Detroit pistons 2015 2016

Detroit pistons 2015 2016 DEFAULT

Were the 2016 Detroit Pistons underachievers?

The 2015-16 Detroit Pistons barely made the NBA playoffs and then got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Looking at how well many of those players have done in the playoffs, maybe they should have done better?

Back in April, 2016, Detroit Pistons fans were just thrilled to again be part of the NBA playoffs. It had been seven long years since the team had even made the post-season.

For a franchise used to competing for championships on a regular basis since the late 1980s, it had been a long-suffering time for fans.

But it appeared coach/GM Stan Van Gundy had Detroit on the right track. The Pistons finished with a 44-38 record for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, only a game behind No. 7 Indiana (the difference  between 7 and 8 would loom large in the playoffs).

The 2016 Pistons suffered the same fate as their last playoff team in 2009, getting swept in four straight by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers team.

But Detroit was competitive in the series against the eventual NBA-champions, every loss was by 10 points or less except Game 2. None of the starters were older than 26, so it looked like the beginning of another good era of success for the Pistons.

(Note: No. 7 Indiana took the Dwane Casey-coached No. 2 Toronto to seven games in the first round.)

Of course, everyone knows what happened after that series loss to the Cavs: Nothing.

The Pistons only other playoff appearance since then was getting swept in four games by Milwaukee in 2019. Detroit is currently in yet another rebuilding phase, although this one looks promising .

Should the 2016 Detroit Pistons have done better?

However, looking at the 2021 NBA playoffs (and last year’s summer Bubble playoffs as well), a lot of 2016 Pistons helped their new teams go really far in the playoffs.

Let us look first at how the 2016 starters for Detroit have done:

  • Marcus Morris: The leading scorer for Detroit against the Cavs. A starter for the Clippers, as they won the first round over Dallas and could knock off No. 1 Utah in the second. Also started for 2018 Celtics team that reached Eastern Conference finals.
  • Andre Drummond: The NBA’s leading rebounder in 2016. Hailed as the saviour for the Los Angeles Lakers when he arrived in March. Drummond put up good stats in the playoffs (9.0 points, 11 rebounds in just 21 minutes a game) but Lakers still lost to Phoenix in first round.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: A starter on Lakers’ 2020 NBA championship team. Struggled in Phoenix series this year.
  • Tobias Harris: Helped 76ers to No. 1 seed in East this year and should have made the All-Star team. He has been scorching hot in the playoffs, averaging 23.2 points (not counting Wednesday night’s game). If Ben Simmons could make a foul shot, the Sixers would probably already be in the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Reggie Jackson: Has come up big for the Clippers in the playoffs, particularly early on when the offense was sputtering. Averaging 15.2 points in post-season, including a great 44.2% shooting percentage on threes. Also was on Oklahoma City team that made Western finals in 2014.

Among the subs for Detroit in that series were Reggie Bullock, who helped turn the Knicks around this season and gave them some offense in the playoffs (although not enough) and center Aron Baynes, who started for Boston when they reached the Eastern finals in 2018.

So there are, obviously, a lot of guys who had a lot of success, even five years later, since that playoff series with Cleveland.

The question must be asked:

Did that team underachieve? Should they have been better than eighth in the East and, if they had been, how far could they have gone? If guys are helping other teams win titles, couldn’t they have at least won a playoff round in 2016?

The quick answer is: No

Van Gundy ran it back in 2016-17 with the same starting lineup, albeit a bit weaker bench (Jon Leuer and Ish Smith top subs), and the Pistons went 37-45 and missed the playoffs.

These were all good players, obviously, but none, except for Drummond  have made an All-Star team. They had no ‘go-to’ player to lift them in tough situations.

Yes, the 2004 NBA champion ‘Goin’ to Work’ team had no offensive superstars either. But they did have a future Hall of Famer at center in Ben Wallace and a lot of really, good players. They also played absolutely ferocious defense, making up for the lack of scoring punch.

Given the right matchup, the 2016 Pistons could certainly have made the next round of the playoffs. But that was their ceiling.

Still it is a bit frustrating seeing former Pistons players help a team go deep in the playoffs, when their Detroit teams did nothing.

Tom GoresOwner, Principal Owner2011-2012N/AArn TellemVice Chairman2015-2016N/ADennis MannionChief Executive Officer2011-2012N/ARichard HaddadGeneral Counsel, VP2012-2013N/AJerry HendonDirector of Team Security2010-2011N/ABob BeyerAssistant Coach2014-2015Assistant Coach (Charlotte Hornets, 2013 to 2014)Brendan MaloneAssistant Coach2014-2015Assistant Coach (Sacramento Kings, 2013 to 2014)Charles KlaskAssistant Coach2014-2015Assistant Coach (Brooklyn Nets, 2013 to 2014)Malik AllenAssistant Coach2014-2015N/ATim HardawayAssistant Coach2014-2015N/AStan Van GundyHead Coach, President of Basketball Operations2014-2015Assistant to the President (Detroit Pistons, 2012 to 2014)Jeff BowerGeneral Manager2014-2015Head Coach (Marist, 2013 to 2014)Brian WrightAssistant General Manager2014-2015Director of College Scouting (Orlando Magic, 2013 to 2014)Jeff NixAssistant General Manager2014-2015Director of Scouting (New York Knicks, 2005 to 2007)Ken CatanellaAssistant General Manager2014-2015Director of Basketball Operations (Detroit Pistons, 2011 to 2014)Mike AbdenourDirector of Team Operations2014-2015Head Athletic Trainer (Detroit Pistons, 1975 to 2014)Andrew LoomisExecutive Director of Basketball Operations2014-2015Assistant General Manager (Santa Cruz Warriors, 2012 to 2014)Ryan WintersVideo Coordinator2009-2010Assistant Video Coordinator (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2008 to 2009)Samson KayodeAssistant Video Coordinator2014-2015N/AT.J. SaintAssistant Video Coordinator2014-2015Director of Basketball Operations (Butler, 2013 to 2014)Oronde TaliaferroScout2010-2011N/AAdam GlessnerScout2014-2015N/AAl WalkerPro Scout2014-2015Advance Scout (Orlando Magic, 2007 to 2012)Rob WerdannPro Scout2014-2015Head Coach (Mets de Guaynabo, 2012 to 2013)Tom BarrisePro Scout2014-2015Advance Scout (Chicago Bulls, 2012 to 2014)Daniele BaesiInternational Scout2014-2015N/ADoug AshCollege Scout2008-2009West Coast Scout (Detroit Pistons, 2004 to 2008)Durand WalkerCollege Scout2012-2013N/AMaury HanksCollege Scout2014-2015Scout (Toronto Raptors, 2012 to 2013)Art LuptowskiAdvance Scout2014-2015Head Coach (American International, 1999 to 2014)Pat GarrityDirector of Strategic Planning2014-2015N/AGreg CampbellChief Financial Officer, Executive VP2014-2015President of Business Operations (Memphis Grizzlies, 2008 to 2013)John CoumoundourosEquipment Manager2002-2003N/AQuentin RichardsonDirector of Player Development2014-2015N/AAnthony HarveyStrength and Conditioning Coach2014-2015Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach (Orlando Magic, 2012 to 2014)Jordan SabourinAssistant Strength and Conditioning Coach2013-2014N/AJon IshopDirector of Sports Medicine2014-2015Head Athletic Trainer (New Orleans Pelicans, 2010 to 2014)Dr. Ben PaolucciTeam Physician2013-2014N/ADr. Ben PaolucciTeam Physician2014-2015N/AJohn MasonPublic Address Announcer2003-2004N/A
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Player Salaries

Tobias Harris $16,000,000 $17,284,556
Reggie Jackson $13,913,044 $15,030,049
Aron Baynes $6,500,000 $7,021,851
Jodie Meeks $6,270,000 $6,773,385
Josh Smith $5,331,729 $5,759,785
Marcus Morris $5,000,000 $5,401,423
Andre Drummond $3,272,090 $3,534,789
Anthony Tolliver $3,000,000 $3,240,854
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope $2,891,760 $3,123,924
Stanley Johnson $2,841,960 $3,070,126
Joel Anthony $2,500,000 $2,700,711
Danny Granger $2,100,000 $2,268,598
Steve Blake $2,100,000 $2,268,598
Aaron Gray $1,356,146 $1,465,023
Cartier Martin $1,270,964 $1,373,003
Reggie Bullock $1,252,400 $1,352,948
Spencer Dinwiddie $845,059 $912,904
Darrun Hilliard $600,000 $648,170
Lorenzo Brown $111,444 $120,391
Justin Harper $99,418 $107,399

2015/16 Roster Counts: Detroit Pistons

During the offseason it’s OK for teams to carry as many as 20 players, but clubs must trim their rosters down to a maximum of 15 by opening night. In the meantime, some teams will hang around that 15-man line, while others will max out their roster counts. Some clubs may actually have more than 15 contracts that are at least partially guaranteed on the books. That means they’ll end up paying players who won’t be on the regular season roster, unless they can find trade partners.

With plenty more movement still to come, here’s the latest look at the Pistons’ roster size, the contract guarantee status of each player, and how each player came to be on Detroit’s roster.

(Last Updated 3-15-16, 2:35pm)

Fully Guaranteed (14)

  • Joel Anthony (C) — 6’9″/32 years old.
  • Aron Baynes (F/C) — 6’10″/28 years old. Free agent signing.
  • Steve Blake(G) — 6’3″/35 years old. Acquired via trade from Nets.
  • Reggie Bullock (G) — 6’7″/24 years old. Acquired via trade from Suns.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G) — 6’5″/22 years old. Drafted with No. 8 overall pick in 2013.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (G) — 6’6″/22 years old. Drafted with No. 38 overall pick in 2014.
  • Andre Drummond (C) — 6’11″/21 years old. Drafted with No. 9 overall pick in 2012.
  • Tobias Harris (F) — 6’9″/22 years old. Acquired via trade from Magic.
  • Darrun Hilliard (F) — 6’6″/22 years old. Drafted with No. 38 overall pick in 2015.
  • Reggie Jackson (G) — 6’3″/25 years old. Acquired via trade from Thunder.
  • Stanley Johnson (F) — 6’7″/19 years old. Drafted with No. 8 overall pick in 2015.
  • Jodie Meeks (G) — 6’4″/27 years old. Free agent signing.
  • Marcus Morris (F) — 6’9″/25 years old. Acquired via trade from Suns.
  • Anthony Tolliver (F) — 6’8″/30 years old. Acquired via trade with Suns.

10-Day Contracts (0)



2015 2016 pistons detroit

Detroit Pistons: Where are the Pistons’ 2016 playoff starters today?

The NBA playoffs are just around the corner, and for the second consecutive season, the Detroit Pistons have found themselves on the outside looking in. Since the 2009-2010 season, the Pistons have only made a playoff appearance in two of those 12 seasons.

During the 2015-2016 season, the Pistons made their first playoff appearance in seven years. Under head coach Stan Van Gundy, the team finished the regular season with a record of 44-38. They landed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and matched up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Detroit would be swept by the eventual NBA champions in four games. The Pistons fought hard and kept two of their four losses within five points.

The Pistons’ 2016 playoff starters were expected to be the team’s core going forward. Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and Andre Drummond were expected to have the Pistons in playoff contention for years to come, but five seasons later and none of the 2016 Pistons playoff starters remain on the roster.

All five players are set to participate in this year’s playoffs. Since this year’s team is not going to be watching the postseason from the couch this year, this is a great opportunity to see where these former Pistons’ careers have taken them.

Former Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 23: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks hits a game winning three point basket against Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Former Detroit Pistons, where are they now? Reggie Jackson

Jackson had the best season of his career in 15-16. The point guard led the team in points and assists with 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per contest, both career highs. the Boston College product came short in a bid for an All-Star selection during the regular season as well.

The point guard’s best playoff game against the Cavaliers came in game one in which he scored 17 points paired with seven assists. Jackson also shot 58.3 percent from the floor and sunk two of his four three-pointers that game as well. The point guard would have two games where he posted13 points and 12 assists in games three and four. Jackson would struggle from beyond the arc after that game as he shot just 16.7 percent from three throughout the series. Jackson finished the series averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 assists per game during the series, and he would finish it off by missing the game-winning shot in game four.

Unfortunately for Jackson, after having the best season of his career, he would be struck by the injury bug. Jackson could not recapture the same level of play he had managed during the 15-16 season. Ultimately Jackson would be bought out by the team in the last year of his contract during the 2019-2020 season.

Jackson found his new home with the Los Angeles Clippers where he would re-sign during the offseason. This season with the Clippers Jackson is averaging 10.7 points and 3.1 assists on 23.3 minutes per game. Jackson and the Clippers will match up against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round this year.

Next: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Detroit Pistons 2015-16 Observations

Detroit Pistons Complete 2016-17 Season Preview

Apr 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Brandon Jennings (55) guards against Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the second half of a basketball game at Amway Center. The Pistons won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

"I don't think we could have written the story any better," Reggie Jackson told reporters after he helped the Detroit Pistons clinch their first playoff berth since 2009 with a 13-point victory over the Washington Wizards. 

However, that story and the one about to begin have far different ideal endings. 

In 2015-16, the Pistons wanted desperately to end their prolonged playoff drought. They did so, and it couldn't have been too disappointing that their brief postseason adventure ended in a first-round sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the eventual champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

The 2016-17 campaign carries higher aspirations, even with Jackson beginning the season on the shelf with knee tendinitis. Though the star point guard is looking at a six-to-eight-week absence, per's Aaron McMann, this Detroit iteration can do more—competing for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference and even threatening to challenge the Cavs' postseason supremacy—if everyone progresses expeditiously. 

"What Cleveland did last year is a really good thing for our guys," head coach Stan Van Gundy explained at media day. "The way I look at it is, here's the team that won the championship. On one hand, we were able to play competitively with them. There's hope there. We're not light-years away."

Biggest Offseason Move

BROOKLYN, NY - OCTOBER 6:  Ish Smith #14 of the Detroit Pistons dribbles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets on October 6, 2016 at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The Pistons entered the offseason with a dire need for depth, and they acquired it with resounding success. Whether we're talking about the draft (Henry Ellenson at No. 18 and Michael Gbinije at No. 49) or the free-agency haul of Ish Smith, Boban Marjanovic and Jon Leuer, every addition made perfect sense for a team that likes to surround Andre Drummond with shooters and playmakers. 

Marjanovic, the hulking 7'3" center who thrived in his limited role with the San Antonio Spurs last year, is literally the biggest addition. But especially in the wake of Jackson's season-shortening injury, Smith will have the biggest impact. 

The 28-year-old broke out running the show for the Philadelphia 76ers during the previous campaign, averaging 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in a Sixers uniform while still keeping his turnovers in check. It's no coincidence that the struggling offense scored an additional 3.4 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, constantly driving and probing. 

Link to Media

Nevertheless, he was signed to be the Detroit backup, but he's suddenly being thrust back into a starting role.

Assuming the timetable for Jackson's return is accurate, Smith will need to play next to the starters for somewhere between 15 and 20 games, and the lack of depth behind him makes his job even more important. Barring a late-offseason trade or free-agency signing, Ray McCallum and Lorenzo Brown—neither of whom would play big minutes in a competitive team's rotation—will serve as his primary backups. 

The Pistons struggled immensely with Brandon Jennings, Steve Blake and Spencer Dinwiddie sharing time as the respective second- and third-string 1s in 2015-16, to the point that any new talent was going to become the biggest addition. But for unfortunate reasons, Smith's arrival is now even more important than previously imagined. 

Rotation Breakdown

AUBURN HILLS, MI - OCTOBER 10: Marcus Morris #13 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on October 10, 2016 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
NBA Photos/Getty Images

Until Stanley Johnson asserts himself as a consistent two-way presence, Marcus Morris should continue to start at small forward. There's no reason to change anything by pushing Morris to the 4 and Tobias Harris to the bench, especially since, per B/R Insights, the Pistons were 16-9 with Harris as a starter in 2015-16.

Prorate that to a full season, and you're looking at nearly 53 wins. 

Once Jackson is healthy, Detroit should circle back to the same five-man squad it used down the stretch last year. After all, showed that the quintet comprised of Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris and Drummond produced an offensive rating (112.9) that would've trailed only the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder in the season-long standings. 

As Harris grows even more comfortable in his new digs, that lineup should only become stronger. Barring a Johnson breakout, it's the backups who offer the potential for shifting rotations:

Detroit Pistons' Projected 2016-17 Rotation*
Reggie JacksonKentavious Caldwell-PopeMarcus MorrisTobias HarrisAndre Drummond
Ish SmithDarrun HilliardStanley JohnsonJon LeuerBoban Marjanovic
Ray McCallumMichael GbinijeReggie BullockHenry EllensonAron Baynes

No longer is the Detroit bench a glaring liability. 

According to, the Pistons handed fewer minutes to their second unit than any other team during 2015-16, and that led to a No. 30 finish in offensive efficiency and a No. 27 placement in its defensive counterpart.

But there are now legitimate backups at every position. Marjanovic looked like he could be a potential star during his limited run in San Antonio, Leuer has proved himself a convincing stretch 4 and Johnson is brimming over with upside as he enters his sophomore season.

Throw in Smith and Darrun Hilliard, who quietly shot 38 percent from downtown as a rookie and showed off a convincing ability to create his own looks, and you have a strong set of reinforcements. 

Reasons for Confidence

BROOKLYN, NY - OCTOBER 6:  Stanley Johnson #7 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets on October 6, 2016 at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Where to begin?

We could focus on the talent at the top, since a healthy Jackson and a continuously improving Drummond both serve as All-Star threats in the Eastern Conference. According to, the Pistons outscored the opposition by 3.8 points per 100 possessions when both were on the floor last year, which stacks up against the season-long figures of the Boston Celtics (3.2 net rating) and Atlanta Hawks (3.7).

We could also highlight the team's roster continuity across the top, which always aids NBA units. Ditto for the aforementioned additions of depth and the fact that the Pistons are now preparing for their third season operating in Van Gundy's four-out, one-in schemes. 

But the biggest reasons for confidence are the team's prior success and the overwhelming prevalence of young players still trending toward their respective peaks:

Marjanovic and Smith are the elder statesmen in Detroit's rotation, and we don't even know the full extent of what they can do. The former is only in his second NBA season, and the latter hasn't received a chance to run a competitive team since gaining so much confidence in his own abilities.

Stagnation is the worst-case scenario here (barring more injuries), and the Pistons are already operating at a playoff level. What happens if Caldwell-Pope finally becomes the shooter he was projected to be while playing for the Georgia Bulldogs? What if Johnson learns how to play offense and becomes a bona fide two-way stud? What if Drummond learns how to score in the post? 

These questions are all positive ones, revolving around new elements of the game that these players could add. 

Reasons for Concern

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 24:  Reggie Jackson #1 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on  April 24, 2016 at The Palace o
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The Jackson injury is obviously one reason for concern, but he should still play the majority of the season. Even while he's out, Smith is capable of replicating his style as long as he starts shooting instead of passing on his drives to the hoop—easier in Detroit's schemes than Philadelphia's.

A bigger issue could be the inconsistency of shooters who surround Drummond. Van Gundy's strategies are predicated upon an ability to draw defenders out to the perimeter, subsequently leaving arguably the NBA's best offensive rebounder alone in a one-on-one battle for the ensuing boards. But if his shooters don't scare the defense, the effects are mitigated. 

Let's look at the expected rotation members again (excluding the towers in the middle), this time analyzing their downtown success rates:

For perspective, the league average on triples was 35.4 percent last year—a mark only three current Detroit rotation members were able to push past. Sixty different qualified players were able to convert at a 36 percent clip or better while taking at least two attempts per game, and Morris is the Pistons' lone representative. 

That doesn't bode well for a team that relies on its perimeter exploits, since a lack of improvement would make it easier for the opposition to compress Drummond and dare Detroit to beat it from beyond the arc. There's reason to believe young shooters such as Caldwell-Pope and Jackson will trend upward, but that's far from guaranteed.

Player to Watch

Apr 24, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) takes a shot during the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj M
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There's little doubt Andre Drummond is already a fantastic basketball player, one capable of anchoring the middle and making Van Gundy's strategems operate as designed. 

Coming off an All-Star season in which he averaged 16.2 points and a league-best 14.8 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, there's no telling how much further he could rise. He already enters the year ranked No. 29 in Sports Illustrated's top-100 countdown, with Ben Golliver writing the following:

After years of below-average and disorganized defenses, the Pistons have been much better under Stan Van Gundy, with Drummond deserving credit for holding down the boards and covering up for some fairly weak-defending power forwards alongside of him. By the time Detroit got around to inking Drummond to a $130 million rookie contract extension this summer, the deal was hardly news. There just wasn’t anything to debate or discuss: He earned it.

But what makes Drummond the player to watch isn't just his status as the team's best individual—Jackson (No. 54) and Harris (No. 77) were the only others to make Sports Illustrated's rankings. He also has so much room for further growth in three distinct areas. 

Just imagine if Drummond learned how to shoot free throws after knocking down only 35.5 percent of his attempts on 7.2 attempts per game.

Given Detroit's offensive rating (106.1), and assuming neither and-ones nor three-point fouls exist, he effectively cost his squad approximately 1.26 points per contest—a significant number for a team that outscored the opposition by a mere 0.6 points per night. Even an increase to a 50 percent clip would be huge for Detroit, though it would take 53.1 percent to break even.

But should the big man remain a glaring liability at the stripe, he can improve two other important aspects of his game.

According to's SportVU data, Drummond allowed opponents to shoot 52.6 percent at the hoop, often chasing blocks or trying to jump passing lanes at the expense of contesting close-range shots in disciplined fashion. He was still a largely beneficial defender but was far removed from the Defensive Player of the Year race—a race he could suddenly enter with a better understanding of proper positioning. 

And showed that while post-ups accounted for 27.5 percent of his offense, he converted those attempts so poorly that he produced a meager 0.73 points per possession, leaving him in the 26.9 percentile.

The Pistons offense is set up so that he can get off those back-to-the-basket attempts without help defenders crashing down to double-team him, but that could change if he becomes more effective. And if that happens, it opens up a world of possibilities for his perimeter-dwelling teammates. 

Drummond is already quite valuable, but he's worth watching because he's still only tapped into a scant amount of his lofty potential. 


Apr 5, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) looks to get past Miami Heat guard Goran Tragic (center) during the first half of their Tuesday night game at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to see this team getting any worse, which means its 44-38 record in 2015-16 should serve as the baseline. The loss of Jackson for the season's opening salvo could curtail positive momentum, but these Pistons should be second-half stalwarts who push higher up the Eastern Conference hierarchy. 

Even last year, Detroit outscored opponents by 0.6 points per 100 possessions. It was one of 15 teams throughout the league with a positive net rating, and one of just seven in the East.

Again, that should be the minimum expectation. 

The Pistons enjoyed a strong offseason filled with minor moves that should combine to provide a substantial boost. They no longer have to hold their collective breath as Steve Blake and a weak bench attempts to avoid squandering leads. They have a full season of Harris to look forward to. They have a convincing second unit that can help keep the starters fresh, rather than force them to play exorbitant minutes during the middle of the grueling NBA calendar. 

They aren't quite ready to jump into the tier of true contenders, but when Jackson comes back, they could be knocking on the door.

Final Record: 47-35
Division Standing: 2nd
Playoff Berth: Yes
B/R League-Wide Power Rankings Prediction: Ninth

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from, or NBA Math.

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09. 


You will also be interested:

2015-16 Pistons Profile: Tobias Harris


AGE: 23


BECAME A PISTON: The Pistons traded Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic on Feb. 16, 2016 for Tobias Harris.

CAREER MILESTONES: Harris was a major recruiting win for Tennessee as a national top-10 prospect coming out of New York in 2010. After averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game in his freshman year, Harris declared for the 2011 NBA draft as an 18-year-old. He was selected 19th by Milwaukee in a draft-day trade and played in 42 games with nine starts as a Bucks rookie. He started 34 games for the Bucks in his second season, but Milwaukee – angling for a playoff push – dealt him to Orlando at the 2013 trade deadline for pending free agent J.J. Redick. Harris remained a part-time starter in Orlando until the 2014-15 season when he averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while spending time at both forward spots. A restricted free agent after that season, Harris re-signed with Orlando for a reported four years and $64 million. The Magic made a coaching change in the off-season, bringing in his first NBA coach, Scott Skiles. The Magic traded him to the Pistons at the 2016 trade deadline for two other former Skiles players with the Bucks, Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilysaova.

CAREER ARC: The same qualities that made Harris a five-star recruit out of high school make him, at 23, a player with considerable NBA upside. He’s the most athletic and skilled of the Pistons’ forwards with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. At 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, Harris allows his team tremendous offensive flexibility for his ability to play either forward position to create mismatches. He’s a strong finisher at the rim with either hand and has a sophisticated mid-range game. His biggest challenge defensively comes when he’s guarding more conventional power forwards comfortable in post-up situations. Harris is a career .325 shooter from the 3-point line, but his trend line is heading up. He shot a career-best .364 from the arc for Orlando in 2014-15, then connected at a .375 clip in 27 games for the Pistons after coming from the Magic. Harris’ shooting touch is confirmed by his 80 percent career mark from the free-throw line; he hit at a .911 clip for the Pistons.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: It didn’t take Harris long to settle in with the Pistons. In his first game – with only one practice under his belt – Harris came off the bench to hit 9 of 12 shots and score 21 points at Washington. In his first start, Harris had 14 points, three assists and three steals as the Pistons registered what was arguably their biggest win of the season at Cleveland to snap a five-game losing streak and propel them to a 17-8 finish, snapping a six-season playoff drought to finish 44-38. Harris was a model of consistency with the Pistons, scoring 15 points or better in 17 of his 27 games and only twice failing to reach double figures. In a big March win at Dallas, Harris finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He had double-doubles against Atlanta in both games in which the Pistons hosted the Hawks during a nine-game home stand late in the season.

2016-17 ROLE: The likely scenario is Harris maintains his role as starting power forward opposite Marcus Morris. But Stan Van Gundy has said one of the priorities of the off-season will be to acquire a bigger power forward. Depending on the caliber of that player, it’s conceivable the Pistons could have a new starting power forward with Harris splitting time at both positions or moving to small forward and having Marcus Morris back up at both spots. In any case, Harris’ versatility will serve the Pistons well and allow Van Gundy the flexibility to fit him in where it best suits the team. Van Gundy used Harris in pick-and-roll situations, as both ballhandler and screener, and likely will expand its use going forward to ease some of the playmaking burden on point guard Reggie Jackson.

CONTRACT STATUS: Harris has three years remaining on the contract he signed in July 2015 with Orlando.


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