Step by step, Detroit's coach and president is fashioning a roster that matches his style, game plan and long-term outlook
POSTED: Sep 8, 2015 9:39 AM ET
2014-15 Detroit Pistons Top 10
Here are the Detroit Pistons Top 10 plays of the 2014-15 season.
Since the Warriors grabbed their first NBA title in 40 years in June, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the summer break. NBA.com will evaluate the state of each franchise in the month of September with a look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today's Team: Detroit Pistons | All 30 Teams
Two years after he arrived and was named coach and team president, the Pistons are now Stan Van Gundy's team. Gone is Josh Smith and Greg Monroe and, perhaps soon, Brandon Jennings -- all of whom are players Van Gundy either didn't want or felt were a bad fit for what he's trying to build in Detroit.
The remake was supposed to take time, and now Van Gundy has had two off-seasons to reverse the path of a once-proud franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 2007-08. It's a start, merely a beginning, with plenty more work to do. But this is finally a roster made up of Van Gundy Guys.
The big summer move was saying farewell to Monroe. This wasn't a surprise; the Pistons made little attempt to extend an offer he couldn't refuse. It just wasn't going to work between Monroe and Andre Drummond, the big man Van Gundy is hoping to groom into a franchise rock.
And that's the deal with Detroit: Van Gundy wants (and needs) to use this season to develop the talent he has acquired ... and then see what else he needs. Guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jodie Meeks, Reggie Jackson, Aron Baynes and rookie Stanley Johnson are all Van Gundy Guys.
Van Gundy paid dearly for Jackson, who now makes more per year than Russell Westbrook, the player he backed up last season before arriving in Detroit. Jackson's average of $17 million a season is certainly reflective of where salaries are going, yet still seems rather obscene for a player without an All-Star background. He's only 25, though, and played well last spring, and besides, Van Gundy doesn't appear too big on the player Jackson is competing against.
Jennings was on a career roll when he suffered an Achilles injury, paving the way for Van Gundy to get Jackson. Assuming he returns healthy, Jennings is a point guard who walks the tightrope, capable of making big shots and plays and also taking poor shots and making errors. He's also entering the final year of his deal and it sounds unreasonable for Van Gundy to tie up big money in two point guards. But until Jennings proves that he's recovered and healed, he has no trade value.
With Monroe gone, the Pistons will give minutes to Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris. Ilyasova has had a weird career arc; he played his way into a big extension in Milwaukee, then immediately plundered, and then last season seemed to come to life. Morris was the less talented of the Morris twins in Phoenix, but brings energy and youth.
Van Gundy believes he scored big in the Draft and the evidence from Summer League seems to support him. Stanley Johnson looked tremendous, for whatever it's worth, with a ready-made NBA game and body. He's a tweener at 6-foot-7 but knows his way around the floor and he's only 19.
Van Gundy pounced when the Spurs needed to shed salary and came away with Baynes, a developing big man who can add front-line depth. The Spurs didn't want to part with Baynes but had to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Given that Baynes was groomed in the San Antonio system, that's a nice benefit for him and also the Pistons. But he is 28 and nearing his peak, if not already there.
Overall, the core of the Pistons is young and athletic. Based purely on talent and experience, their ceiling for next season lies at the bottom of the playoff pile, which would represent growth. In a perfect Pistons world, Drummond makes the All-Star team, Jackson looks like a smarter buy and Johnson makes a run at Kia Rookie of the Year.
Mainly, this is a Detroit team that can attract fans to attend the games again. The Palace at Auburn Hills was once a bustling arena that stayed loud and packed during the previous two decades, only to turn virtually empty on weeknights. Remember, the Pistons under owner Bill Davidson were a model franchise, one of the best in all team sports, and exuded money and success.
That can happen again, although not overnight. Van Gundy appears to be on the right track, however. He's a good coach and so far hasn't made a grave mistake as a general manager. It's his time, and this is his team. Finally.
Coming Next: Charlotte Hornets
To check out the rest of the series schedule, click here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.