NBA Preview: Pistons must await high gear

Published Oct. 16, 2012 3:32 a.m. EDT

Let’s see. What do we have here?

It’s probably a question the once-powerful Detroit Pistons will ask themselves repeatedly all season. And once they get things sorted out, they might find the answer is a nice surprise. Or maybe even two or three.

When it comes to the Pistons, it all starts with big man Greg Monroe and guard Brandon Knight. Monroe is entering his third season, Knight his second. You can’t go wrong with either one. Nor can you hardly ever go wrong with the idea that owning a quality inside-out (or vice versa) combo is a great place to start.

But what else is there besides Monroe and Knight? Well, that is truly the question.

The Pistons still have Rodney Stuckey. OK, not bad.

They drafted Andre Drummond. Maybe not too shabby there, either.

And Lawrence Frank remains the coach and Tayshaun Prince the small forward. Hard to go wrong with those guys.

As for others like Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Corey Maggette, and so on and so on … the Pistons are still dreaming of a little consistency. For vets like Villanueva and Maggette, it’s probably not going to happen. Never really has.

Yet that’s hardly a reason for depression. The Pistons merely need to focus on the good, and by most accounts, that’s the battle plan.

It may not carry them very far this particular season, but it does set the stage for what’s possibly on the way. That ain’t so bad.

Last season:
25-41, did not make playoffs.

Coach: Lawrence Frank (ninth year, 250-282).

Top returnees: C Greg Monroe, G Brandon Knight, SF Tayshaun Prince.

Key additions: PF/C Andre Dummond-r, G/F Corey Maggette, F Kyle Singer-r.

X-Factor: Drummond. Heck, the kid likely had the term “X-Factor” printed next to his name in pre-draft guides – and with good reason. He was at times explosive, at times seemingly preoccupied, in college games. That made him a bit of a risk with the No. 9 overall pick. Not as big of a risk as Darko Milicic back in 2003, mind you. But Drummond was still sort of the draft equivelant of closing your eyes, plugging your nose and taking a plunge. If there’s water down below, the Pistons may ascend quicker than originally planned.

Strengths: Monroe and Knight simply “bring it” every game. And each possesses the talent and reliability  to make nights for more decorated challengers absolutely miserable. It doesn’t hurt that they have a true pro like Prince on the wing. He’s all arms and legs on defense, and doesn’t mind surrendering the ball on offense and playing off the other guys. Frank tends to get the very best out of those three, and those three alone almost always give the Pistons a chance.

Weaknesses: Based on last season, the Pistons’ really own no consistent scoring threat. If Monroe or Knight is off, and they sometimes are, the results can be frightening. Even worse, old standby Ben Gordon was shipped to Charlotte (for Maggette). Don’t misunderstand. Nearly everyone on the roster can put up points. Just don’t ask them to do it two days in a row.

Outlook: The Pistons are still in the rebuilding phase, slowly adding pieces such as Monroe and Knight (and ideally, Drummond), while trying to weed out the bench and unwanted contracts. Those things take time. For now, they’ll have to settle for making do with what they have. And finding out exactly what that is.

Prediction: 33-49.

2012-13 schedule:Link

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