Detroit Pistons Fantasy Basketball Season Preview

Perhaps the steadiest of franchises this offseason, Stan Van Gundy's squad is bringing back all of their starting five and added several rotation pieces. This team has several breakout candidates like Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson, but with so many young players that could be rotation pieces, minutes might become hard to come by. The best player on this team was and will be Andre Drummond, the young center who is determined to go down as the worst free throw shooter of all time. He will be a top 10 player for those that are punting FT% and be completely un-ownable for everyone else. You will not be able to win FT% with him on your team if he continues to shoot as he has for his career. He is a steal after pick 15 or 20 if you are punting free throw percentage, and in most leagues you can get him there.

Player Movement

Notable Ins Notable Outs
Boban Marjanovic San Antonio Spurs
Ish Smith Philadelphia 76ers
Jon Leuer Phoenix Suns
Jodie Meeks Orlando Magic
Anthony Tolliver Sacramento Kings

Detroit Pistons Depth Chart

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Reggie Jackson
Ish Smith
Lorenzo Brown
Ray McCallum
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Reggie Bullock
Darrun Hilliard
Marcus Morris
Stanley Johnson
Tobias Harris
Jon Leuer
Henry Ellenson
Andre Drummond
Aron Baynes
Boban Marjanovic

Rotation Player Projections

POS PLAYER USG MPG PTS REB AST STL BLK 3PM FG% FT% TO
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 18.2 32 12.6 3.2 1.6 1.2 0.2 1.3 42 81.1 1.2
C Andre Drummond 23.9 32 15.8 14.4 0.8 1.5 1.4 0 52.1 35.5 1.8
PF Tobias Harris 20.2 32 15.9 5.9 2.5 0.7 0.4 1.1 47.7 91.1 1.1
PG Reggie Jackson 29.1 32 19.6 3.3 6.5 0.7 0.1 1.6 43.4 86.4 2.9
SF Marcus Morris 18.4 32 12.6 4.5 2.2 0.7 0.3 1.3 43.4 74.9 1.6
SF Stanley Johnson 19.7 24 8.4 4.4 1.7 0.8 0.2 0.9 37.5 78.4 1.7
PG Ish Smith 22 18 7.2 2.4 3.2 0.7 0.2 0.4 40.9 66.9 1.2
PF Jon Leuer 19.9 16 7.3 4.8 0.9 0.5 0.3 0.5 48.1 76.2 0.9
C Aron Baynes 18.5 16 6.6 4.9 0.6 0.3 0.6 0 50.5 76.4 0.8
SG Reggie Bullock 11.5 6 1.7 0.9 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.3 43.9 93.3 0.1

Position Battles

Backup Center

Aron Baynes played really well last year as the backup to Andre Drummond. He played over 15 minutes per game with an 17.8 PER, which is well above average and pretty good for a backup center. Notably, he also shoots above average at the line, giving Detroit an option to go to in Hack-A-Dre situations. However, Boban Marjanovic finished with a 27.7 PER in over 500 minutes for the Spurs last year. To put that number in perspective, it would have been one of the top 70 seasons of all time (by PER) had 500 minutes qualified him (1500 min). ESPN's RPM ranked Aron as the 51st best center last year (-.99) and Boban as the 12th best (+2.60). Boban also shoots well at the charity stripe, providing relief from Drummond's 35% free throw percentage.

I don't think Boban would make a great starting center, his body just seems too big to withstand the beatings of over 30 minutes per night. But I also believe he is the best backup center in the league. His quickness, agility and deft ball handling skills defy perception at times from a 7'3" man weighing nearly 300 pounds. I only list this as a position battle because Detroit does not admit that Boban is the backup yet and conventional wisdom suggests Aron will get significant minutes next year. I think there is a real chance Aron Baynes falls out of the rotation and we see Detroit having the best center tandem in the league. 

 Stan Van Gundy loves playing with one center and 4 wings - and look for Boban and Drummond to play the vast majority of those center minutes, and be very productive while they do it.

Starting Small Forward

Last year, the Pistons did well and were able to bring back all of their starting five. Marcus Morris is a great piece for Detroit and is obviously well thought-of by Stan Van Gundy (over 35 MPG). He is a better basketball player (RPM +1.36) than he is a fantasy contributer (#128 last year by Basketball Monster), and he can't play more minutes than last year. While he does stand out as a player to target in roto leagues due to his all-around production, he couldn't crack the top 100 last year and will see a significant drop in his minutes.

Stanley Johnson did not have a great statistical rookie year, but he is very young and he will see his role grow in his sophomore effort. His percentages will improve and his reliability on defense will impress. Look for him to grab 5-10 of Marcus Morris' minutes throughout the season and eventually get the starting job.

Backup Shooting Guard

As long as neither one of Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard wins regular minutes as the backup shooting guard, neither will have value. It's hard to say which, if either, will get steady minutes but assuming KCP plays fewer minutes, one of them might have value. You could do worse than pick up one of these guys with the last pick in a deep league.

Decrease in Value

Marcus Morris

As Stanley Johnson increases his efficiency and earns more minutes, he will move both himself and Marcus Morris into being un-ownable in standard fantasy leagues. Neither is very impressive at anything, and without 35 minutes per game, Marcus won't be able to break the top 150. Stanley Johnson isn't a big contributor anywhere statistically and 

Player Summaries

Ish SmithOvervalued

This will be Smith's seventh year in the NBA and his eleventh team (if you count both of the Philly stints as new teams). Ish has career averages of around 10 assists and 18 points per 100 possessions with terrible percentages. Look for Ish to continue his career averages but with much lower minutes than he got in Philly. Smith is not in that same role now in Detroit. Smith will not be asked to be the primary scorer in most of the lineups he will play on, and the Pistons will rely on him to distribute. Ish will be a great assist guy you can find on your waiver wire or deep on your roster.

Andre DrummondUndervalued

As I mentioned in the summary above, Drummond is a black-and-white punting player: if you play him, you will lose FT%. In the right lineup, Drummond is a player that should finish in the top 10 in actual value. He makes a fantastic pickup if you can get him later than that because Drummond actually has upside - if he can fix his free throw shooting, he will increase his minutes, score more points, and not be fouled as aggressively, letting him finish with a higher percentage near the rim. At 60% from the line with high volume, Drummond will still tank your FT% while improving his overall fantasy game considerably.

Jon LeuerDeep League

As the primary backup at the 4 spot, Leuer will have just as much opportunity this year as last year with Phoenix, where he averaged 18.4 MPG. Leuer's game suits Stan Van Gundy's system really well and I expect him to excel in Detroit. He should be a good source of 3s and rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-PopeOvervalued

KCP is a good young piece for Motor City, but he is a better player than he is fantasy asset. I would expect his 3P% to rise back closer to what he shot in 2015 (34%) from last year (31%) but it won't affect his numbers significantly. I expect his counting stats to drop due to having better depth this year as a franchise, but overall his value should be pretty steady - just outside the top 100. His floor and ceiling are pretty close to each other for a young player due to the minutes he has put in in his short career.


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