The Pistons did some retooling in the offseason, but it’s a player who’s coming back who might hold the key to trying to make the playoffs after missing out last season.
That’s according to longtime NBA reporter and TNT analyst David Aldridge, who ranked the Pistons’ offseason 26th out of 30 NBA teams on Thursday, and wrote that forward Stanley Johnson’s ability to secure an expanded role in the Pistons’ rotation could give the Pistons “a leg up for a playoff push next season.”
Johnson played in 77 games last season, averaging 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game, after averaging 8.1 points in 23.1 minutes as a rookie.
“(Johnson) fell toward the back of coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation last season, but the rising third-year forward will be front at center in 2017-18,” Aldridge wrote. “Johnson has defensive chops (to play the 3) and he’ll have to display them every night against the Carmelos and LeBrons of the world.”
Johnson figures to be “front and center” because the Pistons cleared the way, trading forward Marcus Morris to the Boston Celtics for guard Avery Bradley, who effectively replaces Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who wasn’t offered a qualifying offer from the Pistons and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pistons also signed backup guard Langston Galloway and forwards Anthony Tolliver and Eric Moreland, and selected Luke Kennard with the No. 12 pick in the NBA draft.
And, while Aldridge writes that Bradley “will help; he remains a terrific two-way player,” the Pistons are “locked into the roster they have” because of salary-cap constraints.
“Detroit’s cap will be slightly better next summer, when Bradley is an unrestricted free agent,” Aldridge writes, “but the Pistons will have to do a lot of improving from within to justify the payroll. ... There’s been way too much smoke about Detroit looking to move either Drummond or Jackson to feel like everything’s great with the current group in Motown.”
The Pistons finished 37-45 last season. They open the season Oct. 18 against the Charlotte Hornets at the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.