Reasons aplenty why Pistons season shapes up as one of
Every now and then, halfway through a Pistons Mailbag
answer, it becomes clear that the subject is better
addressed in a different forum. So it was the other day
while answering a question from Sam of Ann Arbor.
â€œI used to love the Pistons,â€ he started, going on to
talk about the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace and the
magical run through the 2004 playoffs that culminated in
the franchiseâ€™s third NBA title. He admitted to being a
â€œfair-weather fanâ€ and wanted to know if this was the
season he should come back into the fold. And he asked the
question that is never far down the list for any Pistons
fan: What about the playoffs?
Letâ€™s start with that. Making the playoffs next season is
a realistic goal. But there are 15 teams in the Eastern
Conference and there are probably 14 of them â€" all but
Charlotte â€" who believe the same. If everybody stays
healthy, if young players make the expected career
progressions, if veterans donâ€™t suffer any unexpected or
premature regression, if newcomers find a niche without
disrupting the equilibrium â€¦ yeah, itâ€™s a complex
formula, but I donâ€™t think youâ€™ll find anybody
conceding the postseason is a pipe dream in early August.
And it would be a great thing for these Pistons to make the
playoffs. Even a No. 8 seed that gets its hat handed to it
four straight games derives benefit from the experience of
making the playoffs. At least if itâ€™s a No. 8 seed made
up largely of players the franchise regards as long-term
solutions, and the Pistons â€" armed with an impressive
young core of players that starts with but isnâ€™t limited
to Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond â€" now
comfortably fit that profile. Get swept one year, when you
get there again youâ€™ll be that much better for the
experience of having played in the playoffs already.
But making the playoffs in and of itself should never
supersede the larger mission of contending for and winning
NBA championships. And it wonâ€™t, not on Joe Dumarsâ€™
watch. Make merely qualifying for the playoffs an
organizational obsession and you put at grave risk the
long-term health of the franchise. There comes a time in
every teamâ€™s evolution when a general manager must take
risks in order to progress. But to rush that process merely
to win a few more games now â€" to go from 38 wins and
outside looking in to 42 wins and inside the field, perhaps
â€" when it likely weakens the future is impulsive and
Everything Joe Dumars has done since Tom Gores bought the
Pistons loudly suggests they are not tempted in the least
to rush the process. The crying need going into the 2011
draft was for a big man; the Pistons drafted Brandon Knight
because they felt he was clearly the best value. Andre
Drummond was passed on by eight teams to a large degree
because they felt he wasnâ€™t ready to help today.
Those moves donâ€™t mean the front office isnâ€™t intent on
competing for a playoff spot this season, only that they
havenâ€™t lost sight of what really matters: being on a
path to win it all when the Pistons are in position to make
the playoffs with the regularity they enjoyed in the
So, back to Samâ€™s question. Are there compelling reasons
to follow the Pistons this season if you canâ€™t be sure
when it tips off that it will end with them in the
And, yeah, I donâ€™t qualify as a non-partisan observer
here, but I canâ€™t imagine anyone remotely interested in
basketball or anyone with so much as a passing interest in
the Pistons not being at least mildly intrigued by the
possibilities for the season ahead.
Is Rodney Stuckey on the verge of achieving consistency and
will that translate into thrusting himself into the
conversation for All-Star status after playing at that
level for two months last season between injuries?
Can Drummond give them enough of the â€œwowâ€ plays â€" the
big blocks, dunks, boards, transition chances â€" to offset
the inevitable lapses that come with the growing pains of a
How much of a jump will Knight take in his second season,
this one without any of the handicaps the lockout imposed?
Can Monroe make the same leap from year two to three as he
did from year one to two? Is he ready to shoulder the
burden of being the focal point of the offense?
What tweaks will Lawrence Frank make to the offense after a
year of familiarizing himself with his personnel?
Can Arnie Kander keep Corey Maggette healthy and, if so, in
what ways will his unique ability to attack the rim and get
to the foul line spill over to help the Pistons in other
Will the impressive Summer League performances of rookies
Kyle Singler and Kim English, both of whom gave strong
indications they are ready to handle spots in the rotation,
carry over to the regular season?
How does the athleticism and size that Ukrainian 7-footer
Slava Kravtsov displays on video translate to the NBA and
will he overcome the cultural and language barriers to
easily integrate himself into the team?
And thatâ€™s not a full list. Austin Daye and Charlie
Villanueva are both eager to carve out a spot in the
rotation. Jonas Jerebko, that much further removed from his
Achilles tendon tear, could be ready to assume an even
greater role. Jason Maxiell, in a contract year, will be as
motivated as ever to prove he belongs in any conversation
of the Pistsonsâ€™ future. Tayshaun Prince, perhaps for the
first time since his rookie season, has real competition
for minutes at small forward if Maggette and Singler are as
expected. Will Bynum, with Ben Gordon no longer around, is
going to go full bore to prove he deserves first crack at
filling the role of first guard off the bench.
Frank is going to have a full plate when training camp
opens, to be sure. He has infinitely more options to
consider this season than last. With some coaches, you
might worry about the complexity overwhelming him. Frank
will have considered every contingency well before early
October arrives and camp opens, if he hasnâ€™t already.
He has a four-day retreat planned for the end of August
with his full staff. Theyâ€™ve each been given a laundry
list of projects to research and present. Theyâ€™ll have
plenty to chew on. Itâ€™s in all of those things weâ€™ve
So what do you say, Sam? I wonâ€™t guarantee the playoffs,
but are there not reasons enough to give them another look?