STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The 2009-10 season was a complete disaster for the Pistons. The team finished 27-55 and failed to make the postseason for the first time since 2000-01. Despite the poor showing, Detroit didn’t make many moves in the offseason. Kwame Brown was the lone player not retained, and Tracy McGrady was the only free agent acquisition the team made. Detroit appears to be a team stuck in neutral, but the addition of lottery pick Greg Monroe is a good start in the right direction. With the continued development of Rodney Stuckey, and bounce-back campaigns from veterans like Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton, who both missed significant time last season, Detroit could make a surprise play at one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Due to a rash of injuries last year, Pistons coach John Kuester was never able to fully deploy his ideal rotation during his first season running the team. Entering training camp, the Pistons have up to 12 players who project to have some kind of role in the rotation this season, so unless the Pistons make some roster moves before the season starts, Kuester will again have his hands full settling on a specific rotation.
Ben Wallace is the likely starter at center, but at 36, it’s hard to envision him seeing more than 24-28 minutes per night. Monroe will backup up Wallace and should slide over to power forward at times, leading to 25-30 minutes per game for the Georgetown product. Jonas Jerebko is out for most of the year with a torn Achilles’ tendon, opening up a large chunk of minutes at power forward. Charlie Villanueva is the favorite for the starting gig, but he’ll have to hold off Chris Wilcox, Jason Maxiell, and the aforementioned Monroe. With or without the starting job, Villanueva figures to see the majority of playing time, logging 28-32 minutes. Maxiell will likely fall into the 18-20 minute range he has seen the past three years, while Wilcox sees mop-up duty at the position. Tayshaun Prince will see his usual 32-35 mpg as the starting small forward. The two guard positions will be crowded, but Hamilton, Stuckey and Gordon should all have the opportunity to surpass 30 minutes. Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum, and Austin Daye also figure to be in the mix for playing time, but without injuries or trades of any players listed above them on the depth chart, all three will struggle to see enough playing time to contribute in most leagues.
Ben Wallace: Big Ben had a bounce-back campaign in 2009-10, averaging 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 69 appearances. The 36-year-old proved he is still a beast on the glass and defensive end of the court, but his struggles on offense (5.5 ppg, 40.6 FT %) will limit his overall fantasy value.
Greg Monroe: The Pistons selected Monroe with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 Draft. At 6-11, 247, the Georgetown product will provide the Pistons with much needed size in the frontcourt. Monroe’s scoring tools are still a bit raw and he lacks the explosiveness of many big men in today’s NBA, but he makes up for those weaknesses with a high basketball IQ, great passing ability, and an underrated ability to clean the glass. Monroe may not have a huge role with the team to start the year, but he could develop into a decent fantasy play by midseason.
Chris Wilcox: After spending a year struggling to get off the Pistons’ bench, Wilcox opted to pick up his player option this offseason and spend another season donning red, white, and blue warm-ups. If the athletic big man wasn’t able to crack the Pistons’ injury-depleted rotation last year, he doesn’t stand much of a chance to see significant run in 2010-11.
Charlie Villanueva: Villanueva’s inaugural season with the Pistons was sidetracked by injuries and inconsistent play. The 26-year-old forward dealt with lingering back and foot injuries that led to disappointing averages of 11.9 points and a career-worst mark of 4.7 rebounds. As a result, Villanueva spent most of his time in the gym this offseason in an effort to stay at full strength and challenge for the starting power forward job. If Villanueva wins a spot in the starting five, we could see a return to the success he had in Milwaukee before signing a big free-agent deal with the Pistons last summer.
Jonas Jerebko: Jerebko was one of the surprise players from last year’s rookie class. After a rash of injuries hit the Pistons early in the season, Jerebko was able to carve out a starting gig, averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. Unfortunately he’s now dealing with a torn Achilles’ tendon, suffered in the preseason opener that will keep him out 5-to-6 months and potentially the entire season. It’s a tough injury for Jerebko, but it should not be a crippling loss for the Pistons.
Tayshaun Prince: The 2009-10 season was a lost cause for Prince. After playing in all 82 regular season games over a six-year stretch from 2003-09, Prince suffered multiple injuries that limited him to 49 games last season. Despite the health troubles, Prince still managed to average 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists when healthy, numbers on par with his career norms. Prince is likely to offer similar production over a full season, but his lack of upside makes him less appealing than other options that come with the same price tag on draft day.
Jason Maxiell: Even when given the opportunity to see extra playing time last season, “Mad Max” struggled to provide much fantasy value to owners. His per-minute stats have always looked promising, but the undersized (6-7) power forward has proven multiple times that he’s more effective as an “energy” player off the bench.
Austin Daye: As expected, Daye didn’t have a large role with the Pistons during his rookie campaign. The Gonzaga product averaged 5.1 points while playing just over 13 minutes per game in 69 appearances. The Pistons are still enamored by the lanky (6-11) small forward’s ability to demonstrate guard-like skills with his long-range shooting and ball handling, but Daye will need to continue adding strength to his thin frame (205) to have success at the NBA level. With numerous veterans still ahead of him in the rotation, Daye is likely another year or two away from having a significant role in the rotation.
DaJuan Summers: The 2009 second-round pick was limited to mostly mop-up duty in his rookie season, averaging 3.0 points in 44 appearances. Summers is expected to be on the Pistons’ final roster entering the 2010-11 season, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a chance for his role to grow.
Ben Gordon: Like Villanueva, Gordon signed a lucrative deal with the Pistons prior to the 2009-10 season. Unfortunately that’s not where the comparisons end, as Gordon struggled in his first season with the Pistons, too. After being one of the more electric scorers in the league during his stint with the Bulls, Gordon averaged just 13.8 points and 1.2 three-pointers for the Pistons. Injuries and inconsistent playing time led to Gordon having difficulty establishing his role and finding a rhythm with his new squad. At 27, Gordon is still in his prime, so with a full year adjusting to his new team under his belt and an apparent clean bill of health, Gordon is a solid bounce-back candidate.
Richard Hamilton: Hamilton was yet another Piston who was bit by the injury bug last season. Rip played in a career-low 46 games due to ankle and hamstring injuries, but he was still an effective scorer (18.1 ppg) when on the court. He’s healthy entering the season, but Hamilton could see a slightly decreased role as the Pistons look to find a new team identity. Even if plays a reduced role, his scoring prowess will make him worth a late-round pick. Just don’t look for him to contribute much in other areas.
Rodney Stuckey: While a lot of the hype surrounding Stuckey has died down, he still managed to average a career-high 16.6 points while chipping in 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per contest. The Pistons now realize Stuckey is probably best suited for work as a combo guard, but without much competition for playing time at the point, he will continue to spend most of his time masquerading as a floor general. Stuckey’s weak field-goal percentage (40.9) and lack of a three-point shot continues to limit his overall fantasy effectiveness, but he still remains a decent fantasy play thanks to his other counting stats.
Will Bynum: Bynum proved to be a solid rotation piece last season, averaging 10 points and 4.5 assists in 63 appearances. The speedy guard stepped in as the starting point guard on occasion for the injury-depleted Pistons, but his production jumped minimally – Bymum finished with averages of 10.4 points and 5.4 assists in 20 starts. Unless their hand is forced by injuries again, Detroit will deploy Bynum as a sparkplug off the bench once again, limiting his impact to deeper formats.
Tracy McGrady: McGrady was the lone addition to the Pistons’ roster from this past summer’s free agent class. The veteran swingman believes he has fully recovered from microfracture knee surgery and can re-establish himself as a force in the NBA. The Pistons obviously bought into what McGrady was selling, but we’re not as sold after his less than stellar showing with the Knicks down the stretch last season. Detroit is desperately in need of a go-to guy, but unless McGrady can miraculously turn back the calendar to 2007, he isn’t the man for the job.
Terrico White: Pistons selected White in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft. The team is enamored with White’s athletic ability, but he’ll need a season or two to develop before cracking the rotation. White will miss the first few weeks of the season after suffering a broken foot during preseason action.
Greg Monroe: The Pistons are desperately in need of a low-post scorer, and even as a rookie, Monroe is arguably already the team’s best offensive option on the block. Wallace’s resurrection last season was a nice story, but his age will catch up to him sooner or later. Monroe is the Pistons’ only other legit option at center, so if Wallace fades, look for the rookie to breakout.
Ben Wallace: In his prime, Wallace’s shortcomings on the offensive side of the ball could be overlooked because he dominated the rebounding, steal, and block categories. While he can contributes in those defensive areas to a lesser degree, the impact isn’t nearly enough to warrant regular deployment of the 36-year-old center in fantasy leagues. With Monroe looming in the background, the Pistons finally have a younger player capable of seeing playing time at the pivot; so don’t put too much stock in Wallace.