After an exciting offseason, we take a look at the potential best and worst-case scenarios for the 2017-18 Detroit Pistons.
Stan Van Gundy enters his fourth season as the president of basketball operations, head coach, and ‘wall-former‘ of the Detroit Pistons during a pivotal time for the franchise. The team is moving downtown to Little Caesars Arena this season after spending 28 years at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
I think most fans were excited to bring in Van Gundy, as he brought in a pedigree of playoff success into the fold. Unfortunately, the Pistons have only made it to the playoffs once during his tenure. While the team is undoubtedly better than it was before his arrival, there are many fans who are critical of the regime.
We at Piston Powered have a more favorable view of Van Gundy’s time with the team. I don’t want to speak for everyone on the contributing staff, but I think the consensus among the group is that last year was a bit of an aberration. Many of us who still support the Pistons’ direction have chalked up last season’s mishaps largely to Reggie Jackson‘s knee, as well as a severe lack of spacing spawning from that injury.
Well, the Detroit Pistons added Luke Kennard, Avery Bradley, and Langston Galloway this offseason, all of whom are considered to be above-average three-point shooters. As for Jackson, he is going to have to show that he can still play the NBA game at a high level. If not, the team may need to look in a new direction.
With all that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the best and worst case scenarios for this roster.
Worst Case Scenario: 37 wins (or under)
Yes, the Pistons’ worst case scenario for this season… is that they have the same exact season as last year. Last year was a disaster. It was an embarrassment for the city, the franchise, and pretty much everyone involved.
There are already plenty of pieces detailing the Pistons’ tragic 2016-17 season. If this season looks anything like last year, it would mean a number of things:
- Reggie Jackson‘s knee never got back to full strength, or anywhere close.
- Andre Drummond might not be a max-contract guy.
- Stanley Johnson isn’t a starting small-forward.
- Stan Van Gundy isn’t equipped to be both president of basketball operation AND head coach, or his coaching style is outdated.
My opinion is that item No. 1 is the biggest question mark on that list. Knee tendinitis can be a career killer. It remains to be seen if Reggie Jackson will ever be able to handle the workload of a starting NBA point guard again. However, Stan Van Gundy seems positive about the treatment plan in place.
As far as the other items, I mean, I wrote a piece about how I think Stanley Johnson is in line for a big season. I also truly believe in SVG as a coach and an executive. Finally, Andre Drummond had surgery this summer which may increase his production:
That being said, there is still a worst case scenario for this team.
If that happens, and the team is in the midst of a losing season, I would think that Van Gundy (or Tom Gores, depending on the situation) would just blow it up. At some point the front office would have to stop making excuses for Drummond, Jackson, and the other core players and try to regain the financial leverage needed to spark a rebuild.
If that is the direction the team takes, they would need to decide before the trade deadline which players they need to offload and how, but I’ll save that for another piece.
Best Case Scenario: 55 wins (or more. Hey, it’s possible!)
The Eastern Conference has been considered the weaker conference in the NBA for years. This summer, Paul George and Jimmy Butler, two All-NBA caliber players, left for the Western conference. This migration all but removed the Bulls and Pacers from playoff contention (they forgot that they should get some good players back in exchange).
While this may be bad news for the Eastern Conference as a respectable entity, it’s going to be good for the Pistons.
The Conference is getting terrible at the perfect time for Detroit. Stan Van Gundy, four years in, has been given enough time to fully retool the roster to his liking. Andre Drummond is the last Joe Dumars-signed player left on the roster, but it was Van Gundy who chose to give him a max-contract extension.
If Reggie Jackson is healthy. If Andre Drummond (possibly aided by his surgery) finally becomes the player we thought he would be. If Stanley Johnson can find his shot and become the talented two-way player he could potentially be. If Avery Bradley is a marked improvement over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
I know that’s a lot of “ifs,” and there’s still many more I didn’t cover, but that should just speak to the potential of this team: there are a lot of solid players on the Detroit Pistons. Some of those players could become even better than solid this season.
Here are some eye-opening stats regarding this current iteration of the team. Let’s go back to Reggie Jackson’s first year with the team; 2015-16. During the final sixteen games of that season, the Pistons were a top-ten offense in the league. They would go on to battle the Cavs in the playoffs that year. They got swept, but I would make the argument that they gave the Cavs as good of a matchup that year as any Eastern playoff team did this last season.
I think it is severely understated how different Reggie Jackson looked last year. To me, he looked like he could become a perennial All-Star contender. If that’s the Reggie we get this year, the conversation surrounding this team changes entirely.
The next stat is regarding Stanley Johnson, provided by one of our editors, Duncan Smith. There are many fans who are quick to call Stanley a bust. I will frequently see people write that they wish we drafted Devin Booker over Stanley Johnson. Well, most of those people probably don’t realize that Stanley Johnson had a net rating 4.6 points higher than Booker last season. Johnson is an elite defender, as documented by the stat below:
At 6’7″, 245 lbs, Stanley Johnson is just one inch, five pounds, and three rings from being Lebron James, and is already showing how that can help us on the defensive end. If he can put it together offensively he may surprise people this year, and be a huge catalyst for the Pistons’ season.
Many things need to break the Detroit Pistons’ way this season for the team to hit anywhere near 55 wins. However, while there are some teams who have no chance to reach that, I think that the potential is at least there with this roster. Now its simply a matter of execution, and a little luck.
Call me an optimist, but I am choosing to lean towards the best-case scenario side. As of right now, I would consider them the fifth best team in the East. If they don’t make the playoffs this year in a weakened East I might change my tune. But for now, I’m enjoying the feeling of hope heading into the season.
55 wins might be a stretch, but I am ready to cheer my a** off in Little Caesars Arena, and I think the Detroit Pistons can bring us a winning squad to cheer for.