Last year the Detroit Pistons disappointed, largely due to injuries and a serious lack of depth. The team was in contention for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, but they were unable to make the playoffs.
Fans of the team should be hopeful this season, as the Eastern Conference has taken a step back in terms of competitive teams. A week into the new season and the Pistons have played three games, each of which were competitive. They were able to win two of the games, and if not for some questionable calls in Washington they could be undefeated.
Let’s look at three storylines to follow for the rest of the Pistons season.
Offseason acquisitions bolster bench
Last season’s team relied too heavily on the likes of Darrun Hilliard and Beno Udrih. Not to mention injuries thrust solid backup players like Ish Smith into the starting rotation. But the new acquisitions made this offseason have all got some playing time and have already had some big moments.
Combo guard Langston Galloway came out the gates firing on all cylinders. He scored 16 points on opening night, and helped propel the Pistons to victory against the Hornets, 102-90. Known as a three-and-D type, Galloway is four of seven from three-point land this year.
Luke Kennard didn’t receive playing time on opening night, but he did appear in the other two games, and showed a lot of composure with the ball. In a losing effort he dropped a season high 11 points against the Wizards. He scored in a variety of ways, including pull up jump shots, driving to the hoop and showing off his range. Kennard will have some rookie mistakes, but look for him to provide an offensive spark off the bench.
After leaving last year for the Sacramento Kings, Anthony Tolliver has returned to Motown and he helped provide a spark Saturday night against the Knicks. Kristaps Porzingis was tearing apart the Pistons defense, until Tolliver was inserted into the game. He used his physicality to throw off the Latvian forward, and also canned three triples. Tolliver’s presence helped turn around the game and the Pistons erased a 21-point deficit to win the game 111-107.
All of the aforementioned should provide crucial minutes for the Pistons throughout the season, and they all are capable of hitting long-distance shots, which is critical in Stan Van Gundy’s system.
Another player that was added this season that has appeared in two out of three games is center Eric Moreland. Moreland is an athletic big man that provides rim protection and rebounding.
Andre Drummond’s free throw stroke has improved
It’s an extremely small sample of three games, but Andre Drummond has shown great improvement at the charity stripe so far. He’s made all six of his free throw attempts, and the coaching staff even wanted him to go to the line after a technical foul. Ultimately, Stan Van Gundy had Tobias Harris take the free throw, but there is definitely a newfound confidence in Drummond’s stroke.
“He’s going to shoot free throws well and so I’m actually hoping somebody will start grabbing him now,” Van Gundy said in his postgame press conference.
Drummond has shot under 40 percent in his last three seasons with the team. I know he will miss a free throw eventually, but it appears Drummond will at least shoot over 50 percent from the line this ye
ar, and that might be low balling him a bit. Drummond’s improvement at the line will make the Pistons much more dangerous on the offensive end.
Reggie Jackson needs to be the man come crunch time
When the Pistons made the playoffs two years ago Reggie Jackson was the go-to man in the clutch. Down the stretch of games Jackson had all the answers that year, and led the league in clutch time scoring. If the Pistons are going to vault into the playoffs this year they will need Jackson to make those same plays.
Jackson did come through against the Knicks. With 1:41 remaining in the game Jackson hit an and-one floater to put the Pistons up three. Then he hit four free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
While Tobias Harris deserves to get some opportunities down the stretch of the game, Jackson is still the best iso player the Pistons have. He also runs the pick-and-roll efficiently as well. Whether he’s looking to get his own bucket or find an open man, Jackson is the best option when the game is on the line.