While grading the offseasons of the NBA‘s teams, SI writer Rob Mahoney gave the Detroit Pistons a C+. Mahoney noted that the Pistons have improved tremendously in the talent department, though he points to their lack of cohesion as an issue. The summation of his article: the Pistons got better, but still are not good enough to contend for a title. He sees their ceiling as a “low-seeded playoff team.”
With the Eastern Conference as top-heavy as it is, Detroit’s sights should be nowhere but the conference’s sixth seed. They are not on the level of the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.
They can get there though. This Detroit team is built on defense, like so many other Pistons team that found success in the past. Josh Smith’s addition will help vault the Pistons toward elite status on the defensive end. The spacing issues that are always brought up with the Pistons are real; however, Joe Dumars has said that beyond the first substitution in the first quarter, we may not see the three bigs playing together often.
Brandon Jennings is a definite upgrade over former-Piston Brandon Knight. And bringing back Chauncey Billups is a great move to help Jennings continue to evolve as a point guard.
Billups understands the struggles of Jennings as he has already been through them. He became a great point guard in Detroit and now he can help Jennings do the same. Adding Luigi Datome and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were also smart moves. Bringing in shooters to surround the team’s frontcourt was a necessary move.
The Pistons didn’t sign Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, but that doesn’t mean that they had just an average-plus offseason. No one expected the Pistons’ moves to automatically vault them to contender status. Unless you’re signing someone like Howard, Paul or LeBron James, it’s tough to take a lottery roster to contender status in one year.
This is especially true for a for a team like Detroit that is not a exactly a highly-coveted free agent destination due to snow, poor play and poor attendance in recent years.
The moves that could carry Detroit into the contender category are improvements within the roster. Their best opportunity for this is probably Andre Drummond realizing his vast potential and becoming a dominant center. Steady improvements by Greg Monroe would help too. If the big men find a way to mesh, Detroit could have the most dangerous frontcourt in the league.
And if they can’t, all three are trade chips that could bring back multiple useful pieces to the team (though Drummond is not going anywhere).
Grading the Pistons offseason a C+ because they’re not a contender is shortsighted. The addition of Chris Paul likely wouldn’t have done that. Detroit now has a young core to build around. Not to mention, they are all on movable contracts should Dumars and Maurice Cheeks decide there is just no way a certain player can mesh.
I’d lean toward a B+ for the Pistons this offseason. Concerns about the roster and fit are warranted; however, the concerns last year were much greater. Drummond is the key to the roster. His development will determine whether Detroit will jump into the upper echelon of NBA teams or remain a middling first-round exit. The Pistons made moves to build around him.
Smith can be a defensive stopper and can also potentially form a very dangerous big-big pick-and-roll with Drummond. Jennings will also run a healthy amount of pick-and-rolls with Drummond, and the addition of shooters around them should help to spell some of the spacing issues.
The Pistons aren’t winning the NBA title this season, but they took a large step toward reaching that level.