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. What do the Pistons have to look forward to in 2014?
Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond‘s rise. As good as Drummond is right now, he has so much room to get better. The Pistons barely run plays for him, and he still gets lost defensively. His physical profile lends itself to much more on both ends.
Tim Thielke: A playoff berth. The Pistons are going through a bit of a slump right now, but they’re still in the playoff picture. And as long as they can get above the 7th seed, they have a real shot at the second round, too.
Brady Fredericksen: Growth. There’s obviously been plenty of ups and downs so far with this roster, but as the team learns more and more about what they need to do, the more consistently they’ll show up as the Good Pistons who beat Indiana and Miami and not the Bad Pistons, who are currently sleepwalking through the December snow.
2. What’s the team’s biggest challenge moving forward?
Dan Feldman: Figuring out what to do with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. Assuming Drummond is a constant at center, the Pistons need a forward combination that works with him. Maybe those two develop into that tandem, but so far, it hasn’t worked. So, now what? Monroe, because of his age and contract, is more valuable — both to the Pistons and in a trade.
Tim Thielke: Putting all their pieces together. The Pistons are currently a “whole less than the sum of the parts” team. The good thing about that is that leaves tons of room for internal growth. That growth is certainly not a given, but it’s available.
Brady Fredericksen: Finding consistency in their identity. This is a flawed team, and we’ve gotten far enough into the season to know what the “good” version of these guys looks like. They’re capable of being a very good rebounding team and a pretty solid offensive unit when they’re forcing turnovers. If the Pistons are to keep improving, it starts and ends with their defense and ability to force turnovers — which will fuel their offense.
3. Let’s be bold: What’s going to be the surprise of 2014 for the Pistons?
Dan Feldman: The Pistons will hire a coach with NBA head-coaching experience. I don’t know whether or not that will to replace Maurice Cheeks, but it might be if the Pistons miss the playoffs (which would likely mean a new general manager, who might want to hire his own coach). If the Pistons make the playoffs — likely keep Joe Dumars at the helm — but just sneak in and get knocked out quickly, that wouldn’t leave Cheeks on solid footing. In that case, I could see the Pistons hiring an assistant who previously worked as a head coach both to improve the staff and to have a viable replacement in case they fire Cheeks mid-season.
Tim Thielke: Monroe has a disappointing second half of the season and then nobody lines up to offer him a deal in free agency because they don’t think he’s worth max money and they figure Dumars would match anything less. Monroe has to settle for $41M/4 yrs and then establishes himself as Detroit’s best player on his new deal. Excessive optimism? Definitely. But why not? This is supposed to be a surprising turn of events.
Brady Fredericksen: There’s going to be a panicky trade, soon. I’m not sure to what extreme that trade will be, but I’m confident in thinking that the Eastern Conference is eventually going to take a step up from sucking to just being bad. That means the Pistons are going to have to take a step up, too. If things are looking iffy for this team come next month, Dumars may make some sort of quick-fix trade; maybe moving Monroe or Brandon Jennings. Dumars’ fate is linked to this season’s team — if they sink, so does he. Plain and simple.