The 2013-14 NBA Season is finally underway, and while some teams started their season yesterday, many teams start their season today, one of the those teams being the Detroit Pistons. When you talk about the Pistons, the word expectations comes to mind, while the Eastern Conference has gotten stronger over the last couple of years, many people still feel the Pistons should be able to make it to the playoffs especially with the additions of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups.
While I do agree that the Pistons should be able to make the playoffs this season, I still expect them to have plenty of growing pains this season.
I will start with point guard Brandon Jennings. When it comes to Jennings, he starts the season on the bench since he is currently injured however once he gets back on the floor, he must show that he can run this team. There is no doubt that Jennings can score, the question is, can he lead and create for others, I think he is capable but he has to show it. There are plenty of weapons on this Piston team especially in the post and Jennings will need to do his job and set them up for easy baskets. I think of the ways to do that, is through pick and roll situations, it gives him the option to score the ball himself or pass to one of his teammates, basically taking what the defense gives him. I also look to see if he will be able to do some drive and kick situations with this team, especially if the Pistons perimeter shooters are able to consistently known down jump shots.
As far as Jenning’s scoring ability, I really just want to see him do a better job with his shot selection, Jennings can score anywhere on the court but he has to do a better job with his shot selection. I also question whether he will be a defensive stopper or defensive liability, he does have quickness but he isn’t the most discipline. Most importantly, he must become one of the leaders of this team, while the Pistons do have Billups, I’m sure they would like Jennings to become that leader and rightfully so. Jennings has the potential to be a Top 10 if not a Top 5 point guard in this league but only if he becomes a leader, works on his shot selection and learns to make his teammates better. I think he could learn that here, especially under the guidance of veteran point guard Chauncey Billups but time will tell.
When it comes to the front court, I have to start with forward Josh Smith, when it comes to Smith, it’s all about where he is going to play. While many people would love to see Smith at the small forward, I have to say I don’t think it would be a good idea. When you talk about putting Smith at the small forward your asking for a lot. I don’t feel that he would be able to take other small forward off the dribble and create his own shot consistently and I don’t feel he is an accurate enough shooter to be on the perimeter. Then you have to remember, putting him at small forward, not only requires that he play efficiently on offense but he would also be looked at to play more perimeter defense against small forwards like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and etc.
The only way I could see Smith being at the small forward position, is if Head Coach Mo Cheeks has an offensive plan set up to help him score. In simpler terms Smith would have to have offensive plays set up for him to run off screens and for him to score without having the ball in his hands. It’s possible that Mo Cheeks has something like that set-up but only time will tell.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Smith is immensely talented but this will be an interesting year for him. When it comes to Smith, he is a great passer for a big man and he should be able to set up his teammates like he did in pre-season. I also expect him to assist in protecting the paint, especially when he is at the power forward position. I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see Smith bringing the ball up the floor at times, especially on the fast break.
As far as Monroe and Drummond, they are the x-factors of this team, because they are the post game, something this team hasn’t had in a while. Honestly it all starts with Drummond, he has picked up where he left off last season but I believe this is the season for him to elevate even more. I expect him first to be the defensive anchor for this team, with his great athleticism and length, he should be able to control the paint at all times. Offensively I want to see Drummond really become that true post threat that I know he is capable of being, more importantly he needs to continue to polish his post game and take high percentage shots. Overall, I expect Monroe to compete for Defensive Player of the Year Award but I honestly would love to see him become a walking double-double.
When it comes Monroe, he may start the season with a couple struggles, mainly because he is still adjusting to the power forward position but as he gets more comfortable, there is no reason to think he won’t produce consistently. Offensively, he should be able to create for his teammates from the high post and do most of his scoring on the low block. However, I am worried about what he can handle defensively at the power forward position. Let’s not forget that the power forward position has changed over the years, while some stay in the post, many venture out to the elbow or perimeter and I wonder if Monroe can handle that. Think about future defensive match-ups for him such as Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, even Carmelo Anthony, who at times plays the power forward position, these are players who can score in the post but also the elbow or perimeter. I am not saying that Monroe won’t play good defense this season, I’m just merely stating that he must be ready to accept the challenge that comes with his new position at power forward.
The other question is, how long will Greg Monroe be a Detroit Piston. Like I said before, the front court can get pretty crowded and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons at some point decide to move Smith to the power forward spot and possibly trade Monroe. They could trade him for a true shooting guard or small forward. Possibilities are endless. I honestly don’t want to see Monroe go but keep in mind that the Pistons signed Jennings and Smith to lucrative contracts this off-season and soon the Pistons will have to pay big money to keep Andre Drummond in a Piston uniform. So it may not be possible for Monroe to stay a Piston. As I said before, only time will tell.
Overall, I look to see how the rotation works for these three players specifically. When Drummond is out the game, I expect to see Smith move to the power forward position and Monroe moved to the center position and vice versa. Besides that, I think these three have the opportunity to be a real triple threat together but they also could have a lot of different problems especially if they aren’t able to figure out how to space the floor. Just as a side note, I honestly think assistant coach Rasheed Wallace will really help all three of the young players grow and mature this season and they will be better players for it.
Shooting Guard Questions/Concerns
Another interesting thing to watch this season is the shooting guard position, technically the Pistons have options ranging from Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey or rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Now to start the season it could be rough because Billups may have to start at point guard through the absence of Jennings. Then you have Stuckey who is out for a while after injuring his thumb. However, as the season goes on and Jennings and Stuckey get back on the court, I will be interested to see, who earns the starting shooting guard position.
Personally I would like to see Caldwell-Pope emerge and earn the spot and if he is able to be a consistent perimeter shooter, bring his consistent defense and rebound well, there is no doubt he could be inserted in the starting line-up as the shooting guard, plus that’s one of the many reasons the Pistons drafted him.
Role Players and Depth Rotation
Finally, I am interested to see how Head Coach Mo Cheeks will handle the depth and rotation for this team. He has plenty of players who are capable of making an impact, but it’s up to him to understand how these players can make an impact. Will Bynum as usual is fighting for playing time and fighting for a chance, so far he has shown the ability to run the team if needed but still struggles with his jump shot. Don’t be surprised if Peyton Siva earns playing time. He has shown the ability to score the ball and create for others, the only red flags were his shot selection and turnovers.
While many people bring up Kyle Singler, I want to remind people to watch forward Luigi Datome, he did not play in preseason due to a hamstring injury. However, keep in mind that this young man can shoot the ball and then you add that with his ability to run the floor and finish at the rim, and the Pistons have themselves a nice role player. Then you have Kyle Singler who shot the ball extremely well during the pre-season, shooting around 50% from the field. However, he didn’t do much more than that and the Pistons will need him to be more than just a consistent outsider shooter.
Jonas Jerebko and Tony Mitchell are the obvious energy guys for this team and should be able to be consistent role players, both work hard, can score, rebound and defend. While Mitchell is raw, he has shown the ability to put up some nice numbers. However, Jebreko needs to be able to offer some form of offensive scoring, he hasn’t been the most consistent shooter but if he can improve his jump shot, he will get more playing time. I didn’t forget about Charlie Villanueva but at this point, I’m not sure what he can offer besides his jump shot. He doesn’t play any form of defense and he isn’t a consistent rebounder.
In conclusion, I think the Detroit Pistons will definitely make the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. As of right now, I have the Pistons earning the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season. As I said earlier, there is no doubt this team will be a force in the East this year but I look to see how they will handle some of their growing pains, the Eastern Conference isn’t as strong as it used to be but it is starting to gain its strength back, so the Pistons road to success won’t be easy. Also don’t be surprised if you see some trades take place this season with the Pistons, plenty of trading options such as Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva and don’t forget about Greg Monroe.
Nonetheless, tune into Detroit Pistons season opener tonight at 7:30pm (ET) on FSN Detroit as they start the season against the Washington Wizards.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com