1. Getting Reggie right
The Pistons were ultra-cautious with Reggie Jackson, shutting him down for most of the summer with no basketball activity. He’s ramping back up to game speed in the preseason and likely will be on a minutes restriction early in the regular season until the training staff feels he’s back to full strength.
The hope is he can get back to top form, but if he’s any healthier than last season, that would be a big boost toward getting them back to the playoffs. He’s shown he has the boost and explosion off the dribble he had previously, but he hasn’t yet found the chemistry with Andre Drummond on the pick-and-roll that made them one of the best duos in the league.
They added combo guard Langston Galloway as insurance in case Jackson has any issues, but the offense is built around Jackson and Drummond, so having him on the court at full strength is critical for their success.
2. Staying on guard
The Pistons got Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris in a trade with the Celtics. He brings a huge boost defensively and showed his offensive prowess as the second-leading scorer for Boston last season.
Although he’s in the last year of his contract, keeping Bradley around could be the key to the Pistons’ long-term future. At 26, Bradley is one of the best two-way guards in the league and could develop into a superstar with the right pieces around him. He’ll be unrestricted free agent next summer, so they’ll try to make a good pitch — both financially and situationally — to try to convince him to stay.
3. A better Drummond
Last season, Andre Drummond averaged a double-double (13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds) but the eye test showed that he had a down season. In the offseason, he had sinus surgery to correct his deviated septum and he’s said he can breathe easier, which will help with his endurance, especially last in games.
The bigger improvement is in his free-throw shooting — going 12-of-14 through the first part of the preseason, which could be a boon to his effectiveness and ability to stay on the court in crunch time. The biggest improvement could be in whether he shows better shot selection and more energy and effort on the defensive end to protect the rim.
4. Beyond the arc
The Pistons ranked 28th in the league in 3-point shooting (33 percent) last season, but looked to address the problem by drafting sharpshooter Luke Kennard and getting Bradley, Anthony Tolliver and bringing back Reggie Bullock. Those struggles, combined with the issues in the pick-and-roll, created an anemic offensive flow.
They’ll look to spread the ball around more — and the early indications in the preseason are their 3-point shooting will be better, plus the Jackson-Drummond combo will be better.
5. Youth movement
Trading Morris and letting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope go in free agency opened more playing time for Stanley Johnson and Kennard in the rotation. Henry Ellenson, after playing sparingly last season, looks to be in line to jump into the rotation.
Fans have been calling for more playing time for the young players — and now it looks like it’ll happen. If things start to flounder, it’ll be an important step to gauge the roster to figure out the long-term future.