–G Brandon Knight (6-3, Kentucky, first round, No. 8) gives the Pistons an unexpected alternative to Rodney Stuckey as their starting point guard. He breaks defenses down with penetration, shoots well and defends tenaciously but must prove himself as a distributor who can make teammates better. He averaged just one more assist (4.2) than turnover (3.2) per game in his only year with the Wildcats.
–F Kyle Singler (6-8, Duke, second round, No. 33) makes up for his lack of athleticism with refined offensive skills, toughness and a high basketball IQ. He’s got a good chance to jump into the rotation as a backup small forward, though he could play some power forward.
–F Vernon Macklin (6-10, Florida, second round, No. 52) held his own in a workout against lottery picks Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo and Markieff Morris. He’s mainly a defender with shot-blocking ability but showed an improved offensive game in his senior year.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Rookie center Greg Monroe rose above the mayhem created by his teammates and showed steady improvement throughout the season. He had more double-doubles (21) than the rest of the teammates combined and never seemed to hit the rookie wall. The coaching staff ran very few plays for him but he scored off cuts to the basket, offensive rebounds and crafty post moves that he developed to prevent his shots from being blocked. Monroe, who led the team in rebounds and steals, will become even more potent if the offense runs through him at times because he has the passing skills to make plays for his teammates.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Ben Gordon’s woes in his first season with the Pistons could be blamed on an ankle injury that necessitated offseason surgery. Gordon was healthy this season but the player who lit up Boston for Chicago in the 2009 playoffs was still nowhere to be found. He never got into a consistent offensive groove, whether he started or came off the bench, and completely fizzled as the season wound down. Gordon, who has three years left on his contract, has never been comfortable battling for minutes. Thus, there’s two completely different approaches they can take with him: They can either anoint him the starting shooting guard and let him play 30-35 minutes consistently or they cut their losses and trade him to a team that’s willing to give him a fresh start.
The Pistons became a dominant club in the past decade when they signed Chauncey Billups as their starting point guard in 2002. Nine seasons later, the Pistons desperately need a leader on the floor and in the locker room. They must acquire that player through a trade or the draft. The frontcourt needs to be fortified with a defensive stopper and shot blocker — free agent Tyson Chandler, whom the Pistons tried to acquire last offseason, would be an ideal fit.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
F Tayshaun Prince, who has played all of his nine seasons with Detroit, will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time. The club has expressed some interest in re-signing him, but it’s more likely he will leave with Austin Daye waiting in the wings at small forward. G Tracy McGrady and C Chris Wilcox are also unrestricted and it’s unlikely a rebuilding team like the Pistons would re-sign either veteran. G Rodney Stuckey becomes a restricted free agent, and his behavior issues may convince the club to let him go if he gets a big offer. More likely, Stuckey will return as Brandon Knight’s backcourt partner. F Jonas Jerebko is also restricted. He missed the season with an Achilles tendon injury, but the front office loves his attitude and work ethic. It’s a near certainty he’ll return. F DaJuan Summers, also unrestricted, did not receive a qualifying offer from the club and is highly unlikely to return.
–G Will Bynum is unlikely to see his role change despite the addition of Brandon Knight. When the Pistons gave Bynum a 3-year contract prior to last season, they viewed him as a sparkplug off the bench, a smaller point guard who could break down defenses and create for himself and others. Former head coach John Kuester’s indecisiveness led to wild swings in Bynum’s playing time, but the front office still regards Bynum as their No. 2 point guard. He’ll back up Knight once Knight settles in, with former starter Rodney Stuckey either moving to shooting guard or another team. The Pistons did not draft Knight with the idea of having him or Stuckey come off the bench.
–F DaJuan Summers did not receive a qualifying offer from the club and thus will head into the market as an unrestricted free agent. Summers, a small forward, only appeared in 66 games during his two seasons with Detroit. He’s an above-average three-point shooter but was buried in the depth chart behind Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and Austin Daye last season. By drafting Kyle Singler in the second round, the Pistons signaled that they had no plans to make Summers a rotation player in the future.
–F Vernon Macklin played four years of college ball at high-profile schools, but he really caught the Pistons’ attention during a workout. Macklin, drafted in the second round with the No. 52 overall pick, competed in a workout against lottery picks Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo and Markieff Morris and did not look out of place.
“He was a warrior during the workout — strong, defended well, scored in the low post,” president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said of the 6-10 power forward, who played two seasons apiece at Georgetown and Florida. “He’s a guy that fits Detroit basketball. We like tough, hard-nosed guys.”
–F Jonas Jerebko (partial Achilles’ tendon tear) missed the entire season, but he was close to 100 percent by the end of it. He will be able to participate in summer league action.
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