Enemy: Detroit Pistons
3SOB Prediction: 31-51
Will the Pistons make a big move?
Detroit has had a tough time lately. Now the city that brought the NBA the Bad Boys in the 80s and the incredible six straight conference championship appearances in the 2000s are trying to make another transformation and like the past years they are starting with a dominant personality at the top.
This time the man on top isn’t Chuck Daly, Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown or Flip Saunders – all successful former Pistons Head Coaches – but Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy has a 64.1% winning percentage as a head coach and has never failed to take his team to the playoffs. To insure the team knows this is Van Gundy’s team the Pistons made him President of Basketball Operations as well as Head Coach.
Detroit has fallen on hard times after trying a quick rebuild after the string of conference championship appearances ended. The Pistons realized their run was over after failing to Celtics in the playoffs. They traded Antonio McDyes and team leader Chauncey Billups for an aging Allen Iverson despite realizing Iverson was a free agent at the end of the season. The Pistons made the playoffs despite a losing record and Iverson walked after the first round exit. Joe Dumars compounded his mistake by reaching on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva the following off season, signing both players to big contracts that hamstrung the franchise financially for years.
Dumars, Gordon and Villanueva are gone now and the team, which hasn’t been the playoffs since 2009, has rebuilt with young players like Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond but all is not peaceful in Detroit. There are still player decisions to be made.
Big man Greg Monroe and the Pistons haven’t come to an agreement on the new contract yet and Monroe has announced he will sign the Pistons’ qualifying offer so he will be an unrestricted FA in 2015. Chauncey Billups, the former Pistons star, was not offered the option on the final year of his contract will likely retire. Luigi Datome, a 26 year old Italian star who never materialized under former Coaches Mo Cheeks and Jon Loyer, could be bought out of his deal so he can return to Italy. Jonas Jerebko and Will Bynum are also potential buyouts as the Pistons try to clean house with the new administration in town.
What are they cooking with?
The Pistons made a surprise off-season signing to Jodie Meeks for $6 million a season. Meeks did pick up his scoring last season when Kobe Bryant went out but the Pistons already have a young SG in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope so playing time will be complicated. Meeks’ breakout season will be difficult to repeat as well as he hit career highs by a large margin in FG% and 3 pt%. Players hitting career highs during contract seasons often have a tendency to return to average after the new contract is signed, especially when their impact on the team’s offense won’t be a dominant.
The Pistons backcourt is spear-headed by Brandon Jennings after all. This isn’t a great thing either as Jennings is a notoriously poor shooter. Jennings has broken 40% from the field for an entire season only once. He’s also a large volume long-range shooter who has struggled to hit consistently from the arc. However Jennings started to show some restraint last season taking a career low 14.2 FG attempts a game and getting to the line a career high 4.0 times a game.
The Pistons signed diminutive D J Augustin to back up Jennings. Augustin was described as a season savior for the Bulls last year after being claimed off waivers. Caldwell-Pope and Augustin give the Pistons one of the more potent backcourts in the league which should help Van Gundy implement his favored inside-out offense. Last year the Pistons were 29th in the league in 3 PT% so any improvement on the perimeter should be helpful.
The Pistons also have an imposing frontline of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith. The size and bulk allowed the Pistons to finish 3rd in the league in rebounds per game and first in offensive rebounds. Of course, having a backcourt that can make shots could affect those rebounding numbers somewhat.
The most disappointing player last season had to be Josh Smith. Signed to a big off-season contract, Smith shot just 41.9% from the field and a shockingly bad 26.4% from the arc. These are not the percentages you want from the team’s leading scorer. Aggravating the problem was Smith’s 53.2% from the FT line. The Pistons brought in Caron Butler to back up Smith this year. Despite age and injury, Butler is still a deadly shooter who provides even more firepower off the Pistons bench.
Assuming Monroe returns and Van Gundy gains control of the team the Pistons stand a serious chance at making the playoffs in the East this season. If Monroe is traded then all bets are off.
How do the good guys stack up?
The Vibe Behind Enemy Lines
To venture into the Pistons-centric viewpoint on the upcoming matchups between the Detroit and Memphis, we have enlisted the help of Brady Fredericksen. You can follow Brady on Twitter at @Brady_Fred and check out his writing on PistonPowered.com.
Brady Fredericksen: The Memphis Grizzlies swept two games against the Detroit Pistons last season, but when the teams meet again this season, it’s going to be a completely different opponent for the Grizzlies.
Some thought last year’s oversized Pistons team had the potential to be something of a junior version of the Grizzlies gritty, defensive team. Instead, Detroit played no defense and their big trio was a season-long mess. After winning a close game early in the year, Memphis cruised by Detroit in their second matchup in January.
That’s where the comparisons end, though. The Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy to be their head coach, and his presence alone is a massive improvement from where Detroit’s coaching situation was last year. The Pistons also addressed their lack of shooting by adding Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler.
It’s hard to forecast how Detroit will look against a team like Memphis as they still have the ill-fitting trio of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. If Van Gundy can simply find a way to make that trio work, that could present a true challenge to Memphis imposing frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph..
The Vibe at 3 Shades of Blue
Zach Thomas: The Detroit Pistons have 3 NBA World Championships. Their last trip to the finals was in 2004-2005. Their last winning season was 2007-2008. In the 6 seasons since, the Pistons have hired 6 head coaches and have a record of 179-297. That’s a rough stretch of basketball in the “Motor City”, unless you agree with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that “technically” Auburn Hills isn’t in the “Motor City”, so it can’t be considered Detroit. Hey, that was back before the Cavs had Lebron so Gilbert was still trying to stay relevant. Anyway, back to the Pistons. Van Gundy was hired this offseason and lured into the head coaching gig with a nice chunk of change and the role President of Basketball Ops. GM Joe Dumars exited and Jeff Bowers assumed the GM role. Like the Grizzlies, the Pistons had a busy offseason in the front office. Unlike Memphis, the Pistons did much to alter roster from the one that finished 29-53 last season. Yet after evaluating the roster moves, most moves addressed enhancing their bench having only lost 1 starter in Rodney Stuckey and replacing him with the additions of Jodie Meeks and Caron Butler. Though I think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will get the starting nod this season, we shall see.
The matchup between these 2 teams could turn out to be very competitive. With the Pistons having Greg Monroe (if he stays) and Andre Drummond starting in the post with a combination of Datome, Smith, Martin, Singler off the bench, I could see a strong challenge for the Grizzlies power duo on the block. However, once you get outside of the paint, the talent level of the Pistons wings and guards drops. The Grizzlies adding a healthy Pondexter and Carter, to Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, it gives me a tingle up my leg.
In these two games I think the Grizzlies should win. We’ll beat Detroit by patience, passing and pace. The Grizzlies are the veteran team with experience. They must use that experience and be patient, letting plays come to them. Detroit was awful on the perimeter last season finishing second to last in 3FG% shooting 32.1% and shot 19.3 per game (22nd in the league). Don’t let Jodie Meeks get open looks though, because he and Caron Butler can knock them down. Detroit averaged 8.4 steals per game, which is where the passing comes into play. The Grizzlies need to make good passes and not be careless with the ball. Limiting Detroit’s opportunities to run out and speed up the game will give Memphis the advantage. Which leads me to the final key to success, pace. Detroit was the 11th fastest playing team last season, however when you look at SVG coaching style, most of his teams do not play overly fast. SVG teams are characterized by their defense. If Memphis is able to work their offense faster and keep the Pistons on their heels a bit defensively, the Grizzlies will have a great chance to win both of these games.
The first of the 2 games is early into the season where I believe the Grizzlies will have no issues taking care of the Pistons in the Grindhouse. The 2nd game is at Auburn Hills and is the second game of a back to back and the 10th game in 14 days for the Grizzlies. That will be a game to watch for a slip up as the Grizzlies will be very tired and most likely running low on fuel.
When Do They Square Off?
11/15/14 — FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN — 7:00 PM CST
3/17/15 — The Palace at Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI — 6:30 PM CST
What Do Y’all Think?
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