Updated: Jan 3, 2021
2020 is finally ending as the new NBA season begins. The Detroit Pistons have loads of new faces, but similar expectations to recent seasons. Bill Simmon's of The Ringer has stated multiple times that our front office won the "Drunkest Offseason Moves" award and while I understand the sentiment, I have not come to the same conclusion. I haven't emptied my savings to bet on the next banner being hung next year either, but I also have not ruled out watching the Pistons being swept in the first round by Milwaukee or Brooklyn either. Lets delve into what to look for this year:
The roster that General Manager Troy Weaver has constructed is unique and that is why it has been widely panned. Carrying multiple centers in today's NBA is a zag move, especially considering draft capital was used on a center, but I do think there is ways in which to win games with the players currently on the roster.
Blake Griffin is the only "all-around" player we have and that is being generous with his defense. I am worried about Jerami Grant playing such a large role when he was assisted so much last year on the Denver Nuggets. Thus far during the preseason he has left me unimpressed often dribbling into a crowded lane with no way out except some garbage layup hoping for a foul. He will need to be league average in efficiency and average 18 points per game to justify his contract. Mason Plumlee was an addition I am more hopeful about than most it seems. He will anchor the defense, play some pick and roll, and rebound. He is a competent NBA player who will be very useful as a starter. Delon Wright started most of the preseason at the 2 guard spot and that shocked me a bit. Good enough off the dribble and an above average defender on the wing. He'll knock down open 3's as well. The last starter is the most interesting of all. Rookie PG Killian Hayes was tentative in the preseason, and while he did have a few moments that were nice, mostly he gave up the ball before he got within 25'. On a brighter note, when he plays defense you can't tell he is 6'5" because his defensive stance is so low. The gives credence that he will be able to play defense against the best point guards in the league.
Our second unit is much better than most are reporting and has some serious offensive firepower. Derrick Rose is a sneaky 6th man of year candidate in will run the second unit as well you'd expect a former MVP would. He will be a steady offensive option while the starters are off the floor. He will be flanked by Josh Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Svi will bring his 40% 3 point shot and will be great at clearing the lane for Rose. Jackson is a reclamation project, but his preseason play was inspired and aggressive. If he can tap into his natural talent he could be more successful than last year's Christian Wood. Jahlil Okafor will be consistent points while he is on the court and when the rookies get pressured, dumping the ball into Okafor will be worth 2 points and an assist. Saddiq Bey, the rookie out of Villanova, seems to enter the game firing and that confidence should carry him to an All-Rookie 2nd team nod. Sekou Doumbouya is the wild card. He has been great in the preseason and his development directly reflects the future of the organization.
Best Case Scenario
An NBA championship right? While I would never bet any amount of money on this outcome, I feel that since we are undefeated right now, lets explore how to make that happen. The main reason this could come to reality would be an MVP season from Blake Griffin. He would need to average 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists to go along with a top 4 playoff seed for him to win. Now that the MVP is in Detroit and we have a top 4 seed, what do other player need to do to bring home the O'Brien trophy? Killian Hayes is going to have to make Kevin O'Connor of the Ringer look like a genius and win Rookie of the Year. The contract Jerami Grant received will need to be exceeded on the offensive side as well as him being selected to an All-Defense team, along with Derrick Rose winning the 6th man of the Year. If all of those things come to pass and there are a few key injuries to a few key players.... We might have a shot.
I feel like I have a clearer vision of how the front office wants the season to play out. The biggest asset that the Pistons have is Blake Griffin and his increasingly tradeable contract and maximizing that is the looming situation for the Pistons. We have 4 legitimate NBA players in Griffin, Plumlee, Grant, and Rose and that should make us competitive. Showing that Blake can contribute to winning, at a high level, to a mediocre team maximizes that asset.
Our first unit will be a defensive nightmare and our second unit will score points. I thought that coach Casey would start Svi, but Wright makes the first unit's strength into a game plan asset. Having Svi on the second unit will surround Rose with shooters and scorers at all levels. Bey alongside Okafor adds a potency that should give us one of the best second units in the league. If Sekou can take a leap and be a contributor night in and night out we are going to be good.
If we get off to a decent start I imagine that Blake will get traded for the first available 1st round pick in next years loaded draft. Once that happens Rose will be traded and we can officially start our rebuild. I think this is what the plan is for this season. The question at hand is, if we start strong will owner Tom Gores want to try and make the playoffs as opposed to gaining draft capital? The answer to that question will determine how the season play out.
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