The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
2016-17 finish: 37-45, last in the Central Division
• Offensive rating: 103.3 (25th)
• Defensive rating: 105.3 (11th)
Additions: Avery Bradley, Anthony Tolliver, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard
Subtractions: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Beno Udrih
Did the summer help at all?
If for no other reason, the Pistons should be better just because of the migration of star talent to the West. The Pistons finished a few games out of the playoffs last season after earning the eighth seed in 2016, and they’re right back in the playoff hunt before they even play a game this season, now that Pauls Millsap and George and Jimmy Butler have left Atlanta, Indiana and Chicago, respectively.
The addition of Bradley is no small gain. He is everything Caldwell-Pope was supposed to be before becoming expendable in restricted free agency. By way of the Boston Celtics, Bradley has improved every season, adding an underrated offensive game to his lockdown defense, and those attributes should help coach Stan Van Gundy mask the deficiencies of Reggie Jackson in Detroit’s backcourt.
But the loss of Morris is tough to swallow. He brought an edge on defense and a positional versatility on offense that the likes of Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer and Stanley Johnson might struggle to replicate.
Galloway and Tolliver won’t do much for the bottom line, and don’t expect Kennard to make an instant impact, so much of Detroit’s success will once again fall on the shoulders of Jackson and Andre Drummond, a pair of young players still finding their way in a league in which their games don’t quite fit.
Best-case scenario: According to the NBA’s net rating statistics, the Pistons were never worse than when Jackson or Drummond were on the court last year, and they were never better than when either of them was on the bench. That must change. They can’t afford to have their two highest-paid players for the next three seasons be their least impactful contributors, so the best-case scenario is that Jackson finds some semblance of offensive efficiency and Drummond discovers some rim-protecting.
That alone would represent a successful season. And a big step forward from Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and/or Henry Ellenson wouldn’t hurt in their quest to become a pesky road playoff seed.
If everything falls apart: This could easily happen. Detroit’s best lineup last season was with Ish Smith at the point, Baynes at center and Caldwell-Pope, Morris and Harris as the wings and swings. All but Smith and Harris are gone, and Bradley is the only marked upgrade taking over for the other three.
Meanwhile, Van Gundy reportedly spent the summer shopping Drummond, who didn’t respond well to similar trade talks last year, and Jackson has rubbed teammates the wrong way before. If Bradley is handed the reins, as much as I respect his silent assassin’s creed, that’s no place to be, and Detroit may as well hold a fire sale and nosedive to the bottom of the standings while the tanking’s still good.
Best guess at a record: 38-44
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz
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