Detroit Pistons Season Outlook: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?

Stan Van Gundy took a 32-win Pistons team and transformed them into an exciting squad that snuck into the playoffs only to be ushered out by the future NBA champion Cavaliers in a surprisingly competitive sweep.

The question coming into the season is whether Stan has already squeezed out every last drop of juice from his team or if there are further heights left for them to reach. Considering how tame the Pistons were in some of the more simple team metrics, Van Gundy was able to bring specific gameplans to each contest and get his players to execute properly enough to stay competitive against any opponent, achieving an above .500 record with 44 wins.

The Pistons ranked 19th in points per game, 12th in points allowed per game, 21st in pace, 13th in offensive rating and 12th in defensive rating while posting the 14th best record in the league. Considering the the franchise’s countless failures over the last decade, the inexperienced roster, and mid-season roster changes, the moderate success was a very exciting revelation. Expect for Stan to build off the momentum and continue to make progress with his team as they gain confidence and experience. A 50-win season and a playoff series win are fair and achievable expectations.

What I love

Center Position: Their big man rotation is fantastic. I love the Boban Marjanovic acquisition. He will be worth every penny they paid for him and more. The ability to give Drummond rest and still bring in an even bigger guy with legitimate skills gives Stan stability and flexibility with his other four players on the floor. Aron Baynes was very productive in the second half of the season and hopefully he can keep that form despite seeing fewer minutes.

Stan Van Gundy: Stan has always been a fantastic X’s and O’s coach, and he brings a passion to his work that permeates through the lockeroom. Last year it was clear that the players were buying in. Let’s keep the good vibes going.

What I like

Wings and stretch 4’s: Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Marcus Morris, KCP, Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson, Michael Gbinije: What an abundance of youthful exuberance for Stan to tinker with. Tobias will have a full offseason and preseason to acclimate himself after his trade deadline move last season. His scoring versatility will be integral to the Pistons offense and Stan will look to improve his defensive rotation skills. Stanley should continue to improve upon his rookie season. His energy and confidence are unique and experience will get him more consistency over an 82-game season. KCP should continue to play defense, hustle and knock down 3’s. Morris and Leuer are versatile scorers providing more range and stretch-4 ability. Ellenson is a rookie that won’t have much pressure or playing time right off the bat but Stan will coach him up and he will get his chances. Gbinije surprised me and looked really good at the Olympics playing for Nigeria.

What I’m concerned about

Point Guard: I’m still not convinced Reggie Jackson is the ideal point guard in the modern NBA of pace and space. One-on-one his ability is undeniable and when he has his swagger in full gear he’s hard to contain, but questions remain as to whether he can properly run a finely tuned offense. Can he shoot? Can he facilitate? He can play basketball, and well, but Stan will struggle to make it work within the confines of the rest of the offense. The acquisition of Ish Smith to back up Reggie is interesting. Ish excelled having free reign in the Sixers offense last year and put up major counting stats even if efficiency was questionable at times. In his new role he should provide short bursts of explosive playmaking off the bench. This role might actually be the ideal fit for him and his efficiency should see a major uptick.

2016-2017 Season Outlook Prediction

Stan Van Gundy tinkers enough to keep the Pistons relevant and competitive even against the elite teams in the league. The result will be 48 wins, which would bump them up from their eighth seed in the playoffs last year to somewhere between fourth and sixth, with an opportunity to win a first round playoff series against a team like the Hawks, Hornets, Pacers, or Bulls. The Pistons took a step forward last year, and one more small step forward this year is not the worst thing in a league where many teams end up taking two steps back every time they taste a little bit of success.

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