Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Detroit Pistons with Piston Powered staff writer Brady Fredericksen. (Yesterday's preview: Boston Celtics).
Detroit Pistons 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 29-53, No. 4 in Central Division, No. 11 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: D.J. Augustin, Josh Bostic, Lorenzo Brown, Caron Butler, Brian Cook, Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 38), Aaron Gray, Cartier Martin, Jodie Meeks, Hasheem Thabeet
Roster subtractions: Chauncey Billups, Josh Harrellson, Peyton Siva, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva
SB Nation affiliate: Detroit Bad Boys
Blazer's Edge: What do you expect out of coach Stan Van Gundy this year? Have you noticed a change in culture around the team since he was hired?
Brady Fredericksen: Considering the Pistons' current streak of terrible coaches, Van Gundy should be the best they've had since Larry Brown left in 2005. Van Gundy has a lot of responsibility as coach/president of basketball operations, but he's as proven a coach as you can hire. He's consistently made his teams better, and the Pistons have been stuck in neutral for five years.
BE: Josh Smith's biggest strength offensively is probably his ability to score in the paint, but last year he seemed to hang out around the perimeter, taking less efficient shots...do you see that changing this year? How?
BF: Yes. Normally, coaches try to accentuate a player's strengths, but last season it seemed like the duo of Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer were determined to use Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond together. That meant camping Smith out at the 3-point line as a small forward and basically bating him into all of his bad habits on nearly ever possession. Van Gundy has come out and said that big lineup does not work, so I'd expect very little of Smith on the perimeter.
BE: Brandon Jennings signed a three-year deal in Detroit last offseason then went on to shoot 37.3 percent from the field. Have you closed the book on the Jennings experiment, or do you expect him to bounce back this year?
BF: It'd be hard for him to play worse. I don't think Jennings is a bad player, but I think he's a player who's never been taught how to actually play in the NBA. He's pretty much the same guy that he was as a rookie. I'm not sure he can be fixed, but Van Gundy did get to the NBA Finals in Orlando with Rafer "Skip 2 My Lou" Alston at point guard - so there's a chance.
BE: What do you make of the whole Greg Monroe situation this offseason (broken-down contract negotiations, DUI, signing a one-year deal instead of an extension)? Will he be a Piston long-term?
BF: Monroe's reasoning for not wanting to sign longterm in Detroit is totally legitimate. He doesn't know what new management is going to do, he doesn't know how Van Gundy will use him and the franchise has been a dumpster fire since he's arrived. But, he's also done himself no favors this summer. For the longest time I was convinced he'd stick around and be a part of the future, but now I think the Pistons have to seriously explore trading him this season, which is hard because he has the final say on any deal after signing his qualifying offer.
BE: Many NBA fans think Jodie Meeks was highly overpaid by Detroit this past summer. How will he fit in with the team? Is his contract justifiable?
BF: I don't think those fans saw how putrid Detroit's shooting was. The Pistons needed shooting in ways that words cannot describe, and Meeks can and should provide that. Last season, the Pistons' No. 2 perimeter shooter behind Kyle Singler was Jennings at a measly 33 percent. Meeks, Caron Butler and DJ Augustin will give the Pistons the ability to legitimately spread the floor for Drummond, something they've hardly ever been able to do.
BE: With Caron Butler, Will Bynum and Brian Cook as the team's oldest players, do you think there's enough veteran leadership on the Pistons to lead a group of fairly young players? Of those youngsters, who do you expect to have the best season this year?
BF: Leadership is a funny thing. Does leadership come from the players primarily? Does it come from coaches? I think it's a mutual thing. I think veterans do help - and I think that's a main reason Butler is in Detroit - but I think leadership starts from the top down. Van Gundy has brought in enough leaders to balance out the Pistons' relative youth, but it starts with him. Remember, the Pistons had Chauncey Billups in the locker room last year and it didn't do a ton.
Special thanks to Piston Powered staff writer Brady Fredericksen for taking the time to discuss the Detroit Pistons' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Brady can be found on twitter @Brady_Fred. Piston Powered has you covered for Pistons news and analysis.
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