The Detroit Pistons are one of the weird East teams where you look at them on paper and think they won’t make the playoffs, but then you look at the Eastern Conference and realize that they almost have to. Don’t get me wrong, this team has a lot of talent but there are serious health and fit and depth issues here. Of the projected starting five, only Andre Drummond managed to play more than 70 games. Their 2019 win total is set at 38.5 after a 39 win last season.
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We also had some injury issues with Reggie Jackson last year and the year before. When he’s been on the court, this team has been much better. Ish Smith did an admirable job filling in, but a healthy Jackson makes this team so much better. Last season the Pistons started 18-13 with a healthy Jackson and then struggled to an 11-26 record in his absence. He is huge to this team.
There are reasons to be encouraged by the changes. The Pistons got rid of Stan Van Gundy this offseason and brought in Dwyane Casey who is fresh off winning the coach of the year. They are also bringing back Arnie Kander who has an outstanding reputation for strength and conditioning and is someone the fans might be even more excited about than Casey. That’s what happens when you have injury issues with players like Jackson and Griffin, fans get pumped up for a strength and conditioning coach.
Drummond, Jackson and Griffin could form a really interesting offense when everyone is healthy. Last year Drummond really improved his playmaking, averaging a career high three assists per game. With a healthy Jackson and Griffin, this team could really get the ball moving and create a ton of open looks. Then again, who takes those shots will be another question to be answered.
Stanley Johnson has felt on the verge of breaking out for a few years now. It’s time for him to do it. He looks like the kind of player you want in the modern NBA, but he just hasn’t put it together and the three point shooting has left a lot to be desired. You have to be encouraged by the addition of Glenn Robinson III. He had some injuries last season, but he has shot well from three his whole career and this could be his breakout.
I’m not really into Reggie Bullock as the starter and I am looking for Luke Kennard to be the starter before the season’s end and close the gap between him and Donovan Mitchell. He’s one of only four rookies in history to average at least 7 ppg on at least 44% FG, 41% 3PT, and 85% FT. That’s amazing. I could definitely see some smaller lineups with Griffin at center surrounded by shooting in Johnson, Kennard, Bullock and Jackson.
When I started writing this article I wasn’t that into the 2019 Pistons, but I may have talked myself into them. The key issue here is still health and whether these guys can stay on the court, but if they do I think they will be a pretty dang good team. I’m going over with the caveat that Griffin and Jackson each play 60+. If they don’t, well, I told me so.
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