After months of waiting and a painful amount of inaction, the Pistons are finally set to say goodbye to last year’s disappointment and say hello to … well, hopefully not a whole new year full of disappointment.
I will be eagerly awaiting seeing this team play together with a full complement of healthy players. and I can’t wait to bust out Greg Monroe. It’s almost like he is a shiny new toy that you get on Christmas and want to rip out of the box immediately.
Here are some things I will be focusing on during tonight’s preseason action against the hated three-headed monster known as The Miami Talents of South Beach Heat.
- Who is going to initiate the offense? Many Pistons fans believe Rodney Stuckey is a 2 stuck playing the 1 in a crowded backcourt. Entering his fourth year, can Stuckey take a big step forward and show that he can man the point position on a title contender? If not, can the superior passing of Greg Monroe and Tracy McGrady compensate for the lack of a true point guard?
- Player groups. With a bunch of similarly talented players, with skills and flaws aplenty, it will be vital that the Pistons take advantage of chemistry among players this season.
- Pace. The Pistons have historically played at one of the slowest paces in the NBA since the onset of the Carlisle era, and last season was no different. True, the Pistons, just like every other team in the NBA seemed to make a commitment to “playing faster” this season, but the proof will be in the pudding. The Pistons young core of Stuckey, Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon, Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko seem like they could benefit from a quicker pace. But Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton seem pretty set in their ways and could dictate the pace that the team plays at.
- Improved defense. There is no way the Pistons will be anything but a bottom-feeding team if they don’t manage to somehow address their lack of defensive mite. I don’t expect a top-10 defensive squad, but they can’t rank in the bottom 10 either.
- Greg Monroe’s hustle. Monroe struggled for much of the summer league, and was saddled pre-draft with a reputation for lacking hustle and commitment. Was he a methodical, cerebral player last year at Georgetown or did he expose himself as a half-hearted player. I say the former, but this is his first chance to prove his doubters wrong.
- Paint offense. The Pistons have lacked any sort of paint presence since Larry Brown left town and many fans thought any chance of improving the situation went out the window the second the Sacremento Kings drafted DeMarcus Cousins. And while Greg Monroe’s post game leaves a lot to be desired, his presence in the high post could open up some opportunities for slashers such as Stuckey and Jerebko and is virtually the only way Chris Wilcox can succeed on offense.
- Was Ben Wallace rejuvenated or a mirage? Wallace was the Pistons’ best player last season — and it wasn’t even close. He looked like vintage Wallace many nights, but he’s a year older and could easily revert back to the Wallace we saw in Cleveland. If that happens, I think the Pistons will have pretty good odds of landing a top-3 pick in the lottery.
- Austin Daye’s ascent. I was a big Daye backer when he was drafted by the Pistons ahead of guys such as Ty Lawson, and in limited minutes during his rookie year, he showed a natural scorer’s instinct, ability to create something out of nothing and a nice-looking shot. He still has a long way to go on defense and needs to add muscle (I could create a macro for that and insert it into every story for the rest of his career, I’m sure), but he has a high ceiling. He was one of the best players in the Las Vegas Summer League and I’m hoping he gets a chance to do things other than stand in the corner for a 3-pointer.
- More than anything, though, I want the Pistons to just rain on the Miami parade. The entirety of the NBA media is in South Beach to watch the assured champions take the floor and I would just love for some Detroit Basketball to ruin everyone’s fun.