The only sure thing about the Detroit Pistons this season is that there are no sure things.
General Manager Joe Dumars didn’t completely overhaul the roster in the offseason, but he came pretty close.
Not only did he trim some fat from a less than successful lineup, but he also signed a few big names and added a couple others in the draft. The two big (and of course, most expensive) acquisitions came in the form of signing free agents Josh Smith at forward and Brandon Jennings at point guard.
In the draft, the Pistons acquired shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia, who should help salvage one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, forward Tony Mitchell from North Texas State (good ole’ NTSU), and Peyton Siva from Louisville. Caldwell-Pope is the only difference-maker in the draft class and could find himself in the starting lineup.
Dumars didn’t stop there, either. He also signed Chauncey Billups, who may be a little old and a little worn down, but Chauncey is Chauncey, right? Show me a Piston fan that doesn’t love him.
Dumars is running on expired time in Detroit. Ever since the epically horrendous trade for Allen Iverson in 2008, where Dumars shipped Chauncey Billups and others to Denver, the Pistons have been a mere blip on the NBA’s radar.
And continuing a trend in Detroit ⎯ where firing head coaches has become about as common as the Red Wings making the playoffs — Dumars has a new man at the helm in Maurice Cheeks …
Needless to say, there are a few big question marks for this team that will only be answered when the season officially tips off:
How well can Brandon Jennings run the offense?
During his time in Milwaukee, Jennings was the closest thing the Bucks had to a superstar — I know, not saying much. There’s a consensus that he’s a freakishly good athlete with tremendous speed and above-average court vision. It’s just his scoring ability that leaves something to be desired. For a team like the Pistons, where the three-point shooting was horrendous last year, I’m not sure he’s the guy to save Detroit.
There is a silver lining though. The team that Dumars has assembled to play with Jennings isn’t remotely similar to the personnel he was playing with in Milwaukee. The Pistons frontcourt is athletic and able — it will just be a matter of if Jennings can get them the ball.
Where does Josh Smith fit in?
Smith was by far the Pistons’ biggest acquisition this summer. A 6-foot-9 small forward, Smith averaged 17.5 points last year with Atlanta. He’s best known for his defensive prowess, while being a super-athletic player on both sides of the ball. There’s no doubt that he can be a difference maker for the Pistons, it’ll just depend on the role that Coach Cheeks sees him playing.
The problem with the Smith signing is that Detroit already has a pretty full frontcourt. Center Andre Drummond will be in his second season and is a guaranteed starter after a terrific rookie campaign; Greg Monroe is likewise a starter at power forward. If Smith can mesh well with Drummond and Monroe, the Pistons will have one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league and a similarly formidable offensive front three.
How will Maurice Cheeks be as a head coach?
The question really is: “How will Cheeks get on with the team?” But before we can ask that, we need to know how he will be as a coach, in general. It always seems like first-year head coaches either flop or are immediate success stories. Cheeks is a former player, a former assistant coach, and coached for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-2005 and the Philadelphia 76ers from 2005-2009.
The Pistons have had an influx of head coaches recently, so it’s anybody’s guess how Cheeks will adapt and get along with the players. It’s a guarantee, though, that if he doesn’t fit in well, the Pistons will be in for another long season.
*This version of the story corrects errors that were made in the original print version, published on Wed., Oct. 16, 2013.
Michael Laurila writes about sports for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.