The “Bad Boy” Era Is Back In Detroit

What do Jack McCloskey and Joe Dumars have in common? They both know that defense and intensity wins championships. Visionaries ahead of their time, and two men who had one common goal, they transformed the Detroit Pistons into a championship contending team in two different eras.

Back in the late 1980s and into the ’90s, during an era of hard-nosed defense, gritty fouls and unmatched intensity, McCloskey put together a team with potential Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas, Adrian Dantley, Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars. These players, along with head coach Chuck Daly, emphasized defense, and that attitude catapulted the “Bad Boys” to the top.

Now fast forward 20 years and one championship later…

For a while there, the Detroit Pistons couldn’t find their niche, missing the NBA Playoffs for four consecutive years beginning in 2009 and falling under the 30-wins mark. But with the acquisition of new players and head coach Maurice Cheeks, the Motor City could be back and running. The addition of athletic forward Josh Smith to the already physical frontline with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will add terror to opposing teams.

With Joe Dumars bringing in seasoned guards such as Chauncey Billups and Brandon Jennings, and acquiring potential rookie studs in Peyton Siva, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Luigi Datome, it is evident the Pistons want to not only be a defensive and rebounding force but transition effectively up and down the court.

These pieces, especially those added in the frontcourt, will only enhance Detroit and make them a more productive team. And while there may be spacing problems trying to play three power players along the frontline, they’ve put together a strong backcourt in Jennings and Billups. Both players can drive and dish or launch from deep, and both can also play on or off the ball. Yes, neither one shoots it consistently — Jennings is a career 35 percent three-point shooter while Billups has shot above 40 percent from deep just once since 2009. That’s where the big fellas come in. With Monroe, Smith and Drummond all averaging over seven rebounds a game, it will be hard for other teams to crash the boards.

This team will show flashes of the past and the frontcourt is reminiscent of the 1989 squad. Both Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman averaged over 8.0 rebounds a night. Josh Smith and Greg Monroe nearly match that at 8.7 and 9.6 boards per game respectively. And while comparing Jennings to Isiah Thomas, one of the greatest little men to ever play the game, is sacrilegious, Jennings has averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 assists per game throughout his career. He’s become a whipping boy for bloggers, but he should drastically improve now that he’s surrounded by finishers. Jennings is promising a return to his high school days, when he was known as a distributor rather than as a chucker who couldn’t hit shots.

Although these teams are comparable in terms of their strength up front, one thing this Pistons team will surely encounter is the same problem the original Bad Boys encountered: Too many big men.

With two premier post players in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe working last season in perfect harmony, now add athletic forward Josh Smith in the mix and it will clog the middle and make spacing a bit difficult. This was also apparent with the 1989 Detroit Pistons as they had John Salley, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, James Edwards and even Adrian Dantley (who was traded after 42 games to clear up space) all playing similar positions.

Like the famous rapper P. Diddy once said: “Bad boys for life.” It’s evident Joe Dumars is trying to instill the old swagger of the original “Bad Boys” by encouraging a bigger emphasis on defense and size. It’s clear the Pistons have the makeup and potential star talent to break the team’s spell of mediocrity and make the playoffs after a four-year hiatus. But if this team wants to be great, they must figure out their frontcourt issue.

Are the Pistons a playoff team now?

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