The Pistons didn’t have a great year last year. They didn’t dramatically shake up the roster like fans had hoped. They didn’t win the draft lottery, although apparently they came very close. They didn’t trade up to draft DeMarcus Cousins. Preseason prognosticators aren’t bullish on the team’s future and even optimistic fans seem to peg them as clawing their way to one of the final playoff spots in the (as usual) extremely top-heavy Eastern Conference.
So why be excited as the team prepares to tip-off its regular season tonight against the New Jersey Nets? Here are five reasons:
1. Austin Daye will shut up all those people that complained the Pistons didn’t draft Ty Lawson. Daye has been a revelation this preseason — easily measuring up as the Pistons top performer and earning hist spot as the starting power forward. He was second on the team in scoring (15.9) and rebounding (5.6) while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. If Daye were to carry over his 3-point volume and accuracy through the regular season, he would post the best 3-point percentage in team history, while knocking down the fourth-most ever — just behind players named Allan Houston, Chauncey Billups and Terry Mills.
2. Rodney Stuckey might never be the point guard this team seems to think he is, but even if he never has the court vision needed to be a top-flight point, he might have finally improved his decision-making. Stuckey has always put points on the board, but he has always used a lot of shots to attain them. On a jump-shooting team short of quality defenders, you can’t have a subpar scorer on your squad. In his three seasons, he has shot 40, 43 and 40 percent. But this preseason, Stuckey has finally made consistently quality decisions with the ball. He is picking his spots and it has led to 47 percent shooting and a lot less aggravation as a viewer/listener. If Stuckey was able to increase his shooting efficiency five percent from his career totals, it would be a giant step forward in his development.
3. They have to be healthier than last season. Not many fans figured last season’s team would gel and succeed at a high level, but the basketball gods wouldn’t even give it a chance to work. After years of abnormally good health it all came crashing down and compressed into one miserable season. Key contributors missed more than 100 games for the Pistons last season, dooming it from the start. And even if you’re not bullish on the odds that health will necessarily lead to success, having a full, healthy complement of players would enable GM Joe Dumars to finally move a piece or two to balance out the roster.
4. Greg Monroe will prove to be one of the five best rookies of the season. Monroe had his ups and downs in the summer league and preseason, but his high skill level has been apparent from day one. His problem will be a size, strength, adjustment issue. But with a thin front court, the Pistons will give him every opportunity to succeed, and I believe he will get better as the season progresses. He has a quality mentor in Ben Wallace and doesn’t seem like the kind of player that will get despondent due to early-season struggles. I predict he will put up a final line in the 8 point, 7 rebound, 1 block range and will boost that by shooting a high percentage from the floor and from the line as well as racking up a ton of assists for a big man. No, he won’t outshine Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins or John Wall, but he will make fans glad the Pistons weren’t saddled with Ed Wade or Ekpe Udoh.
5. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva will bounce back. Gordon played very well before he was hampered by an ankle injury, and Charlie V. has had one of his patented rededication to fitness and defense offseasons and both players are going to put up numbers more in line with their career totals. Couple that with the fact that there is an entirely new crew of freshly minted overpaid stars to take some of the glare off of the Pistons duos’ contracts, and public opinion will be much kinder to the pair. Joe Johnson is going to take a lot of heat this season for his $120 million contract. Is Rudy Gay with $80 million? Is David Lee worth $80 million or was his production inflated by Dantoni’s system? Is oft-injured (and currently injured) Carlos Boozer worth $75 million? What about the hauls collected by marginal players such as Tyrus Thomas, Amir Johnson, Darko Milicic, Travis Outlaw and Raymond Felton? I think in the future history will be much kinder toward Dumars’ investment.
Tipoff is in 30 minutes and just as a note, I plan on creating game previews, but I want to make them informative pretty-like and haven’t had a chance to dedicate myself to some serious Photoshop time. Bear with me as I get used to the demands of this newfangled bloggy thing. Also, I plan on putting up a post-game recap after tonight’s game, but have no idea how long it’s going to take me. Be patient and feedback is always much appreciated.