It was not that long ago that the Detroit Pistons (25-57) were contenders. Now they’re one of the worst teams in the NBA. Last season they couldn’t score and they could not stop teams from scoring, which basically meant that they won just 30% of their games. It didn’t help that some of their top players spent a lot of time healing from injuries. This season, they may be a bit better, but the question is how much better?
In front, the Pistons feature 32-year-old Ben Wallace (.541 FG%, .000 3PT%, .406 FT%, 8.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 5.5 PPG). Wallace’s performance has declined over the years as has his health. Last season, he missed 13 games. Wallace is still a decent defender as he averaged 1.22 BLK and 1.25 STL.
The power forward spot features youth. Rookie Jonas Jerebko (.481 FG%, .313 3PT%, .710 FT%, 6.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 9.3 PPG) managed solid numbers after playing only 27.9 MPG. He proved to be solid upfront and good from the arc. During the off-season, Jerebko developed as mid-range jumper. There’s plenty of depth at the power spot with Charlie Villanueva (.439 FG%, .351 3PT%, .815 FT%, 4.7 RPG, 11.9 PPG) being the primary guy off the bench.
Small forward also offers fine depth with Tayshaun Prince (.486 FG%, .370 3PT%, .714 FT%, 5.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 13.5 PPG)being the featured player. Although Prince has been a sturdy performer for eight years, he struggled with injuries last season, missing 33 games. After a year in the league, backup Austin Daye (.464 FG%, .305 3PT%, .821 FT%, 2.5 RPG, 5.1 PPG) is expected to step it up this season. He’s an aggressive player with an accurate shot.
The backcourt spots include shooting guard Richard Hamilton (.409 FG%, .297 3PT%, .846 FT%, 2.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, 18.1 PPG) and point guard Rodney Stuckey (.405 FG%, .228 3PT%, .833 FT%, 3.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 16.6 PPG). Hamilton, an 11-year vet, played in just 46 games last season. Stuckey, who is in his fourth NBA season, was a solid performer who averaged 1.38 steals per game. Neither can hit from beyond the arc.
The fact that Villanueva had the best PER (16.09) on the team says a lot about the Piston offense. With a Pace Factor of 91.0 (29th) and Offensive Efficiency mark of 102,4 (21st), this team had a tough time generating anything. Plenty of blame for this situation can be placed on GM Joe Dumars who in November 2008 traded Chauncy Billups and moved Stuckey to the starting point spot. Billups, who is in Denver, continues to knock down shots from outside, while Stuckney can’t buy one.
The Pistons placed 30th in threes, making just 31.4%, and 29th in True Shooting percentage. Wallace was a welcome addition as he proved to be a force under the basket, especially on the offensive boards.
Defense was no better, as Detroit earned a Defensive Efficiency mark of 108.9 (26th). They fouled opponents readily and gave up fast break points in bunches, allowing 14.1 per game, which ranked them 18th in the NBA. They were 28th in opponent free throws per field goal attempt. The only solid defensive performance was put on by Wallace.
There’s very little on this team to intimidate opponents and aging guys like Prince and Hamilton drag the pace of the attack down. The Pistons made very few moves during the off-season. They did resign Wallace for two years and made some sound draft choices, grabbing Greg Monroe and Terrico White. The bench is decent and dependable with the likes of Will Bynum and Tracy McGrady onboard. Both can move the ball around, helping to create shots.
There are various question marks on this team with head coach John Kuester being one of the major ones. Kuester starts his second season as a head coach after going 27-55 last season. He’s got some good elements, including fine one-on-one point scores.
But there are no true big names on this team and the durability of many of the aging players is a concern. This team can get to the postseason, but it will not be easy. Everyone has to stay healthy, the young players must step it up and coach Kuester has to use everyone effectively and efficiently. That’s a lot to ask from any team, but it is really a lot to ask from this bunch. Tenth in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the Central Division are both likely.
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