What Key Factors Will Lead The Pistons To The Playoffs This Season?
With the off-season coming to a close, it's now time to look forward to the upcoming season. Many would argue the off-season is more exciting than the 82 game schedule each team will endure. You can thank the Golden State Warriors' and Cleveland Cavaliers' recent dominance for that. Yet, there are many teams that will be fun, energetic, and surprising to many this upcoming season. One team that fits that mold is the Detroit Pistons. It's been somewhat of a slow offseason in Detroit, but the team has made significant under-the-radar moves.
The crucial decision they made was letting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk in free agency. This then allowed them to get a better shooting guard in Avery Bradley, from the Celtics. He will now join a backcourt with guard Reggie Jackson. The Pistons had to give up Marcus Morris in the trade with the Celtics, but will now allow them to give way to their younger players such as Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, and others. The Pistons also got a sniper of a shooter in Luke Kennard, from Duke, via the 12th selection in the NBA Draft. The signings of Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Bullock, and Langston Galloway wrapped up the rest of the moves Detroit made this summer.
Last season was undoubtedly a disappointment. Now, the team looks to bounce back this year with some fresh new faces on the roster. Playing in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons will look to contend for a playoff spot. I believe they will not only make the playoffs this season but also surprise many with the number of wins they register. Here are the key factors that could lead the Pistons to a playoff berth this year:
Reggie Jackson Stays Healthy For The Entire Season
Jackson, when healthy, is a guard who can score with the best of them. The problem is, he's been slowed down the past few seasons with knee injuries. With an off-season loaded with strength and flexibility training, it looks like Jackson will come back in 2017 fully healthy.
Last season wasn't good for Jackson, to say the least. The injury may have held him back, but his defense and efficiency will still need to improve this season, for the Pistons to be successful. I think he will do just that and bounce back in a big way.
The Pistons went 44-38 during Jackson's best season in 2015. During that year he averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. If Jackson can elevate his shooting percentage from low 40's to somewhere close to 47 percent, it would increase his value drastically. His best shooting season came back in 2012 when he shot 45.8 percent with Oklahoma City.
The guard position could become one with some depth for this team. They have Ish Smith and Langston Galloway as solid bench players. Look for Jackson to rebound in a big way this season.
Avery Bradley Has A Breakout Season
One of the more surprising moves this offseason was the Pistons emerging as Bradley's landing spot via trade from Boston. The move came out of nowhere and made the blow of losing Caldwell-Pope much easier to handle. Moving forward I expect Bradley will bring a hard-nosed defensive style to the Pistons. One can only hope this rubs off on the rest of the team.
Last season, the Pistons ranked 19th in overall defense, with a 105.3 rating. Bradley to me is a better defender than KCP was, and I believe the team can improve upon this area from last season. He's a two-time All-Defensive team member. Also, Bradley can score the ball and hit three point shots. A year ago, Bradley, averaged 16.3 points, on 46 percent shooting. This included his 39 percent shooting from three which will increase this season.
Bradley is a player who will bring intensity night in and night out. There's no denying that. I expect this to be the best season of his career, and to breakout for the Pistons. Look for him to average between 15-18 points per game, and continuously contribute for the team with things that don't show up in a box score. (hustle, loose balls, lock down defense).
Luke Kennard Provides Scoring Off The Bench
All successful teams in the NBA get meaningful contributions from their bench. This season, players such as Ish Smith, Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway, and Luke Kennard will provide a spark off the bench for the Pistons. We got a small glimpse of what Kennard can do during summer league. Last season at Duke, Kennard, showed his natural ability to score the basketball. He averaged 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 37 games for the Blue Devils.
His three point shot will help improve a Pistons team that shot 32.9 percent from down town last season. That was towards the bottom of the NBA. Kennard, who shot 43.8 percent from beyond the arc last season, will come off the bench and contribute as a key role player this year. Look for him to average somewhere between 12-15 points per game, with some high-scoring games when he catches fire.
The Eastern Conference
Last season, the Atlanta Hawks were the fifth seed in the East. With Paul Millsap and others long gone, they will head towards the bottom of the league. Indiana and Chicago are also headed for rebuilding seasons and were playoff teams last year. This checks three teams off the list that vied for the 5th-8th seeds last season. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers will improve, but will they stay fully healthy for a full season, and make a playoff push? Other teams that should push for the Eastern Conference playoffs are the Miami Heat, and Charlotte Hornets. This leaves the Pistons in great shape. Optimistically, Detroit could contend for as high as the 6th seed this coming year.
Chemistry for this team should be pretty good, as many familiar faces return, with a few new additions. Along with the three key factors, I mentioned in this article, the Pistons success will also ride on how Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris perform this season.
Drummond averaged 13.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, and over one block a game last season. Getting consistent play from him this season could go a long way. As for Harris, one of the best scorers on the team, he'll look to build off of last season. In all 82 games a year ago, he averaged 16.1 points, and 5.1 rebounds, while shooting 48 percent from the floor.
The Pistons will have many options offensively and will have multiple players scoring double-digits consistently. If Jackson and Harris have a bad night offensively, Bradley and Kennard can handle the scoring load, and vice versa. I look for this team to win between 44-48 games this season. Doing so would put them well within playoff range. It sure would be exciting to see the Pistons back in the playoffs.