Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the Detroit Pistons. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.
NOTE: Flanns and Zillz had this conversation before the news that Reggie Jackson could miss 6-8 weeks with knee tendonitis. Adjust accordingly.
ZILLER: Stan Van Gundy delivered. Through some smart roster moves and expected great coaching, he brought Detroit to the playoffs for the first time in a long while. The Pistons were actually quite good overall, finishing with 44 wins and going 17-11 after the All-Star break (a smoking .607 pace). Then they landed one of my favorite sleeper free agents, Boban Marjanovic!
I think the Pistons are ready to leap into the top half of the East playoff bracket with Boston, Toronto, and Cleveland. Is that too rosy? If so, what do they need to make that leap?
FLANNERY: I'm with you on this one. SVG and Jeff Bower have been slowly adding pieces that make sense in the larger scheme of things. From Boban to Ish Smith, they filled in some necessary gaps. (Even if they have a tendency to overpay for players like Jon Leuer). On paper the Pistons are young, talented, and deep.
I'm a big Reggie Jackson believer, maybe more so than others. This is an important year for him to really establish himself as a leader and playmaker. He may never crack that elite point guard list, but I think he can be an All-Star under the right circumstances.
ZILLER: Especially in the East, where the All-Star roster continues to be fairly less competitive (though last season was pretty tough). I like Jackson and he proved to be a good fit for Van Gundy's system over the past 100 or so games. He meshes well with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as well; that's a nice backcourt to carry forward.
Andre Drummond puts up numbers, but I feel like there's still a trust issue between he and SVG. The coach turned to Aron Baynes an awful lot last year, and now he has Boban to lean on. I don't think the Pistons are going to trade Drummond or anything crazy. But that's one red flag for me, even as I elevate the Pistons up my preseason rankings.
Detroit Bad Boys season preview
Detroit Bad Boys season preview
FLANNERY: Yeah, the Drummond question is the big one for me. He's unstoppable as a rim runner, a monster on the glass, and he's durable. There is an awful lot to love about Drummond's game and his potential to get better. (Dude is still just 23 years old!) But oh god that free throw shooting. At some point it's practically impossible to be a featured part of anything when you're missing two out of every three times from the line. I have faith, though.
Also of interest is the collection of young forwards. Stanley Johnson was one of my rookie favorites last season, but his shot is a problem. Speaking of potential All-Stars, I think Tobias Harris could be one. Maybe. That's a nice ceiling to have and again, he's only 24. Marcus Morris was solid, which is exactly what you want from him. Leuer can shoot. That's a nice mix, provided they can make enough shots to keep the paint open for Jackson and Drummond to work.
We've defined the second tier of East teams behind Cleveland as essentially Toronto and Boston. Of all the ones in the next group — and it's a huge, unwieldy group — I'm higher on the Pistons than the others, both for this season and beyond.
ZILLER: I'm ready to include the Pistons in that club, much like folks have elevated the Jazz from the middle of the pack toward the top. I don't see any reason the Pistons can't win 48 games or more and get home court in the first round. They are here.
FLANNERY: Should we create some kind of dramatic conflict to end this, or just agree to agree?
ZILLER: Thanks to the Detroit Pistons, there will be peace in our time.