The Detroit Pistons have been pretty busy this offseason. They acquired highly-coveted power forward Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks, brought back old reliable Chauncey Billups, finalized a trade for guard Brandon Jennings, and signed Maurice Cheeks as their new head coach. Suddenly, the Pistons are a relevant team and will probably end their four-year playoff drought next season.
Their biggest move was to sign Smith. Smith is an elite player with freakish strength and athleticism who should be contending for the MVP title year in and year out. He can fill the stat sheet when he wants to. On offense, he is an open court threat, can post on the low-block, or beat opponents on the dribble. Last season, he averaged 17.5 points and 4.2 assists— high for a big man and a testament to his court vision.
Underscoring his versatility are his contributions on the other end. Smith is the only non-center to crack the league’s top 10 in blocks last season as he averaged 1.8 blocks. He likewise averaged 1.2 steals since he can cover much ground in an instant with his speed. He is also a monster off the boards (8.4 rpg). The numbers don’t lie and the only thing he lacks in his game is free-throw shooting and his penchant for taking bad shots. Smith is also a mercurial player who wears his heart on his sleeve, so much so that his game suffers because of it. Reportedly, he is quite disruptive in the locker room because of his attitude and boisterous nature. At 27 years and entering his prime, the Pistons are hoping that Smith will mellow down and play a leadership role in the team.
The Pistons also acquired shoot-first, pass-later guard Brandon Jennings.Like Smith, Jennings has the raw talent to make it big in the league. It is obvious that Jennings can play but has a terrible shot selection (39.9%) and has one of the worst assist-to -turnover ratios at point.
To guide the young guard, the Pistons welcomed back future Hall of Famer Chauncey Billlups. Billups led the Pistons to the 2004 NBA championship, was named the NBA Finals MVP and is a 5-time All-Star. He will be a steadying presence on and off the court.
The Pistons also brought in Maurice Cheeks who was one of best point guards in the 1980’s. He was manning the point when the Philadelphia 76ers won the 1983 NBA title. He certainly knows how to play and knows what it takes to win a championship. Cheeks was previously an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder before this new assignment.
What makes the Pistons quite interesting is the list of young talent they have on the roster. With Smith, they arguably have one of the best frontcourt rotations in the league. Center Greg Monroe (16 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Andre Drummond (7.9 ppg, 7 rpg) are young and promising big men. They likewise have forward Kyle Singler and No. 8 draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the wings.
The Pistons have all the ingredients to actually go deep into the playoffs and contend with the best the East has to offer. The challenge is putting all this together.