DETROIT PISTONS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After eight consecutive trips to the postseason, Detroit missed the playoffs for the second season in a row last year. The team went 30-52 while dealing with internal team conflict, including a player protest, which saw numerous veteran players skip practice in protest of then coach John Kuester. The Pistons were the definition of dysfunction during the 2010-11 campaign. Stuck in neutral due to a painstakingly long ownership change, Pistons president Joe Dumars was handcuffed in his ability to make roster moves.
With the team now sold to billionaire Tom Gores, Dumars has regained the ability to mold his roster and has already started making changes. The first order of business was firing Kuester and replacing him with former Nets coach Lawrence Frank. Dumars also parted ways with veterans Richards Hamilton (bought out) and Tracy McGrady (free agency) Ė both of whom were prominent figures in the player protest last season. Detroit is now set to push forward with longtime Pistons Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace as the veteran leadership while building around young pieces like their two most recent lottery picks, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Monroe and Wallace are the only two players on the Pistons roster who even resemble a center, so look for them to both see time at the pivot. Wallace will see around 20 minutes per night at the position while Monroe will see 32-35 mpg splitting time between the four and five spots. Any remaining playing time at power forward will be split between Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and rookie Vernon Macklin. Itís still unclear who will win the starting spot at power forward, but Villanueva and Jerebko both figure to see 20-25 mpg at the position. Maxiell will get his usual 15-18 mpg to start the season, but he could be pushed to the end of the bench by the younger Macklin as the season wears on. Prince is locked in as the starter at small forward and will see 31-33 mpg, with Austin Daye backing him up at 18-20 mpg. While the starting backcourt hasnít been decided, the final rotation is expected to primarily feature Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Knight. Stuckey will see time at both guard positions. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Stuckey will log around 32 mpg. Gordon is the early favorite to start at shooting guard, with a chance to log 30+ mpg for the first time since he joined the Pistons. Knightís role will likely be limited early in the season, but he could end up playing 24-28 mpg by seasonís end. Backup point guard Will Bynum will see his usual 14-16 mpg but could see an increased role if Knight doesnít develop as fast as expected.
Greg Monroe: Relegated to a reserve role for most of the first half of the season, Monroe initially struggled to find his footing in the NBA. He averaged 5.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 32 games off the bench. It wasnít until Monroe was promoted to the starting lineup that he truly blossomed. In 48 starts, Monroe averaged 12.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks. The 21-year-old out of Georgetown turned into a double-double machine after the All-Star break, recording 14 in 25 post-break games. Monroe isnít terribly athletic and often plays below the rim, so he might never be an elite rebounder or shot blocker, but he has active hands and has the ability to be one of the better thieves among pivots. Although his assist numbers (1.3) werenít impressive during his rookie campaign, Monroe is also a quality passer for a big man and should post decent numbers in that category as his game matures. The Pistons are in full-blown rebuilding mode, and Monroe figures to be one of the teamís centerpieces. Heís among the better up-and-coming centers in fantasy and should be a nightly double-double threat for years to come.
Ben Wallace: Big Ben provides the Pistons with veteran leadership and still provides solid play on the defensive end of the court, but at 37, heís in the twilight of his career. Wallace averaged a respectable 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 23 minutes per game last year, but his scoring (2.9 points) dipped to his lowest average since his rookie campaign in 1996-97 in Washington. The Pistons are shallow enough in the frontcourt that Wallace will still have a role with the team. He could even possibly sneak into the starting five, but donít expect production above last yearís levels.
Tayshaun Prince: Once thought a sure thing to leave the Pistons via free agency, Prince surprised Detroitís fan base by re-upping for another four years with the only NBA team heís ever known. Despite all the turmoil surrounding him last year, Prince managed to put up another season of model consistency, averaging 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 70.2 percent from the charity stripe. While the Pistons are trending younger, Prince will remain a fixture in the lineup and continue to play about 30 mpg.
Charlie Villanueva: Villanueva has struggled ever since signing a lucrative contract with the Pistons in 2009. His playing time dropped to a career low 22 mpg last season, leading to disappointing averages of 11.1 points and 3.9 rebounds. Despite the limited playing time, Charlie V was able to hit a career best 1.6 three-pointers per game. His role is still undetermined, but Villanuevaís versatility means heíll likely log minutes at both forward positions. After being vastly under used during his first two seasons in Detroit, Villanueva will have a chance to carve out a bigger role under the new coaching regime. Heís a solid bounce-back candidate to target late in drafts.
Jonas Jerebko: After an impressive rookie campaign, Jerebko missed the entire 2010-11 campaign with a torn right Achilles. Now back at full strength, Jerebko figures to be an important cog in the Pistonsí frontcourt rotation. The energetic Swede has a balanced offensive game, with the ability to bang in the post while also having enough touch to step back and hit the occasional trey. His hustle on the other end of the court results in decent contributions in rebounding (6.0) and steals (1.0). The 24-year-old tweener should see a solid amount of run while playing time at both forward positions.
Austin Daye: The lanky (6-11, 200) forward out of Gonzaga was given a chance to flash some of his potential during the 2010-11 season, averaging 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 threes while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 87.1 percent from the line in 16 starts. With Prince returning, Daye looks primed for backup duty once again, but his versatility will allow him to see action at the two, three or four. We might be another year or two away from a full-fledged breakout, but Daye remains one of the more intriguing young talents on the Pistonsí roster.
Jason Maxiell: Mad Max once again provided the Pistons with toughness and energy off the bench last season. Heíll have a similar role this year, which will limit him from making much of an impact in most formats.
Vernon Macklin: Macklin was selected by the Pistons with the 52nd overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. The big man (6-9, 245) out of Florida has a limited offensive game, doing most of his damage near the rim. On defense, heís a solid rebounder who uses his 7-4 wingspan to effectively disrupt shots. As a second-round pick, Macklin has an uphill battle to earn playing time, but he has the type of toughness Pistonsí brass look for in their big men.
Kyle Singler: The Pistons selected Singler with the 33rd overall pick of the 2011 draft. The 23-year-old small forward out of Duke signed to play overseas during the lockout and has since decided to spend the remainder of the season playing for Real Madrid of the Spanish ACB League. Heís expected to join the Pistons for the 2012-13 season.
Ben Gordon: Like Villanueva, Gordon has struggled since inking a free agent deal with the Pistons. The 28-year-old averaged a career-low 11.2 points last season while playing just 26 mpg. Despite the drop in production, Gordon has remained an effective scorer, shooting 44.0 percent from the floor, 40.2 percent from downtown and 85.0 percent from the free throw line. With Richard Hamilton now playing for the Bulls, Gordon is primed to see a significant boost in playing time, paving the way for a bounce-back campaign from the sharp-shooting guard.
Rodney Stuckey: While heís never experienced the full-scale breakout some pundits have expected, Stuckey has managed to develop into one of the Pistonsí better producers over the past few seasons. He averaged 15.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 31 mpg in 2010-11. The 25-year-old combo guard had the most effective campaign of his career, hitting 43.9 percent of his field goal attempts and 86.6 percent of his free three shots. Stuckey will be part of the Pistonsí main three-guard rotation, putting him in prime position to continue the development heís shown in his first four seasons with the team.
Brandon Knight: Knight was selected by the Pistons with the eighth overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Heís known more for his scoring prowess than ability to create for his teammates, as evident by his 17.3 points per game during his lone college season at Kentucky. While not as highly touted as previous John Calipari point guards (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall), Knight was still considered the second best point guard of his draft class. He may not start right off the bat, but Knight is expected to have a significant role for the Pistons during his rookie season.
Will Bynum: The speedy guard provided the Pistons with a spark off the bench last year, averaging 7.9 points and 3.2 assists in just 18 mpg. Heís currently the teamís third point guard, but his value could see a significant boost if Knight struggles to catch on quick.
Brandon Knight: Dumars has already hinted at the possibility of Knight emerging as a starter from day one. The rookieís breakout potential is dampened with Stuckey returning, but even in that scenario Knight will remain a solid sleeper. He should see his role grow as the season wears one Ė similar to what we saw with Monroe last year. Owners might have to be patient with Knight, but he has as much breakout potential as any other player on Detroitís roster.
Austin Daye: Daye was a popular sleeper pick over the summer, but that was under the assumption Prince would walk via free agency. Now that Prince has re-signed with Detroit, Daye will be relegated to a bench role again. He has the ability to average 1+ three, block and steal, but his playing time as a reserve will likely be too limited for him to live up to that potential. Let other owners reach on Daye in your draft.