Posted August 23, 2013

Offseason Grades: Detroit Pistons

2013 Offseason Grades, Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons, Josh Smith, Rob Mahoney
Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings

Josh Smith (left) and Brandon Jennings headlined the Pistons’ offseason makeover. (Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.

Additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Luigi Datome, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 8 in the 2013 draft), Tony Mitchell (No. 37), Peyton Siva (No. 56), Josh Harrellson

Losses: Jose Calderon, Brandon Knight, Jason Maxiell, Kim English, Khris Middleton, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Corey Maggette

Other Moves: Re-signed Will Bynum, hired Maurice Cheeks as coach

What Went Right: Pure talent acquisition. Detroit made some big gains to build out its lineup in a hurry, and at worst has shed the problems inherent with a roster that was both limited and timid. Smith (who signed a four-year, $54 million contract) and Jennings (who received a three-year, $24 million deal in a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee) are the most prominent difference-makers among the newcomers, and between those two and incumbent Pistons Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond alone, Detroit has flung itself into the thick of playoff contention. The Pistons have plenty to suss out on the court, but the baseline performance should be much higher with Smith exerting his defensive influence and Jennings giving the offense a far more assertive creator.

That should go a long way, as should the acquisition of three shooters to better support the Pistons’ core big men. Detroit ranked 24th in three-pointers attempted and 18th in makes last season, and while that can be partially attributed to lacking mechanisms for shot creation, the dearth of shooters in the rotation also hamstrung the Pistons’ options. Datome (who shot 39.4 percent from three-point range the Italian League last season), Billups (36.7 percent last season for the Clippers, 38.8 percent for his career), and Caldwell-Pope (37.7 percent as a sophomore at Georgia) should help, while Jennings (37.5 percent last season for Milwaukee) slides in to replace Knight’s perimeter marksmanship (36.7 percent). It’s hard to pin down how much those new additions might matter, given that a new coach, Cheeks, will be sifting through a refreshed roster, but it’s likely that at least two of those three will play regular minutes and register a notable impact on Detroit’s spacing.

The moves won’t be enough to make the Pistons a team of particular import in the grand scheme of things, but Smith’s eccentricity, Drummond’s development, Jennings’ quick trigger and Monroe’s fluid role definition — among many other micro-level factors — should provide plenty of intrigue all the same.

What Went Wrong: The roster’s awkward construction, which at present hinges on a symbiosis between Smith and Jennings that may be impossible. Both are prone to fits of terrible decision making with the ball, and yet the current Pistons will rely on the two players as integral elements of the offense. Without the kind of moderator who could channel possessions away from Smith and Jennings in problematic spots, Detroit will likely struggle to create a high-functioning offense necessary to be anything more than a low-seeded playoff team.

That’s hardly a disaster, given that Smith and Jennings were acquired on reasonable deals that could eventually be traded if need be. But it seems doubtful that these Pistons could develop into a stout two-way team with this group, leaving the franchise’s trajectory a bit muddled. Even at best, the trio of Smith, Monroe, and Drummond creates spacing problems that would encourage Smith to shoot beyond his range and rely on Monroe to be a significantly better intermediate shooter than he has been to date. There’s enough skill between them to still comprise some pretty solid lineups, but their shared chemistry could come with the kinds of built-in roadblocks that prohibit greater offensive development.

Ultimately, this core stands to suffer from being good without ever being quite good enough, as the things Detroit’s top players do best will seemingly limit the capacity for other Pistons to do the same. Barring a drastic evolution from players such as Jennings, Monroe or Drummond, the Pistons look to be a much-improved team that will still take a lot of untangling to put on a contending path.

Grade: C+. Weird fits and all, Detroit had a decent offseason, deepening its trove of useful pieces and tradable assets. But picking up the likes of Smith and Jennings needs to be only the first steps of a much longer process of both roster and player development.

5 comments
Steve Moore
Steve Moore

Only reason to watch is 'if' Tony Mitchell plays, dudes a beast, fun to watch despite mistakes. Billups is toast. Bynum/Stuckey had their chance and failed. Monroe overrated, ADrum better shoot FT's better or he'll become DJordan. Not a good feeling that JSmoov now got his $ and doesn't have to prove anything (especially since DP bid against themselves to get him too much, too long). Cheeks coaching track record is a loser. Sheed may be the saving grace on the bench.

gwjdetroit
gwjdetroit

I believe the Pistons are definitely a playoff contender.   The acquisitions that Detroit made during the offseason were huge.   Let's start with the pickup of Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups.   Both players compliment one another much like Isaiah and Joe D did in the past , obviously not at the same level.   In Billups you have a bonafided defensive stopper, a demonstrated floor general, and a pure outside shooter like Joe Dumars himself.  Ironically enough Billups and Dumars career stats are virtually the same including free throw percentages and points behind the arc.   Billups actually has more assists per game.    With respect to Brandon Jenniongs can anyone say Zeke (the Detroit Nickname for Isaiah Thomes).   Jennings can slash to the basket and hurt you from three point land the same way Isaiah did.   The ball doesn't lie.   Stat for stat Jennings is on pace to match Isaiah'sstatistics.   People forget that the Bad Boys had to pay their dues for a long time before winning back to back titles.   Jennings is only 23 or 24.   This team is scary.  The oldest players are Chauncey (15 yrs exp), Josh Smith (7 or 8 yrs exp.) and Rodney Stuckey (7 or 8 yrs exp.) .   The other players will around to hurt you for a long time.   In terms of size the frontline of Drummond, Monroe, and Josh Smith is tough for any team.   Laimbeer, Rodman, and Aguire would definitely have their hands full.   People complained about Rodman and Laimbeer regarding spacing problems and offensive production in much the same way as they are complaining about J-Smoove, Drummond and Monroe.   Understand this, Basketball is a team sport and requires role players.  When the Pistons of old has a lull in offensive production they would send in the troops.  Remember the microwave Vinnie Johnson, John Sally, and James Edwards.  Funny thing is beyond those players, no one remembers William Bedford, Gerald Henderson, Stan Kimbrough, Scott Hastings, or Ralph Lewis from the 1989-1990n Squad.   The bench that the current Pistons have is arguably much better.   Charlie Villenueva can kill you with the three despite his defensive problems.   Stuckey and Bynum are solid backups.   Josh Harrelson will be a John Sally/Rick Mahorn type of bruiser.  Singler, Jerebko are trade bait.   KCP, Datome, and Siva are your players in development  and will be given ample opportunities to step their game up.   Joe D. usually spends more time than I'd like with trying to make players work and then trades them (Aaron Afflalo, Amir Johnson, Darko, etc.).   All is all I agree that the pistons aren't going to knock off Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Indiana, or New York for slots 1 through 5, but for playoff spots 6 through 8, it's going to be a dogfight between Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, and Atlanta.   Boston, Philly, Orlando, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Toronto don't stand a chance.

DAJS6
DAJS6

The Pistons definitely have more talent now than last year. That alone should give them at least a B. Who else in the league improved as much as the Pistons have? Dumars got the Pistons more talent. The question is how will Cheeks put things together? When they got Billups back he said that he came back to be the starting point guard again for the Pistons. What now with Brandon Jennings? If one of them plays shooting guard it means development of players like KCP and Datome will be slowed. And how about Peyton Siva? If given a chance to develop he could be THE point guard for the Pistons. Josh Smith is a power forward. Which means either Monroe or Drummond will come off the bench. But they both deserve to be starters. Expect one of these guys to be gone later in the year or next year. And why Josh Harrelson? I thought the Pistons need more help at the 2-3 spots? Maybe they should not be graded yet. With all these questions obviously Joe D ain't done trading.

21GB
21GB

If this is C+, what should the PIstons have done better, who how and what? 


THere's blatant flaws in the logic under the 'what went wrong' section. 
1st flaw: "yet the current Pistons will rely on the two players (Smith-Jennings) as integral elements of the offense. Without the kind of moderator who could channel possessions away from Smith and Jennings in problematic spots"

The moderator is Greg Monroe. The captain and the one of the better 'moderating' bigs in the NBA. Whoops?

2nd flaw: "Even at best, the trio of Smith, Monroe, and Drummond creates spacing problems that would encourage Smith to shoot beyond his range and rely on Monroe to be a significantly better intermediate shooter than he has been to date."

Those 3 won't be on the floor together but a few minutes a night. There's starter minutes for all 3 at the C/PF rotation alone. Thats 96 mpg split 3 ways - 32 mpg, which is about exactly Drummond 28, Monroe 33, Smith 35, what they all will average. They'll rotate at C/PF almost exclusively except perhaps the first few minutes of every half. This is obvious, factual stuff that analysts seemingly have too low of IQ's to follow. 

So please redo the 'What went wrong' section and get back to me on the Grade, one with real logic applied... not the basic media bs that keeps getting spewed with 0 foresight.

DanRutherford
DanRutherford

@gwjdetroit 

Billups could never keep an opposing guard in front of him. Big Ben covered up his faults for along time