Ed Stefanski and Co. have maintained a formula for how they have constructed this roster, taking over the Pistons’ front office after the firing of Stan Van Gundy in 2018. If I were to guess the three mantras written on Stefanski’s desk this offseason, my guess would be:
Keep a present and a future.
The Pistons, throughout the moves they made (and didn’t make), showed that they are serious about improving this roster in any way they can. Building a better team for the present day is of the utmost importance, but Stefanski’s dialogue with reporters insinuates that he is trying to maintain a locker room of players with great character and youth.
Looking back at those three mantras, each move they’ve made this offseason has reflected upon those. The Pistons have brought in established players to fill out their bench, most notably 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, wing Tony Snell, and veteran forward Markieff Morris. Players like Rose, Snell, and Morris are culture builders and they add much-needed depth to the rotation.
The Pistons have prioritized both their present and future by putting who the front office thinks are the right complementary pieces to Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Bruce Brown, entering his second season, has been a front office favorite for Detroit and his perimeter defense compliments the rest of the starting unit. Third-year guard Luke Kennard is likely to take the next step in his career as potentially one of the league’s best offensive threats.
First-round pick Sekou Doumbouya is still a wildcard in this whole process, with many concluding that he will start the season out of the rotation. As the youngest player in the league, Doumbouya has a ton of time to grow into the player he could be. Brown, Kennard, and Doumbouya are the leaders of a youth movement in Detroit, as both current contributors and pieces down the road.
The front office has built a team that will gear them for an improved season over last year’s first-round sweep to Milwaukee by building culture, adding depth, and maintaining a present and a future. There are other factors to roster construction that hold weight on the Pistons’ ship, and they’re just as important.
The Other Guys
Looking around the Eastern Conference, there’s an argument to made for Philadelphia getting better this offseason, but who else? The Pacers made several moves, but are without star Victor Oladipo for the first few months of the season. The Raptors lost the irreplaceable Kawhi Leonard, and the Bucks are going to be more hurt by Malcolm Brogdon’s departure than they might think.
The Celtics replaced Kyrie Irving and Al Horford with Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, which reminds me of getting a bag of Cheese Nips instead of Cheez-Its because they hit your wallet for a couple bucks cheaper than the name brand.
The Nets and Heat might be a bit better than they were in the past next season, but there’s a case for Detroit to have improved more than any other team in the East outside of the 76ers. This is not implying that Detroit will be the second-best team in the conference; it is simply an acknowledgment of how much better they will be when José Calderón is not playing 600+ minutes a game.
Detroit might have some trouble with the better teams in the Western Conference. The Clippers, Lakers, Jazz, Pelicans, Rockets, Trail Blazers and Nuggets are all better than we found them last season. I heard there’s also a pretty good team in San Francisco that is still in contention after losing superstar Kevin Durant.
One way for Detroit to get the most out of this season is to act like a great team and beat lesser opponents. They cannot afford to slip up and lose to teams like the Bulls, Hornets, and Wizards, teams that are competing for lottery placement. The Pistons have shown the ability to rise to the occasion and beat better teams, sweeping Toronto and stealing a game from Golden State last year. If they can repeat that success while taking care of business against teams they should beat, they will cruise to a favorable playoff spot.
In Good Health
Pistons fans were crushed at the end of last season when Blake Griffin went down with what is known now as a torn meniscus. Any chance of stealing a playoff game against the Bucks went straight down the drain. The issue could have been prevented if the Pistons didn’t have to rely on Griffin so much during the regular season, a situation in which Detroit didn’t clinch the final playoff spot until the last game of the year.
Blake, along with Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, cannot play every possible game for this season. Even after a year in which Andre Drummond played in almost all 82 contests, he needs some rest also. Head coach Dwane Casey must pencil in some rest days for his veteran players if they want to avoid last year’s playoff disappointment.
Injuries are a part of the game, sadly enough. Training consultant Arnie Kander is widely regarded to be the best in the NBA at what he does, and he’s on Detroit’s staff. Specializing in injury prevention, Kander will need to work closely with Casey and the rest of the staff in planning rest days for Griffin, Drummond, and Rose, along with others potentially.
As It Stands
Barring any major roster moves or significant injuries, I have the Pistons finishing the season with a 44-38 record, good enough for a 5 seed in the Eastern Conference behind Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Toronto.
The Pistons have to get above 30 wins before March to even have a chance to make the playoffs in my opinion. The best teams from both conferences are slated for March, with the only non-threatening opponents being Sacramento and New York (and maybe OKC).
There’s more buzz around the Pistons than there has been in quite some time. This year, the Pistons and their fans should expect similar production out of their stars, with their new additions strengthening the roster and the young pieces continuing to develop.
Featured Image: Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press