What’s better than a 3-on-3 season preview? A 3-on-3-on-3 season preview. This is the first of three 3-on-3s to preview the Pistons’ season.
Who is the Pistons’ X-Factor?
Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond. The range of how well he could do this season is as great as an Piston in recent memory. If his regular-season play resembles the preseason and he can sustain it over major minutes – this is is a stretch, admittedly – he could help the Pistons win a playoff series. If his focus wavers during a long and intense season, the Pistons are probably headed back to the lottery. He provides attributes – shot blocking, finishing inside and size to defend larger opponents – than no other player on the roster can. Unfortunately – and excitingly – the Pistons’ fortunes this season are very much tied to an unproven rookie.
Patrick Hayes: Rodney Stuckey. This is finally (finally!) the year we can stop talking about Stuckey’s ‘potential’ or ‘upside.’ His month-long stretch of fantastic play last season, along with his position switch, gave him one last shot to show he’s more than just a decent, rotation combo guard. If Stuckey is the guy we saw during February last season, the Pistons are going to be a much better team than most predict. If he’s still the same solid if inconsistent player he’s always been, the Pistons will be looking for an upgrade in the backcourt with their free agent money next offseason.
J.M. Poulard: Rodney Stuckey. The difference between good teams and bad ones is quite simple: one of them can close out games and the other cannot. Thus, when games are close and there is a mere five minutes left in the contest, good teams execute and create good shots, but when things breakdown offensively because of superior defense, it’s important to have a player who has the confidence to create plays and also deliver. Last season, Stuckey shot 47.1 percent from the field with less than five minutes left in the game and the scoring margin within five points; which is quite impressive considering that in these situations the shots are often low percentage ones.
Stuckey’s performances in crunch time will essentially be a huge factor in the outcome of Pistons games.
Which declining Pistons veteran will come nearest to his peak form?
Dan Feldman: Will Bynum. First of all, I should defend my inclusion of Bynum as a declining veteran. He’ll turn 30 this season, and his game is based on his ability to drive explosively to the rim. That’s not often a skill that holds up into a player’s 30s, especially someone who plays with as much reckless abandon as Bynum. Though Jason Maxiell also has an expiring contract, he’ll almost definitely receive another deal somewhere. Bynum is fighting to stay in the league. Plus, Bynum’s peak form is a lower bar than any other declining veteran’s.
Patrick Hayes: Jason Maxiell. I don’t think Tayshaun Prince will decline appreciably, necessarily, but I’ll go with Maxiell since his ‘peak form’ is a much smaller peak than Prince’s peak form and thus more attainable. Plus Maxiell is a bit younger, is asked to do a bit less in this lineup and he’s playing for what could be his last decent NBA contract, so he should be motivated.
J.M. Poulard: Corey Maggette and Jonas Jerebko are sure bets to get some minutes at the small forward position, which in turn means that if Tayshaun Prince doesn’t produce, he’ll be watching the game just like most fans; in a seat. Last season he posted his worst PER since his rookie season.
With competition at his position, Prince should be far more productive and efficient this season.
How much job security will Lawrence Frank have at season’s end?
Dan Feldman: A good amount, but it could be due poor reasoning. The Pistons’ schedule begins tough and finishes a bit easier, which could create the illusion of progress even none exists. Frank hasn’t been in Detroit long enough – and the Pistons are still enough of a rebuilding mode – for him to lose his job mid-season with something like a 1-8 start. It would take a major all-season collapse for Frank not to return next season, but if the Pistons miss the playoffs this year, reaching the postseason in 2013-14 might be necessary for him to keep his job beyond then.
Patrick Hayes: More than John Kuester had after his first season but less than Rick Carlisle had after his first season, I guess? The fact is, only one coach in the Joe Dumars era has hung around for more than two seasons. My guess is that Dumars would really, really like to end that stigma. I think Frank’s job is pretty secure as long as the season isn’t a complete disaster. If they don’t make the playoffs but the young players all look improved and Andre Drummond progresses nicely, he’ll be fine.
The wildcard, of course, could be if Dumars himself doesn’t have job security. If Tom Gores is adamant about making the playoffs and the team doesn’t pull it off, there’s a slim chance that Gores could go a different direction with both positions. I don’t think it’s likely, but we’re still in a getting to know you phase with Gores and his expectations, so you never know.
J.M. Poulard: Last season, the Pistons posted a defensive rating of 106.3 (22nd in the league) and finished second to last in the Central Division. Improving the team’s defense should directly correlate with the team’s record but I’m not completely sure the Pistons have turned the corner as of yet. My opinion may change by season’s end, but until I see significant improvement in the defense, I think his status might be up in the air at the end of the season.