The Detroit Pistons fell way short of expectations last season. After reaching the playoffs and giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a tough first-round series in 2016, they regressed and missed the postseason entirely. A key injury to Reggie Jackson played its part, but Stan Van Gundy is running out of excuses and another down year could see his job in jeopardy.
Arrivals: Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, Eric Moreland
Departures: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Michael Gbinije, Darrun Hilliard, Beno Udrih
A big part of the Pistons’ offseason revolved around the fate of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Pistons had to decide whether they were willing to hand KCP, a restricted free agent, a max contract which would send them into the luxury tax or if they were willing to let him leave. As it turned out, they opted for the latter, as they renounced their rights to the 24-year-old, who then signed with the Lakers.
The Pistons let Caldwell-Pope walk after they swung a huge deal to acquire Avery Bradley from the Boston Celtics for Marcus Morris in a cap-clearing move for the Celtics hours earlier.
Meanwhile, the Pistons won’t be so short of shooting guard options behind Bradley unlike last season. Earlier in the summer, they drafted Duke’s Luke Kennard No. 12 overall and signed Langston Galloway to a three-year, $21 million deal.
They moved on from their failed shooting guard options, Michael Gbinije and Darrun Hilliard, as well as backup center Aron Baynes. They signed Eric Moreland to be their third big man, and also they added more shooting with versatile forward Anthony Tolliver.
Despite their struggles, the Pistons were still a fairly capable defensive unit last season. They finished 11th in the league in defensive efficiency. They were in the top 10 in the league in terms of preventing both three-point and free throw attempts.
Even in a down year, Andre Drummond remained an elite rebounder and overall solid foundation of that defense. Meanwhile, they also got elite wing defense from Caldwell-Pope. They shouldn’t experience any drop-off on defense without KCP this upcoming season as they get another top perimeter defender in Bradley taking his spot.
The offense was far and away the biggest problem for this team as they finished way down in 25th in offensive efficiency. Jackson’s ineffectiveness after returning from an offseason knee injury was a major factor in their struggles. Drummond’s offensive game also took a sizable step back, which could be connected to his pick-and-roll partner Jackson’s poor performances.
Another major reason for their offense’s struggles was their horrific three-point shooting. Supposed stretch four Jon Leuer had a disastrous season shooting from distance and they also got nothing offensively from their wings off the bench. Even with the addition of the sweet-shooting Kennard, they’ll need massive improvement from other players in order to return to respectability in that department.
Detroit also need marked improvement in terms of their free throws. Not only do they get to the line at a league-worst rate, they also don’t make their free throws when they get there, which is in large part due to Drummond’s continued struggles.
Player to Watch – Reggie Jackson
It wasn’t that long ago that Jackson averaged 19 points and 6 assists and looked like a potential All-Star for the Pistons. But the knee injury he suffered last offseason really derailed his entire campaign and was never really able to fully recover from it.
All eyes will now be on the point guard and whether he can bounce back from that disappointing year. He’s incredibly crucial to the team since he’s just about the only one who can create offense off the dribble.
Without the 24th overall pick from 2011 at his best, the Pistons will likely remain what they looked like last season, which is a rudderless mess of a team offensively.
The Pistons see some gradual improvement as Jackson isn’t quite as bad as he was last season. However, he’s not good enough to lift the Pistons back to the playoffs. Detroit finishes just outside the playoff spots in the East as they finish with around 33-37 wins.
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