Tayshaun Prince has manned the small forward position for the Pistons since taking over for Michael Curry in 2003. Detroit has drafted several players, including Deron Washington, Walter Sharpe and DeJuan Summers, to spell Prince during the last decade, but none were able to supplant him as the team’s small forward. Through the last three drafts and free agency, however, the team has viable options behind Prince.
The 10-year veteran is once again the likely starter for the Pistons in 2012, but unlike previous seasons, he’ll finally have teammates behind him who can also play his position. His scoring last season (12.7 points) was his lowest total since his second season, although that could likely be because the team now has more diverse options on offense. Actually, that average is closer to his career average of 12.9 than any of his other seasons. Prince’s main contribution to the Pistons this season should be his veteran leadership and his ability to still defend some of the more athletic wing players in the NBA. He might not make the most spectacular plays anymore, but he will provide a steady hand at both forward spots who can run Lawrence Frank’s offense when he’s on the floor.
The 13-year veteran forward came to the Pistons in June as part of the Ben Gordon trade with Charlotte, and while he can’t score like he used to as a Clipper, Maggette can still provide the Pistons some help. In addition to averaging 4 to 5 rebounds from the small forward position, he is extremely adept at getting to the free throw line and making it count. Last season, he averaged 6.5 attempts per game and made 86% of them; on a team that shot just 75% from the charity stripe last year, that skill should prove helpful. Across the rest of his averages, he’s similar to Prince, although he is 10 pounds heavier and more built to absorb contact from defenders. He could very well end up leaving the Pistons next offseason, as he’s on a one-year deal, but in the meantime, he should be able to assist his younger teammates in 2012.
Pistons general manager Joe Dumars received plenty of criticism for his pick of Singler in the 2011 draft; after all, the former Duke Blue Devil didn’t have a discernible skill that would translate well to the NBA game. After a year in Spain, and winning the Spanish King’s Cup with Real Madrid, Singler seems more ready to contribute. In his 10 games with CB Lucentum Alicante, he lead the team in scoring with 14.4 points and also contributed 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals. During the summer league games this July, Singler showed even more improvement, scoring 14 points in his first game. He won’t start this season, but he should provide solid defense and hustle, two things he was known for in college.
After going much of the summer without a contract, Middleton finally got on in mid-August with the Pistons. There was plenty of speculation as to whether he would even make the team, as the roster shaped up quickly around him. Many analysts think he should have left after his sophomore season at Texas A&M (14.4 points, 5.2 rebounds) and after missing 12 games with a knee injury last year and seeing his draft stock drop, the criticism is understandable. Middleton has a good midrange shot and is a smart passing forward, but with the depth in front of him, it would take unique circumstances for him to play much in 2012.