On The Clock: No. 12, Pistons – Returning to the Playoffs

Detroit suffered the same fate as the Heat and Hornets did this past year – missing the playoffs following a successful 2016 campaign. Jeff Van Gundy’s squad took a major step back, stumbling out of the gates after many had pegged them as a break-out candidate. With a great young duo in Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond — and a competitive series between the Cavaliers in 2016, the Pistons were looked at as a rising squad that could compete in the East in the near future. Now just a year late, there are calls to blow up the roster. Jackson, Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have been rumored to be on the move. However, this is a bit of an overreaction to an off-year. The Pistons could really help themselves get back on track by adding a couple of pieces here and there.

One of the biggest issues that the Pistons could address in this draft is on the wing. Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris are power forwards in today’s NBA — even with Van Gundy’s propensity to pair one of these guys with Jon Leuer. Lineups including Harris/Morris with Leuer have decent-enough spacing, but they lack the versatility and playmaking skills to facilitate the offense. Caldwell-Pope isn’t much of a creator off the dribble (yet), and as good as Jackson is captaining pick-and-roll action, he can’t do it by himself. There’s only one traditional guard/wing from this draft would be better suited in the starting lineup: Luke Kennard.

Kennard has been flying up draft boards as of late due to his deadly outside shooting and scoring off the bounce. His projected defensive deficiencies would be slightly covered by Drummond’s rim protection and – if he’s still there – KCP’s versatility on that end. Having Kennard on the weak-side of Jackson/Drummond pick-and-roll will open up lanes for both of Detroit’s mainstays to operate, as opponents will have to stay at home on the shooters. The fit makes sense from an offensive standpoint, and as long as Kennard isn’t completely abysmal on defense it could work in the long-run.

Two other wings in that range are Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell and Indiana’s OG Anunoby. Both players are defensive specialists, with elite wingspans and athleticism. Mitchell makes a bit more sense for this Pistons team, as he could also potentially handle the ball from time to time as well. Anunoby shares many characteristics of recent Pistons’ lottery pick Stanley Johnson – hopefully with more offensive upside.

A dark horse candidate that could arise is yet another wing from the ACC, Justin Jackson. Jackson has few skills that every team – especially Van Gundy’s Pistons – covet. He’s positionally versatile, can shoot the three, handle the ball, play defense and is a high-IQ player. A KCP-Jackson-Harris/Morris trio can compete defensively and complement the stars in (Reggie) Jackson and Drummond.

Bolstering their front court could be an option, as the Pistons should have their pick from a crop that consists of Zach Collins, John Collins, Justin Patton, and Jarrett Allen (among others). But if Detroit intends on playing Van Gundy’s brand of basketball, platooning Harris, Morris, Leuer and even Johnson in the power forward role along with Drummond at the center spot should be more than enough. They have more issues that need to be addressed.

THE VERDICT: The Pistons could benefit from trading down here, as Justin Jackson should be available later in the first round.

Sources: YouTube