By: Detroit Larry
The Detroit Pistons will once again be in the rebuilding process this season while trying to make strides with their young core of players. And in a conference featuring the Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Magic, and Knicks, the Pistons will have little chance of making a significant run this year barring something significant happening.
The Pistons currently have 8 (or 9 since Terrico White’s status is currently up in the air) players signed not including rookie Brandon Knight from Kentucky who should be able to contribute right away. Fellow rookie draft pick Kyle Singler from Duke has decided to continue to playing in Europe after playing extremely well there. That leaves the Pistons 5-6 players under the minimum roster limit of 13. Resigning Jonas Jerebko, whose sophomore season was cut short due to an Achilles injury, must be a priority and the Pistons are expected to match any offer made to the restricted free agent. The future of Rodney Stuckey remains to be seen. Stuckey fell out of favor with previous coach John Kuester so whether new head coach Lawrence Frank wants him to stay has yet to be determined. He is a restricted free agent and while the Pistons may match some offers, they be content to let him walk due to their overabundance at the guard position. Ben Wallace is also expected to come back for another season to provide veteran leadership and cement himself in Pistons history a little further.
Assuming both Jerebko and Stuckey are resigned, the Pistons will most likely have a starting lineup of Stuckey at the point, Rip Hamilton at shooting guard, Jerebko at small forward, Greg Monroe at power forward, and Ben Wallace starting games at center. Will Bynum, Brandon Knight, and Ben Gordon will all likely see extended playing time off the bench with Austin Daye, Jason Maxiell, and Charlie Villanueva providing minutes at the forward positions.
Perhaps the biggest question mark right now is whether the Pistons can bring back veteran and fan favorite Tayshaun Prince. Prince has spent his entire career in Detroit providing many highlight blocks (long before Lebron did so) and stellar defense. However, he has been more than displeased with how the Pistons have fallen from prominence and with decisions management has made over the past three seasons. Most expect him to bolt for more money and a chance to win one more championship.
The Pistons will need to fill out their roster, but with the new amnesty clause from the collective bargaining agreement, Joe Dumars may be inclined to dump one of the ludacris contracts he gave to Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, or Charlie Villanueva. All three are being grossly overpaid and probably the cost the Pistons last offseason when many better free agents hit the market. Obviously, if Stuckey is not brought back, then Hamilton and Gordon need to be held onto to start the season, leaving Charlie V as a likely candidate to get sent packing (and good riddance if that happens). Trying to find some veteran players who can contribute to fill in the roster and be leaders to young players like Monroe, Jerebko, and Knight will be key following the chaos under the last 2 coaching regimes. The free agency pool is not as deep as last year but with teams dropping players with the new amnesty clause, players could fall into the Pistons lap. As with the NFL, free agency will be fast and furious and hopefully Joe Dumars acts quickly to find pieces to compliment his young nucleus.
The Pistons should be improved over last season as Jerebko will be healthy and continued progression of Greg Monroe gives them a solid low post prescence. However, the Bulls and Pacers are both in their division and both are coming off playoff seasons. Throw in the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Hawks, and Knicks, the Pistons will be hard pressed to make the playoffs. Crazy things could happen with the 66 game schedule but an improvement in wins from last season would be a success in my eyes as this team just cannot compete yet with the big boys in the NBA.