Detroit Pistons preview: Crazier things have worked, maybe

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason acquisitions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings have certainly made the Pistons the most interesting team in the NBA, at least to curious League Pass dorks. But can Detroit actually make this mix work?

Welcome to the weirdest team in the NBA.

Already flush with developing young bigs in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, team president Joe Dumars spent his hard-earned cap dollars on Josh Smith, making for one hell of an athletic, yet crowded frontcourt. Not content to add just one player who loves to kill offenses with ill-timed 20-footers, Dumars then went out and acquired Smith's backcourt doppelgänger in Brandon Jennings, resulting in a roster that looks every bit like a glorious FreeDarko dream.

It's sheer madness, of course. There's no way the pieces will fit together as described, with Smith shifting to the small forward position and Jennings joining another ball-dominant guard in Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt. (It's worth noting that Monroe is also playing out of position as a perimeter four.)

Or can they? Dumars' main goal this summer was to upgrade the amount of talent on the roster, and there's no denying that this year's Pistons are more talented than last year's.

Smith is what he is, an enigmatic player blessed with not just physical ability, but pure skill. Despite his shaky shot selection, he's also an extremely intelligent player. A better passer than most realize and one of the more underrated defenders in the league, he's played at or near an All-Star level for the past four seasons.

Jennings clearly has scoring ability, but he's also been -- at times -- an inventive playmaker who keeps his turnovers in check. Just 24 years old, a change of scenery could do him a world of good. Perhaps new coach Mo Cheeks will provide a soothing balm after years of Scott Skiles' icy glare.

Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a big-time scorer at Georgia who made a nice improvement in his shooting percentages from his freshman year to his sophomore campaign. Throw in a returning Chauncey Billups and Italian shooter Luigi Datome and the Pistons are much better on paper than they have been since the glory days of the mid-aughts.

The tricky parts are still tricky. Dumars isn't as concerned about the frontcourt fit, rationalizing that there are still 96 frontcourt minutes to divvy up between his oversized trio, and a few minutes here or there are a necessary evil to get them all on the court as much as possible. Jennings will obviously have to find the balance between scoring and playmaking.

Then, there's Monroe. He took a step backward last season with Drummond's emergence. He tried to add a mid-range jumper without much success, and his defensive issues were exacerbated by guarding smaller, quicker forwards. Monroe may ultimately be the odd man out here, but if Dumars does decide to make him available, that's one hell of a trade piece.

Drummond is the ultimate variable in the equation. There simply aren't that many bigs who can do the things that he can do on the court. His per-minute numbers are off the charts, and he's still growing into his body, as well as his game. The idea of him in the pick-and-roll with Jennings and Smith is enough to justify the League Pass subscription all by himself.

There's one other thing to consider. Ever since Dumars tore down his championship team, the Pistons' outlook hasn't just been in flux, it's been bleak. Playing in front of dwindling crowds has only added to the malaise. If nothing else, he has injected some much-needed energy into the mix. While the results may be combustible, they surely won't be boring.

The upshot is the Pistons are somewhere in the middle of the jumbled mass of teams in the East who are likely to contend for one of the handful of remaining playoff spots. Dumars' plan is certainly one of the boldest of the offseason, and considering their new core of players are all in their early to mid-20s, there's time to make it all work.

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