The Pistons’ finish to last season and their showing in Summer League doesn’t foster much optimism that they’ll be better this year. Signing coach Dwane Casey and getting Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin back to full strength should be harbingers of an improved season, though.
The start of training camp will bring more answers to questions to determine exactly where the Pistons stand among other teams in the East, but they should be better than last season, no question.
As the summer days get shorter, here’s a fresh Pistons mailbag addressing some questions around Summer League and the outlook for the Pistons this season:
Question: With Luke Kennard missing the summer league does that delay plans to have him play some point this season? — @3kingjames23
Answer: It doesn’t help. The plan was to try to have Kennard handle the ball some in a lower-pressure situation during the Las Vegas Summer League, but his knee injury kept him out of the showcase completely. It won’t preclude him from handling the ball more — Casey has said that he’ll be flexible in his rotations and development of young players — but that was a prime opportunity for Kennard to show what he can do against some decent competition.
As things stand, Kennard won’t have to worry about playing point guard, as long as Jackson, Ish Smith and Jose Calderon stay healthy, but utilizing Kennard more as a penetrator and initiator on pick-and-roll plays wouldn’t be a bad thing to counter defenses that overplay on his spot-up 3-point shooting.
Expect to see some of Kennard playing on the ball more, but calling him a point guard isn’t really the objective, either.
Q: Players describe Casey's system as "open" and suggest a dramatic rise in shooting. Well, who are Detroit Pistons top 3 threats from the 3 point line? — @TalkinWright
A: The Pistons’ best 3-point shooters statistically from last season were Reggie Bullock (45 percent), Anthony Tolliver (44 percent) and Kennard (42 percent). Tolliver signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, so the next highest is Griffin (35 percent). That bodes well for the Pistons, who were fifth (37 percent) in the league in 3-point shooting.
Casey’s system will call for more 3-pointers, with the focus on finding higher-percentage options — more than just heaving them at the rim. Provided everyone stays healthy, the Pistons should have a few very good 3-point shooters, with a few marginal ones. The ones to watch are Stanley Johnson (29 percent), Jackson (31 percent) and Henry Ellenson (33 percent). If they can each elevate their numbers by five or six points, that would be a considerable help.
Q: Does it make all of us sad that everybody used to care about the Pistons and now almost nobody cares? — @sportz5176
A: Of the four major Detroit pro sports teams, the Pistons seem to carry the least amount of buzz. The move to Detroit doesn’t seem to have generated the widespread acclaim that was expected and missing the playoffs for the second straight season doesn’t help, either. Winning cures a lot of ills and the Pistons haven’t done a lot of it in the past decade.
Before last season began, I thought the Pistons would be the only Detroit pro sports team to make the playoffs, but another injury to Jackson and some lackluster play after a promising start derailed that prediction.
It’s "Groundhog Day" for the Pistons; they’re in the same position to be Detroit’s only playoff entry, but they’ll likely need another injury-free season to bring that to fruition.
Q: How you think the Pistons will do this season? — @SisNewLife
A: I’ve been optimistic about the Pistons for the past couple years, given that I couldn’t predict the injuries to Jackson. With a full summer and training camp to get acclimated to the new system, Griffin should flourish a bit more and the chemistry with Jackson will be better than in the eight games they played together last season.
Andre Drummond should have another All-Star season and unless there’s another major injury, the Pistons should be a playoff team. Which seed they get and how far they go should be the only questions.