2012-2013 Detroit Pistons regular season preview

Detroit sports fans, I feel your pain. Your Tigers are fresh off of a gut-wrenching four-game sweep on baseball’s biggest stage. And after winning ten games and clinching a rare playoff berth last season, your Lions are off to a pedestrian 3-4 start, highlighted by maddening play-calling and a plethora of boneheaded mistakes. Finally, your Red Wings are out of action, rendered casualties of the second NHL lockout in seven years, leaving “Hockeytown” to mourn.

But never fear Detroit sports fans, for your Pistons are here to place a defibrillator on the heart of the city and shock it back to life!

Well, maybe not.

But if you’re like me, the sounds of sneakers squeaking against the hardwood floor makes for some beautiful music, and although these aren’t your daddy’s Pistons, they’re basically all we’ve got.

The Pistons finished the 2011-2012 lockout-shortened season with a 25-41 record, which, isn’t all that impressive. But in the paper-thin Eastern Conference, it was good enough for the tenth seed. This just in: the East is even weaker this year.

Superstar point guard Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls will miss the majority of the upcoming season, making the Bulls a huge question mark in terms of playoff contention. Also, Dwight Howard has a new Los Angeles address, and his former team, the Orlando Magic, are in all-out rebuilding mode and will almost surely be watching the playoffs from their couches this season.

This is all very, very good news for your Detroit Pistons.


Team general manager Joe Dumars didn't make too much noise during the summer in free agency. In fact, he didn’t sign a single one. What he did do was swap Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette in a late-June deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, shedding more than $15 million in salary. He also plucked 2011 second-round pick Kyle Singler from his team overseas and gave him a roster spot. In the June draft, the Pistons were elated when Andre Drummond fell to them at pick number 9. Drummond is very raw offensively, but should step in and make some noise on the defensive end immediately, and his 2012 preseason stats do nothing to sway away from that notion. In the second round, Detroit nabbed forward Khris Middleton and guard Kim English, both of whom are on the 15-man roster to start the season.


For head coach Lawrence Frank (second year with Detroit, eighth year overall), chemistry is the name of the game. Ever since the Pistons dealt their heart and soul, Chauncey Billups, to the Denver Nuggets in 2008, they’ve undergone a bit of an identity crisis and have struggled to find a stable rotation. Let's face it, the Pistons are clearly in the midst of rebuilding. But the team is starting to buy into Frank’s defense-first mentality and by not adding any significant pieces in the off-season, it will allow these young Pistons to continue to get familiar with one another. His first full training camp can't hurt.

[caption id="attachment_233" align="alignright" width="272" caption="Rodney Stuckey will be a big part of what the Pistons look to do on offense this season. (Photo credit: Keith Allison)"][/caption]


The Pistons offense is going to run through Greg Monroe for many years to come. That’s pretty cut-and-dried. The 6’11“, 253 lb Georgetown product blends size and strength with touch and athleticism and even though he is only entering his third professional season, one would be hard-pressed to find any major flaws in his game. First off, he is already one of the better passing big men in the NBA and the attention he demands down low will allow shooters like English, Singler, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva to find some open looks from deep.

Monroe is also as efficient as they come, shooting a gaudy 55.3 percent from the field, combined, in his first two seasons. Although he finished last season with a 73.9 percent clip from the free-throw line (which still isn’t too shabby for a center), he shot a superb 77.4 percent before the all-star break. Odds are he will be one of the best big man free-throw shooters in the league for years to come.

Meanwhile, in the backcourt, Brandon Knight will be running the show. Knight burst onto the scene last year as a rookie in a shortened season and scored 12.8 points per game, dished out 3.8 assists and shot an impressive 38% from behind the long line. He is a scorer at heart but will be looking to distribute the ball more this season. At the ripe young age of 20, the future is bright for Knight, and the departure of Gordon allows Rodney Stuckey to slide over to the shooting guard position, a natural fit for him. By etching this backcourt in stone, Knight’s mind should be at ease in that he won’t have to worry about being a combo guard. He can dedicate his focus to becoming the point guard of the future. Stuckey in turn, knows his role now. He is expected to score, and score a lot. He has reportedly been working on his three-point shot this summer, and if he can raise his career clip of 28 percent from deep by even a little bit, it will help the team mightily. But considering how deadly Knight already is from downtown, Stuckey would be best served to do what’s got him to this point; attack the paint.


Team defense will continue to be a work in progress, but it’s one that coach Frank will fight tooth and nail to improve. Monroe plays decent defensively (he snagged 88 steals last year, good for second among centers in the NBA), and he already rebounds with the best of them (he finished tenth in the Association last year with 9.7 boards per game). He certainly doesn't block many shots for a big man (only 0.7 blocks in 2011-2012), but that’s where Drummond comes into play. Drummond swatted away a gargantuan 2.7 shots per game during his only collegiate season with Connecticut last year and figures to erase a lot of mistakes in the paint, allowing Monroe to roam freely and put those active hands to work in the passing lanes. On the perimeter, Prince is still one of the better defenders in the game, but after that there is an array of question marks. Jonas Jerebko and Knight are both pesky and possess the potential to become solid defenders at their respective positions, but they’re not there yet.


The Pistons second unit looks very thin on paper and although it boasts a fair share of versatility, they desperately need someone to step up if they are going to make a playoff push. The starters to start the season will most likely be Knight, Stuckey, Prince, Jerebko and Monroe, and there is no one on the bench that has carved out a definite sixth-man role to this point. Maggette will be asked to score and it’s something he’s done a lot of in his career, averaging 16.2 points per game in 13 years. Perhaps the only thing he has become more accustomed to during his tenure in the NBA is sitting out with injury. Jason Maxiell and Andre Drummond will provide defense, rebounding and energy, and Will Bynum will likely back up Knight at the point and play somewhere between 18-24 minutes per game. But after that, it’s a little murky. Daye was supposed to be a big part of the team’s future when he was taken 15th overall in the 2009 draft but his measly averages of 5.9 points per game on 40 percent shooting leave plenty to be desired and he will need to earn coach Frank's trust. Power forward Charlie Villanueva is facing the same conundrum. “Charlie V” signed a five-year contract with Detroit worth $35 million in 2009 and has been nothing but a headache ever since. Will he finally step up and provide the kind of instant offense that he was known for during his Milwaukee days? I wouldn’t bet on it, but crazier things have happened. Minutes off the bench are certainly up for grabs. Who plays the most will simply come down to who coach Frank trusts the most.

With a young core finally intact, not only is the Pistons' future finally clear, but the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008-2009 is not out of the question. They figure to be a team on the rise and it will be interesting to watch them grow under Lawrence Frank.

The 2012-2013 season tips off tonight at the Palace of Auburn Hills when the newly-acquired James Harden and the Houston Rockets come into town.

So tune in. After all, you don’t have much else to cheer for these days.

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