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Archive → August, 2013

Will Brandon Jennings be a better player with the Detroit Pistons?

Brandon Jennings played well at times during his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, and it’s fair to wonder whether he will perform better with the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons’ new point guard spoke about altering his game in an effort to better fit with his new team. Via Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk:

“You’re going to see a whole different player,” Jennings said. “…I definitely have to change my game.”

“The things that I was doing in Milwaukee, I won’t have to do here, take all the bad shots,” Jennings said. “Now, I can just actually be myself and be who I was five years ago when I was in high school, playing AAU basketball.”

That is an intriguing quote from Jennings. It suggests he had the latitude to operate in whichever manner suited him.

It is easy to mention Jennings lacked talent with his previous team, which could justify some of the horrendous decisions he made as the team’s lead guard. But, quite frankly, that’s a bit of a cop out. Attempting low-percentage shots late in the shot clock is one thing, but simply firing ill-advised jumpers with plenty of time left on the clock is practically self-sabotage.

For example look at this step-back jump shot Jennings attempted during the 2013 playoffs against the Miami Heat:

It would be difficult to argue such a poor decision came as a result need. That type of shot attempt offers very low rewards.

Before Pistons fans get into an uproar, Jennings attempted this kind of shot only once per game. It’s a terrible look, but not one that occurred with high frequency. According to MySynergySports, the point guard attempted 61 shots from downtown in  isolation situations last season.

Given his ineffectiveness in this setting, Milwaukee was fortunate that he kept those shots to a minimum. During the 2012-13 campaign, Jennings attempted 128 isolation shots and converted 28.5 percent of them, per Synergy.

Clearly, this was not his forte. He attempted a little under two such field goals per game. The conversion rate is terrible, but the amounts were minimal. As a reference point, Monta Ellis attempted 221 isolation shots and hit 38 percent of them whilst playing next to Jennings.

Jennings had two issues in 2012-13 that contributed to his shooting woes: excessive dribbling and an inability to convert shots at the rim.

When the offense breaks down, Jennings has a habit of endlessly dribbling the ball in an effort to set himself up for a shot. The problem with that is his predictability. He’s a big fan of the step-back jumper, and thus, defenders play him for it.

In addition, Jennings can blow by defenders with relative ease but struggles to finish against length at the hoop. According to NBA.com, the left-handed guard converted a mere 47.3 percent of his shots in the restricted area in 2012-13. For context, Chris Paul and Steve Nash both made over 60 percent of those same looks during the same season.

Furthermore, Jennings will avoid going all the way to the rim if he feels there is too much resistance in his path. Instead, he will pull up for a floater from inside the paint but outside the restricted area. The new Detroit floor general hit 34.8 percent of his shots from that part of the court in 2012-13.

Put it all together, and we have the makings of a sub-40 percent shooter from the field.

Had Joe Dumars simply stopped at this analysis, he would have been terrified at the idea of signing Jennings. However, he clearly dug deeper.

Since the 2010-11 campaign, the Bucks have been better statistically with their lefty on the bench according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. The difference lies in the team’s defense. They simply have not been as stout on that side of the ball with Jennings on the court.

Offensively, though, there has been some fluctuation from year-to-year. Part of that is Jennings’ shot selection, but the other part his overall decision-making.

Jennings is a good pick-and-roll player. Synergy Sports tells us he converted 39.8 percent of his treys in 2012-13 in those situations. Indeed, hitting 3-pointers off the dribble is a difficult proposition, but Jennings is very good in this setting, especially when rises up with balance.

His jumper is a constant threat in the pick-and-roll, which is why he forces defenses to account for him with both the guard defending the play and the big man. The second defender has to stay within proximity to make sure he does not get an open look but must also retreat just enough to remove driving lanes.

Jennings can deliver very good passes to open players under these conditions. He sees the floor well enough and can make passes under duress even with opponents clouding his passing lanes.

Look at the pass he delivers to Gustavo Ayon here:

Switch the players in the video and the recipient is perhaps Andre Drummond catching the ball from Jennings and turning the play into a highlight.

Indeed, when Jennings is not busy firing off-balance fade-away jumpers, he is a good setup man. The sporadic poor shot selection comes with some counterintuitive benefits though.

Defenders are well aware that the guard can be coaxed into taking some difficult shots. Mind you, it is still important to contest these attempts to ensure the end result is a miss. This is where Jennings plays cat and mouse with opponents.

He will trick defenders into thinking one of his off-balance shots is on its way by using a herky-jerky hesitation dribble after faking his patented step-back jumper.

His other magic trick involves coming off the pick-and-roll and driving towards the paint where he acts as if he is about to put up a floater or off-balance jumper. Once the second defender comes out to challenge the shot, he will find his big rolling to the basket.

He does this here with Larry Sanders:

This is where the Pistons are going to need their new acquisition. His playmaking will be essential in Detroit given the lack of floor spacing. Greg Monroe and Josh Smith should be able to complement each other while Drummond will thrive off catches near the rim for finishes.

This group of players will need someone to create lanes and passing angles for them and that will be Jennings’ job. He will be one of the few floor spacers in the starting rotation, and it will be important for him to play to his strengths.

Detroit needs him to be aggressive coming off screen-and-rolls to force secondary defenders to commit to him. Also, he will have to minimize his dribbles and attack rapidly instead of toying with his man and allowing the defense to load up on him.

Watch how he catches the ball here and explodes off the bounce for an easy layup:

This obviously will not happen with much regularity, but catching defenses asleep is a must for a team that rated as a bottom-third NBA offense in 2012-13.

Maurice Cheeks will be tasked with incorporating the skills of his new point guard with those of the team and that should be interesting. Jennings will be the floor general, but will not need to systematically orchestrate the offense.

He will get opportunities to play off the ball while Monroe and Smith act as facilitators. This means Jennings will get catch-and shoot opportunities as well as chances to attack rotating defenders.

There is no way to predict whether Jennings* will completely cut out the low-percentage shots from his game, but his comments certainly suggest that he will try. He should still see a fair amount of isolation shots and struggle a little on that front given that his skillset is not conducive for these types of field-goal attempts.

*By the way,my choices for Jennings’ nickname: B-Jen, Bran-Done, Bran-J, Bran-Jen, or my personal favorite, Jen Shots.

However, he should thrive in the pick-and-roll and even get a few easy looks at the rim after exhibiting his passing ability. The Pistons offense will be entertaining in 2013-14 and Jennings is certainly part of that.

More than just entertaining, though, the Pistons need Jennings to live up to the stated proposed changes in his game. If he does, he’ll be more efficient, and the Pistons will be on their way to the playoffs.

Pistons unveil Motor City alternate uniforms

The Pistons teased a new uniform yesterday, and today you can see it:

You can read my thoughts on the new uniform at ProBasketballTalk (hint).

Are the Pistons teasing a new alternate jersey?

The Pistons posted the photo above on their Facebook page with the message, “Hmmm … why does Moose have three #Pistons jerseys in his locker? Find out tomorrow! #MotorCity.”

So, I guess, stay tuned for tomorrow? Or we could wildly speculate:

Possible: the Pistons are getting an alternate jersey that appears to be either black or a darker blue. As Brady Fredericksen and Dan Feldman both wondered, how cool would that possible Pistons alternate be if there’s a lightning bolt on the front?

Remotely possible: Greg Monroe has earned a spot on Team USA . The color of that jersey looks strikingly similar to Team USA’s dark blue jerseys. That would definitely be great news, but the fact that the font of the number 10 appears to be the same font the Pistons use leads me to believe it’s probably not a Team USA jersey. Fingers crossed though.

Probably not possible: The Pistons picked the meanest albeit most clever way to announce a trade in NBA history.

Add your theories below.

Andre Drummond’s got a crush

Ananth Pandian at Hardwood Paroxysm:

With Drummond being twenty, it makes sense that he would have a crush on teen sitcom star, Jennette McCurdy, from Nickelodeon’s teen sitcom, Sam & Cat. McCurdy was also in another Nickelodeon show, iCarly, which Drummond must have grown up watching and now with his new fame, he began to reach out to her.

If you’re interested in the s’cute Instagrams and Tweets between McCurdy and Andre Drummond, Ananth has it covered in that HP post.

But as for reaction: isn’t that just ‘presh? Over the course of the Twitter Era, very few Pistons have come off being as endearing off the court as Drummond. Heck, most Pistons (sans Charlie Villanueva) barely even utilize social media for the “socializing” aspect anyway, but Drummond has found a way to — for lack of a better term — be a pretty normal teen.

Fans like to see guys on their team show that they aren’t just basketball-playing robots — they’re humans. The thing about Drummond that people sometimes forget is that he’s a kid. He just turned 20 this month. He dunks basketballs off trampolines. The guy can’t even legally buy this McCurdy girl a drink, and he didn’t even have a driver’s license until he arrived in Detroit last year.

Maybe that’s what has also kind of made the rest of the NBA blogosphere kind of fall in love with him, too.  He’s fun, he’s young and he’s massively talented. There’s no reason not to root for Drummond; he’s like a 6-foot-10, 270 pound puppy.

He’s a kid, and that’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten this season if he doesn’t explode into the superstar that some think he will be in 2013. But hey, power to him now — go make Nov. 17 in L.A. your day.

Jason Collins not a strong candidate for Pistons to sign

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

But two sources with knowledge of the Pistons’ plans told The News that Collins is not being seriously considered.

The Pistons are looking at several potential bigs to back up Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and they prefer one younger than Collins, 34, who is near the end of his career.

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

Pistons discuss contract with Jason Collins

Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources stressed to ESPN.com that, while no formal offer has been made, Detroit has opened a dialogue with Collins, who in late April became the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four traditional major sports leagues.

Leaguewide interest in the veteran center has nonetheless been somewhat tepid during the first six weeks of NBA free agency, sources said

The Pistons have 14 players under contract for next season, including just two who fit seamlessly at center: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Joe Dumars said the Pistons will seek to use its remaining roster spot on a big man, which makes a ton of sense. In most games, Drummond and Monroe can cover all 48 minutes between the two of them, but injuries, foul trouble and garbage time make a third center nearly a necessity.

That considered, the 7-foot, 255-pound Collins seems to be a decent fit. If Drummond and Monroe both get into foul trouble, that likely means they’re having difficulty guarding an opposing big man or two. In those situations, a defensive specialist like Collins would typically make a better replacement than an offensive-minded player.

However, Collins has been a replacement-level player most of the last several years, and he’ll turn 35 next season. He’s certainly not getting any better, which probably matters little to the win-now Pistons, but there’s a real concern he’s no longer roster-worthy at all.

Of course, none of these considerations explain why the Pistons are drawing national attention for negotiating with Collins.

Collins came out as gay last spring, becoming the first openly gay athlete in the four major sports who was at least quasi-active. The Wizards’ season had already ended at that point, but Collins’ step was courageous and monumental, and quibbling over whether he was then technically active misses the point.

Still, Collins playing in the league next year as an openly gay athlete would be another important step. Collins wearing a uniform on the benches of NBA arenas would be another important step. Collins sharing a locker room with other players would be another important step.

It would be an honor for the Pistons to play a prominent role in those historic events.

But they shouldn’t sign Collins for that reason, and I don’t think they would. Signing Collins for the publicity boost would be another, more devious, mistake, and again, I don’t think the Pistons would do that.

The Pistons should sign Collins only if they believe he’s the best player to fill their 15th roster spot, and as I wrote before, Collins might be out of the NBA next seasons for entirely basketball reasons.

I’m glad the Pistons are considering Collins, simply because he might be the best big man available. Personally, I doubt he is, but he’s at least a reasonable choice. There’s nobody else I’d say with certainty deserves the final roster spot over Collins, and I wouldn’t complain if they sign Collins.

But, in the end, the Pistons’ decision should be about basketball and nothing else. The rest will take care of itself.

Andre Drummond: NBA’s elite center of the present?

Andre Drummond might be the NBA’s most promising center or the league’s best center in five years, but how does he stack up for the upcoming season?

Bradford Doolittle of ESPN is projecting players for the 2013-14 season using his statistical system called ATH, and that rates Drummond as the NBA’s No. 2 center, behind only Dwight Howard:

Drummond was a monster in limited minutes last year and he was a monster during the Orlando Summer League. Obviously, the ATH system is highly enamored of his abilities. Much of his projected value stems from huge block and rebound rates. He’s also a standout in foul-drawing and steals, which makes him 4-for-4 in the categories ATH looks at as athletic markers. Like many a raw, athletic big man before him, Drummond’s weak spot is at the line, where he is forecast to hit just 37 percent of his free throws this season.

Drummond’s playing time projection also is murky. I’ve got him as the starting center on Detroit’s depth chart, with Greg Monroe moving over to the 4 and Josh Smith to the 3. If that alignment doesn’t work out because of spacing problems, new coach Maurice Cheeks will have some hard decisions to make.

I think it’s a bit early to project Drummond that high, though it’s certainly possible he ends the year No. 2. I don’t know all the ins and outs of ATH, but I wonder whether Drummond’s foul-drawing, used as indicator of his athleticism, is inflated due to the times teams intentionally foul him. That obviously doesn’t reflect on his athleticism, just his inability to make free throws.

Anyway, Doolittle has mostly projected players based on the position they played last year, so Greg Monroe also landed center. ATH has Monroe No. 6 in the league with a projected WARP (Wins Above Replacement) of 8.0:

We’re still trying to figure out what Monroe will be, and with Drummond ready to break out, this is the time to find out. Monroe’s WARP totals in three seasons thus far have been 6.6, 12.3 and 8.4 respectively. Last season, Monroe’s efficiency fell because of his lack of a consistent face-up shot and insistence on trying more of them. Over a third of Monroe’s attempts as a pro have come outside the vicinity of the rim, and he’s hit just 32 percent of those shots. He needs to become a midrange threat to fit with Drummond and take advantage of his solid passing skills. Monroe improving his stroke might be the most important piece of Detroit’s puzzle.

Here’s a list of the other teams with two centers in Doolittle’s top 15:

  • .
  • .
  • .

OK, that’s everyone.

For my money, center is still the NBA’s most important position. That means the Pistons have two very valuable pieces. How well they fit together remains an important question, but for now, simply having both Drummond and Monroe is great for the Pistons.

Andre Drummond: NBA’s elite center of the future?

I participated in an ESPN 5-on-5 on the center position, and to the surprise of nobody, Andre Drummond came up.

Both Israel Gutierrez and I picked Drummond for “Who’s the most promising center in the NBA?”:

Feldman: Andre Drummond. No current player combines his size and athleticism, and in limited playing time last season, he showed he can use those traits to make a huge impact. Nearly 20, Drummond has plenty of time to smooth his rough edges, especially his free throw shooting, and become elite. Already, he’s a highly efficient finisher, unstoppable rebounder and plus defender.

Gutierrez: Andre Drummond. As a raw 19-year-old, Drummond averaged 2.8 blocks, 1.7 steals, 13.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. By the time he’s actually playing 36 minutes a game, those numbers could be significantly better. He might want to figure out that tricky free throw thing, though.

Asked a similar, but different-enough question – “Who will be the best center in the NBA in five years?” – two other panelists, Amin Vafa of Hardwood Paroxysm and Jack Winter of Warriors World, two people whose brightness I can vouch for first hand, chose Drummond:

Vafa: Andre Drummond. A back injury robbed us of watching him play a complete season, but in just the short glimpse we got, we saw something special. His PER makes him one of the top-20 most-efficient players in the NBA, and his strength and skill make him one of the most exciting centers to watch (see for yourself). And at just 19, his ceiling is almost limitless.

Winter: Andre Drummond. Davis is still the better player and prospect, but his positional ambiguity offers a chance for some wiggle room; I’ll take it to give Drummond his due. If his skill level can catch up to his body, Detroit’s impressionable man-child will be a franchise player and perennial MVP candidate. Though that seems unlikely at this point, in time Drummond will fulfill his potential as a game-changing terror.

That means four of the five panelists had very good things to say about Drummond, each in their own way. Brendan Jackson of Celtics Hub, I just don’t know what to do with you, man.

For what it’s worth, here’s my answer to the five-years-from-now question:

Feldman: Anthony Davis, who will develop into more of a center than a power forward as he gets bigger and the league shifts smaller. Howard will be 32 — hardly disqualifying, but I just can’t trust a player so big to remain healthy at that age. Davis is slightly more advanced than Drummond right now, and though some of that might be more Lawrence Frank’s fault than Drummond’s, it’s enough to give Davis the edge in a close three-way race with Howard and Drummond.

I’d just like to add emphasis to the word “slightly.”

Davis is slightly more advanced than Drummond right now.

The Pistons have depth, how will Maurice Cheeks use it?

During the Joe Dumars era, the Pistons — both because of lack of talent at times and coaching stubborness at others — have never had much use for a deep bench. The current version of the roster, however, has at least competent depth at every position, something that we couldn’t really say during any of the last four seasons. How will Maurice Cheeks employ it? Will he, like his predecessors, go with a short rotation, inevitably making a few players unhappy with their minutes/roles? Or will he give a call-out to his early coaching days in Portland, where he had deep rosters and would sometimes play 10 or 11 players regularly? I gave some thoughts in today’s column for the Detroit Free Press:

If we’re counting here, and assuming that rookies Luigi Datome, Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell are out of the rotation, the Pistons have 11 rotation-caliber players. The last two seasons, Frank preferred a smaller rotation, usually playing about nine guys regularly. Most coaches, particularly coaches of good teams, prefer smaller rotations to give players some predictability, let them get comfortable with specific roles and make managing the game and substitutions easier.

Cheeks experimented with large rotations with the first two Portland Trail Blazers rosters he coached, so it’s possible he’s comfortable managing 10 or 11 players who see the court every night. Depending on the style he wants Detroit to play, the Pistons either will make use of more depth than they have in quite some time or Cheeks will have to start his coaching tenure with some tough decisions about whom to leave out of the rotation.

Incidentally, here are my predictions for the rotation to start the season:

  • Starters – Jennings/Billups/Smith/Monroe/Drummond
  • Rotation – Stuckey/Caldwell-Pope/Singler/Jerebkueva (I think they’ll split backup frontcourt minutes depending on team needs — offense or defense — on a given night)
  • Out of the rotation – Bynum/Datome/Mitchell/Siva/Villarebko

Some notes on why I think that way: I think ultimately Stuckey falls out of the rotation in favor of Bynum, but I think the Pistons will give him an early opportunity to play both guard spots in order to try to build a market for him; I think Billups only plays about 15 minutes per game, so the bulk of the shooting guard minutes will go to Stuckey/Caldwell-Pope/possibly Singler at times; I think Datome’s shooting (if it carries over to the NBA) will eventually get him into the rotation, perhaps at Singler’s expense, but Singler will win the backup SF job out of camp; I think there’s little chance that Mitchell or Siva play much this season.

2013-14 Pistons schedule in 82 sentences

vs. Washington, Wed., Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.

The Pistons will try to end a three-game losing streak in opening games – already their longest such skid since the 1960s – against the non-top-five-Eastern-Conference team with the best chance to make the playoffs. –Dan Feldman

at Memphis, Fri., Nov. 1, 8 p.m.

The Pistons will get an early chance to test whether their super-sized lineup will work against the team that has arguably played a big lineup with more success than any other team in recent years. –Patrick Hayes

vs. Boston, Sun., Nov. 3, 6 p.m.

If Rajon Rondo isn’t back from injury, he could get a preemptive start on helping the Pistons. –D.F.

vs. Indiana, Tues., Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.

The Pistons likely aren’t going to win their division this season, but Indiana will provide a great early barometer for how far off the Pistons are from being at that level. –P.H.

vs. Oklahoma City, Fri., Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.

The fourth of five games at home to begin the season, this should be the toughest, though less so if Russell Westbrook is still out injured. –D.F.

at Portland, Mon., Nov. 11, 10 p.m.

Poor West Coast trips early in the last three seasons have been partially to blame for brutal starts for the Pistons, but Portland offers an opportunity to start this year’s early trip off with a win. –P.H.

at Golden State, Tues., Nov. 12, 10:30 p.m.

Given how much older Andre Iguodala is, I’m convinced the Pistons did better by signing Josh Smith – even though Iguodala would have fit better with the roster. –D.F.

at Sacramento, Fri., Nov. 15, 10:30 p.m.

Is this the year Greg Monroe finally puts the ‘who is better?’ debate between him and Cousins to rest? –P.H.

at L.A. Lakers, Sun., Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m.

After going 0-15 in Western Conference road games, an 0-4 – or even 1-3, given the competition – record on this trip would be pretty demoralizing. –D.F.

vs. New York, Tues., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.

If Andre Drummond can model Tyson Chandler’s game — no easy task, but also not an outrageous expectation — in bigger minutes this season, the Pistons will be one of the most improved teams in the league. –P.H.

at Atlanta, Wed., Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.

Josh Smith returns to Atlanta to take on the hometown team that put up little to no fight to keep him. –D.F.

vs. Atlanta, Fri., Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.

The best NBA player the state of Michigan has produced in recent years — Al Horford — makes his first trip to the Palace of the season. –P.H.

at Brooklyn, Sun., Nov. 24, 2 p.m.

The Pistons have never beaten Brooklyn, and this should be the best Brooklyn team EVAAAA. –D.F.

vs. Milwaukee, Mon., Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.

Brandon Knight will get his first chance to prove to his former team something he insisted in his introductory presser in Milwaukee — that he’s a point guard. –P.H.

vs. Chicago, Wed., Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m.

With Derrick Rose back, the Bulls should be much better this season, which is a scary thought. –D.F.

vs. L.A. Lakers, Fri., Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Mike D’Antoni loves stretch fours — have a close look at Charlie Villanueva while you’re in town, Mike. –P.H.

vs. Philadelphia, Sun., Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m.

If the Pistons lose this game, something has gone wrong – for both teams. –D.F.

at Miami, Tues., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.

Greg Monroe is trying to learn to guard power forwards, but somehow I doubt his ability to hold his own defensively if the Heat play LeBron James big minutes at the four. –P.H.

at Milwaukee, Wed., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.

Brandon Jennings returns to Milwaukee, where he didn’t fit in after his first 11 games, but also where he remained really talented. –D.F.

at Chicago, Sat., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.

If the Pistons defense is as good as it should be, with Chicago, Detroit and Indiana, the Central will regain its old reputation as the most physical division in the league. –P.H.

vs. Miami, Sun., Dec. 8, 6 p.m.

The Palace should be packed for this game, but hopefully it’s not just the star power of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that draws fans this season. –D.F.

vs. Minnesota, Tues., Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Will Kevin Love be the next star available on the trade market, do the Pistons have the assets to make an offer and would Flip Saunders even answer a phone call from Joe Dumars? –P.H.

at New Orleans, Wed., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.

I really like how the Hornets upgraded their roster this offseason – besides that fact they’ll still finish 10th in the West. –D.F.

vs. Brooklyn, Fri., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.

Former Michigan State player Alan Anderson could be one of the best value signings this offseason as a floor spacer for the Nets. –P.H.

vs. Portland, Sun., Dec. 15, 6 p.m.

The Trail Blazers have reliable starters and much-improved bench, making them a real challenge for opponents. –D.F.

at Indiana, Mon., Dec. 16, 7 p.m.

The Pacers shed themselves of the more annoying of the two Hansbroughs bros, which makes them 90 percent more watchable this season. –P.H.

at Boston, Wed., Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m.

Probably still too early Rondo to have switched sides. –D.F.

vs. Charlotte, Fri., Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.

How many Michael Kidd-Gilchrists would Charlotte trade for Andre Drummond today? –P.H.

vs. Houston, Sat., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.

Whenever Dwight Howard and James Harden learn to play together – potentially sometime around Dec. 21 – the Rockets are really going to take off. –D.F.

at Cleveland, Mon., Dec. 23, 7 p.m.

If Andrew Bynum is hurt, are you ready for an all-Canadian starting frontcourt of Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett? How about back-to-back Canadian No. 1 picks with Bennett and Andrew Wiggins? –P.H.

at Orlando, Fri., Dec. 27, 7 p.m.

I flat-out love watching Victor Oladipo play, though if he’s at point guard, his performance this season could be pretty rocky. –D.F.

at Washington, Sat., Dec. 28, 7 p.m.

The Wizards are a trendy playoff pick with a full season of healthy John Wall, but I’m still not sold on their frontcourt depth beyond the fragile Nene and offensively limited Emeka Okafor. –P.H.

vs. Washington, Mon., Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m.

With five days off afterward, the Pistons could play their hearts out or look ahead to vacation. –D.F.

vs. Memphis, Sun., Jan. 5, 1 p.m.

Tayshaun Prince’s first return to Detroit — a 2-for-7 night shortly after last season’s trade — didn’t go so well, so he’ll be seeking some atonement. –P.H.

at New York, Tues., Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.

I actually like how Andrea Bargnani could complement Carmelo Anthony on the court, but all Bargnani’s other limitations – especially his unfriendly contract – make his fit with Melo just a minor consideration. –D.F.

at Toronto, Wed., Jan. 8, 7 p.m.

Who’s ready for Summer League stars Peyton Siva and Dwight Buycks to go head-to-head? –P.H.

at Philadelphia, Fri., Jan. 10, 7 p.m.

Nerlens Noel hoped to return by Christmas, but I bet he’s still not back by this game. –D.F.

vs. Phoenix, Sat., Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.

The Pistons reportedly were interested in Eric Bledsoe, who was ultimately traded to Phoenix — was getting Brandon Jennings a better outcome? –P.H.

vs. Utah, Fri., Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m.

Trey Burke comes to The Palace, and he’ll still have plenty of fans here, though fewer if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plays well. –D.F.

at Washington, Sat., Jan. 18, 7 p.m.

Two less heralded moves I really liked this offseason — the Wizards drafting Glen Rice Jr. in the second round and bringing in Eric Maynor to backup John Wall. –P.H.

vs. L.A. Clippers, Mon., Jan. 20, 1 p.m.

Lob City vs. Lob City in the Martin Luther King Day matinee. –D.F.

at Milwaukee, Wed., Jan. 22, 8 p.m.

The Bucks are perennially uninteresting, but the frontcourt matchup between these teams — Sanders/Henson vs. Monroe/Drummond — could be one of the most fun in the league for years to come. –P.H.

vs. New Orleans, Fri., Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.

I’m really interested to know how a Brandon Jennings-Jrue Holiday comparison will look at this point of the season, considering Holiday had a clear edge before each player moved to a new team. –D.F.

at Dallas, Sun., Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m.

It will be really interesting when Monta Ellis shoots more than Dirk Nowitzki this season. –P.H.

vs. Orlando, Tues., Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.

Jason Maxiell deserves a standing ovation in first his return to The Palace. –D.F.

at Atlanta, Wed., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Will Brandon Jennings prove he was better value than Jeff Teague all along? –P.H.

vs. Philadelphia, Sat., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Wouldn’t it be a treat if Michael Curry were coaching this game?  –D.F.

at Miami, Mon., Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.

With Josh Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons have two perimeter defenders who at least give them a chance to make things tough for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. –P.H.

at Orlando, Wed., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.

Arron Afflalo would be a great fit at shooting guard with the rest of Pistons’ roster.  –D.F.

vs. Brooklyn, Fri., Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Will the Nets bring back former Piston Jerry Stackhouse just to make the rest of their roster feel young? –P.H.

vs. Denver, Sat., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.

I love JaVale McGee – because he’s from Flint, of course – so I’m glad the Nuggets let their Executive of the Year leave, fired their Coach of the Year and traded their starting center just so ‘Vale can start.  –D.F.

vs. San Antonio, Mon., Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.

The last few years while Pistons fans have been lamenting Joe Dumars for passing on Dejuan Blair in the 2009 draft, Gregg Popovich has been strongly suggesting that Blair kinda sucks. –P.H.

vs. Cleveland, Wed., Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m.

This game, and the Cavaliers’ season, hinges on Andrew Bynum’s health.  –D.F.

vs. Charlotte, Tues., Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m.

It sounds weird saying this about any Bobcat, but I’m surprised Gerald Henderson wasn’t more coveted by teams in free agency. –P.H.

at Charlotte, Wed., Feb. 19, 7 p.m.

A mid-week back-to-back with the Bobcats in February could be soul-crushing unless its an easy two-game sweep for Detroit or the Pistons have big trade brewing before the trade deadline the next day.  –D.F.

vs. Atlanta, Fri., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.

As an Oakland University alum, I’m prevented from ever complimenting the Hawks after the way they treated Keith Benson — seriously, cutting him in favor of keeping Johan Petro? Seriously?? –P.H.

vs. Dallas, Sat., Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.

The Mavericks really overpaid Jose Calderon, who will turn 32 before the season begins, but they still had me very concerned about the Pistons’ point guards until Detroit landed Jennings.  –D.F.

vs. Golden State, Mon., Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.

Feldman snuck Trey Burke into two references in here, so I have to plug Draymond Green’s return to the Palace here just to try for some semblance of balance. –P.H.

at San Antonio, Wed., Feb. 26, 8:30 p.m.

Guaranteed George Blaha calls this game part of a “Texas two-step” during the broadcast.  –D.F.

at Houston, Sat., March 1, 8 p.m.

A matchup of the two teams that, arguably, had the two best offseasons in the league. –P.H.

vs. New York, Mon., March 3, 7:30 p.m.

Of the East’s top-five teams, the Knicks are the most vulnerable, and it’d be pretty awesome if the Pistons are battling them in the standings at this point. –D.F.

vs. Chicago, Wed., Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.

The return of Rose is obviously a big win for Chicago, but the team quietly really upgraded its perimeter this offseason with Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell and a full season of Jimmy Butler starting. –P.H.

at Minnesota, Fri., March 7, 8 p.m.

I don’t know exactly when Team USA plans to name its 2014 roster, but Kevin Love and Andre Drummond would make an awesome big-man pairing. –D.F.

at Boston, Sun., March 9, 6 p.m.

“Celtics envisioning key role for Kris Humphries.” Related: Celtics envisioning key role for Andrew Wiggins. –P.H.

vs. Sacramento, Tues., March 11, 7:30 p.m.

Greg Monroe-DeMarcus Cousins matchups are always a treat, especially if both are playing for max contracts (though I suspect Cousins will already have his by this point). –D.F.

at Toronto, Wed., March 12, 7 p.m.

Remember how if not for Bryan Colangelo’s sound intelligence-gathering, the Raptors could have an Andre Drummond-Jonas Valanciunas frontcourt right now? –P.H.

vs. Indiana, Sat., March 15, 7:30 p.m

Given his injury history, age and recent production, I think Danny Granger is in for another rough season, and we should know whether I’m right by this point. –D.F.

at Denver, Wed., March 19, 9 p.m.

Seriously — who wouldn’t pay to just watch JaVale McGee play Andre Drummond one-on-one? –P.H.

at Phoenix, Fri., March 21, 10 p.m.

Alex Len will leave the game early due to injury, and doctors will discover he has a mutated third ankle – which also requires surgery. –D.F.

at L.A. Clippers, Sat., March 22, 10:30 p.m.

This will be the fifth game in the last eight against a former Chauncey Billups team. –P.H.

at Utah, Mon., Feb. 24, 9 p.m.

Local sports editors appreciate the Trey Burke sidebars they can run on both the Pistons and Michigan sections of their websites. –D.F.

vs. Cleveland, Wed., March 26, 7:30 p.m.

Hopefully Brandon Jennings replaces Brandon Knight’s habit of having insanely productive outings against Kyrie Irving? –P.H.

vs. Miami, Fri., March 28, 7:30 p.m.

Hopefully, LeBron and Co. won’t up the focus for a late 27-game win streak this year. –D.F.

at Philadelphia, Sat., March 29, 7:30 p.m.

Between the Celtics acting excited about Kris Humphries and the Sixers trying to sign Chris Duhon, no one does tanking like the Atlantic Division this season. –P.H.

vs. Milwaukee, Mon., March 31, 7:30 p.m.

Brandon Knight’s second trip to The Palace as a visitor will include a less-welcoming atmosphere if the Pistons and Bucks are competing for a playoff spot. –D.F.

at Indiana, Wed., April 2, 7 p.m.

Joe Dumars kind of copied the Larry Bird model of team building — sucking for five years with insanely bad contracts only to rapidly emerge from those depths with a pretty intriguing roster. –P.H.

at Brooklyn, Fri., April 4, 7:30 p.m.

This is the point the Nets’ aging stars are either resting up for the playoffs or already injured. –D.F.

vs. Boston, Sat., April 5, 7:30 p.m.

By this point in the season, we’ll know if Brandon Jennings is the answer at point guard or just keeping the seat warm until the Pistons can pry Rajon Rondo away from Boston. –P.H.

at Cleveland, Wed., April 9, 7 p.m.

If Andrew Bynum is out for the year at this point, I hope to at least see Andrew Bynum’s hair make an appearance at Quicken Loans arena. -D.F.

at Chicago, Fri., April 11, 8 p.m.

Tom Thibodeau may have run his starters into the ground by this point in the season, so the Pistons should have a shot at a solid late-season road win. –P.H.

vs. Toronto, Sun., April 13, 3:30 p.m.

This sounds crazy now, but at this point, Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas could be competing to competing to be named the All-NBA third-team center. –D.F.

at Oklahoma City, Wed., April 16, 8 p.m.

Will Rodney Stuckey have another exemplary performance in his faux rivalry with Russell Westbrook? –P.H.