Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Who has been the most important Pistons’ player in 2013?
Dan Feldman: Josh Smith. It should have been Andre Drummond, but the Pistons, even after Jan. 1, didn’t play him enough last season, and they haven’t devoted themselves to rebuilding around him since. Smith is the team’s highest-paid player and quite possibly difficult to move at the moment. Smith forces the Pistons’ hand in terms of direction, including how to handle Greg Monroe.
Tim Thielke: Definitely Drummond. He so vastly exceeded initial expectations and continues to be so good that he arouses consternation in many fans about Monroe and Smith, otherwise very good players. And of course, his continued development remains the Pistons’ best shot at getting the superstar that they probably need to contend again.
Brady Fredericksen: Monroe. The guys been pretty much the only consistent over the past year, he’s a rock. He’s struggled at times, but more often than not he’s thrived — albeit quietly. For a guy who has gone from underrated to overrated over the past year — while doing so at a brisk 22 years old — he’s still played pretty well. There’s a chance he will be the most important Pistons’ player in 2014, too, due to his impending free agency and all of the future ramifications that will bring.
2. What has been the lowest moment for the Pistons in 2013?
Dan Feldman: Every game Jason Maxiell started over Drummond. The Pistons were bad in 2013. Drummond was not, and to boot, he was young. Lawrence Frank ruined many opportunities for fans to be excited about this team in the present and for Drummond to develop and better the team even more substantially in the long run.
Tim Thielke: So many to choose from: not getting to see what Monroe and Drummond could do together last season, hiring Cheeks, pushing themselves just out of the range of the best prospects in the draft, this run of losing five of six to make the playoffs look like they’re not a given even in such a down year with the influx of talent they got. But no, the low point definitely has to be when, yet again, one of the top prospects in the draft, at a position of severe need, fell into the Pistons’ lap and Dumars decided to grab the sort of player who can be had in free agency any year. Because that set the Pistons back a potential star–which is what the team really needed.
Brady Fredericksen: Drummond’s back injury last season. Right before the Pistons pulled the trigger on the Jose Calderon deal, Drummond went down with a back injury and was lost for most of the second half of the season. Making matters worse was that it finally appeared Larry Frank was taking off the reigns a little and giving him some leeway. The idea of Drummond with a really good pick-n-roll guard like Calderon still is appealing, but it never came to be, and once Drummond went down the Pistons went from just plain bad to horrendous.
3. What was the best memory for the Pistons in 2013?
Dan Feldman: Charlotte Bobcats draft Cody Zeller and Phoenix Suns draft Alex Len back-to-back at No. 4 and No. 5. That guaranteed the Pistons could draft one of Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore or Trey Burke at No. 9. The joy, obviously, was short-lived — even if it works out in the long run.
Tim Thielke: Not nearly so many choices on this one. I’d say the hope that came after landing Smith and Jennings. I, like many, was skeptical of how it would all come together. But at least there was talent on the roster. So there was a chance, as there still is, of the team figuring out how to fit it together.
Brady Fredericksen: Anything Drummond, really. It’s tough to watch a team struggle as un-appealingly as the Pistons did last year, but Drummond was the first really exciting player the franchise had had in a number of years. We’ve been able to see this teenage manchild grow from, “he’s definitely a bust,” to, “he’s pretty decent, I guess,” to, “holy crap, he’s really, really good,” over just one short year (and a half). Now, he’s just 20 years old, and there’s soon to be more of those moments — hopefully continuing to get better and better, too.