Rebuilding an NBA franchise is never an easy task, especially after experiencing past success. In the current basketball era, some experts, fans, and writers often point to the “OKC Model” as the standard-bearer of what a quintessential rebuilding model looks like. The ability to acquire and develop a solid core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka points to the draft expertise of the Oklahoma City franchise. However, many have been skeptical towards this approach due to the sheer difficulty and, frankly, the luck it takes to acquire a once-in-a-generation player like a Kevin Durant, or even a Russell Westbrook.
This is where the Detroit Pistons come in. Their approach comes off as an easier model to follow for most struggling franchises. They have assembled a solid enough core group of young players to garner some praise from around the league and among fans.
The ending of the 2005-06 basketball season—the year after the Pistons’ magical NBA championship journey—signaled the beginning of the inevitable turnaround for Joe Dumars and the rest of the Detroit pistons franchise. The stars that were once important parts of the 2004 championship team would soon move on to new teams.
- In 2006, Ben Wallace decided to sign with the Chicago Bulls on a 4-year, $60 million contract (although he returned to Detroit years later)
- During the 2008-09 season Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess were traded to Denver
- The following year, Rasheed Wallace signed a 3-year deal with the Boston Celtics
- Rip Hamilton was waived during the lockout off-season in 2011.
Despite their losses, the Pistons have been able to acquire very good players through the draft.
- In 2007, the Pistons selected Rodney Stuckey, a strong, attacking guard, out of Eastern Washington with their 15th overall pick;
- In 2009, the Pistons selected the versatile Austin Daye (Gonzaga) and Jonas Jerebko (Sweden) with the 15th and 39th overall pick, respectively.
- The Pistons used their 8th pick in the 2010 draft on the highly skilled bigman out of Georgetown, Greg Monroe
- The next year they nabbed Brandon Knight, a scoring lead guard, as the 8th overall pick out Kentucky.
- In this year’s draft, Pistons management was surprised to have Andre Drummond fall into their lap, to the. In addition to Drummond, the Pistons made the most out of their 2nd round picks by selecting Kim English (Missouri), Khris Middleton (Texas A&M), and Slava Kravstov (Europe) highlight additional players with promise on the roster.
Many in the media have referred to this Pistons rebuilding process as a “youth movement”. But even with all of the youth on the Pistons roster, there are still a number of veterans on the roster to help smooth the transition.
- Tayshaun Prince (the lone player remaining from the 2004 championship team)
- Corey Maggette
- Will Bynum
- Jason Maxiell
- Charlie Villanueva
With that all that being said, I am ready to make a bold statement regarding the Pistons 2012-2013 season: As currently constructed, the 2012- 2013 Detroit Pistons will make the playoffs as an eight seed.
Expectations for the Upcoming Season and Summer League Impressions
- Brandon Knight – In his rookie season, Knight experienced many ups and downs. Although he shot a solid 35% from beyond the 3-point line, he did not run the point with high efficiency, as he turned the ball over 2.6 times a game while only averaging 3.8 assists. To a certain degree, Knight was expected to struggle when it came to running a team due to his underdeveloped point guard instincts. Often times Knight was relegated to a spot-up shooting role while Rodney Stuckey was the primary playmaker. One thing that impressed me about Knight’s rookie was his durability for a rookie and his work ethic. Brandon persistently played all 66 games of the NBA regular season, averaging 32.8 minutes played per game. Knight was often lauded by Coach Frank for his work ethic and trusted to work through the rigors of the NBA season.
I was excited that Brandon took part in the Orlando Summer League—something he missed last off-season because of the lockout—as the Piston’s starting point guard. Almost immediately I noticed that Knight had been working hard, as he always does, on his game and body. He looked a bit bigger, something which should help him handle the bumps from opposing guards on the perimeter and from big men in the paint. Brandon also showed his ever-growing vocal leadership as he led a group of incoming rookies, and dished out a nice number of assists—7.3 a game. I look for Brandon to continue to be comfortable as a distributor on the Detroit Pistons regular season team. Knight struggled with his shot a bit connecting only on 35% of his shots, including 0-7 from three. However, I don’t put much stock into those shooting into those numbers because Knight is a good scorer and an even better shooter. Defensively Knight showed some good and bad things, but overall, he seemed solid.
Summer League Highlights:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIN1p5UnmtA&w=560&h=315]
- Improved shooting percentage
- Better feel for the point guard position
- Bigger role
- More assists
- Slight drop in turnovers
- Andre Drummond – Coming into the draft, Drummond was considered one of the most enigmatic prospects. Scouts thought he was one of the “high risk/ high reward” kind of players, who could make or break a GM’s tenure. Drummond was blessed with unreal athleticism that many big men could only dream off, but due to his laid back personality, many have questioned his demeanor, motor and his overall desire to be great. Statistically, Drummond had a very solid season as he averaged 10 pts., 7.6 rbs., and 2.7 shots per game. However, to those who watched him on a regular basis, he underachieved given his expectations coming out of high school. I, for one, believe that if Andre Drummond reaches full potential—and this may ruin my credibility—he will be better than Anthony Davis in the long run.
In summer league, I was looking to see what Drummond would do to prove his detractors wrong. After watching him play for a few games, I believe he had a good showing. On occasions he did look lost, but Drummond showed his world-class athleticism as he skied for rebounds and used his foot speed to stay with some perimeter guards. I was also impressed by Drummond’s post defense on Enes Kanter in his first summer league game. Andre’s frame seems to be fit for the NBA style, and the scary part is that he can put on much more muscle. I was left intrigued by Drummond’s solid footwork and stamina on the court. He still has to work on the free throw aspect of the game, and I have full faith that he will.
Summer League Highlights: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLDnVyVthX4&w=560&h=315]
- Plenty of alley oop finishes and put backs
- 6/7 rebounds a game
- Increased stamina
- Higher basketball IQ
- Effective in pick and roll defense
- Continuing to better improve fundamentals
- Slight uptick in free throw percentage
- Kyle Singler – When Singler passed up on the opportunity to earn a spot on the Pistons roster after he had been drafted to play professionally in Spain, I questioned his decision. In hindsight, I was foolish to make such a judgment. While over in Spain, Singler was able to play basketball from the get-go instead of enduring the NBA lockout, and he was able to improve his game against formidable opponents.
In summer league I saw that Kyle was better equipped to handle elite athleticism than he showed during his Duke playing days. He never once allowed opposing players to speed up his tempo, as he chose to play at his own pace. Singler demonstrated his already-solid jump shot throughout the games, often shooting mid-range and three-point shots with ease. Singler also put on display his ability to shoot pull up jumpers, which will serve him well as he tries to create his own shot using guile as opposed to cat-like quickness. With the Pistons small forward- heavy depth chart, it’s going to be tough for Kyle to gain minutes at the 3. However, I think he can glean some backup two-guard minutes along with Kim English.
Summer League Highlights: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebMlh1EyNZ4&w=560&h=315]
- Spot up shooting opportunities
- Sporadic minutes
- Increased strength
- Get a feel for how to best utilize his scoring prowess
- Figuring out how to be successful guarding 2’s and 3’s
- Tutored by Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette
Written By Javeen Rob
Follow Javeen on Twitter: @JJRob15