2013--14 RECORD: 29--53 (4TH IN CENTRAL) COACH: STAN VAN GUNDY (1ST SEASON WITH PISTONS)
It's no secret why Andre Drummond is the league's most overlooked prodigy: Elite rebounding is brutish, thankless work. In 2013--14, the 6'10", 270-pound center quietly had a historic season on the glass, joining Shaquille O'Neal (1992--93) as the NBA's only under-21 players to pull down 13 rebounds per game. Just 10 players besides Drummond have reached that threshold in the last 20 seasons, and their average age was 28. The Detroit big man also grabbed the most offensive boards (440, 5.4 per game) since '97--98.
Drummond, now 21, isn't merely a specialist: His strength and finishing ability make him a dependable source of offense too. Critics are quick to bemoan his terrible free throw shooting (40.2% in two seasons) and limited post moves, but he ranked second in field goal percentage (62.3) last season and increased his scoring by 5.6 points from his rookie year.
New coach and president Stan Van Gundy is well-suited to help Drummond expand his offensive arsenal, curtail his league-high foul total and improve his defensive positioning. The former Magic coach built a stingy defense around an early-20s Dwight Howard, who blossomed into a five-time All-NBA first-team selection and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The comparisons to Howard and O'Neal might be daunting, but Drummond's early production suggests that he could become the league's top center within five years. Size and talent like this can't be ignored for long.
15.5 PPG; 7.6 APG; 37.3 FG%; 33.7 3FG%
15.7 PPG; 2.5 RPG; 46.3 FG%; 40.1 3FG%
10.5 PPG; 4.1 RPG; 39.4 FG%; 39.4 3FG%
16.4 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 41.9 FG%; 26.4 3FG%
13.5 PPG; 13.2 RPG; 1.6 BPG; 62.3 FG%
15.2 PPG; 9.3 RPG; 2.1 APG; 49.7 FG%
13.1 PPG; 4.4 APG; 41.5 FG%; 40.1 3FG%
The shot selection and help defense improve as Detroit books its first playoff trip since 2009.
Van Gundy can't fit the core pieces together, and Jennings and Smith draw little trade interest.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE PISTONS
Starting Josh Smith at the four and Andre Drummond at the five and moving Greg Monroe to the bench is the best way to handle their three best players. Stan Van Gundy's history is to play with a big man in the middle and spread the floor. Smith's erratic shooting—he loves his jumper, and defenses do too—makes him a poor fit as a three. They can play faster with Smith at the four, and Caron Butler or Kyle Singler can be a deep threat and make smart, simple plays at the three.... Van Gundy will have everyone on the same page defensively. He'll be great at developing Drummond, who has the quickness to defend the pick-and-roll effectively, and at unleashing Smith, who is never out of a play because of his length and explosiveness.... Monroe is more of a post-up option than Smith or Drummond. The Pistons can give Monroe the ball and let him go to work. He can also score and make plays at the elbow.... Brandon Jennings is the same unreliable guy he was in Milwaukee. His 55-point performance [five years ago in his seventh career game] was the worst thing to happen to him. Everyone thought he was the next big thing, and he did too. He's not a great decision maker. He is very quick with the ball, but he is looking to shoot first.... Van Gundy won't hesitate to sit Jennings for D.J. Augustin, who can run a pick-and-roll. Augustin was almost out of the league [last December] when he got to Chicago, where he was more aggressive.... Jodie Meeks [who is out until December with a back injury] and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope need to hit threes, which was a glaring team weakness last season.