The Pistons finished July with a good run in Summer League and some tweaks to the roster. They made some shrewd moves but most of the excitement was lost in the whirlwind of bigger trades and additions around the league in free agency.
On paper, the Pistons got better, with Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier as backup point guards, Tony Snell on the wing and Markieff Morris at power forward and Christian Wood as a backup center.
Still, without a significant improvement — as Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul might have been — the Pistons still look to be mired among the ranks of the fringe playoff teams in the East and many projections have them as the seventh or eighth seed, at best.
This week’s mailbag looks at the season ahead, with some thoughts on Andre Drummond and his future with the franchise.
Question: With the additions that the Pistons have made in the offseason (Rose, Doumbouya, Morris, Wood, and Frazier) why do you think their win total is only set at 37 1/2 in Las Vegas? – @JDSportsTweets
Answer: The East is going to be a lot tougher this season than it was in previous years. The Pistons were 41-41 last season, so even with reasonable health for Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson, they should be able to come close to that mark again.
The 37 1/2 wins is an odd number, because it likely presumes that Griffin will play fewer than the 75 games he did last season. Rose is a good addition behind Reggie Jackson, who very likely will be moved before the trade deadline — and that could be another reason for the lower projection, because of the chemistry changes that could follow from the roster.
The Pistons’ roster seems to have more veteran depth than last season, but with a tougher Eastern Conference, wins might be harder to come by. That doesn’t include expected development by players such as Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Svi Mykhailiuk, among others. For what it’s worth, 37 1/2 seems like a low number, so for those interesting in wagering, the over seems like the correct play.
Q: What are three things Andre Drummond needs to do this season in order to jump to the elite rankings amongst centers? — @shamshammgod
A: Drummond is a lightning rod for dissent among Pistons fans. To try to put him in the ranks of the elite centers in the league such as Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic is going to raise the ire of his detractors, who find fault in almost everything he does.
Drummond would have to become an adept perimeter offensive player like Jokic and Embiid and improve his rim protection to become more like Gobert.
The easier fix would come in improving the perception that he gives max effort on a nightly basis. His subpar performance in the playoffs against the Bucks — in a tough matchup against Brook Lopez — didn’t help erase that feeling. Drummond is entering his eighth season and although he’s still 25 years old, he still seems to have more upside, but the time to reach that plateau decreases each season.
Q: What is the likelihood that Detroit gets a deal done with Andre before they test whether or not he decides to decline his player option? Also, willing to guess what that next contract looks like? — @THE_FERNANTULA
A: Next summer, Drummond will have a decision to make about his player option for $28.8 million. It would be hard to turn down that kind of money, but Al Horford declined $30 million in his final season and got $109 million over four years with the Sixers for next season. Could Drummond do the same with the Pistons?
The pool of free agents next summer won’t be nearly as deep as this summer, so a team could believe that Drummond is worth more than $30 million per year. Again, he’s only 25 years old and is the best rebounder in the league with good pick-and-roll capabilities. The knock on him is his drive and that he doesn’t have many post moves.
I would think that the Pistons would want to get a deal done before he has a chance to opt out and test free agency — and the price tag potentially increases. Drummond and his agents probably want to at least see what his value is and make the Pistons match it.
That will be something to watch as the season approaches and into next summer. If he plays well, there could be an interesting negotiation.
Q: How do the Pistons rectify Blake’s potential window at 30, with their youth movement on the other end? Are there scenarios where a sub .500 record at the trade deadline puts Blake on the block to a contender? — @Agridome
A: That’s the big philosophical question over the next three years left on Griffin’s deal. It seems that they’re trying to retool on the fly with a keen eye on managing payroll. The front office has done a good job in working under the luxury tax, but the results haven’t been there to justify going into the tax.
Pistons governor Tom Gores has said repeatedly that he’s not looking to trade Griffin and Griffin hasn’t made any overtures toward wanting to be anywhere else, so that’s just bluster, mostly. The Pistons front office has pointed to next summer as when they’ll have some salary flexibility and can make some significant upgrades, with some big contracts — including Josh Smith’s $5.3 million — coming off the books.
Q: When does training camp start for Pistons? What split between the 3/4 do you see Sekou having? Who is more likely to grab a top 10 rotation spot — Svi or Kyhri? — @rudyjuly2
A: Training camp will be in September and rookie Sekou Doumbouya will be a big part of that. He only got to show a smidgen in Summer League because of a hamstring injury. He’ll probably be eased into the rotation but there don’t seem to be any grandiose expectations for him this season. It seems that he’s a good fit at either forward spot, but maybe filling the void as a small forward seems to be the initial projection.
I’d see Svi Mykhailiuk as a better potential option because of his size, but he needs to improve on defense as well. Khyri Thomas showed in Summer League that he can shoot but the logjam in the backcourt will make it difficult for either of them to make a big splash.