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Competition Discussion: Detroit Pistons

The season is still not here, 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, we're 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: Detroit.  Jump to the comments to discuss the Pistons and make a prediction on their record.    

Previously: AtlantaBostonCharlotte, ChicagoCleveland.

Last year's record: 27-55 (Pythagorean record: 26-56)
Playoffs: None

Offensive Rating: 105.6 (21st)
Defensive Rating: 111.4 (26th)
Pace: 88.5 possessions/game (26th)

In: Greg Monroe, Tracy McGrady
Out: Kwame Brown

Projected starting lineup: Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Ben Wallace

Five big questions:

  • Can Ben Gordon bounce back after a horrendous first season with the team? Even if he does, where will he play?
  • Will Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince still be here by the end of the year?
  • Is Rodney Stuckey ever going to make the leap into being all Joe Dumars thought he could be when he drafted him, or is this what we're going to get from him?
  • How NBA-ready is Greg Monroe? Is he big and physical enough to play inside?
  • Can Ben Wallace hold off Father Time and have another decent season? He'll have to, because there's a mess of power forwards on the roster.

Back in late July, I wrote an article for ranking all 30 NBA GMs.  One of the most controversial rankings was putting Detroit general manager Joe Dumars all the way down at 24.  In retrospect, this was an unfair ranking, because Dumars did build a title-winning team that somehow stayed competitive without a superstar, all while being under the luxury tax.  

But the fact that I even put him there in the first place speaks to how terribly constructed the current Pistons team is.  My god, what a mess.  Dumars has a capped-out roster, with the highest-paid players being Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  Hamilton is slowing down, Gordon is buried beneath a group of guards, Prince is an injury risk and Villanueva can't get in coach John Kuester's good graces.  The Pistons have too many shooting guards (yes, Rodney Stuckey plays like a shooting guard), too many bad power forwards and no real point guards or centers.  Honestly, it's kind of surprising that they won 27 games last year.

Pistons fans can and probably will point to injuries as a reason for the team's struggles last year.  They're right: the Pistons had a lot of injuries.  Hamilton missed 36 games, Prince missed 33 and Gordon missed 20.  But the truth is that injuries were actually a good thing for the Pistons last season.  Early in the season, with Hamilton and Prince hurt, the Pistons were actually playing over their heads.  On December 12, the Pistons were 11-12.  Then, Hamilton came back, the minutes in the backcourt got crunched, Gordon got hurt and the Pistons floundered.  The team played best last year with Prince and Hamilton hurt, not with them healthy.  It was a small sample, sure, but it revealed the problems with the duplicity of the roster.  They played better when all the players had roles that made sense, which only happened because of injuries.

Assuming a cleaner bill of health, I can't see how things will get better than last year.  Greg Monroe may one day be good, but he looked small, raw and slow in Summer League, so I don't expect him to be a major difference-maker right away.  Otherwise, it's tough to see where the improvement comes from, especially if Hamilton and Prince remain.  Gordon can play a lot better, but where will he play?  Stuckey seems like he's reached his level, and it's hard to believe Ben Wallace will give them as much as he gave them last year.  Jonas Jerebko was promising, but he's blocked by Prince.  Same with re-signed Will Bynum, who is blocked by Stuckey.  

It all adds up to another ugly season in the Motor City.


Mike's prediction: 24-58, 14th in the Eastern Conference

BF editor predictions:

Team Mike Prada CJ Hempfeld Sean Fagan Rook6980 Jon Kelman Jake Whitacre
Atlanta 45-37 44-38 44-38 46-36 48-34 43-39
Boston 51-31 51-31 48-34 42-40 50-32 60-22
Charlotte 44-38 38-44 38-44 44-38 41-41 38-44
Chicago 49-33 46-36 46-36 46-36 50-32 49-33
Cleveland 27-55 24-58 25-57 23-59 24-58 16-66
Detroit 24-58 24-58 30-52 24-58 25-57 33-49
Golden State
LA Clippers
LA Lakers
New Jersey
New Orleans
New York
Oklahoma City
San Antonio