Detroit is betting on Stan Van Gundy turning the franchise around as its head coach and personnel decision-maker. Offense The Pistons are close to having the pieces in place necessary to be a good offense, but they need to make the pieces fit. That’s another area where Van Gundy’s plan should help Detroit. The single worst aspect of Detroit’s starting lineup last season was having Smith playing on the wing. With Monroe and Drummond both being low-post players, Smith needed to provide outside shooting. As much as Smith tried to do so, he’s never been a good three-point shooter, and made just 26.4 percent of his three-point attempts despite shooting more than three of them per game. Even with Smith playing in the post this season, the Pistons are short on true threepoint marksmen. The only player who could be called a sharpshooter last season was Singler, who made about 38 percent of his three-point shots last season. Other players like Jennings Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images and Caldwell-Pope were adequate from range, but not good enough to make opponents truly fear them. Another problem on offense is Drummond, who was a terrible free throw shooter for the second straight season. Drummond made just 42 percent of his free throws last season, making him a serious candidate for opponents to Hack-a-Shaq. That often removes Drummond as a serious option on offense, as opponents might foul anytime Drummond holds the ball for more than a couple seconds at one time. The Pistons overpaid for Meeks, but it will help to have him in the lineup. Meeks made 40 percent of his threes last season and has made 37 percent of long-distance shots for his career. Having him also takes some pressure off of Caldwell-Pope, a young player who was pressed into major action before he was truly ready last year. With a more balanced lineup and more sensible rotations, there are serious reasons to think Detroit will improve on offense this season. At the same time, Detroit lacks a true superstar, doesn’t get great production out of the center position, and doesn’t really have a pure point guard (as Jennings is more of a shoot-first type of player). Detroit’s spacing and shooting should improve, but it will likely only be enough to get the Pistons into the middle of the NBA pack on offense. Outlook Hiring Stan Van Gundy as a head coach is a coup for Detroit. Van Gundy has a great sense of how to construct an offense and how to put lineups together that make sense, and those skills are badly needed in Detroit. Van Gundy will put his players in the best possible position to contribute in a meaningful way, something that could not be said of Maurice Cheeks or John Loyer last year. It remains to be seen how much the rebalanced roster will improve. There’s no guarantee that Smith will embrace an identity as a low-post power forward. It’s difficult to envision the Pistons coming up with a strong defensive lineup. The team still lacks a solution at point guard—Jennings has still yet to prove in his five seasons a command of the position— and has one of the weaker backcourts in the NBA in general. The result is a team that should be a contender to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, but a winning record is probably too much to ask for. SPOTLIGHT: Josh Smith There were very mixed reactions when Josh Smith signed a contract to play for the Detroit Pistons. Some people were excited about the potential of adding a talented player like Smith to a young and improving nucleus. Others panned the move, calling Smith an offensive liability and a player who would shoot himself out of being a valuable player. In the end, those who panned the move were right, as Smith was a poor fit on the team and played poorly on both ends of the court. Under new head coach Stan Van Gundy, Smith has an opportunity to flip the narrative. When Smith plays the power forward position, he’s an athletic and busy defender who often blocks shots and grabs steals. At his best, Smith can be a plus defender, something Detroit didn’t have last season. At small forward, Smith has trouble with smaller, faster wings who can get by him and attack the basket. Smith also is an excellent scorer near the basket, but the further away he gets, the less efficient he becomes. As long as Van Gundy keeps Smith in the frontcourt, the opportunities should be there for Smith to play to his strengths instead of playing to his weaknesses. It’s all up to Smith. If he is humble enough to admit his flaws and play to his strengths, it could go a long way towards getting the Pistons back in the playoffs. On the flip side, if Smith continues to insist on shooting from range and playing on the wing, it will be very difficult for Detroit to make up for Smith’s inefficient play.
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