Cleat Geeks

5 Reasons for Detroit Pistons Fans to be Excited for the 2016-17 Season

Last season brought fans of the Detroit Pistons their first winning record since the Flip Saunders era, posting a 44-38 mark on their way to their first playoff appearance since 2009. After a first-round exit at the hands of the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers, Stan Van Gundy and company went to work and put together a team that should have Pistons fans looking forward to the upcoming season. A quick overview of transactions is as follows:

Gone are PF Anthony Tolliver (free agency), SG Jodie Meeks (trade with Orland0), and PG Spencer Dinwiddie (trade with Chicago).

In are PF Henry Ellenson, SG Michael Gbinije (both via draft), C Boban Marjanovic (3 yr/$21 million), PG Ish Smith (3 yr/$18 million), and PF/C Jon Leuer (4 yr/$42 million).

In light of these moves, as well as many and other various things, here are five reasons for fans to be excited for this Pistons team.

  1. Free agent upgrades. The early connection to Al Horford had many fans licking their chops and dreaming sweet dreams of Andre SmithLeuerPistonsDrummond and Horford anchoring what would be one of the best, if not the best frontcourt in the league. Instead, Van Gundy turned role players such as Ish Smith and Jon Leuer to add depth to an already solid team. Smith, while not a fantastic shooter (career 40.1% including 29.8% from beyond the arc), he was able to average 14.7 ppg and 7 apg on a Sixers team that was less than stellar. He will serve as an upgrade over the inefficient and aging Steve Blake. Leuer will serve as a poor man’s Ryan Anderson, meaning he will be the stretch 4 that Van Gundy has been looking for. He adds a solid outside shot (38.2% in 2015-16, 37.5% career) as well as some decent size to add another rebounding body on the second unit alongside Aron Baynes. The addition of Spurs backup and resident giant Boban Marjanovic, while seemingly unnecessary, is a move that is more precautionary than anything at this point in time. While he adds athleticism and a nice shot given his 7-foot-3 inch frame, he will sit behind Baynes, potentially preparing to step into a backup role next season, as many sources have Baynes opting out of his contract following this season. This will give Marjanovic a season to learn Van Gundy’s system and will allow him to comfortably step into an escalated role if/when the time comes.
  2. Drafting Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije. Ellenson will immediately add another rebounding body to supplement Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. The hope for him being an immediate impact stretch 4 is a bit of a pipe dream at this point, as he shot just under 29% from beyond the arc in college. But he adds overall solid shooting from the floor and will only continue to develop all aspects of his game under Van Gundy. Gbinije will, ideally, be what fans hoped for from Jodie Meeks: a second unit scorer 3-point shooter. The potential is there, as he averaged 17.5 ppg for a solid Syracuse squad last season while shooting a reliable 39.2% from 3. Pair these two with the Stanley Johnson on the second unit and there’s a lot of potential.

    AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

    AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

  3. A full season of Tobias Harris. Harris came over at the deadline, only costing the team Ersan Ilyasova and the expiring contract of Brandon Jennings. Once he arrived, the 24-year old swingman made the team better. He added athleticism along with reliable scoring and shooting to an already good team. Mainly paired with Marcus Morris in the starting five, he helped the team go 17-10 down the stretch, securing a playoff spot. If Harris was able to average 16.6 ppg while learning a new system over 27 games, the possibilities of what he’ll be able to do in 82 games as chemistry continues to grow with this group are frightening.
  4. Depth, depth, depth. Van Gundy didn’t make any huge splashes in free agency or the draft, but he got what this team needed: depth at every position. Leuer and Ellenson add depth behind Harris at the 4, with Leuer being able to step in at the 5 for Drummond, Baynes, or Boban. Stanley Johnson adds scoring depth and athleticism behind Morris and, in a pinch, can step in as a shooting guard for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. And we haven’t even mentioned the likes of Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard, who add shooting depth and flexibility. There are a lot of weapons on this team once you get past the starting five. And that gives them an edge that this team hasn’t seen since the Goin’ to Work teams of the 2000s. Speaking of the starting five…AndreDrummondNba
  5. A young starting lineup. You had to know that this was coming. This is possibly the brightest spot for this team. You look at this lineup and you see Reggie Jackson and Caldwell-Pope in the backcourt, followed by Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and regular double-double threat Andre Drummond up front. Look deeper and you’ll discover that Jackson and Morris are the oldest out of the group at age 26. Drummond is already an all-star and is arguably one of the best big men in the league. Improve his free throw shooting and you have an incredibly complete player. Caldwell-Pope is a defensive machine, though he could admittedly use some shooting consistency. Morris had more of an impact than expected, adding tough overall play to solid shooting and defense. Harris and Jackson have the potential to be all-stars and could both be ready for breakout seasons. This young core, all set to hit their prime at the same time, have the makings and skillsets to wreak havoc on the Eastern Conference as soon as this season, which is scary to think about. There is great reason to think that this team will be the one put the Pistons back on the basketball map. And when it happens, it will be with a bigger bang than anyone could ever expect.

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