Josh Smith Press Conference July 10, 2013 | Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty Images)
The 2013-14 Detroit Pistons season gets underway October 8 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Once again we look to our trusted sport’s gurus, Patrick Smith & Paul Buck, to give us their low down on what to expect this season.
1. Where do you think the pistons will finish this year?
Patrick Smith: The cop out here is to say that they should compete for the bottom three playoff spots, which yeah, sure. But that is too easy. They should be the sixth best team in the East. I really, really want to predict a disaster of a season for either the Knicks or Nets but their best players are too good and the bottom of the Eastern Conference is too bad so it is safe to assume the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks and Nets will all definitely be ahead of the Pistons. I also feel confident that the Magic, Bobcats, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics and Bucks will be worse. Every single one of them besides Milwaukee is actively trying to be worse for lottery combinations. That leaves the Cavs, Hawks and Wizards to compete with the ‘Stones for those last three slots.
There are all sorts of questions about spacing and shot selection and playing time for this Detroit team, but with Smoove and Brandon Jennings this team has more talent than its mid-level competitors and ultimately talent will win out.
Paul Buck: I think the Pistons can finish anywhere from the 6th seed to missing the playoffs. I think we have enough veteran players to play along with our young core. With Andre Drummond being our starting center, Monroe at PF, Josh Smith at SF, Billups at SG, if he stays healthy, and BJ at PG. Billups will be the leader on the court, and BJ will be taking notes and learning from the former NBA champion. If Greg Monroe can fit into the power forward role, it would mean a lot to our starting five. People say he is a natural center, but I think he can become a natural PF and will hold that spot down for years to come. Our front court can be one of the best once they get more experience.
2. Will Josh Smith work at small forward?
PS: Probably not. At least not for more than 12 minutes a game, but I don’t think he will be asked to play SF much more than the first six minutes of each half. Ultimately the addition of Josh Smith gives the Pistons the ability to keep at least one all-star caliber big man on the floor at all times. No other team in the league can do that. For the minutes where the jumbo lineup is out there the team will have to hope that the defense, rebounding and IQ provided by all three big men can make up for some very real spacing issues.
If Rodney Stuckey starts at shooting guard, which seems likely now based on what Langlois is writing over at Pistons.com then that starting line up is going to be very tough to watch in stretches. They will have literally one guy on the floor who is capable of hitting a long jump shot. That isn’t good. So Detroit is going to have to hope they can make up for that by dominating the stretches when the reserves are playing. Oh also they should get rid of Rodney Stuckey (more on that later).
PB: Josh Smith will work at SF, because he gives us a huge defensive threat at that position where we had Tayshaun Prince for many years. Smith is a more offensive minded player than Prince, but his defense and shot blocking ability is off the charts. He is a player who can spread the floor as well, with his mid-range jump shot and his ability to sink three pointers.
3. Is Brandon Jennings the long term answer at PG?
PS: Yes. He isn’t a perfect option, but I think he is above average and is a good fit for the guys around him. I think it is possible he makes a Chauncey-like leap, but it is foolish to expect something like that. Even if he doesn’t, he is a low-turnover, high-assist guy who is a scoring threat. It is interesting how much certain “smart” NBA people bag on Brandon Jennings considering that he takes care of the basketball, which makes up for a lot of the issues he has with shot selection. If he actually keeps his promise to shoot less he could be really good.
PB: I think Brandon Jennings can be the long term answer at point guard. The key here is that he is going to be able to learn from Billups who was once the leader and point guard of the Pistons. Jennings assists have gone up each of the last two seasons. He is a score first type player right now in his career, but he is only 23 years old and he is entering his 5th NBA season. Having Mo Cheeks, who is a former PG himself, in as the new head coach will also benefit BJ. I think he needs to realize that he has other shooters around him and should focus on dishing it to them rather than trying to get himself a shot. His field goal percentage has been pretty poor his whole career because he has been the main scorer for the Bucks in previous years. He has talent around him now and needs to use them.
4. What was your favorite/least favorite move of the off season?
PS: I love the Chauncey signing, mostly out of nostalgia but I also think it was a really smart move. He can shoot, he brings the leadership this team is so desperate for and he seems like he is interested in mentoring Brandon Jennings. Considering the fact that the Pistons are dreaming on Jennings mimicking Billups career, who better to help him do that than Mr. Big Shot himself?
My least favorite move is not cutting Stuckey before his contract became fully guaranteed and not amnestying Villanueva. If Joe D does either of those things then they could have signed Jennings outright without losing BK7 or Khris Middleton. Maybe you think the team was good to cut ties with Brandon Knight, and maybe you think Middleton was never going to amount to much. You are probably right about both of those things, but the point is both players are assets. With his contract and the abilities he has shown, the team surely could have got something BK, even if it was just a pick. As a fan you should be upset that the team gave up two valuable assets just to save money.
PB: My favorite off season move was bringing back Billups to finish his career here in Detroit; the place where he made a name for himself. I think he still has some juice left in his tank and that he will be a contributor to our team. He is going to mentor BJ and hopefully show him how to be a pass first point guard, but also still be able to get his shot off if he wants it. He has battled injuries the last few seasons, but even if he gets hurt he will be able to work with BJ. I am also a fan of Luigi Datome. He has been one of the best players in the Italian league. Brandon Jennings and Datome have also already played one season together when Jennings played in the Italian league instead of going to college for one year. I think that will help Datome make the transition to the NBA. Datome is a big small forward and he is only 25 years old. He could have the potential to be a solid NBA player and possibly a starter at some point in his career.
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