons’ success. He usually took on the toughest perimeter assignment while having to keep the Pistons afloat on offense. Unfortunately, Caldwell-Pope left Detroit to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in July.

Another player who helped keep the Pistons relevant was Tobias Harris. He averaged 16.1 points per game at an impressive 48.1 percent from the field. He was also valuable because he could bail the team out with a basket anytime its offense broke down, which was quite often last season.

While Andre Drummond had a sub-par season by his standards, he still managed to average a double-double and was at least decent at protecting the rim.

In hindsight, missing the playoffs may have been a good thing for the Pistons. Instead of getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics, they ended up receiving a lottery pick. This pick turned into Luke Kennard, who could help the Pistons immensely, especially on offense.

What Needs Improvement

The 2016-17 season was a large disappointment for the Pistons. After playing the Cavaliers closely in the 2016 playoffs, many thought that last season would be a coming out party for the Pistons.

However, the season started rough, as point guard Reggie Jackson was sidelined for the first 21 games due to knee tendinitis. The Pistons as a whole were not talented enough to salvage the loss of their point guard and their season definitely reflected it.

In order to turn things around in Detroit, the leaders will have to improve dramatically. Drummond must add some offensive moves to his arsenal and become a better free throw shooter. He shot an abysmal 38.6 percent from the free throw line last season, which made it very tough for Stan Van Gundy to find Drummond minutes in close games, especially in the fourth quarter.

Jackson must also stay healthy and get back to running the pick-and-rolls that worked very well for the Pistons during the 2015-16 season. Detroit’s three-point shooting has to improve in order for them to be successful. Their lack of shooting consistency left playmakers like Jackson with little space to operate, which usually resulted in a tough shot at the end of the shot clock.

Stan Van Gundy’s teams have been known for their passion and toughness. But to the naked eye, the Pistons lacked that energy and confidence last season. This is something they cannot afford to repeat this coming season, or else they may find themselves at the draft lottery once again.

Off-Season Changes

In a chaotic off-season, to say the least, the Pistons certainly found a way to get a piece of the action.

The biggest splash they made was to acquire Avery Bradley in a trade with the Celtics. With Caldwell-Pope now wearing purple and gold in Los Angeles, it was vital for the Pistons to add another talented two-way player in the backcourt. The downside of the Bradley move was that it cost the Pistons another starter in Marcus Morris, who was shipped to Boston.

Detroit also signed Langston Galloway to a three-year deal worth $21 million. Galloway will likely slide into the de facto third point guard spot and should also contribute as a reserve scoring wing.

The Galloway signing acquisition is essentially an insurance policy, in case Jackson’s knee continues to act up this season. The pickup was also important because of how proficient Galloway can be from behind the arc. He shot the three ball at a 39 percent clip last season and can help improve the Pistons’ perimeter game.

Another great addition that will also help enhance the three-point shooting is Luke Kennard. Kennard had an outstanding Summer League for the Pistons, showcasing his prolific offensive prowess.

While Detroit may have given up some starters in order to add Bradley, the Pistons altogether still had a decent off-season. It will be interesting to see if these new faces can galvanize the team and bring the toughness back to Detroit.

2017-18 Predictions

When you are playing in the Eastern Conference, you will always have a shot to stay relevant. Other than the top two teams (Cleveland and Boston), the East is pretty much wide open.

The Pistons will have to try to avoid the injury bug for most of the year and monitor Jackson’s knee very closely. If they remain healthy and regain that Motor City toughness, the Pistons will be a tough out for any team.

Drummond should be on a mission this season after laying an egg last year. He’ll add one or two post moves that consistently work for him, which will make other teams adjust to him and allow Detroit to stay big.

Jackson and Bradley will make up a balanced backcourt, as they will complement each other very well. Kennard will also be a steady contributor off the bench. His prolific shooting will space the floor, helping the Pistons limit their offensive breakdowns.

With the multitude of changes that have occurred this off-season in Detroit, it will take a month or two for the team’s chemistry to build. My prediction is that the Pistons will finish with a record of 46-36 and creep into the playoffs as a seventh seed. They will lose to their first round opponent, but teams will start respecting the Pistons due to their rapid improvement.

 

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