STAND BY STAN
Since taking over as coach and president in May 2014, Stan Van Gundy has revamped his roster so quickly that Detroit's longest-tenured player is now center Andre Drummond, who graduated from high school in '11. While Van Gundy's busy summer featured a few gambles, he has at least succeeded in providing the franchise with something new: direction.
Van Gundy's first step, of course, was dismantling the failed jumbo frontline. While he had to pay Josh Smith $26 million to leave and got nothing for Greg Monroe, who signed with the Bucks, their exits set up Drummond, 22, as the unequivocal focal point on both ends of the floor.
Next, SVG found a point guard capable of running his spread pick-and-roll style. Although Reggie Jackson's track record is mediocre and he came at a high price, he does have the ability to create offense for himself and Drummond in the two-man game—a good start for a team that hasn't had an above-average attack since 2010--11. Finally, Van Gundy modernized the offense by targeting stretch forwards and emphasizing the long ball. Last season the Pistons launched 2,043 three-pointers, 463 more than their previous high. More willing shooters arrived this summer, including 6'10" Ersan Ilyasova and 6'7" Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick out of Arizona.
Detroit hasn't made the playoffs since 2009, which has led to changes throughout the organization. Van Gundy's Pistons still lack proven defenders and depth, but his wheeling and dealing hasn't been wasted motion.
A rival scout sizes up Detroit
Stan Van Gundy has totally overhauled the roster, but where has it gotten him? Andre Drummond is his only clear plus player. Reggie Jackson and Brandon Jennings are average or below-average. From a teambuilding perspective, you want better balance than having two of your top three guys be point guards.... In Orlando, Van Gundy won because he had talent and a unique system at the time. Now, he doesn't have much talent and a lot of teams are playing that same spread pick-and-roll system.... I understand why he didn't re-sign Greg Monroe, because of the fit with Drummond and both of them clogging the lane, but that's talent leaving that they can't afford to have leave.... Drummond's not a finished product by any means, but his potential gets every coach and GM excited. He's not this major all-around offensive threat, but the way he gets his points puts a lot of pressure on defenses: high-percentage looks that bend a defense toward the paint and away from shooters.... Jackson had some success spot-starting in Oklahoma City, so I can see what they were thinking [when they signed him to a five-year, $80 million deal]. The question is, Who starts? Jackson? Jennings, once he is back [from a torn Achilles, in December at the earliest]? Both of them? I don't think they can play them together. Neither of them are shooters, neither are great defenders.... Marcus Morris is underqualified to be a starting three. He's worse than his twin brother [Suns forward Markieff] in all the major ways, and he's stuck in between positions.
COACH STAN VAN GUNDY
(2nd season with Pistons)
2014--15 RECORD 32--50
(5th in Central)
PG REGGIE JACKSON
14.5 PPG; 6.0 APG; 43.4 FG%; 29.9 3FG%
SG KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE
12.7 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 40.1 FG%; 34.5 3FG%
SF MARCUS MORRIS*
10.4 PPG; 4.8 RPG; 43.4 FG%; 35.8 3FG%
PF ERSAN ILYASOVA*
11.5 PPG; 4.8 RPG; 47.2 FG%; 38.9 3FG%
C ANDRE DRUMMOND
13.8 PPG; 13.5 RPG; 1.9 BPG; 51.4 FG%
PG BRANDON JENNINGS
15.4 PPG; 6.6 APG; 40.1 FG%; 36.0 3FG%
SG JODIE MEEKS
11.1 PPG; 1.3 APG; 41.6 FG%; 34.9 3FG%
PF ANTHONY TOLLIVER
6.3 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 41.0 FG%; 36.6 3FG%
Offensive rebounds per 100 possessions for Andre Drummond last season. Only one player in NBA history has averaged more: Jayson Williams of the New Jersey Nets, who did it twice (1995--96 and '97--98).
ANDREW BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES