We are less than a month away from the NBA regular season getting started and less than a week away from the preseason getting underway. That means it is officially prediction season, and we are ready just that. I have compiled the Palace of Pistons staff writers to make their best guesses for who will take home some team-specific hardware. Team MVP, Most Improved, things like that. So here we go…
Q: Who will be team MVP?
Noah Sall (@iamnoahsall) – Blake Griffin
The man who willed the Motor City into the playoffs at the sake of his own health will repeat as most valuable Piston this upcoming season. Griffin’s numbers may regress slightly as others develop, (I’m looking at you Luke Kennard) however the six-time All-Star will still be Detroit’s main bucket getter and game closer. As long as he stays healthy and gives the Pistons ~70 games at full strength this season, I view this as Griffin’s award to lose.
Jacob Rogers (@JRogersNBA) – Blake Griffin
The MVP of the Pistons this season will be none other than Blake Griffin. Griffin is coming off of a career year in 2018-19 where he put up averages of 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game on 46-36-75 shooting splits in 75 games. I don’t think Griffin will average the same amount of points as he did last season, due to the revamped roster. However, I expect him to shoot the ball more efficiently and make more plays for his teammates. Griffin has proven that he is the leader of this team, and I fully expect him to lead this team to the playoffs this season. Therefore, Blake Griffin is my 2019-20 MVP of the Detroit Pistons.
Ashley Gross (@Ash_Ketchum313) – Blake Griffin
The MVP for the team this year is…*drum roll*…BLAKE GRIFFIN! Wow, shocker!! Once again Blake Griffin will be the leader, captain and most talented player on this team. He was the main reason why Detroit reached the NBA Playoffs last season. Had he been 100% healthy they probably could’ve squeezed out a win or two against the Milwaukee Bucks last season in the playoffs. Blake had arguably the best season of his career as he averaged 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game, earning a spot on the NBA All-Star Team for the Eastern Conference. He was literally the orchestrator of the team, mostly playing the role of point-forward, which isn’t surprising as he lead the team in assists last season. I see Blake reprising his role as the star player on this team and the main focal point on offense. Even though he’s healing from his knee injury that he sustained last season, he’ll still be a productive player. Hopefully the rest of team will be stronger as a unit this season and take some the attention away from Blake so that teams can’t double-up on him.
Q: Who will be the Most-Improved player?
Sall – Bruce Brown
Luke Kennard may be the trendy pick here but I’m bucking the trend. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that the Duke product will take strides this year. However, I think Bruce Brown showed a comfort with the ball during the Summer League that will continue to grow this season. Yes, his three ball is a work in progress but the former Miami Hurricane is an elite defender. Dwane Casey clearly trusts him, as evidenced by Brown starting 56 games last season as a rookie. His ability to limit the opposing team’s best perimeter players, paired with his growing offensive game are reason enough for me to give him MIP.
Rogers – Luke Kennard
After averaging 15.4 points per 36 minutes in his second season last year, I expecting even more out of Pistons two-guard Luke Kennard this season. Kennard shot the ball very efficiently last season, putting up 44-39-84 shooting splits, including a career high 28 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. With Derrick Rose most likely leading the bench brigade for Detroit this season, I think Kennard will find himself with a lot of open looks, which in turn means more shot attempts and better averages. I see Kennard having his best season yet this year, and averaging around 14 points per game on 45-40-85 shooting splits.
Gross- Bruce Brown
Last season, Brown was the new rookie on the block, and with his grit and hustle made his way into the starting lineup. But this year should be different. He should still be expected to be in the starting lineup, but he also will need to show more of an improved offensive game, instead of being a player that is mostly hustle. This year during Summer League, the Pistons’ coaching staff experimented with Brown at the point guard position. They entrusted him with the responsibility of running the team and making decisions on offense – in a role that Brown flourished in, exceptionally. His passes were both accurate and cerebral as he took what the defense gave him and chose his passes to his teammates wisely. Brown’s calling-card will always be on the defensive end, but his offensive game desperately needs to be smoothed out more. He still hasn’t proved that he can consistently shoot from three, and that’ll make him a major liability if he is to remain in the starting lineup. I believe that Brown will find a way to create shots for not only himself but for the rest of his teammates. A season stat line of 10/5/5 for Brown for 2019-20, will be a huge improvement from last season’s average of 4/2/1.
Q: What Player has the Most to Gain?
Sall – Andre Drummond
Nobody has more to gain than Dre this year for one simple reason. Money. If Drummond can put together a season of equal or greater value than last, he will more than likely decline his player option in pursuit of a bigger deal. Our guy Mike Phillion, wrote a stellar piece on what options the Pistons have with Andre this upcoming season, and it’s definitely worth your time if you haven’t already read it. I don’t want to steal Mike’s thunder on what Drummond’s future may hold so I will keep this brief. Dre has the most to gain because he can play himself into a nice pay day if he brings it this season.
Rogers – Svi Mykhailiuk
The player with the most to gain for Detroit is 6’8″ swingman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk only played 42 games in his rookie campaign with the Lakers and Pistons, and only three in Detroit. Mykhailiuk is a proven sharpshooter, as he shot 41 percent from three in his four years at Kansas. I believe that Svi will finally find NBA minutes in his second season, as coach Dwane Casey’s roster is predicated on moving the ball and getting open perimeter looks. Even if Mykhailiuk averages 10-12 minutes per game, he can still let the ball fly and get some much needed scoring for the Pistons.
Gross – Luke Kennard
This is the year…this is the year that Luke Kennard will finally establish himself as one of the elite scorers in the league – hopefully. The big elephant in the room topic, is who starts for the Pistons at the two-guard spot, Bruce Brown or Luke Kennard? For the betterment of the team, I think Luke needs to come off the bench. When he plays with the starting unit he gets lost in the shuffle and must operate in a one-dimensional role, as a spot-up three-point shooter. But when he comes off the bench, he’ll have more freedom to help run the offense with his playmaking skills along with new backup point guard Derrick Rose. Giving Kennard the added workload and responsibility of being the primary scorer off the bench will only help solidify himself as a premier player and justify why Detroit took him with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft – one pick ahead of Donovan Mitchell. Last season in the playoffs, Kennard showed off his ability to be a shot creator and scorer that the team needed. If given the opportunity in an expanded role, Luke may be finally able to truly flourish and be the deadly scorer that Detroit believes he is.
Q: What Player has the most to lose?
Sall: Thon Maker
When the Pistons traded for Maker last February, it was viewed as a shrewd move by Ed Stefanski. Stanley Johnson had run his course in the Motor City and wasn’t developing as hoped. By shipping him out and bringing in Maker, many saw it as a chance to reset for both players. Initially, the change of scenery seemed to be just what Maker needed. The South Sudanese big man brought energy and toughness that endeared him to the fans. However, as the season wore on, the glimmer faded. Maker was outmuscled by opposing bigs and struggled to shoot with consistency. With the Pistons bringing in Christian Wood and Markieff Morris this summer, it raises questions about Thon’s future in Detroit. If he can’t find his footing, the 7’1″ stretch big may not be around much longer.
Rogers: Thon Maker
The guy with the most to lose this season is backup center Thon Maker. Let’s face it guys, Thon was bad in the four game playoff sweep against his former team. A lot of Pistons fans, including myself, were excited when Maker came to Detroit at the deadline last season. Maker has shown in the past that he is able to stretch the floor for teams. However, at 7’3″ he does not rebound the ball well, averaging 2.8 rebounds a game over his three year NBA career. Now, it has been rumored the Maker has put on some weight and muscle over the offseason, and I hope that is the case so that he can make a bigger impact. However, if Maker doesn’t show much improvement, he could find himself on his fourth NBA team soon.
Gross: Thon Maker
Thon will be entering his fourth year in the league and to be honest, this year will be a make or break year for him. Thon came over last year via trade during the middle of the season and was instantly pegged the backup big to help patrol the paint and become the rim-protector Detroit desperately needed whenever Drummond is on the bench. But we soon came to realize that Thon lacked in the physicality department and couldn’t hold his own down in the paint. He got bullied and got pushed around worse than a little brother trying to guard his older (much larger and stronger) brother. Recently in an article with the Detroit Free Press, Thon stated that he has been working on strengthening his body during the offseason to prevent opponents from pushing him around. Thon truly has skills that can be very valuable to the team – he’s a big that can drag opponents out to the perimeter and score from deep range. But, if he continues to keep getting bullied in games, he might lose his position within the team. Especially with the addition of Christian Wood added to the team, if Thon can’t show some grit, I’m sure Wood won’t have a problem outplaying him and taking his spot as one of the first bigs off the bench. Thon just needs to show he can be a true big-man by being the rim-protecting, three-point shooting big-man the Pistons need.
Q: What player is most likely to be traded this season?
Sall: Langston Galloway
This one is a layup. Galloway is buried on the depth chart behind younger, more promising guards. His expiring deal makes him attractive to almost every team in the league. Unless he catches absolute fire during the season, I would be shocked to see Langston wearing a Pistons jersey post-trade deadline this upcoming season. Put some money on this one, Galloway and his flashy kicks will be out of the Motor City before February.
Rogers: Langston Galloway
There is one name that comes to my mind when I think about what Piston is likely to get traded and that’s Langston Galloway. Galloway played 22 minutes a game last season, but was not efficient whatsoever shooting the ball at 39-35-85 splits. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Galloway move off the ball, especially when he is hot. But when he’s cold from the floor, it is really tough to watch. With the additions of Joe Johnson and Tony Snell, the maturation of Luke Kennard, and the potential of Mykhailiuk, Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas, I don’t think that Galloway will be in the Motor City much longer. Honestly, I would not be surprised to see him moved before opening night.
Gross: Reggie Jackson
With this being a contract year for Reggie Jackson, it’s not a certainty but a strong possibility that the Pistons could trade Jackson before the trade deadline. Teams with a need for a starting-caliber point guard will be attracted by the thought of Jackson. Being that this is Jackson’s last year of his contract — teams like Chicago, Washington, Minnesota are in market for a lead guard, and Jackson is a player that is good enough to help booster any NBA roster. Jackson’s tenure with Detroit has been bittersweet – he was a player that immediately help embrace the city as his home and helped the team win games with a handful of clutch, heroic performances. But he has been injury-prone the last few years and his stock as a player has dropped a bit – and his large contract doesn’t help in trading him either, at an $18 million dollar price tag. Reggie needs to start the season off on fire, because don’t forget, the Pistons now have a resurged Derrick Rose on the roster now, who averaged 18 ppg…off the bench! Jackson only averaged 15 ppg as a starter. If Rose can continue his individual success from last season, Jackson could find himself in the midst of some trade talks with other teams. I feel that at the minimum Detroit could score a 1st round future draft pick or another player of similar talent and value as Jackson. His game will be something to closely monitor this season…and I’m all here for it as it unfolds!
Featured Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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