Competition Discussion: Detroit Pistons

(Previously: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver).

The season is still a ways away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little).  We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else.  In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next couple months or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Detrout.  Jump to the comments to discuss the Pistons and make a prediction on their record.

    

Last year's record: 39-43 (Pythagorean record: 40-42)

Playoffs: Lost to Cleveland 4-0 in first round.

Offensive Rating: 107.4 (21st)

Defensive Rating: 108 (16th)

Pace: 86.7 possessions/game (29th)

In: Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Wilcox, Ben Wallace, Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers
Out: Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Amir Johnson, Arron Afflalo

Projected starting lineup: Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Kwame Brown

Key themes:

  • Once again, Detroit banked on the "reclamation projects" route, getting Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox, all guys who, it could be argued, needed a change of scenery.  How well does that strategy work?
  • Detroit has three solid guards (Gordon, Stuckey, Rip) and not much time to divide between them.  How will the backcourt rotation work out?
  • Michael Curry was a train wreck as a coach, so how much can John Kuestner improve things?
  • Who plays defense, particularly up front?
  • How will they achieve more offensive balance when all their top offensive options are jump-shot first?
  • Rip Hamilton whined about sharing time with Allen Iverson last year.  How will he react to losing minutes to Ben Gordon?
  • What does Detroit expect Rodney Stuckey to become?  He didn't make a ton of progress last year, but can he adequately man the point and continue to progress?
  • How much truth is there to the claim that losing AI and Sheed will be addition by subtraction?

Like Dallas, Detroit is a team that's clearly not fully constructed.  At least I'd hope not.  The only difference is that, unlike Dallas, Detroit doesn't have a ton of tradeable assets to immediately balance the roster more easily.  They don't have a ton of young players and they cannot expect to get much for Rip Hamilton's bloated contract.

What Detroit does have is talent, particularly offensively.  Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, the two big free agent acquisitions, both can really score the ball.  In particular, Gordon is talked about for all the things he can't do (pass, defend, etc.) rather than the one thing he can do really, really well, and that's score over 20 points/36 minutes with an unbelievably high (for a guard) 57.3 TS%.  They'll help an offense that became really stale last season.  Combine them with holdovers like Rip (still a decent player), Prince (also decent and still only 29), Stuckey (who we'll get to in a minute) and a great offensive mind like Kuestner, and you can see how Detroit might be potent offensively.

There are just two problems.  One is obvious: who will defend?  Detroit's interior defensive options right now are Kwame Brown (who is decent on defense), Jason Maxiell (too small), Chris Wilcox (a pathetic defender) and Ben Wallace (who was washed up three years ago).  It's very hard to build a good defense without a good defensive big.  Throw in the pathetic defense of Villanueva and the limited defense of Gordon and Hamilton, and who exactly guards people?  Prince can still defend but he's getting slower, and he won't be as good without the Wallaces behind him.  I wouldn't be surprised to see this team be one of the five worst in the league defensively.  At the very least, I'd be shocked if they crack the top 20.

The other problem is getting the offensive pieces to fit.  Kuestner is an offensive genius, and if anyone can do it, it's him, but he has several personnel shortcomings to overcome.  One is what to do with Stuckey, who didn't show a lot of progress last year.  He spent too much time pounding the dribble and not enough time setting up himself or his teammates for good shots.  With all the offensive possibilities on the roster, Stuckey may have to fundamentally change his game.  Another issue is Villanueva, who is the classic case of a player who puts up numbers without making much of an impact on the game.  His usage rate soared through the roof last year because of Milwaukee's injuries and will likely fall back down this time around.  Can he maintain decent efficiency with fewer opportunities?  I say this only because his efficiency was a career-best last year by a pretty wide margin, as were several other advanced stats like assist rate.

Detroit fans probably counter these objectives by saying they won 39 games despite literally everything going wrong, so they have to be better with the chemistry killers (AI, Sheed) gone.  Maybe that's true.  But while Gordon is better than AI, you run into the same problems of finding him on-court time that you did with AI.  Villanueva is better offensively than Wallace, but he's nowhere near Sheed defensively.  I don't see much immediate improvement coming from those two moves.  Then, you throw in the improvement of the East, the expected decline of Rip and Prince and the loss of McDyess (which will hurt), and I don't see how Detroit's better next year even if Kuestner is a major coaching upgrade.

Down the road, there might be something here.  Just not now.

Mike's prediction: 38-44, third in the Central, 10th in the East.

Team Mike Prada JakeTheSnake Truth About It Rook6980 bwoodsxyz
Atlanta 47-35 44-38 45-37 45-37 45-37
Boston 57-25 55-27 54-28 44-38 56-26
Charlotte 32-50 32-50 29-53 34-48 37-45
Chicago 39-43 40-42 42-40 40-42 44-38
Cleveland 63-19 60-22 64-18 64-18 61-21
Dallas 49-33 44-38 51-31 50-32 47-35
Denver 53-29 53-29 52-30 51-31
Detroit 38-44 42-40 38-44 35-47
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