The Pistons have the league’s former Coach of the Year who at this stage is winless on Detroit’s sideline. They have one of the league’s most recognizable stars in Derrick Rose, who after last year is expected to keep the momentum going and push out big numbers.
They have arguably the NBA’s most ferocious rebounder in the big man that is Andre Drummond, but are enabling him to drift away from the rim to extend his range and even launch occasional 3-pointers.
All three will play pivotal roles for a team that’s trying to get to the playoffs for only the second time in a decade.
Beyond all of this, the team has some recognisable characters that will play a big part of their season’s success.
Reggie Jackson is invaluable as a scorer, ball handler and organiser of Detroit’s offense, but a severe ankle injury last season cost him 37 games, ripping a 12-25 hole in the Pistons’ schedule vs the 27-18 when he was on the floor.
Stanley Johnson came into the league three years ago to solid reviews and strong moments in summer league. But even he is tired of hearing about his potential, and after a season limited by some injuries, he’s hoping to establish himself as a consistent 3-and-D contributor. His perimeter shooting til now makes that a lofty goal.
So where does Blake Griffin fit into all of this?
The man hasn’t played an all-star game since 2015, yet last year had one of the most explosive seasons of his career.
If he can gel well with Drummond during the off-season, bring back some of the rhythm and style we came to love him for, Griffin will be throwing down some of tastiest drives to the rim we’ll see from the team.
The Pistons should have reached the postseason last year, they had the right people on the court, but it was pretty clear it was the off-court tension that made them drop the proverbial ball.
Adapting to the modern, savvy NBA, to the point of having their All-Star big men empowered with a new skillset as deep threats and playmakers is another major ambition. And working through a calmer, lower-volume season with Casey on board in place of feisty Van Gundy is something players anticipate. We can expect Detroit to come out with their heads down, and a powerful energy striking the stands.
Predicted Wins: 43.
If they do make it to playoffs, I don’t expect them to go beyond the first round, but that doesn’t mean it will be a walk off.
Best Player: Derrick Rose.
Derrick Rose had quite a resurgence in the 2018-19 season with the Wolves and produced one of the most memorable nights of the season when he scored a career-high 50 points against the Utah Jazz on Halloween.
Throughout the first half of the season he was one of the best players on the Minnesota Timberwolves, right behind Karl-Anthony Towns. Rose finished second among Western Conference guards in all-star fan votes, shot a career-high in 3-point percentage, and looked the bounciest he had been since he first started dealing with knee injuries. I think the fresh start at Detroit without the pressure of a massive looming contract will benefit him in the off-season. He did slip second half of last year, but he is a committed player and has one of the best eyes on the court.
Golden Nugget: Sekou Doumbouya.
While many Pistons fans may not have heard of Doumbouya, he will make an impact in a hurry with the franchise.
Doumbouya has NBA size at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, and he is shaped just like NBA champion forward Pascal Siakam and could very well be the NBA’s next international star in a couple of years. The youngest player in the draft has a lot of raw talent and skills that need to be fine-tuned, but he can still make an instant impact for the Pistons during the 2019-20 season.
Doumbouya has a great combination of strength and athleticism and can potentially develop to become a versatile defender. He has drawn comparisons to Draymond Green given his potential to stretch the floor and play multiple positions.
Coach: Dwane Casey.
While Casey has been primarily recognized for his ability to connect with players and develop talent, his teams in Toronto also consistently ranked in the top 10 in Offensive Rating, showcasing a coaching skill extending far beyond player development and relations alone. The 62-year-old head coach helped resurrect a struggling franchise throughout the better half of the past decade, transforming the Toronto Raptors into a perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse.
This was not surprising given Casey’s pedigree. In his seven years as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, Casey showed a keen ability to maximize his roster’s potential, develop young talent, and consistently field a competitive team.
Now with a well balanced team of big name players and eager juniors, Casey can (and will definitely) be utilising the two point-guard approach to push the Pistons all season.