A MODEST PROPOSAL...
COMMIT TO GLENN ROBINSON III
Detroit's outlook is bleak. New coach Dwane Casey will have his hands full trying to make the Blake Griffin--Andre Drummond pairing work, and Reggie Jackson's proclivity for scoring over distributing won't really help matters. It will be a high-wire act to make those three coexist in harmony. So the margins will matter—and that means filling out the lineup with the right pieces.
The most interesting position battle is Stanley Johnson vs. Glenn Robinson III at small forward. Johnson was a 2015 lottery pick for Detroit, while Robinson is on his fourth team since being drafted in the second round in 2014. (He spent last season with the Pacers.) Despite their disparate histories, right now Robinson is more impactful.
At the very least, Robinson provides better spacing. He's never shot a high volume from three (1.5 attempts per game last season), but he's a career 38.1% shooter from beyond the arc. Johnson, on the other hand, is a chucker from long distance (3.4 attempts per game last season) despite his 29.5% career average. Johnson has the edge on the defensive end, but Robinson's game is more likely to help unlock the Griffin-Drummond-Jackson trio's potential.
COACH DWANE CASEY
2017--18 RECORD: 39--43
PREDICTION: Lose 1st round
PG REGGIE JACKSON (97 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
SG REGGIE BULLOCK
SF STANLEY JOHNSON
C ANDRE DRUMMOND (46 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
PF BLAKE GRIFFIN (41 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
After being traded from the Clippers last January, the 6'10" Griffin became even more of a facilitator, averaging a team-high 6.2 assists as a Piston.
PG ISH SMITH
SF GLENN ROBINSON III [NEW ACQUISITION]
C ZAZA PACHULIA [NEW ACQUISITION]
(*) NEW ACQUISITION
(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP DETROIT
DETROIT HAS a lot of different pieces, and we're still waiting to see how do they all fit. Culturally, I think it'll be a lot better now that [former coach and president] Stan Van Gundy's gone. It's up to Dwane Casey to repair things.... REGGIE JACKSON is talented, but he has unrealistic expectations. I just don't think a guy like that can ever be part of a successful team. Putting him and Stan together was like putting kerosene on a fire. Will Reggie be O.K. with ANDRE DRUMMOND and BLAKE GRIFFIN being buddies? Will he be O.K. being the No. 3 option? ... They're not rebuilding, but they're trying to structure an offense around their guys. That will require a constant buy-in from everyone. Andre has to buy in and take basketball seriously. STANLEY JOHNSON needs to become a professional.... Blake's going to want to continue to stretch the floor more. With Drummond dominating the offensive glass, they could be pretty good together. I wouldn't rule them out of making the playoffs.... They took away the elephant in the room [by firing Van Gundy]. There was pressure on Stan and the front office, and now they don't have to make scary decisions just to try to get into the playoffs. If it doesn't work out this year, yes, it will be disappointing, but no one is losing their job. It's going to [lower] their blood pressure.... I know they like GLENN ROBINSON III, he's had some nice preseason moments. His talent in college was always obvious, and it was more a question of if they could pull it out of him. He could be a guy who blossoms a little later in his career.