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During a seven-year run, the Pistons were one of the best teams in the NBA. They won nearly 67 percent of their games, played in six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and went to two NBA Finals, winning once.

The Pistons could match that streak this season — on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The Pistons have won 33.1 percent of their games in the last six seasons and reached the playoffs once, in 2009. If they endure another losing season this year, it would be their seventh straight.

That's why Stan Van Gundy is in charge, to keep the Pistons above .500 and get them into the playoffs.

Heading into Wednesday's opener at Denver, here are five things to look for from Detroit:

Brandon Jennings' role

Jennings, the point guard, is effective playing up-tempo but fades when games slow down. He typically had eight to 10 assists in the first half of games and two or three in the second half when teams rallied to winlast season.

Jennings' job is to make teammates look better. He must become a solid stay-at-home defender and distributor no matter the pace of the game.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's confidence

His rookie season was a disappointment — he averaged 5.9 points and 0.7 assists. Caldwell-Pope is a good defender, but the Pistons need scoring from him in Van Gundy's system.

Caldwell-Pope has become more confident in Year 2, and needs to break out offensively without giving up on defense.

Van Gundy on the sideline

Van Gundy paces the sidelines like a caged tiger, bringing enthusiasm to the game. He will push and prod and juggle his lineup until he sees what he likes.

Be patient, though. It may take some time for Van Gundy to figure out his team.

Andre Drummond in the low post

Drummond is a rising star, but ... He can't be counted on to make big baskets late, he can't make free throws consistently, and he still looks unsure of himself.

Drummond is working on back-to-the basket moves, and must develop a signature move. If he can, Drummond's size and athleticism will be tough to stop.

Where is Josh Smith?

If Smith is on the block, that's good news. If he's on the perimeter, that's bad news.

If Smith is engaged with teammates on the bench, that's good news. If he's on the bench not talking or sulking, it's bad news.

So the key is keep him on the block and engaged.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/terryfoster971

Pistons at Nuggets

Tip-off: 9 tonight, Pepsi Center, Denver

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Nuggets look for F Kenneth Faried to continue the success he found playing for the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup. ... Former Pistons G Aaron Afflalo is back with the Nuggets.

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