As the Detroit Pistons’ season has played out, it has become obvious that many things previously thought to be simple regarding the team have played out to be much more complex. Their long-term identity is in question, as is the fit of some main pieces. After standing pat at the trade deadline, it’s likely that the decisions that need to be made about the team’s future will take place during the offseason.
One of these decisions will be deciding exactly who to shape the organization around. Any team hoping to contend needs a star, perhaps more than one if a championship is the goal. This star needs to be prolific in many areas of the game, capable of scoring in bunches and making his teammates better.
When looking at the Pistons, no player of this caliber jumps out. Detroit has an incredibly balanced lineup, with six players averaging double figures in scoring. However, nobody averages more than 17 points out of the bunch. Questions and concerns have arisen regarding virtually every starter and major piece, making it clear that despite an accumulation of talent, Detroit’s plan is far from fruition.
Drummond seems like the most worthy option, after all, the organization demonstrated their faith in the big man by inking him to a maximum extension last summer. The center has certainly shown star flashes, having multiple 20 point-20 rebound games to his credit as well as leading the league in rebounds per game in 2015-2016. That being said, Dre has virtually no offensive game outside of the restricted area - his post up game is frustratingly inefficient at just 0.72 points per possession. It’s tough to build around a player who lacks so much in the scoring department, even one considered elite in other facets of their game. Players like Drummond - think Hassan Whiteside or Rudy Gobert - are usually second or even third options for playoff teams.
The Pistons point guard has the highest single-season scoring average out of any Piston, having put up 18.8 points per game last season. He’s also had probably the worst season out of the candidates listed, first losing six weeks due to injury and then playing so poorly some clamored for backup Ish Smith to start in his place. Luckily, it looks like he’s turned a corner of late, averaging 14.4 points and 4.9 assists on 46.2/37.1/95.5 shooting splits in his last 10 games. When he’s on, Jackson plays at a near-All-Star level, working the pick and roll with Drummond to a T. When he’s off, he tends to dominate the ball at the expense of other teammates’ opportunities. His defense hasn’t been great, but it’s important to keep in mind he’s still recovering his quickness from his injury. With a full season to acclimate to his role, Jackson could be on track for a sharp improvement.
For someone with career averages of 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, it’s surprising to see that Harris is on his third team at age 24. Traded from the Magic for virtually nothing at last year’s trade deadline, Harris has excelled as a bench scorer this season, averaging 16.3 points on 48 percent shooting. At 6’9” and 235 pounds, he has the versatility to score from anywhere and in a variety of ways. His defense isn’t great, but it’s certainly passable. From an all-around perspective, Harris is the most skilled player on the team, and he just might play himself into a starring role.
The only player on this list not currently under long-term team control, KCP is up for a big-time payday this summer. It’s likely that the Pistons will need to shell out $20 million or more per year to retain the shooting guard, but that shouldn’t faze them. This season, Caldwell-Pope has turned into one of the league’s best up-and-coming 3-and-D perimeter players, upping his three-point percentage from 31 to almost 38 while maintaining stout defense. He isn’t the most skilled offensive player, but the Pistons haven’t ever relied on him as a main scoring option, and having just turned 24, there’s room to grow. Perhaps with a new commitment from the organization, his role will expand.
Some fun facts: Marcus Morris, along with Drummond, has the most starts on the team this year. He also plays the second most minutes, takes the third-most shots, and scores the third-most points. He’s a nice rotation player to be sure, especially when you consider his incredible $5 million-per-year contract, but he’ll never be one to build your team around. In the future, Morris could be a valuable fifth starter on a playoff team or a bench piece for a roster that needs a spark.
Apologies to Jon Leuer and Ish Smith, the former of which is averaging 11.6 points per game and the latter who has been responsible for giving the Pistons offense a huge boost. Both are valued assets but are incredibly unlikely to develop into a franchise centerpiece.
Clearly, the Pistons have a ton of talent. The question now becomes: can they afford to wait on a star to develop out of the bunch, or should they look outside their own talent base? The answer will not be simple nor easy.