New Detroit Pistons head coach and president, Stan Van Gundy, is quickly assembling a roster in Motown that could enter the playoff picture. The former Orlando coach is making under-the-radar moves to take steps in the right direction.
PG D.J. Augustine: Veteran backup point guard that had standout offensive moments filling in for the injured Derrick Rose in Chicago
SG Jodie Meeks: 11th best 3-point % in the league last season, he started all but a dozen games for the Lakers
SF Cartier Martin: 18th best 3-point % in the league last season, last played for the Hawks and will come off the bench in Detroit
SF Caron Butler: Journey wing man averaged nearly 10 ppg with OKC, shot a high % from everywhere, still disruptive on defense
C Aaron Gray: Veteran with a big body to bang in the east as a reserve, hopefully his experience can help groom the raw bigs
Who goes, who stays?
Rumors are swirling about the futures of all-star Josh Smith and restricted free agent Greg Monroe. The forwards didn’t really find a rhythm playing together last season, but perhaps those rumors are getting ahead of reality a little bit. Look no further than central division rival, the Chicago Bulls. With defensive standouts in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, this off-season they added future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol and Euro-league MVP Nikola Mirotic to the front line.
Point being, one season may be too soon to give up on something. The strength of the Pistons are their bigs: Smith, Monroe, and Andre Drummond.
Monroe is expected to stick around on an extension similar to Washington’s Marcin Gortat (5 years, $60 million), despite garnering interest around the league. Being restricted, Detroit can match any offer and are believed to do so. Smith has played at an elite level throughout his career, behind the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. Smith has the ability to distribute the rock as a point forward, and he absolutely excels alongside a point guard by slashing in transition. The reoccurring issue has been in half-court sets, when the game slows down. That’s a challenge for Van Gundy, who should utilize his talent in every way possible: distributor, penetrator, in the low post, in the high post, as a screener, as a cutter, as the ball-handler in a pick & roll, as the top defender, as a weak-side help defender, pushing the tempo and getting him the ball on the break. Then you have the man in the middle, Drummond is a rising star that has flashed the potential to dominate the paint and the glass. The athleticism of Smith and Drummond could prove too much to handle, rotating with Monroe who can mix it up from the block to the mid-range.
The backcourt is headlined by Brandon Jennings, coming off a year where he posted just under 16 points and 8 assists with a steal per contest. The point guard prefers to shoot, he wasn’t efficient from the field nor the charity stripe, but he was pretty good from downtown as the primary ball-handler and secondary scorer on last year’s team. Van Gundy could take this kid’s game to the next level with the uptempo offense that endorses his players to shoot the first open look they get. Spreading the floor has been the immediate focus, which is why they brought a couple shooters on board. Five players averaged double figures last season (Smith, Jennings, Monroe, Drummond, Rodney Stuckey) with a sixth just shy of 10 ppg (Kyle Singler).
The number one issue for the Pistons was their shooting percentage and they are well aware of that. Jennings can take risks and go for steals with Drummond protecting the paint, and then there’s Smith flying from the weak-side.
PG: Brandon Jennings, D.J. Augustine, Spencer Dinwiddle, Will Bynum
SG: Jodie Meeks, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Josh Smith, Cartier Martin, Luigi Datome
PF: Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko
C: Andre Drummond, Josh Harrelson, Aaron Gray
* Detroit is expected to move on fro unrestricted free agents, guard Rodney Stuckey and forward Charlie Villanueva. They have already done so with veteran point guard, Chauncey Billups. Point guard Peyton Siva is on the Summer League team for consecutive seasons, but it remains to be seen if he can make the final cut.