With the 2012 NBA training camp kicking off tomorrow morning with Pistons media day, a handful of questions regarding the team’s future will surely be asked. Here are a few from Life On Dumars:
1. What must Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva do to redeem their extremely poor 2011-12 campaigns?
After a solid 2010-11 season where he averaged 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, shot 40% from three-point range and played in 72 games, Daye fell off the board completely in 2011-12, posting career lows in nearly every statistical category. He also barely cracked the team’s rotation – partially because of his inability to rebound despite being 6’11” – but also because of a severe drop-off in his three-point shooting. For some reason, he was never able to regain his stroke and shot just 21% from beyond the arc.
Last year, Villanueva suffered from nagging injuries and diminished skills en route to his worst year as a pro. He played in just 13 games and was roundly criticized by fans and media alike for a perceived indifference and laziness. He too posted record-low numbers and made his $35 million contract look even worse.
For Daye and Villanueva to redeem themselves, let alone stay a part of the team, they must regain some of their previous skills. For both of them to average such low rebound numbers despite being over 6’10” is completely inexcusable; considering they both like to float around the three-point line, it’s not unbelievable. To impress head coach Lawrence Frank, they’ll need to show interest in playing defense and rebounding once again.
2. How will the logjam at forward play out this season?
This is one of those questions that may depend too much on training camp, but it’s still a valid one. The Pistons have six or seven different forwards who can play either position, leaving Frank with plenty of options – and difficulties – when it comes to forming a cohesive starting five. Does he go with longevity and experience (Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette), youth (Austin Daye, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton) or a mixture of the two (Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko)? That doesn’t even include training camp invitee Terrence Williams. The second-year coach will have plenty of decisions to make.
3. What are expectations for this team?
Players, coaches and management are all shooting for the playoffs this year, but there may still be too much inexperience on the Pistons roster for that. They could very well sneak in as an a lower seed, but would that be beneficial if they were swept out of the first round? Some would argue that another lottery pick in the 2013 draft would help more. Knowing Lawrence Frank, he will never let this team quit, but they could also just get outmatched in games.
4. Is the team willing to throw Andre Drummond into the starting lineup earlier rather than later?
Patience is the word around the Palace concerning Drummond, and that might not be the worst idea. He’s still extremely raw and while he looked decent in summer league play, the center position is much harder to adapt to in the NBA than other positions. Getting outmuscled and pushed around too early in his career could severely hamper his growth. Pistons fans know we don’t need another Darko situation, however, so ideally he would get some sort of meaningful minutes throughout the season, provided he deserves them.
5. Is Brandon Knight ready to run this team’s offense?
Looking at raw stats, Knight had a decent rookie campaign. He came to the Pistons and started almost immediately, averaging 12.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds en route to an All-NBA Rookie First Team nomination. He truly seemed to adapt to the NBA game quickly, something that players ahead of him in the draft struggled with.
Not all was great, though. Knight assisted on just 20.8% of the Pistons’ field goals, one of the lowest assist rates for a rookie in quite some time. He was simply not efficient enough to be a true starting point guard, but with no one else on the roster capable of that either, he played in all 66 games.
Considering how easily he adapted to the transition from the NCAA to the NBA, though, it’s not like he’s a bad player. He should see improvement with better team chemistry and more time to fully absorb Frank’s playbook, something he wasn’t able to do with the 2011 lockout.
It’s still early in the preseason, but it’s never too early for fans to want answers to questions like these and many others. Life On Dumars will update with more media day questions and comments tomorrow!