When the Detroit Pistons finally made the playoffs with a 44-38 record, seemingly the dark times of the past decade were behind them. The defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers was a stepping stone and it left Stan Van Gundy with the primary focus of developing the current talent. A young team, the Pistons have the potential to improve in 2016-17, so trading away current players is pointless. When free agency begins, the Pistons’ main focus will be to look for a backup point guard and another post player.
Reggie Jackson improved this past season in shooting and assists. He had a 43.4% field goal percentage and averaged 6.2 assists per game. His 3-point shooting percentage rose from 27.8% in 2014-2015 to 35.3% this season. Alongside Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 1.4 steals per game and Tobias Harris pulled in 7 rebounds.
The Pistons marquee player Andre Drummond was something to behold this past season. Although Drummond can definitely grab rebounds, much of Detroit’s frustration stemmed from his shooting. While fans can hope that Drummond will be able to make mid-range shots in 2016-17, his mastery must start from square one: free throw shooting. His free throw percentage dropped to a low 35.5%, which inhibited the Pistons late in games. A good sign is that Drummond is not playing this summer in international play, and passing on the Olympics to work on individual skills for the upcoming season. Drummond, Caldwell-Pope, Jodie Meeks, and Stanley Johnson have already begun training with the Pistons’ coaching staff, anticipating more responsibility next season.
In the meantime, the Pistons have a solid front court draft pick: Henry Ellenson. Ellenson’s a versatile offensive power forward who can also play backup center. With 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in college last season, the Marquette star may have the traditional post moves needed to balance out the team. However, many people have already questioned his defensive ability; he’s not a quick or intense player. Whether he can keep up with Detroit’s athleticism is going to be their biggest concern as the new season approaches.
Syracuse’s shooting guard Michael Gbinijie was the other Pistons pick from Thursday night. His superior ball handling skills could carve him a spot as a backup point guard, but the Pistons are better off finding a point guard with more experience in free agency. Gbinijie may find himself fitting in as a shooting guard or small forward, but only the start of the season can determine whether the Pistons should think about long term plans with him. He’s older than Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris (although only by a year), so other teams will find him comparatively younger than Detroit does.
What the Pistons lack right now is experienced players. That problem is hard to solve when they already pay so much for young, slightly above average players. A notable target for them in the 2016 Free Agency is Atlanta Hawks’ star Al Horford, however he may not be in high pursuit after the surprising #18 pick of Ellenson. Having only two bigs – one of whom has no NBA experience – could work out. A better option would be to get Horford as power forward and have Ellenson shadow him for a while. It’ll be an expensive move, but a move that’ll undoubtedly pay off and make the Pistons frontcourt powerful.
With $16 million available to use in free agency, the Pistons should definitely invest in a point guard. They need a backup point to score. There are many unrestricted free agents that could fit in the position that Detroit needs. Raymond Felton, Rajon Rondo, and Mario Chalmers are all possibilities, but none of the choices are as young as the Pistons want. A cheaper choice would be Jeremy Lin as he recently opted out of a 2.2 million team option to return to the Hornets. At age 27, he still has many years ahead of him and would be a fine substitute for Reggie Jackson.
The Pistons are expected to do as well as last season, if not better, with their draft picks and free agency haul. With a strong summer workout, the returning players will be trusted to contribute with the developing individual skills they honed over the summer, carrying it into the season. Stan Van Gundy hopes there won’t be any weak positions on the court; instead, the Pistons’ weakness next season will still be their inexperience.
photo via llananba