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Pistons' Van Gundy molding roster in his own image

POSTED: Oct 13, 2015 10:43 AM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner


Top 10 Plays: Detroit Pistons

Check out the best of Andre Drummond and the rest of the Pistons from 2014-15.

Out with the old, in with the new. Or at least the borrowed and the salvaged. Pistons' basketball boss Stan Van Gundy is closer in his second year to the team coach Stan Van Gundy wants to take onto the court each night. For all the comings and goings of players from other organizations, three homegrown guys -- Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rookie Stanley Johnson -- could define the team's season.


A big item on Detroit's to-do list is getting Drummond signed to a contract extension by this month's deadline. There is no doubting Drummond's value, either to the Pistons or as a coveted player across the league, so offering him max years and max pay is an easy call and likely to get done. Memories of Greg Monroe's departure should only expedite things. ... Rookie Stanley Johnson didn't play that well in the team's public scrimmage Saturday but it was his first off-note at the end of a strong training camp, Van Gundy said. ... Fellow Philadelphian and former Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace has been counseling newcomer Marcus Morris on Detroit and Michigan to ease Morris' transition since being acquired, the Detroit News reported. Morris might appreciate the input after being separated from his twin brother, Markieff, who is unhappy in Phoenix.

Three Points

1. If Van Gundy is fashioning the 2015-16 Pistons to resemble his 2008-09 Orlando Magic team -- one talented big surrounded by a bevy of long-distance shooters -- then Andre Drummond has the Dwight Howard role covered. Drummond, though still only 22, is a durable tent pole around which to build. He's a handful to keep off the glass, especially at the offensive end, and he has ownership of the locker room despite his tender years. But oh, that free-throw percentage (39.7 percent in three seasons).

2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope improved significantly last season, earning his minutes boost from 19.8 as a rookie to 31.5 (with 82 starts) by hiking his scoring from 5.9 ppg to 12.7. A summer dedicated to more work earned KCP attention as Detroit's best performer in training camp. Now he's ready for a third-year step in which his consistency and his shooting (40.1 percent last season) gain reliability. At 22, he might be able to handle road crowds better, too; he seemed to wilt away from the Palace, shooting just 35 percent for 9.9 points.

3. Ersan Ilyasova will be playing for his seventh NBA head coach in eight seasons, so maybe that has something to do with his false starts and untapped potential. Or, maybe, Ilyasova is what he is: a shooter with better range than consistency and an average defender. Ilyasova gets a chance to hit his reset button and slide into that Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkoglu role of Van Gundy's Magic past. Not much of a playoff performer (9.8 ppg, 29.8 3FG%), that won't matter to the Pistons this year.

Man on the Spot

Point guard Reggie Jackson went on a hellacious salary drive last spring and, besides some flashy stats, produced two results: a 9-7 finish that was better than Detroit's 23-43 mark till then and a five-year, $80 million contract for Jackson that -- even in these exorbitant times -- was seen as too rich for Jackson's skills and accomplishments. Instead of just looking to score like Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook at their most potent, Jackson will be counted on to run Van Gundy's offense and to bring some of the OKC tandem's leadership to the Detroit mix.

Starting Five

Reggie Jackson | 17.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 9.2 apg
Averaged 19.9 ppg, 10.9 apg, shot 48.0 percent over final 16 appearances.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | 12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.3 apg
Solid improvement through both opportunity and efficiency.

Andre Drummond | 13.8 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 0.7 apg
A beast on the offensive boards (5.3 per game) and for Pistons foes for years to come.

Ersan Ilyasova | 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
Shooting range seen as way to unclog middle around Drummond.

Marcus Morris | 10.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.6 apg
Rattled or not by sibling separation, he has strength, skills to help.

Key Reserves

Brandon Jennings | 15.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 6.6 apg
Recovering from torn Achilles, next challenge is reclaiming minutes.

Stanley Johnson | Rookie
Super-confident No. 8 pick from Arizona has scouts talking quick impact.

Jodie Meeks | 11.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.3 apg
Slow start due to injury, boosted shooting eye in second half.

The Bottom Line

Van Gundy put last year's emphasis on defense and shaved three points off the Pistons' rating, good for a climb of six spots in the rankings. This year he'll have an offense more to his liking, with hopes of cracking the NBA's Top 10. It won't be enough to crack the field of 8 seeded in the East playoff bracket though.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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