As a 20-year-old rookie playing the NBA's most challenging position, point guard Brandon Knight was about on par in his first season: Knight led all rookies in minutes (32.3 per game) and was second in scoring (12.8), while his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.36) was the worst of any starter at the point. Still, the talent is there, and with the emergence of second-year center Greg Monroe, the Pistons' future looks bright at two critical starting positions.
The other spots are a different story. Detroit flipped underachieving guard Ben Gordon to Charlotte for Corey Maggette, who shot a career-low 37.3% last season. Maggette will compete for minutes at the swing positions with converted point guard Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince, whose 42.1% from the floor was also the worst of his career. The power forward spot is also up for grabs—unless the erratic Jonas Jerebko makes it his—meaning that coach Lawrence Frank's ability to establish a consistent rotation early will be critical to Detroit's success.
COACH: Lawrence Frank (2nd season with Pistons)
2011--12 RECORD: 25--41 (4th in Central)
OFFENSE: 90.9 ppg (27th)
DEFENSE: 95.7 ppg (14th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 20.0 ppg (25th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE PISTONS
The development of Greg Monroe is critical—he isn't a black hole anymore. They went to him in the post a little more last year. He is still better running the floor, getting early buckets in transition, getting stick backs. He has to be a presence on the floor.... I question whether Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight can coexist. Different teams have tried two-guard fronts, and they have not worked. Who is going to guard the other team's big guard? Stuckey and Knight are both scoring point guards; when it comes to getting others involved, they get sloppy.... Corey Maggette won't improve the team. Even on 20-win teams, someone is going to score 20 and get 10 rebounds. To me, Maggette is a guy who just destroys your locker room.... Tayshaun Prince can contribute, but it might be on another team. He's not cut out to play in a rebuilding process. He walked into Detroit as a rookie and couldn't get on the court because the team was too good.... Jonas Jerebko is kind of a funky player. He's probably better in a transition game. In the half-court he doesn't have a post-up game and is not a good enough perimeter shooter.
The young core jells, Stuckey and Maggette emerge as go-to scorers, and the Pistons slip into one of the final playoff spots.
Maggette, as at his other NBA stops, disrupts the offense—and the chemistry—and the Pistons struggle to reach 30 wins.
Shots taken at the rim by center Greg Monroe last season, the most of any player. Of his 781 field goal attempts, 60.9% came within two feet of the basket, while 83.7% came inside 10 feet.
BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (STUCKEY)
RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (MONROE)