Column: Recipe for success for the 2017-18 Detroit Pistons
After a disappointing 2016-17 season, the Pistons enter the new season with higher expectations.
Although it may not seem like it, Detroit basketball is finally back.
Wait, that didn’t sound right. Let me try again.
DEEEETROOOIT BASKETBALLLL is finally back, and this time the Pistons will return to downtown Detroit for the first time since 1988, making themselves feel at home in the newly built Little Caesars Arena.
As the new season finally begins, so do the expectations for all 30 NBA teams for the 2017-18 season. For the Pistons, those expectations have only been raised after a disappointing 2016-17 season.
After being projected as one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference before the beginning of last season, the Pistons failed to meet those expectations, finishing with a 37-45 record for 10th in the Eastern Conference. The most disappointing part of last season was that there was no sole reason for the poor season performance, especially after a 2015-16 season where the Pistons made it to the playoffs.
Whether it was the injuries to starting point guard Reggie Jackson before the start of the season, lack of perimeter 3-point shooting or, simply put, just a very disappointing season from star center Andre Drummond, the Pistons just couldn’t find themselves in a sustainable rhythm the whole year.
Instead of shaking up the landscape of the roster, the Pistons’ front office, led by head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy, decided to bring back the majority of the team this season. With the (lack of) roster moves, the organization truly believes in the future of the relatively young roster moving forward.
However, the team did make some necessary moves to improve the quality of talent around their core players (Jackson, Tobias Harris and Drummond). The team traded for former Boston Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders and 3-point shooters, both holes Detroit desperately needed to fill. The team continued their quest for better shooting by drafting 3-point specialist Luke Kennard from Duke with the 12th pick in the NBA Draft.
But as the NBA continues to have “Super Teams” dominate the league and championship conversations, the Pistons look to remain a team that forever remains in “the middle of the pack." Having been a diehard Pistons fan since the magical 2004 championship season, I’ve noticed three major things this current team must do in order to not only make the playoffs but make a run in the later rounds.
Jackson and Drummond need to return to old form. In the 2015-16 season, the two each posted breakout seasons. Both worked in perfect sync with the pick-and-roll offense, which then set the rest of the team up for success. With Jackson being out with a knee injury for the first two months of the season last year, Drummond struggled to be efficient on the floor. In order to have an offense that gets perimeter shooters open, both Drummond and Jackson will have to work in sync once again.
The team needs to stay consistent. This step is much easier said than done, but last season, this team couldn’t stay on a stable winning streak. Whether it was effort, shooting or defensive pressure, the team could never have all three together in the same place. In fact, the team’s longest winning streak was three straight games, while the team’s longest losing streak was six games. Team’s that make the playoffs usually have more than 41 wins over the course of an 82-game regular season.
Stanley Johnson needs to play to his full potential. Being drafted eighth in the 2015 draft, the 19-year-old small forward from Arizona came to the Pistons with extremely high expectations. However, those expectations have not come close to reality as Johnson has struggled to find a consistent spot in the rotation. Now that he’s finally been placed in the starting lineup to start the season, it’s time for Johnson to prove his worth on the defensive end.
Although I have high hopes for the Pistons to make the playoffs this season, my biggest fear is them not reaching their true potential. If that’s the case, prepare to see the Pistons trade away their top talent in an effort to rebuild.