2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Detroit Pistons Team Review
And the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit rages on!
So, the Pistons upped their total by six wins, had a better offense, a better defense, and improved bench play in 2007-08. Yet Flip “I just look drunk all the time” Saunders lost his job as the head coach.
What’s up with that?
Well, in Title Town, there’s a different measure for success after six straight trips to the Conference Finals, but with only one championship to show for it. And once the Pistons bowed out in six games to the Boston Celtics (despite getting a split in Beantown to start the series), Saunders got flipped for Michael Curry.
Detroit did little tinkering in the offseason, so the starting five and key reserves return intact. Any improvements the Pistons make this year will be organic in nature, and given the advancing age of their starting five, those improvements will have to come from the reserves. One key sign that the future is coming in Detroit is Curry’s announcement that Amir Johnson will take over as the starting PF, sending Antonio McDyess back to the bench, where he can add some offense to the second unit.
Further, there’s plenty of room for growth from such key bench players as Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and Jason Maxiell. Hell, even newcomer Kwame Brown could be poised for a rebound after a couple of injury-plagued seasons.
Unfortunately, while Detroit was making minor tweaks to its makeup, other Eastern Conference teams were making serious changes to their lineups (Mo Williams in Cleveland, T.J. Ford in Indy, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers in Miami, Richard Jefferson in Milwaukee, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons in New Jersey, Chris Duhon in New York, Mickael Pietrus in Orlando, Elton Brand in Philly, Jermaine O’Neal in Toronto, etc.).
How this all shakes out remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Pistons lose a bit of ground this season. And anything less than a trip to the NBA Finals will have to be considered a major disappointment, possibly resulting in this team being blown up next summer.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Rasheed Wallace
Key bench players: Stuckey, Afflalo, McDyess, Maxiell, Walter Herrmann.
Maxiell and Johnson are going to be battling for minutes all season long. While Johnson is penciled in as the starter, so far Maxiell has been seeing more PT during the preseason. Both of them have great potential as shot blockers – especially Johnson, who two years ago averaged 1.6 per game in just 15.6 MPG at the age of 19. Last season, in just 12.4 MPG, he still put up 1.3 BPG. Give this kid 30 minutes a night, and look out. But I really like Maxiell’s potential as a scorer and rebounder; he’s got a wide body, and until Johnson adds more pounds to his frame, he may struggle to outfight bigger men in the post.
Stud: I’m tempted to go with Johnson here, and he is certainly the popular pick, but I am just a huge fan of Maxiell’s. I think he has a chance to bring a little bit of everything to the table, except an outside game, and I’m impressed by the progress he made in his free throw shooting last season after he missed more than half his freebies during his first two years combined.
Dud: He’s hardly a dud, but I wouldn’t count on the same level of production you’re accustomed to seeing from Billups. Mr. Big Shot still makes for a fine No. 1 PG, but his minutes will slip a bit because of…
Sleeper: …Stuckey. Expected to get much more PT this year, spelling both Billups and Hamilton, Stuckey is committed to developing an outside game this year. He could be worth a late round flyer, and if Detroit suffers any injuries in its backcourt, Stuckey’s value will really soar.
Rookies to Watch: Walter Sharpe hasn’t seen much action this preseason, which tells me he’ll likely be a spectator most nights, but earlier this week he finally got some significant minutes off the bench and responded with eight points, five boards and a block. There’s some definite offensive talent here, but he’s a long-term prospect at this point.
Fantasy Stories to Watch
Johnson has been showing a scoring touch in preseason, nailing midrange jumpers and definitely helping fuel speculation that he’s on the verge of a major breakout. The fact that he’s been given the green light to hoist up more shots doesn’t hurt.
It’s not going to take much for the team to rest Billups and give Stuckey plenty of burn. I’m not suggesting a position battle here, just that Detroit wants Billups fresh and healthy for the postseason, so will likely be extra cautious with any ailments.