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Path to the Playoffs: The Wizards and the Pistons

The additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal have the Wizards eyeing the playoffs, but it's a tougher Eastern Conference than you remember. This week, Path to the Playoffs takes a look at the Detroit Pistons.

Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

[A messenger runs through a darkened hallway, footsteps echoing with a bell tolling an alarm. Reaching the end, he quickly takes a knee and looks up. The sun is slowly rising, silhouetting a cloaked figure in front of a massive, arched window.]

My lord, the Wizards have assembled an army of forwards.

[Joe Dumars turns toward him and smiles.]

Then we will raise an army of our own.

Seriously, the Detroit Pistons have a lot of forwards, you guys. Here is a marginally possible depth chart:

  • PG: Brandon Knight | (Rodney Stuckey) | (Will Bynum)
  • SG: Rodney Stuckey | Will Bynum | Kim English
  • SF: Tayshaun Prince | Corey Maggette | Austin Daye | Kyle Singler
  • PF: Jason Maxiell | Charlie Villanueva | Jonas Jerebko | Khris Middleton
  • C: Greg Monroe | Andre Drummond | Vyacheslav Kravtsov

This team's fortunes will likely rest on Rodney Stuckey's ability to will them to wins, unless Brandon Knight comes into his own as a passing point guard. Granted, Stuckey's combo-guard-ness mitigates that need during the regular season. With the grind and pressure of a race for the 8th seed, nothing beats having a pure point running half-court sets when the postseason is on the line. Knight shot the three quite serviceably last season and cut down on turnovers, but he'll have to do more. Is he ready yet? Probably not. Non-scoring point guards tend to take some time to hatch and Knight is still in the proverbial egg.

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Nobody really knows how much Rodney Stuckey will mean to the future of this team, but you can't argue with his relatively reasonable contract. The easy shot here is to reference the best-player-on-a-bad-team trope, but I'm waiting to see how he responds to Lawrence Frank. Note: Will Bynum is Will Bynum. Kim English could start strong as a playmaking, defending backup to Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight. In that case, Bynum would probably be gifted to a curious team faster than you can say 'expiring contract'.

Then there's the whole army of small forwards. Detroit will shell out approximately $22 million this season to man the SF spot at which Tayshaun Prince is the likely headliner. Before you laugh too hard, remember how much the Wizards were paying just Rashard Lewis. Corey Maggette is a poor man's Carmelo Anthony-lite on a large expiring deal. Daye is a backup, at best. So where is the hope for the future at this very crowded position?

Would you believe in their 2011 second round draft pick? The Pistons selected Kyle Singler out of Duke following his senior year, headed overseas during the lockout and flourished. He has returned to the States and signed a three year deal. It's impossible to predict how much time he'll get under Frank, but coaches love the right attitude. Here's a quote, when asked in 2008 if he was considering leaving college after his freshman year:

I didn’t give the NBA any thought, I know I’m not ready. I need to mature both physically and mentally. I want to get stronger and quicker, and I want to work on learning how to play the game. I’m at a great place for that.

Singler could very well be a quality backup this season and after that, who knows? Daye (qualifying offer) and Maggette are possibly out in 2013/14 and Prince will be declining. Keep an eye on this one, just in case. (I wonder what JaVale or Andray might have been...)

At power forward we have another murderer's row featuring Jason Maxiell and his acceptable play opposite Greg Monroe. Maxiell is another expiring deal who probably won't back as everybody's favorite cap 'cancer' (I'm a bad person) Charlie Villanueva is on the books next season at $8.5 million, unless he opts out. Which he won't. Because it's Charlie freakin' Villanueva. Jonas Jerebko precedes Khris Middleton on the depth chart, 2012's second round selection. Middleton was injured quite a bit in last season's NCAA play and will probably not break into the rotation, barring injury.

And now to the present and future strength of the team, the center position. Greg Monroe sees you, David Kahn. And he laughed with DeMarcus Cousins when you traded Wesley Johnson to the Phoenix Suns for the privelege of the Lakers 2014 second rounder. His defense will have to improve, but his rebounding is solid and his offensive production is quietly superb. Then there was the whole Andre Drummond falling to the Pistons at #9 and, well, yeah. Rumors started half a second before the pick was reported that Detroit will play the two at PF and C. Dre will have plenty of adjustments to make to life as an NBA big man, but right now Detroit packs a boatload of young talent in the middle. Vyacheslav Kravtsov is seven feet tall, from Europe, with a reputation for shot blocking, rebounding well and playing above the rim. #championship

When all is said and done, if the Wizards and the Pistons end up in a race for the eighth seed, a BIG if, it will be due to significant growth from Detroit's Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe. Those boys have a significant advantage over D.C.'s young guns in terms of the load they'll have to carry. They are free to develop without carrying the franchise on their shoulders and it will be interesting to see what, if any, connection the two develop as the coveted PG-C combo after a year playing together.

Things may very well come to reasonable fruition in Detroit this season, but I'm not betting on the playoffs. The Wizards project to be too much defensively and in transition for the Pistons to keep up in a tight postseason race. Lawrence Frank hasn't had the time and the roster just isn't there to make it out of the lottery. 2013/14 will be a different story, but for now, smart money is on D.C. to take the edge.