With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Next up, the remodeled Pistons.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
It’s been a rough few years for Detroit (both the city and the team). GM Joe Dumars has been in the doghouse with the fans â€” if there are any out there…Detroit had the league’s worst attendance numbers â€” since 2008 when he traded Chauncey Billups away and officially hit the reset button only to waste massive amounts of money on the likes of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, who were coming off huge seasons for Chicago and Milwaukee, respectively. They had officially hit rock bottom.
Things have slowly been getting better. Draftees Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond both look like building blocks going forward for Detroit. After flashing some potential as the season progressed, the Pistons went into this past offseason with the mindset “Enough is enough.” They went out â€” after literally begging someone to take the last two years of Gordon’s contract of their hands, willingly giving up a first round pick in the process â€” and used their cap space to sign the second best free agent on the market (Josh Smith) and flip Brandon’s – gone is Knight, in comes Jennings – the latter of whom agreed to a sign-and-trade paying him $8 milion a year after striking out in free agency.
They brought back Chauncey Billups for a farewell tour, and signed the Lega Basket Serie A MVP, Luigi Datome, to shore up the bench. They drafted guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to provide some much-needed three-point shooting and defense. Now, suddenly, Detroit has one of the best “on paper” rosters in the league. But will the lack of shooting prove to be a downfall? Will there be any space when Smith, Monroe, and Drummond are all on the court? Is Monroe on the trade block?
With Detroit’s very own Eminem making a comeback this year, will the Pistons do the same? This team could prove to be one of the more exciting to watch this season. Yes, Detroit is on the rise! Fill the stands with “Stan” fans, the Pistons are watchable again! Lets get you in the proper mindset:
*** *** ***
The Continued Development of Andre Drummond
By now we all know the story: Drummond, arguably the most physically-talented member of the 2012 Draft, slid to No. 9 where Detroit gladly scooped him up. They brought him along slowly, he only averaged about 20 minutes per game last year, but by the end of the season fans were begging for more. Why? Because his 48-minute numbers are outrageous: 18.4 PPG, 17.6 RPG, 3.7 BPG, and 60.8 percent shooting. He runs the floor, he blocks shots, and he dunks on everyone. Sure, he shoots free throws worse than Dwight Howard (37.1 percent from the line), but Detroit will only go as far as Drummond’s broad shoulders can carry them.
Chauncey Billups Returns
Once upon a time Chauncey Billups led an underrated Detroit team to an incredible upset over a highly favored Lakers team to win the 2004 NBA Title. After stints in Denver, New York, and Los Angeles, Billups returns. Is he the same player he was in 2008 (his last season with DET)? Of course not, but for a Pistons team in need of leadership and clutch shooting, Billups will be a key member of the team. With Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey both out with injuries, Billups might even be a starter at beginning of the season. Mr. Big Shot’s return provides a steady presence for this team, and while he isn’t the player from his first stint in Detroit, Billups isn’t washed up just yet, averaging 11.5 PPG and 3.1 APG with the Clippers when he wasn’t injured. Now, finally healthy, Billups is once again the leader of Detroit.
Can Brandon Jennings Adjust?
Straight Outta Compton… Sorry I don’t have many opportunities to throw in an N.W.A. reference. Compton native Jennings finds himself in a new uniform this season. After four up-and-down seasons in Milwaukee, where he averaged 17.7 PPG and 5.7 APG, Jennings’ role will go from being the primary shooter in Milwaukee to more of a facilitator during his first season in Detroit. His stock is at an all-time low right now as he struggled to find anyone willing to pay him what he believes he was worth this offseason. He knows it, too:
“I definitely have to change my game for this team, for my teammates, everybody to be successful,” Jennings told the AP. “The things that I was doing in Milwaukee, I won’t have to do here – take all those bad shots.”
Can he go from chucking up shots that only fell through at a 39.4 percent rate, to playing a more balanced and efficient game offensively? Nobody doubts his talent, but they do doubt his mindset. With more weapons offensively in Detroit, Jennings will be asked to be a more traditional point guard, and set up everyone else before looking for his own shot. So far this preseason, the results have been promising, but with a fractured wisdom tooth sidelining Jennings to start the season, we’ll have to wait to see the final product.
Is Monroe on the Go?
Monroe is entering his fourth year in the league after being the No. 7 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. While draft peers John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Paul George, and now Derrick Favors have all signed extensions, Monroe – who has averaged 13.5 PPG and 8.9 RBG for his career and 16 PPG and 9.6 RBG last season – has yet to agree to an extension with the Pistons.
While Monroe probably deserves an extension in the range of Derrick Favors’ four-year, $49 million deal, he’s unlikely to receive it from Detroit. Which makes this season all the more interesting to watch: will Monroe look to pad his stats knowing he might not have a future in Detroit after the Jennings and Smith signings? If the frontcourt players don’t fit together or a deal isn’t in place before February, will Detroit look to sell the young forward or risk not receiving any compensation if he leaves this summer as a restricted free agent? Monroe is a skilled big man, with great basketball IQ and a developing post game. He’s also an above-average passer, which allows the Pistons to envision Greg beating his defender off the dribble and passing into Drummond for the easy slam. He’s also a respectable rebounder. While he struggles against pick-and-rolls, his overall defensive intelligence makes him league average.
It may come down to the aforementioned fit, and just how well Drummond performs – franchise caliber centers are harder to come by than near-All-Star power forwards.
Josh Smith: STAT STUFFER
Quick question: who is the only player in the NBA to average 15 PPG, 7 RBG, 3 APG, 2 BPG and 1 SPG? If you guessed LeBron James, you’d be incorrect. Josh Smith is not on the same level as the perennial league MVP, but he’s the closest comparison (stats and athletic ability wise).
Smith does a little bit of everything: he’s got handle and can pass the ball well; he’s a freak athlete, and he defends and rebounds. The issue with Smith was/is/always will be his shot selection, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. Look, Smith can make the occasional long-ball, but when your shooting 28.3 percent from 3 for your career, maybe you should make a conscious effort to avoid them. And Smith did: in 2009-10 Smith made the decision to abandon the 3-point shot, shooting only 7 the ENTIRE year (going 0-for-7 by the way) and he shot a career high 50.5 percent from the field that year. While most analysts disapproved of the Smith signing, I think it can work. 1. They don’t have to play all the Big’s together as often. 2. Smith, and to a lesser extent Monroe, are both above-average passers who willingly make the extra dish. I think it can work in stretches, and when you’re a bottom feeder, acquiring talent in any form is the only way out! Either way, Smith is good for at least two thunderous dunks/great passes/monstrous blocks/examples of God-given athletic ability and one “What was he thinking?” play a game, which makes the Pistons fun regardless of the score.
What do you think?
Follow Ian on Twitter at @Ian_Flick.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.