Young players, talented frontcourt are key to Pistons’ playoff chances

Greg Monroe's play around the basket is a huge part of the Detroit offense.

Greg Monroe’s play around the basket is a huge part of the Detroit offense.

On the eve of Halloween it’s highly unlikely that anyone is planning on dressing up as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but next October it wouldn’t surprise me to see kids wearing a Detroit Pistons #5 jersey with fake tattoos sleeved on each arm.

“I’m going as the Pope for Halloween,” will take on a whole new meaning.

The Pistons have three rookies, including first round pick Pope, second-rounder Tony Mitchell, and #56 selection Peyton Siva – the hottest rookie trio to ever come into the Detroit basketball scene, and the most heralded first-year hoopers for this franchise since Dennis Rodman and John Salley bounced into the Motor City more than 25 years ago. Pope, Mitchell, and Siva will have a lot to say about the revival of Pistons’ basketball in the 2013-2014 season. Several other changes to the roster have made the Pistons one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA entering the season, which starts tonight for Detroit when the Washington Wizards visit The Palace at Auburn Hills.

New to you
Josh Smith, Strong Forward (FREE AGENT)
Brandon Jennings, Point Guard (SIGN-AND-TRADE)
Chauncey Billups, Shooting Guard (FREE AGENT)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Shooting Guard (ROOKIE)
Tony Mitchell, Strong Forward (ROOKIE)
Peyton Siva, Point Guard (ROOKIE)
Luigi Datome, Strong Forward (ROOKIE VIA ITALY)

More than half of the roster has been turned over, and two new starters will be in the lineup. Add a new head coach (and assistant in Rasheed Wallace), and DEEEEEEETROIT BASKETBAAAAAALL has a new look this season.

Starting Lineup
Andre Drummond, Center
Greg Monroe, Power Forward
Josh Smith, Strong Forward
Brandon Jennings, Point Guard
Rodney Stuckey, Shooting Guard

  • Smith is one of the 10 best forwards in the league but he has to learn to drive to the basket and stop taking jump shots.
  • Monroe is an All-Star in the making and still just 23 years old as he enters his fourth NBA season. he’s capable of 20/10 a night but he needs to get his field goal percentage back up over 50% and he should with the arrival of Smith, which will take some heat off him down in the paint.
  • Drummond is just 20 years old and will be asked to serve as the centerpiece in the biggest, strongest frontcourt the Pistons have had since the 1970s. As his work on the glass continues to improve and he grows used to the nightly nabging he’ll take from the biggest fellas in The League, Drummond will be a monster rebounder and defender inside. The trio of Monroe/Drummond/Smith, should it stick together and gel, will wreak havoc on most NBA teams that will be undersized.
  • Jennings and Stuckey will probably start the season sidelined with injuries. In their absence, Chauncey Billups and perhaps rookie Peyon Siva will get to be on the hardwood. Jennings is a one-dimensional offensive player who still makes some silly mistakes with the basketball for a guy entering his 5th NBA season, but he’s an upgrade at the point. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to feeding the ball to the talented frontcourt.
  • The Pistons could still use a good perimeter shooter. Kyle Singler and Luigi Datome are options, as is rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. If KCP gets the playing time we think he will, he’ll be on the NBA All-Rookie squad. The kid has great physical talent and can slash to the basket.
  • Mitchell may struggle to crack the rotation at first, but his jumping ability (he’s been compared to Vince Carter and other highlight reel dunkers) will endear him to Detroit fans.

Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, and Jason Maxiell.

New Coach
The Mo-mo-mo-motor city has a new MO – Maurice “Mo” Cheeks – the new head coach of the Pistons. Cheeks has basketball running through his blood and he has an intense drive to win. He’s also known for being a great teacher, which will help for a Detroit team that has six players 24 years or younger. We think Detroit will be proud to have Cheeks in their coaching ranks, and if he can lead this team back to the playoffs, the fans should start to come back again after a dismal year that saw them rank third from the bottom in attendance in the NBA.

The Pistons went 29-53 last season, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. In those four years the team has been steadily miserable, winning between 25 and 30 games each season. The franchise has seen an unprecedented exodus from their fans, as amazingly the fanbase has had a short memory, abandoning the Pistons despite the team reaching the playoffs 21 of 26 years going back to 1983. For six straight seasons (from 2003 to 2008) Detroit advanced to the Conference Finals, but still, a series of blunders by President of Basketball Ops Joe Dumars has alienated Pistons Nation. Dumars feels the heat, which is why he flipped his roster over and tore the team apart in the off-season. The additions of Smith and Jennings, the maturation of Monroe and Drummond, and the infusion of rookie blood will make the team fun to watch again. We say here that the Pistons will make a big leap forward and win 42 games on their way to the playoffs once again. As a potential #5 or #6 seed, they could even advance one round. Better things are ahead for Detroit Basketball, and a return to the NBA’s Final Four is not far off if the team continues to take positive steps.