Preseason Preview #18: Detroit Pistons

Season Goal: Make the Griffin and Drummond duo work

After trading for Blake Griffin last season, the Pistons started a new experiment by assembling possibly the best frontcourt in the NBA. The problem with this experiment is that they are extremely invested. The Pistons will owe Drummond about $80M over the next 3 years and Griffin $142M over 4 years. These huge, long-term contracts give the Pistons very little flexibility in the upcoming seasons. Without flexibility, the Pistons can’t improve their roster at all. But, if they do work well together this team could become an exciting wild card in the East.

Storylines:

Best Frontcourt in the NBA

Now that Boogie left AD for Golden State, it’s safe to say the Pistons now have the best frontcourt in the NBA. The problem with building talented frontcourts, as seen in New Orleans, is that the league is now extremely guard oriented. Relying on dominant bigs kills spacing and allows for a lot less offense than having an amazing backcourt. That being said, a dominant frontcourt should be enough to push them into the playoffs.

Blake Griffin has improved as a 3 point shooter after coming into the league as just an athlete, last season he improved to 34.5%, which is a full percent higher than last year. Also, rumors have it that Drummond is working on his jumper as well. If both can even be average shooters it would do miracles for spacing and unlock a lot of possibilities for their offense. In addition to shooting, playmaking is extremely important to the Pistons offense. Last season, Drummond had become a much better playmaker, averaging 1.9 more assists last season than he did in 2016-2017. The Pistons’ 19th rated offense will improve dramatically with elite passing from their big men.

The two biggest problems with their offense were their lack of free throws attempted (24th worst) and free throws made (27th worst) as well as 2p%  (26th worst). Additionally, they were below average in shot attempts, assists, and 3 point attempts (despite being top 5 in 3p%). Having a full season of Griffin and Drummond will hopefully increase their 2p% and if they become good shooters the paint will be open, allowing easier shots for the guards. Better passing from them will increase assists, shot attempts and percentage, which are some of the Pistons major offensive problems. There’s a good chance that with these improvements Detroit could be competing for the 4 or 5 seed by the end of the season.

Depth Chart

PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway

SG:  Glenn Robinson III, Luke Kennard, Khyri Thomas

SF: Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock

PF: Blake Griffin, Jon Leuer

C: Andre Drummond, Zaza Pachulia, Henry Ellenson

Salary Cap Situation

~118M of ~101M Cap Committed

Expiring Deals: Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, Ish Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Ish Smith

Bad Contracts: Langston Galloway (2yrs, ~14M), Blake Griffin (4yrs, ~142M)

*All salary data via sportrac*

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