Five factors that will define the Detroit Pistons’ season

D'Angelo Starks

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On Tuesday, Oct. 16, the NBA regular season will officially tip off. This off-season was one of the more memorable one in recent years as we saw big name players and coaches switch teams.

Kawhi Leonard was traded from the Spurs to the Raptors, Carmelo Anthony was traded from the Thunder to the Hawks (where he was bought out and then signed by the Rockets), and the biggest move of all was the best player on the planet, LeBron James, joining a long line of illustrious signings by the Los Angeles Lakers after signing a four year deal with the team. 

The Detroit Pistons had an off-season that largely went under the radar. I mean, Zaza Pachulia isn’t exactly a sexy signing, but they made quiet moves like this that can have a major impact on the future of the team. 

The Pistons drafted two quality players with second round draft picks in Bruce Brown and Khryi Thomas, singed veteran role players in Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon and Pachulia, and the biggest move the team made was bringing in last season’s NBA Coach of The Year in Dwane Casey, formerly of the Toronto Raptors. 

There are five major factors that will determine whether or not the Pistons can make it back into the playoffs this upcoming season. The first of which is newly acquired head coach Dwane Casey. 

  1. Dwane Casey

Not many coaches win coach of the year after being fired, but Casey was a special case. Pistons fans should rejoice because the team now has arguably a top five coach in the league to coach one of the weirdest rosters in basketball. The best three players on this team are Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson and Casey is tasked with putting an offense together that can feature two big men in a league that is getting increasingly smaller. 

However, I believe Casey can find a way to make it work. In training camp and early in the preseason, a change that has been made is the fact that Drummond will be attempting roughly two three-pointers per game this season. If Drummond can make threes at a respectable rates and Casey can find a way to allow Griffin and Drummond to coexist in a flowing, functioning offense then the Pistons should be set up well this season

2. Blake Griffin

After Griffin was acquired by this Pistons before last season’s trade deadline, he performed well, but not well enough to help the team make the playoffs. Griffin finished the season with a stat line of 19.8 points, 43.3 field goal percentage, 34.8 three-point percentage, 6.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. This stat line is similar to the stats Griffin had been putting up in recent years with the Clippers, and they are decent at best for somebody who is known as a star. 

The Pistons need Griffin to be more than fine if they are going to make the playoffs. They need Griffin to be closer to the 2013-14 version of himself, in which he scored 24.1 PPG, 52.8 percent FG, 27.3 percent 3PT, 9.5 REB and 3.9 AST. This is the best possible version of Griffin, but since then there have been several injuries that have slowed down seasons and seemingly stunted the growth of his game. I am hopeful that Casey can unlock something in Griffin that both Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy could not and bring forward the former superstar that is still there somewhere inside.

 3. Andre Drummond

Drummond is coming off of his best season as a professional one that saw him average 15 PPG, 52.9 percent FG, 16 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and saw him finish fourth in Most Improved Player voting. Drummond has always been a great rebounder and he is now at the point where he is the best in the league in that area. 

The areas that he has continued to improve over the course of his career is offensively – shooting in particular – and conditioning. Drummond posted videos early in the summer of him shooting step back and spot up threes, and even though it was in an empty gym. That has to be an encouraging sign for fans, especially since Drummond posted an all-time low in free throw percentage just two years ago. I wouldn’t be expecting any step back threes in games any time soon, but if he can take and make spot up corner threes at a 30 percent clip, that’s great. It’s just another weapon in his rapidly expanding arsenal.

4. Bench play

One of the reasons Casey’s Raptors team was able to win the Eastern Conference regular season title last season was because of the team’s stellar bench play. For this Pistons team to be truly successful, the bench needs to be able to hold their own against other second units in the league and it seems as if this team is set up nicely for that. 

There were no major splashes made in free agency or the draft, but rather several solid signings made. Adding players like Brown, Robinson III and Pachulia to a bench that already features Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and a returning Jon Leuer should bolster the teams second unit and allow them to make a run at the playoffs in the East.

5. Eastern Conference playoff picture

One of the largest factors in whether or not this team can make the playoffs is how the rest of the Eastern Conference teams perform. There are five teams that are virtually locks: the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. There is an argument to be made for the Washington Wizards, so that leaves two spots open for three teams to fight for playoff positions. 

The Pistons will have to be better than the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets in order to secure a playoff berth. Both are solid teams and the Heat will be even better if they are able to capitalize on the rumor that they have been very close to making a trade for Jimmy Butler. They face stiff competition, but it is not out of the question for them to secure a seven or an eight seed. 

If all of these factors turn up positive for the Pistons, fans can rest easy knowing that the team will sit firmly in the playoff picture after missing out last season.