2019-20 Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

NBA.com Global on Oct 21, 2019 12:22 PM
2019-20 Season Preview: Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose (25) passes the ball as Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic (77) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

The Pistons have an old-school look about them, given the presence of dominant big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. And yet, they’re modern in their zeal for shooting 3-pointers (sixth-most attempts in the NBA in 2018-19), with Griffin stretching his power forward game like never before. Detroit snagged the East’s final playoff spot last season and probably will be in the hunt to do that again if most goes right. But the bigger question is, where will the improvement come in the next few years so they can aim higher than that?

ICYMI

With the first pick outside of the lottery, Detroit selected intriguing big man Sekou Doumbouya, a project player from Conakry, Guinea. Doumbouya’s development figures to take time – his size (6-foot-9, 230) is ahead of his skills for now – but then, he has time; he won’t turn 19 until Dec. 23. … The Piston shipped veteran Jon Leuer to Milwaukee on draft night for Kevin Porter Jr. and veteran Tony Snell, then flipped Porter six days later to Cleveland for four second-round picks. … Detroit rounded up second or third-level free agents in July, including former MVP Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier. Meanwhile, it parted ways with the likes of valuable Ish Smith, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Zaza Pachulia ...

THREE POINTS

1. “3 Points?” Fine, let’s start there. It’s true that Detroit hoisted more 3-point attempts than all but five teams last season. But it’s also true that the Pistons sank fewer than all but seven teams, shooting a collective 34.8% from outside the arc. With relative snipers Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington gone, some of the 13.5 3s they averaged need to go to Luke Kennard and others to newcomer Snell.  

2. A battle at the point? Reggie Jackson, who’s been sort of OK in his three-plus Detroit seasons, finally played in 82 games after seasons of 52 and 45 appearances. That was a plus. But Jackson might be challenged for minutes, and even starting duties, by newcomer Derrick Rose, who reimagined himself in Minnesota last season. That it’s a contract year for Jackson – thus, a potential trade candidate – adds a little drama to the mix.

3. Drummond powers on. There’s something refreshing about seeing a classic, low-post NBA big man managing to thrive in this era of cute little 3-point shooters. Drummond’s work on the glass, especially on offense, keeps a little bit of the league’s past preserved in amber. But that doesn’t mean he can’t tweak his game to mesh better with what the rest of his squad is doing. One area for improvement: facilitating offense. The big guy realistically could double his assists total, assuming the Pistons’ perimeter shooters raise their games as well.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Blake Griffin locked in as a full-time Piston and, perhaps driven by the severe slight he felt from the Clippers for the January 2018 trade to Detroit, turned in his finest season. He faced the basket like never before, put the ball on the floor and initiated offense for others while becoming a real 3-point threat. Now the trick is to be almost as productive while pacing himself to be healthier for any playoff push and postseason performances. That was a problem in the spring, when Griffin was hobbled down the stretch and in the first round against Milwaukee.

STARTING FIVE

Reggie Jackson | 15.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.2 apg
Detroit needs a second straight healthy season from him.  

Bruce Brown | 4.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg
Defensive ace needs to help a little more at other end.  

Andre Drummond | 17.3 ppg, 15.60 rpg, 1.4 apg
A little backslide from the line (59%) but he is what he is.   

Blake Griffin | 24.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.4 apg
Third team all-NBA status, with some minor MVP attention.

Tony Snell | 6.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0/.9 apg
Career 38.2% shooter from arc, filling Pistons need.    

KEY RESERVES

Derrick Rose | 18.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.3 apg
Career-best 37% on 3-pointers. Fluke or new wrinkle to his game?  

Luke Kennard | 9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg
Pistons and fans want him to be more assertive.

Joe Johnson | 6.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg (2017-18)
Back in league after 1-year hiatus, a BIG3 success story.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Coach Dwane Casey kept his streak alive, with a sixth consecutive finish at .500 or above (after starting his head coaching career with four sub-.500 seasons). He was effective in dialing up Detroit’s defense last year but he couldn’t shoot the ball for the Pistons. The offseason changes, both in acquisitions and tweaked roles, will need to pick up the slack, that is, the accuracy rate.

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