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Highs and Lows: Detroit Pistons

By 10.10.08
Chauncey BillupsChauncey Billups (photo. adidas)

The NBA preseason is underway. While we wait for the real games to start, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring where each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: PF/C Kwame Brown, PG Will Bynum, PF Walter Sharpe.

Losses: C Theo Ratliff, SF Jarvis Hayes, SG Juan Dixon.

Ceiling: NBA championship
After six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances yielded “only” one championship (2004), why should anyone believe the Pistons will make it to the mountaintop this time? Depth, defense and desire. Joe Dumars has quietly compiled a core of young players who are ready to contribute major minutes in ’08-09, which will give Detroit’s veteran core a chance to pace themselves for a long playoff run, and ultimately gives the team more weapons in the postseason. Rodney Stuckey — who’s good enough to start on a few teams around the League — headlines that young, athletic group, along with Arron Afflalo, starting PF Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown, who could be decent if he only has to focus on defense and rebounding for a team where he’s got plenty of available veteran mentors and a coach who’s got his back. As far as the vets, you know what you’re getting: 17 points, seven dimes, a few game-winners and consistently lights-out crunch time free throw shooting from Chauncey Billups; 17-20 points a night from Rip Hamilton; 82 games, 14 points and All-Defensive lock-down ability from Tayshaun Prince; regular double-doubles from Antonio McDyess; more Good ‘Sheed than Bad ‘Sheed from Rasheed Wallace; and the best team defense this side of Boston and San Antonio, one that will get key stops when it matters. Finally, after being accused in the past of a premature arrogance that led to some of their postseason disappointments, the Pistons have been (or at least should’ve been) humbled by now. They know they can’t just hit the “Win” switch whenever they want, they know they’re no longer THE team to beat in the East, and they know time is running out for them as a title contender. A renewed focus could be the difference between another conference finals exit and an NBA championship.

Basement: Eastern Conference Finals
Youth is good and youth is something every team wants, but youth doesn’t win championships. Aside from Stuckey and Maxiell, who among Detroit’s 26-and-under set has proven anything on the big stage? As you read above, there are too many “ifs” with Kwame, and Johnson hasn’t actually done anything on the court to deserve the starting four spot. Other red flags? Michael Curry is a rookie coach trying to put his stamp on a team full of confident vets set in their ways. Prince is coming off a long summer playing with Team USA, and with five straight 100-game seasons under his belt, he’s like a 31-year-old in a 28-year-old’s body. The East is more talented and deeper this year than in any of the previous six years. And as far as knowing what you’ll get from the veterans, there is one more remaining certainty: At some point, Rasheed will absolutely let the Pistons down in a big game. Will the rest of the team be able to cover for him?

’08-09 NBA preview archives
10/9 — San Antonio Spurs
10/8 — Chicago Bulls
10/6 — Oklahoma City Thunder
10/3 — Washington Wizards
10/2 — Utah Jazz
10/1 — Charlotte Bobcats
9/30 — Memphis Grizzlies
9/26 — Toronto Raptors
9/25 — New Orleans Hornets
9/24 — Atlanta Hawks

9/23 — Sacramento Kings
9/22 — Miami Heat
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic


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