Last year's record? 27-55, missed playoffs.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 19-63
Why I think that sounds about right?
Even with improved health, what does this team do well?
Its best players are a series of shooters that can stroke like few others when they're given great screens, but who is screening for Ben Gordon(notes) and Rip Hamilton, here? Ben Wallace(notes), a guy that centers don't even have to guard three feet from the basket? Charlie Villanueva(notes)? Jason Maxiell's(notes) 42 offensive fouls a night? Foul-frightened rookie Greg Monroe?
The team doesn't score, penetrate, pass, shoot or run particularly well. On the other end, they don't defend particularly well, only rising to the ranks of the sub-mediocre last year based on Ben Wallace's best season in half a decade (something that is about as likely to sustain as the idea that TBS will want to pay for George Lopez to have a talk show on their network five days a week at midnight; pop culture).
The East has gotten better, much better, and there just aren't as many gimmie wins to be had. So even as Gordon rebounds (as he will) from his own fluke season, and Monroe looks like a sound contributor eventually, this is a team without an identity, and without a chance at the playoffs.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
The improved health, for one.
Gordon missed 20 games, and his 3-point stroke (in the 40s for most of his career, 32 percent last season) can't help but get better. Tayshaun Prince(notes) and Rip Hamilton combined to play just 95 games last season, and Prince especially looks to be hopping out of the gate well this time around.
The youngsters, as well. Jonas Jerebko(notes) is out, but second-year man Austin Daye(notes) is leading the team in scoring during the preseason, and Monroe figures to have some nights where he'll look like the best player on the floor for short stretches. On top of that, coach John Kuester is just a couple of years removed from looking like an offensive genius as his LeBron-led Cavs ran out to 66 wins in 2008-09. With a year under his belt as a head man, he can't help but improve, right?
But, honestly, this ceiling just feels so low. And if the rest of the Central can stay healthy, the Pistons are looking like underdogs every damn night.
Dan Devine's Corner Three
When you look at the Pistons' roster, what really stands out is that, well, nothing really stands out. There seems to be no elite player in their rotation, no real star to speak of, but also no bottom-feeding scrubs -- a collection of slightly above-average, average and slightly below-average players. A look at the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of each member of the team goes a long way toward confirming that theory.
A bit of background for the lay reader: PER was created by ESPN.com basketball writer and statistical analysis guru John Hollinger as "a rating of a player's per-minute productivity," something that would enable fans to make more accurate comparisons between and among players whose circumstances might be very different -- for example, one point guard who plays 35 minutes per game on a team that plays run-and-gun ball and another who plays 15 minutes per game on a team with a more deliberate pace.
The stat's not perfect -- here's Hollinger explaining the rating in a bit more detail and copping to its shortcomings, especially in evaluating players whose contributions don't result in statistics, like defensive stoppers -- but it helps us get closer to apples-to-apples, and offers a thumbnail sketch of how players are performing relative to the rest of the league. What's important for this discussion is that the league-average PER is level-set to 15.00 every year.
Only one Piston made the top 100 on Hollinger's year-end PER list (ESPN Insider access required) -- Charlie Villanueva, who spent most of last season coming off the bench. Villanueva's PER -- 16.09, just over a point above the league average -- slots him in at, you guessed it, No. 100. Three of Charlie's teammates appear soon after -- Tayshaun Prince (16.06, No. 101), Ben Wallace (15.84, No. 107) and Rodney Stuckey(notes) (15.62, No. 114). For the purposes of comparison, Hoopdata's math works out a little differently, though not in Detroit's favor -- no Piston cracks the top 100 there. Villanueva still leads the way (15.98 PER, No. 117), with Prince right behind (15.96, No. 118). That takes care of the "no elite" and "slightly above-average" categories.
Richard Hamilton(notes) filled out the average quota by notching a PER of 15 on the dot. Slightly below-average? How about Ben Gordon (14.09), Jason Maxiell (14.07), Jonas Jerebko (13.99) and Will Bynum(notes) (13.80)? The only two players on the Pistons' roster who played more than 500 minutes in the league last year and had a PER under 13 were bench-mob rookie Austin Daye, at 12.85, and buried-in-Houston-and-unimpressive-in-New-York former star Tracy McGrady, at 12.22.
Ten players ranging from 12.22 and 16.09 -- nearly a whole roster stuck between "Ehh" and "Yeah, OK." It doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes, the stats and the suspicion do check out.
Greg Monroe is super confident in his "holding a basketball" abilities
ProkhoSmirk, meet MonroeSmirk. "Too easy. I've totally got this, you guys. Seriously, don't even sweat it."
Will Bynum is athletic: A 143-second reminder
Boy, 200,000-plus views later, that's still quacktastic. I wish 7-Eleven would sign me and Will Bynum to a lucrative commercial endorsement contract so that we could film a spot in which he throws down monster jams like these, and then I'm like, "Big Gulp yourself, Will Bynum," and then I hand him a Big Gulp and he drinks some as I give the camera a big thumbs-up.
It's great that Bynum worked on extending his range this summer in an effort to improve on his 15.8 and 21.8 percentage marks from 3-point range in the past two seasons, but let's hope he doesn't fall too deeply in love with the perimeter. To paraphrase Sir Mix-A-Lot, Will, you can shoot more frequent jumpers, but please don't lose that dunk.
- Greg Monroe
- Rip Hamilton