Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 11:36 am  |  39 responses

Detroit Pistons Season Preview

Sheed. Chauncey. Flip. Can they fix what went wrong?

By Alan Paul

For the rest of our season previews, go here.

Every game of the last year’s Eastern Finals was televised in China. I thought this was good news for me, an ardent Pistons fans. Then I watched the games. What dreck. What an implosion. What a frustrating, disturbing, odd display of ineptitude at the worst moment. I can’t believe anyone was surprised by what transpired in the Finals because it was painfully obvious watching the Eastern Finals that the Cavs were just not that good. There’s nothing worse than a losing team saying the best team didn’t win but in this case, it seemed patently obvious. But what does that say about the team that tossed a series out the window? And, more to the point, what does it mean for this year?

Flip Saunders has coached the Pistons for two seasons and both have ended the same way, so it’s no surprise that the mulleted man is coming under fire and is a regular punchline amongst NBA fans. But I’m not quite ready to throw flip under the wheels. No Pistons coach has started a third season in 10 years, when Doug Collins did so; they’re not shy about making changes at the top, so Joe D’s confidence has to mean something. Further, a lot of attention was paid to Sheed losing it on court, supposedly because he and Flip were clashing. But I think it was more complicated than that.

It’s never a comforting to have your team’s fate riding on Sheed’s back, but he was an animal throughout the playoffs, until midway through those Conference Finals. It seemed to me that he finally grew frustrated and started tuning out – and that his frustration had less to do with the bench leader than the floor leader. That is, Chauncey Billups, who was downright awful. His horrendous play was baffling and alarming. Resigning him was a no-brainer, given his recent history and the available options, but his performance was enough to give any Pistons fan pause.

I also had a persistent, nagging feeling that Webber was somehow hurting the team, as much as he was helping. As strong as he was just after his signing – and he definitely played a huge role in the Pistons regular season success – he seemed to be slowing down big time in the Playoffs and clogging up the offensive flow. No way to prove it, but I had a sense that running much of the offense through the high post threw Chauncey off his game somewhat and it also seemed to tame Rip too much.

With Cwebb gone, there would appear to be a big hole in the Pistons frontcourt, but Jason Maxiell was showing every sign of developing into a major beast last year. Given consistent minutes – I’m guessing at 25 mpg – he should help revitalize the frontline. McDyess is hot and cold, but was at times the Pistons’ best frontcourt player last year. Having him start should work well. When he’s cold or slow, Maxiell should come off the bench to provide a spark. The team has to hope that Amir Johnson can do the same in his first full year in the League after dominating the D League off and on the last two years.

The backcourt/wing bench is looking much strengthened, with Jarvis Hayes an improvement over the frustrating Carlos Delfino. Hopefully Hayes will be able to fill it up off the bench, giving whippet Tay Prince some needed breathing time. He looked positively whupped in the Cavs series and that was before balling for the National team. He has become the Pistons’ indispensable cog so they need to keep him fresher. Rookie Rodney Stuckey looks ready to bring some heat right away; a playmaking, penetrating guard off the bench is always a good thing. Flip Murray has supposedly dropped the famous 15 pounds, as well. Aaron Afflalo is being groomed by Lindsey Hunter to fill the defensive stopper/energy guy off the bench role.

The Pistons are counting on a strange mix of their old guys holding up physically and otherwise and their young guys developing quickly. But I think they’ll pull it off. I’m feeling like the C’s aren’t quite going to be as good as anticipated – partly because of the thinness of their roster, mostly because I can’t bear the thought of all three major Boston sports teams being great at once. The Cavs are going to struggle to match last year’s success – they’re counting on too many marginal players to contribute significantly. I don’t see anyone else in the East who will be a major threat. So I’m penciling the Pistons in for another trip to the Finals, though with less confidence than I’ve felt in five years. And if they fall apart in the playoffs again, I’ll be leaping right onto that anti-Flip bandwagon.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Hi AP.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Celtics in 6.

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Nice, Alan. I’d never really thought about Chauncey having a bad series, but when I think about those games, i see what you mean. But I also think you’re correct in connect his poor play to that of Webber. The team seemed more at ease with McDyess in the line up, even though he didn’t want to start last season.
    Anyway, nice preview and I’m looking forward to watching Maxiell develop and seeing what the rooks will bring.

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    And by the way, the banwagon doesn’t have any room for one more, so you better hope Flip gets his team to the big dance. They’ll lose to the Spurs anyway, but at least that won’t be Flip’s fault. Or would it…

  • Phil B

    flip won’t ever get a team to the finals. i hate to say it, because i love the pistons, but flip cannot do it. they need someone else in there to coach. don’t waste the last productive years of sheed’s career.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    You don’t even MENTION the Bulls??? I can’t wait until they sweep the Pistons. Again. REMEMBER 1990!

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Uh, 1991. I’m a moron.

  • Jared

    how you not even gonna mention the piston’s most consistent player? Rip’s been holdin down that team since MJ threw him away…but good preview, they still got the power in the East

  • FLUD

    Nice writing there… I think they’ll be rockin’ again. They’re solid. Like a good fire. Burnin’ for ages. Joe Dumars is a smart man. I do get an “I’m gald he ain’t coachin’ my team in the crunch” feeling off Flip though. Terrible terrible hair. Like Tommy lee Jones.

  • http://myspace.com/2536545 Bryan

    I don’t think the Pistons have what it takes to get past the Celts or the Cavs honestly.I think it’s gonna be either Celts/Cavs or Celts/Bulls ECF…I think Chauncey is overrated a little bit I don’t know why it’s just the way I feel watching him play..I like a few of their pieces but not enough to beat those teams ..Sheed would be great if he stayed his ass in the post more but I doubt that will happen.They just need to throw it to him down there and force him to go to work.

  • Brian

    Please come back Pound for Pound. I wouldn’t care if he worked on his resume during the games.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    If the Cavs face the Pistons again this year, it might be a whole ‘nother story. Of course, if Varejao and Sasha don’t come back, the Cavs might not even make the playoffs. Play wit DAT.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    hello Alan! how’s China treating you? i feel like i should at least go visit beijing or something. the whole city must be busy as hell going into the stretch run for the olympic next year. gotta be fun.
    back to the pistons. they became one of my favorite teams to watch a couple years ago when they were playing menacing defense. most people hated the low scoring but i loved the way they smothered the opponents. and now? i’m not even sure what their identities are anymore. they still have some of the best team talents but i’m not sure what happened to their chemistry. it’s like they became the lakers after they beat them.
    with that said, the road to the Finals in the east still has to go through Detroit. so maybe they will get there after all?
    oh just to dig up some old wound, what if joe D, as great a GM as he is, drafted chris bosh instead of darko?

  • TADOne

    Good stuff, Alan. Being a diehard Pistons fan, I hope your optimism for this season comes true.

  • Slim

    The photo for your article is hillarious. What do you guys think Chauncy and Sheed were thinking at that moment?

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    wow, so the cavs are riding on sideshow and sasha to the Finals? lebron better comes with his best season for realz. (although he was sleep walking practically the whole last regular season)
    btw, what’s happening to cwebb?

  • Dark

    Excellent review. Didn’t hear anything about this – where is CWebb? Or is he hurt?

  • Gumdrop

    Darko’s set to blow up in Memphis. And by blow up I mean continue to have a Kobe-esque sense of entitlement with a Lafrentz-esque game.

  • http://www.coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    The Pistons need a definitive go to guy to get them a bucket when they desperately need one.

  • http://myspace.com/2536545 Bryan

    If the Cavs don’t make the plays Lebron is as good as gone.

  • http://www.sokofund.org/id20.html Adrian

    Good review. In saying that, I hate the Pistons. The only time I ever wanted them to win was when they played in the Finals vs the Lakers, who I hate even more.

  • Richie

    Did someone REALLY bring up the 1991 Bulls? Evidence from 16 years ago doesn’t really help the estimation that the bulls will sweep the Pistons this year. If you’re going to say that than you may as well say that the Pistons will wil the championship because they did it in 89, 90, and ’04. Terrible grounds for an argument.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I didn’t mean it for be grounds for an argument, I just wanted to bring it up. Thanks for your advice though, counselor.

  • http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/rdp/caasqp/caasqp.html Tarzan Cooper

    russ is a fu(king idiot. spurs over pistons in 6. repeat. season preview done.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    wow that was 16 years ago? i think i’m still living in the 90s in my mind.
    what a slow day here today. i suppose it’s a good thing for my boss?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I don’t actually think the Bulls would sweep the Pistons, although I do think they could beat them in a seven-game series. I’d pick a Finals matchup, but since Tarzan obviously knows everything I guess I won’t.

  • http://www.sokofund.org/id20.html Adrian

    I gather you won’t be watching the season then Tarzan?

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Dirge

    * It’s hard to play smothering defense with the changes made in the game. I miss it, too, but Stern (and most fans) wants a faster, above-the-rim or three point shooting game. I see the Pistons struggling to adapt from what was proven to work for them.

    * C Webb is a possibility for a mid-season signing, but the only news we’ve heard is on Webber’s interest, not the Piston’s. Despite Webber’s obvious talent, he really had nothing left for the playoffs, and he’s merely a good bench piece. I would put some merit in the arguments that he hindered Billups and Rip with his high post game. Whatever the truth, the team looked more comfortable with McDyess out there.

    * The young players are an improvement over the bench they’ve had in the past few years. I suspect they’ll struggle a bit more in the first half of the season, but I’m really encouraged by the moves Dumar’s made. I won’t break down the list of reserves, but I think it’s pretty easy to conclude the Pistons have an improved bench.

    * There is no way to promise a championship. I’m content when teams improve without sacrificing their future. What would the Cav’s be without a lucky #1 draft pick? What would the Piston’s be like if they had taken Bosh? Yup, it’s all conjecture, but it’s nice to see Dumar’s making good choices. Did he really err with Darko or Nazr? I don’t see it. Nazr was the best he could do with a bad situation. Darko was a risk nearly every GM in Dumar’s shoes would have made at the same time.

  • Brian

    Chauncey and DET are a good match. They are both living off of their ’04 clippings.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    Dirge, you are on point for all except the last: detroit had the SECOND pick of a loaded draft, any other GM would have taken some random frosh who just won a national championship with syracuse. and this is not a case of “hindsight is always 20/20″, we knew this woulda been the case back then. can we just blame chad ford?

  • http://backcourtink.blogspot.com bootlace

    Before the Cavs series, Detroit looked like the best team on the planet. Totally destroying a perhaps rather weak Orlando team but then breaking apart the Bulls so efficiently that the Bulls, having just swept the Champs and finally rid themselves of that ‘Baby Bulls’ nickname, found themselves exactly where they started off. Altough like someone suggested, they dont have the frontcourt presence to scare off teams anymore. RayRay will outplay Hamilton and show he’s UCONN’s number 1, KG will make Rasheed look like a bum off the street, and Pierce will pierce his way through the Prince.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good stuff, Alan. I love that you can live in China and write about the Pistons with so much insight. Next March I want to read your Pirates preview.

  • Alan Paul

    thanks guys. I’m posting now from the shanghai game between Cavs and Magic.. look for details ont hat tomorrow.

    I didn’t mention because he is so consistent.. should have given him some love.. he is the least of their worries.

    i don’t consider the Bulls a legit Eastern threat…could be proved wrong, just like 91.

  • Alan Paul

    By the way, it’s easy — and fun — to mock Chad ford but do you really think Joe Dumars made his pick after reading Insider? Chad was pumping up conventional wisdom at the time. the Bosh call is a good one and one I’ve been making all aong — Ben can back me on that. You can argue they didn’t need Melo or DW and would have knocked Tay out and never won a title — which is, after all, the goal. But not so Bosh. He would have been an awesome sixth man on two title teams and now stepping up big time.

  • tobin

    this year we will witness the the developement of Jason Maxiell, AKA Mad Max beyond silverdome.
    Joe dumars better not be scared to pull the trigger and replace a faultering flip with Bill Laimbeer. he heh

  • Bruce

    What I saw missing in those games was a true leader, someone who could liertally take the momentum away from Clevland and make the big plays needed to shake our guys out of the “oh here it comes again” fears / attitudes they had developed. These new guys are there to bring into the locker room and on the court an energy and fearlessness that the team hasn’t had in quite some time. Brown provided that for them 3 years ago but when he left he took that with him; we haven’t had it since. So these new guys are critical to the success of this if they fail so does the team because we saw that the starting 5 can’t pull it off without some significant contributions from the bench. Finally the thing I believe is most counted on by this bench is ENERGY & THE WILL TO WIN

  • DJG

    Russ Bengtson says…. “You don’t even MENTION the Bulls??? I can’t wait until they sweep the Pistons. Again. REMEMBER 1990!….”

    REALLY?? With Benedict Wallace’s karma (and contract) hanging over their heads, it’s gonna be a while. Bulls chances this season?? Celtics in 4. …in the second round at best. ….and Skiles is a DICK.

  • http://slam buddy

    For starters, let us PLEASE STOP THE DARKO TALK! It’s ad for my heart. Wade, Bosh, Melo, WHOEVER….and we are talking BIG-TIME DYNASTY! But it was Darko, and an “almost dynasty”, so let’s drop it because that is now very old (and always painful) news.

    As for this year, I am curious because there are soooooo many “what ifs”? Jason looks like the real deal. Not many guys can move that much body that fast or get up so high with so much mass. The key guy will be Amir and any of the bench guards.

    We all know what the starters will bring. If any two of the reserve guards can provide solid play (night after night) and Amir can step up on the Sheed “melt-down nights”, we are looking at Eastern Conf. Champs, UNLESS Boston proves to be as good as advertised.

    I think the Pistons will be too angry, hungry, and battle tested to stop! Come playoffs, they will play better D than Boston and mop up on the nights that Ray’s or Paul’s shot isn’t falling.

    The International play for Billups and Prince had to help repair the damaged egos they suffered from after Cleveland. So far the two of them look terrific and Rip and Sheed are what they are…..all-stars.

  • http://Jonandkateplus8 Kate Gosslins

    I want Richard Hamilton suspend for making my spurs lose and him going to the line when my timmy duncan was trying to shoot. IF YOU GUYS DO NOT SUSPEND HIM I WILL NEVER EVER ALLOW THOSE PISTONS FANS AT MY AT&T CENTER. I DO NOT WANT TO SEE THE PISTONS IN THE PLAYOFFS OR FINALS I DO NOT LIKE THEM THE DO NOT DISERVE TO GO TO THE PLAYOFFS OR FINALS thanks Kate