Team President and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy has been busy this offseason, retooling the Detroit Pistons roster to make a run at the playoffs during the 2015-16 season. The Pistons’ revitalized frontcourt is giving fans a lot to look forward to.
The Pistons had a hole to fill when they decided to let Greg Monroe walk in free agency, although the writing on the wall seemed to foreshadow this happening all season.
Van Gundy started off by drafting swingman Stanley Johnson out of Arizona with the 8th overall selection in the NBA Draft. Johnson comes into the league with an NBA-ready body at 6’5, 240 lbs. and a mountain of talent to work with. At Arizona, he showed he could be a stopper on the wings and score in a multitude of ways.
Johnson impressed during Summer League, posting impressive stats of 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, while shooting 57 percent from the field and over 40 percent from beyond the arc. He continued his stellar play during the Pistons’ first preseason game, leading the team with 26 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
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Johnson will be fighting for minutes with another one of Detroit’s other offseason acquisitions, Marcus Morris. Morris was brought over in a trade with the Phoenix Suns that also netted veteran Danny Granger and shooting guard Reggie Bullock in exchange for a future draft pick. Morris fits perfectly into Van Gundy’s system filled with shooters spreading the floor. He is able to play both forward positions and score efficiently from both inside and beyond the arc.
It is unclear who will be the starter between Johnson and Morris, but it will probably break down to defense and team need. Johnson figures to be the better defender both initially and down the road, so it would not be surprising for him to become the starting small forward sooner rather than later. With the flashes of brilliance Johnson has shown on the offensive end thus far into his professional career, he isn’t giving Van Gundy much choice in the matter.
Also acquired via trade over the summer, stretch power forward Ersan Ilyasova joins the Pistons’ roster in exchange for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. Ilyasova is known as a three-point sharpshooter, with a career accuracy of 37 percent from the long line.
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After having a breakout season during the 2011-12 campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks, he was rewarded with a 5 year, $40 million dollar deal. Since signing the deal injuries have handcuffed his performance, not allowing him to play more than 60 games since 2013. If he can stay healthy this season, he figures to be a great floor spacer to spread the court and open up driving lanes for Reggie Jackson and give Andre Drummond room to operate in the paint.
Last but certainly not least, Andre Drummond comes into this year after another stellar season in the middle, averaging a double-double last season. The 22-year-old big man has been a consistent performer since entering the league, but has needed to improve his post game and free throw shooting. Drummond has been working on his game this offseason, showing off his new hook shot he developed during the preseason. Post moves aside, Drummond is one of the better pick-and-roll finishers in the league with a plethora of shooters to kick the ball out to.
For the Pistons to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they will need heavy contributions from their frontcourt.