For the first time in quite a while, the Detroit Pistons enter a new season with plenty of expectations that don’t include just player development. The frontcourt duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were joined by Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith this offseason, giving the Pistons, potentially, one of the strongest starting lineups in the Eastern conference.
The other things Jennings and Smith bring with them is swagger and confidence. The Pistons haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and their attendance numbers were among the worst in the NBA over the last few years, as things sorta stagnated around the 30-win mark. The development of Greg Monroe over the last couple of years has been a pleasing point for most of their fans, but it wasn’t enough.
Andre Drummond, with all of his potential, didn’t do enough last season to propel the Pistons into new heights. But now, the arrival of Jennings and Smith, both borderline All-Star player when it comes to their ability and both with something to prove about their efficiency and ability to succeed outside their first training grounds (and both also skipped college basketball), makes the Pistons an interesting team once again.
Brandon Jennings is busy raising the expectations. No one is talking title contenders, not after the last five seasons. For now, it’s Lob City being thrown around everywhere, with Jennings feeling quite excited to be playing along with a very big frontcourt and especially Smith and Drummond, who should enjoy Jennings’ passing if he is planning on changing his game like he’s promising to do. In order for the Pistons to achieve their goals and set new, higher ones as well, the old Jennings from Milwaukee, the one that show an ounce of improvement from his rookie season as bad shot selection defined his play, he’s the first one who is going to need to change.
We could bring the Lob City to Detroit this year. You’re going to see a whole different player. I definitely have to change my game. The things that I was doing in Milwaukee, I won’t have to do here, take all the bad shots. Now, I can just actually be myself and be who I was five years ago when I was in high school, playing AAU basketball.
I don’t know if anyone forced Jennings to take bad shots in Milwaukee, but there’s certainly less pressure on him to score, and no competition in the backcourt next to him about being the top guard on the team. If Jennings actually realized he’s the one who needs to change and start doing what he’s stronger at, which means driving to the basket instead of taking tough jumper after tough three for most of the night, the Pistons are headed in the right direction.
Monroe seems like the solid, consistent player in this foursome. He averaged 16 points and 9.6 rebounds last season, but when it comes to efficiency and per minute numbers, there wasn’t a whole lot of improvement compared to his second season. Drummond is the one with the upside everyone is waiting to see.
Josh Smith? Like Jennings, his numbers in Atlanta weren’t bad. But it seemed like he was trying to do too much of the things he’s not good at, like contested jumpers instead of working more in the post and in the paint. If Smith stops trying to be something he’s not, and the rest of the parts click well for the Pistons (like Caldwell-Pope bringing the much-needed outside shooting), playoffs isn’t going to be the only thing they aspire to reach.