2014-15 Detroit Pistons Preview

( - After a complete offseason overhaul of the front office, Stan Van Gundy is now the man for the Detroit Pistons.

Van Gundy was hired to replace Joe Dumars as the head of basketball operations and he will take over for John Loyer as head coach. Loyer, of course, assumed head-coaching duties for Maurice Cheeks, who was fired after 50 games of his first season at the helm.

"Stan is a proven winner in our league. He instills his teams with passion, purpose and toughness. He is a great teacher who will help our players grow and develop," said Pistons owner Tom Gores.

Van Gundy got to work. He spent money on his bench, bringing in Jodie Meeks, who will miss significant time with a back injury, Caron Butler, Cartier Martin and D.J. Augustin.

After all of that, Van Gundy had to figure out his frontline. Last season, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe comprised the starting group and the big-man experiment didn't work. At least not in the win-loss column as the Pistons were dreadful.

Playing that big drew plenty of criticism, but it's not like Van Gundy wanted to keep the same group. The Pistons would probably trade Smith in a heartbeat and made some calls, but the bigger potential move could have been made by doing nothing.

Monroe sat on the free agent market for months without anyone making an offer. He ultimately decided on a one-year offer which will make him an unrestricted free agent in the summer. (Of course, Monroe then got suspended the first two games of the season for driving while visibly impaired.)

Smith is exactly who he's always been - an athletic freak who can block shots, slash and shoot too many three-pointers.

Drummond gained valuable experience this summer as a member of Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. He's one of the league's brightest centers, but Van Gundy is a smart guy. He's acknowledged Drummond will start, but tinkered with the idea that Smith or Monroe might come off the bench.

"I think most coaches would tell you the same thing: As coaches, it's not really important to us who starts; we're trying to find the best rotation," Van Gundy said. "Unfortunately, it is very, very important to players. And so the way these things always get presented is that it's a competition for the starting job, and the five guys you pick are clearly the five guys you thought were the best.

"I just know that's never been the case anywhere I've coached. I've never started the guys who I thought were the five best guys because I think coaches look at it differently."

So, the band is back together, minus one significant piece. Actually, Chauncey Billups is more significant in the history of the Pistons, not really in the present. He didn't play much last season.

Also, Rodney Stuckey, who played his entire career with the Pistons, left for the Indiana Pacers in free agency.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, last year's first-round pick, hurt his knee in the preseason and Meeks has been hampered by back spasms. Meeks will likely be ready for the start of the season.

Brandon Jennings is in his second season with the Pistons and will man the point. The bench has certainly improved with its free-agent signings, but the 2014-15 Pistons' success hinges on the bigs.

Part of Detroit's problem is that Monroe and Smith are essentially one spot out of position. Smith is best served as a stretch four, while Monroe is a banging center. Drummond is just fine where he is.

Throw in a little scuttlebutt from Grantland's Zach Lowe that Monroe wanted Smith gone and the situation in Detroit is a little shaky, despite denials from Monroe.

"I've had discussions with my teammates. I told them that I wanted to reach out to Josh. Everybody knows what was (written). I didn't say that. I know I didn't say that," stated Monroe. "And if he needed me to reach out to him, I was willing to do that, because at the end of the day, I have to play with him. That's my teammate and that means something to me."

This is all Van Gundy's problem now. He's a capable man and he decided to take both hats as the front-office leader and the grunt in the trenches every day with the team.

Best of luck.

2013-14 Results: 29-53, 4th in Central; Missed playoffs.

ADDITIONS: HC Stan Van Gundy, G Jodie Meeks, G D.J. Augustin, F Cartier Martin, F Caron Butler, G Spencer Dinwiddie, C Aaron Gray


PG- Brandon Jennings SG- Kyle Singler SF- Josh Smith PF- Greg Monroe C- Andre Drummond

KEY RESERVES: F Caron Butler, G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G Jodie Meeks, G Will Bynum, F Cartier Martin, G D.J. Augustin, F Jonas Jerebko, F Luigi Datome, C Aaron Gray, G Spencer Dinwiddie

FRONTCOURT: Over the last three seasons, Monroe has averaged 15.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Consider this as well, Monroe has played in and started 229 of a possible 230 games.

His field-goal percentage is solid, his free-throw percentage is adequate and defensively, he's average. Monroe is a durable, solid professional mired in an awkward situation.

By signing his one-year offer, Monroe is banking on himself having a huge year before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer. It's a bold move and one that leads to possible questions all season, especially if there's anything to Lowe's report about friction between himself and Smith.

"The automatic assumption for most people is when you do something like this, you don't want to be somewhere, or you want to get out of here," Monroe said. "Especially with everything that was said this summer in the media, people assume that. But that's not the case."

Smith's production declined across the board with the exception of steals. Scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks, field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting all fell, some to scary-bad levels. His field-goal percentage was a career-low, his 6.8 rpg was his worst since his second season in the league and his scoring reached a five-year low.

Oh, and Smith attempted 3.4 3-point shots per game, which was a career-high and counterproductive to his maximum potential.

To say Smith didn't fit great in Auburn Hills last season would be an understatement.

Drummond was fantastic. He started 81 games and jumped his scoring average to 13.5 ppg from 7.9. He finished 10th in the league in blocked shots with 1.6 per game and second in rebounding (13.2), double-doubles (57) and field-goal percentage (62.3).

That's incredible production from a second-year man. Will he continue on the upward arc? Drummond gained great experience with the stars on Team USA and Van Gundy did a great job turning a green Dwight Howard to a monster in Orlando.

BACKCOURT: Jennings produced similarly in Detroit last season as his previous four campaigns with the Milwaukee Bucks. Most numbers slid a little, but his assists went up, so that's good for someone who hasn't always been a facilitate-first point guard. His 7.6 apg ranked sixth in the NBA last season.

Singler is a capable professional player who has started more than he came off the bench in his two seasons in the league. He's averaged a shade over 9.0 ppg in his career and can play both wing spots.

BENCH: This group improved and it needed to in order to replace Stuckey.

Prior to last season, Meeks had only one year where he averaged double figures in scoring. That was the infamous 10.5 ppg output of 2010-11 with the Philadelphia 76ers. Last season, Meeks averaged 15.7 ppg with the Los Angeles Lakers, so it's fair to wonder if that was just a product of Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system. Meeks can shoot. He owns a career 42 percent 3-point shooting number, but does little else of consequence. He will be gone a few months according to reports.

Butler still has something left in the tank. He's averaged double digits in points every season since 2003-04. Butler took over the starting job at shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder during last year's playoffs. He could become the starter if Meeks or Caldwell-Pope struggles.

Augustin was sensational for the Chicago Bulls last season. He's a proven scorer, although he did struggle a bit in trips to Toronto and Indiana before reaching the Windy City. If Van Gundy wanted to go small, he could play with Jennings in the backcourt.

Caldwell-Pope didn't show much his rookie year, but with a new coach, he could have a new start. A knee injury in the preseason will slow him some at the start of the campaign.

Bynum is also a proven commodity with the second unit. There is a lot of depth in the backcourt for the reserves.

Jerebko, Gray and Martin will serve as the primary backups for the big men. Perhaps, Van Gundy should really consider the idea of bringing Monroe or Smith off the bench.

COACHING: Van Gundy owns a 579-371 career record in the regular season and a 48-39 record in the postseason. He won four Southeast Division titles with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. He lost an NBA Finals with the Magic and probably should have gotten to another one had Pat Riley not made a power play to reclaim control in Miami. (To be fair, there has never been concrete evidence Riley forced him out, but that Van Gundy resigned.)

The knock on Van Gundy is he's tough on his players and has had rough relationships with some. He produces results and he did it with young big men.

Van Gundy will have a tall order ahead of him. He has to figure out a way to maximize the talent among the bigs and get something out of the shooting guard spot. Van Gundy will also have to improve a defense which finished 27th in opponents' scoring.

OUTLOOK: Van Gundy is a really good coach. He has a lot of work ahead of him trying to figure out the best way to use Smith, Drummond and Monroe together. He'll also have to avoid Monroe's contract being an issue and possibly smooth tensions between Smith and Monroe.

They are weak at shooting guard. They have decent depth at the guard spots, but no depth up front, unless Monroe or Smith is willing to sacrifice quite a bit.

One should have faith in Van Gundy. He's a winner and he's getting paid handsomely. However, this team will miss the playoffs once again. There's an outside shot of a seventh or eighth seed, but it's unlikely.