Pistons 14-15 Season Preview

Questions, statements and exclamations as the Pistons begin their 2014-15 Regular Season.

3 Questions…?

Question 1 – Can Josh Smith play within Stan Van Gundy’s system?

If yes, the Pistons will be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the eastern conference. If Smith is engaged on the defensive end he can elevate the team’s defensive efforts across the board. He may be relied upon to help Kyle Singler with his small forward matchups on certain nights, and he will likely be asked to go heads up on scoring forwards like Lamarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, but his help defense is what can put the Pistons’ D over the top. Smith and Andre Drummond will be asked to shade dribble penetrators and pack the paint, and they have the potential to be among the best rim-protecting tandems in the league. On offense, Smith’s role ideally will be a rebounding, clean-up type of forward who gets easy buckets off tip-ins, dump-offs and run-outs, and one who is asked to create for his teammates from the elbow. Smith will likely have less plays called for him than in years past which can often keep players from fully engaging on both ends, but if he buys into Van Gundy’s coaching, and puts up a bunch of lines like he did in the final preseason game against Philly (17 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block,) the Pistons will be rolling.

Question 2 – Can Brandon Jennings carry over his preseason play?

Despite a tweak to his Achilles that kept him out of the preseason finale against Philadelphia, Jennings had a terrific preseason. Take a look at his numbers in Atlanta, the final game of the Pistons’ 4-game road trip through the southeast: 16 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 turnover. If Jennings is going to post 11:1 assist to turnover ratio nights, Stan Van Gundy will be all smiles. And with DJ Augustin working off the bench on those off-shooting nights for Jennings, SVG has to feel good about his point guard spot right now. Jennings was actually playing some of the best ball of his career before Maurice Cheeks was fired last year, so let’s see what stability brings to Brandon’s game.

Question 3 – Can Greg Monroe block out all the noise and just ball?

For all the uncertainty surrounding Monroe’s offseason, it seems like he’s reenergized and reengaged playing for Stan Van Gundy. He’ll be suspended for the first 2 games of the season and there’s a good chance he’ll be coming off the bench, but he’s going to be used heavily in Van Gundy’s rotation. So much was made about having Monroe, Drummond and Smith on the floor together, and all three of them together may be a bit of big-man overkill, but something that keeps getting left out is the fact that they all have different skill sets. Monroe can beat up power forwards with his back to the basket, yet he’s faster than most centers. Smith can create from the high post, and Drummond is best on screen and rolls and getting deep position for easy buckets. With the three of them in interchangeable roles, Van Gundy can take advantage of nightly matchups and mismatches. The question with Monroe will be this: In a contract year, is he willing to make that sacrifice?

3 Statements.

Statement 1 – This team will be better defensively.

Drummond will take the next step, and he may’ve done so even without Stan Van Gundy. He’s been working hard on communicating more on the defensive end and being the team’s “anchor,” but that process began with the US Men’s National Team over the summer. Drummond came back with a renewed dedication to the defensive end, certainly spurred even more by his new head coach. Van Gundy will stress defense all season. If it isn’t better immediately, it will be by January.

Statement 2 – This team will be a top-10 rebounding team.

Regardless of how much Van Gundy utilizes the Big-3 system, the Pistons will dominate the glass on most nights. Even at the guard spots, Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rebound better than average, and with the bigs along the frontline, plus Jonas Jerebko, Joel Anthony and Caron Butler coming off the bench, the Pistons are big everywhere. Rebounding and giving turnovers away are two things on which Van Gundy focuses: No extra possessions allowed.

Statement 3 – Nobody will average more than 20 ppg.

Van Gundy has been most pleased with the ball movement throughout the preseason. It was on full display against the Sixers last Thursday at the Palace, with all five starters finishing with double digit point totals, plus 18 from Caron Butler off the bench. There really isn’t a “go-to” offensive option, and Van Gundy likes it that way. He said last week that the model put forth by the 2004 Pistons, no one star but a solid team across the roster, can work as long as there are “no holes.” Van Gundy spent the offseason shoring up those “holes,” and now he’ll look to have a team where someone can explode on any given night, but who that “someone’ is remains a question night to night.

3 Exclamations!

Exclamation 1 - KCP MIGHT EXPLODE!        

With 19 ppg in his first 2 preseason outings, a sprained MCL derailed Caldwell-Pope’s preseason campaign, but not before giving us a glimpse of what he could be when he returns. KCP’s regular season finale in Oklahoma City and his outstanding summer league performance may have teased what KCP had in store for his sophomore season, but under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy, he may be ready to prove he’s the perimeter threat on both ends that this team has needed for about 5 years.


Averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds a night at 20 years of age is quite impressive. Playing with Team USA all summer and winning a gold medal certainly helped too. But taking the leap on the defensive end will be what puts Dre over the top. If the Pistons win games and become a more solid defensive team then national eyes will fall on Andre, the heart of it all. He is going to rebound and score off those rebounds, but if he can up his blocks per game and anchor a top-ten defense, he’ll be an All-Star come February.


I realize the last 5 years have been difficult on Piston fans. Instability in the front office and on the floor has soured many fans who once worshipped the Bad Boys and the Going to Work Crew. But all the qualities shared by those two programs, Chuck’s fighters and Larry’s defensive stalwarts, are practiced and celebrated by Van Gundy foremost. It may take a little while as everyone settles in and gets comfortable, but sooner than later Piston fans will see a team on the floor that mirrors the people in the stands: gritty, tough and unafraid of hard work.


By Jake Chapman