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Category → The Big Question

The Big Question: Austin Daye

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Is he really mentally stronger?

At media day, Austin Daye didn’t look any bigger or stronger than he did last season, but I’ll take the Pistons’ word that he gained 10 pounds of muscle. My bigger question is whether Daye has grown mentally.

To be honest, I don’t think he has the edge necessary to compete in high-level situations. Maybe he’ll develop it, and he’ll have time. The Pistons won’t have many crucial moments anytime soon.

Still, I’d like to see at least some progress in that regard this season.

PH: What will he learn from T-Mac?

Austin Daye is not strong enough, athletic enough or good enough for us to expect him to ever have Tracy McGrady-like production. But he, like McGrady, is a really tall wing player, has a nice jumper and can put the ball on the floor pretty well for a guy his height.

If I could choose any player for Daye to watch offensively, it would be T-Mac, simply to learn how McGrady effectively uses his body on drives and takes advantage of his height to get pretty clean looks even on contested shots.

The Big Question: Greg Monroe

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Can he play up-tempo?

When I analyzed Greg Monroe after the draft, I saw a pure half-court player. It seemed all his skills were best utilized in a slower tempo. But he got up and down the court well, with or without the ball, during summer league.

If he can play fast, the Pistons might have two excellent pieces in Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey going forward. If he can’t, they might have to choose one.

PH: Will he play?

Last year’s first round pick, Austin Daye, rarely saw the court because his strengths are undoubtedly on offense and his weaknesses are more obvious at the defensive end. This year’s first round pick, Monroe, could be described similarly.

The assumption is Monroe will have to play some simply because the team is thin up front. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case — if he doesn’t show that he’ll battle defensively, it’s conceivable he could lose minutes to the Ben Wallace-Jason Maxiell-Charlie Villanueva group (assuming Charlie V. is more focused defensively this year). I hope it plays out differently, but it’s rare a Pistons rookie earns big minutes his first season.

The Big Question: John Kuester

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will he develop a more creative offense?

In his Pistons season preview, John Hollinger wrote Detroit’s biggest strength was one-on-one scoring:

One thing we know about the Pistons is they’ll be able to find matchups they like and isolate for shots. Detroit’s lineup will be chock full of scoring at positions 1 through 4, with Wallace in the middle to clean up any misses.

Moreover, Stuckey and Prince are two of the better post-up players at their positions, allowing them to exploit size mismatches for close-in shots. Hamilton and Gordon can score in isolation as well, although they prefer to do their work off the ball and score off the catch. Bynum adds similar skills as an energizer off the bench. One other player to watch in this regard is second-year pro Daye, who is 6-11 with a sweet J that he can release over most defenders.

At the 4, Monroe and Villanueva can provide a different threat against opposing big men unaccustomed to playing on the perimeter. Moreover, their outside skills will help provide some space for the others to do their damage.

Kuester probably will have to run the offense this way, even if it’s a tad boring. (And man, these guys were hard on the eyes last season.) With no skilled passers in the backcourt, no outright stars and four players of roughly equal offensive skill on the court at most times, Kuester will do best to focus on attacking the opponent’s weak link.

I actually agree with Hollinger that this type of offense would be more productive than most fans think. But it’s taking the easy way out. An isolation-heavy offense, unless you have an offensive star the Pistons don’t, wont be great. It can be enough to get by, but it certainly won’t rank among the league’s best offenses.

If Kuester can show some imagination and design a gameplan that involves moving the ball more to create easy shots, that will be a significant way he can demonstrate his ability as a head coach.

PH: Can he prove he’s not George Irvine?

Pistons fans know the story with Irvine — he was a nice, respectable coach who the players didn’t hate and who got a team that was in transition in 2000-01 to play reasonably hard while not winning many games. The Pistons have to figure out if Kuester — a likable and respected coach — is a stopgap or if he can be around long-term based on how he performs with his full compliment of players.

The Big Question: DaJuan Summers

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Can he do one thing very well?

DaJuan Summers is an alright shooter, alright slasher, alright passer, alright rebounder, alright defender… you get the idea. At Georgetown, that’s great. As the 13th man (at best) on a deep Pistons squad, it doesn’t cut it.

Barring injuries in front of him, Summers will need to develop a specialty if he wants to play much this year.

PH: Why isn’t he better?

Last year, I believed one thing would get DaJuan Summers on the court over fellow rookies Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko: defense. Summers has a legit NBA build. He’s athletic, he’s strong, he’s tall, plus he played in the Big East against tough competition in college. And yet, he couldn’t get a sniff of the regular rotation even with all of last season’s injuries.

A year later, Summers still has all of those physical tools, but with improved health and the addition of Tracy McGrady, his chance to figure into the team’s long-term plans might be over.

The Big Question: Terrico White

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Is his jump shot for real?

Perhaps, the most peasant surprise of the summer league was Terrico White‘s smooth jumper. Prior to the draft, I’d seen it as labeled as streaky, so it’s certainly possible he was on just for a few games.

I thought White’s only chance of receiving significant plaything time this year was as a defensive specialist, but if he can shoot as well as he did in Las Vegas, that’s another avenue to the court.

PH: Is he Rodney Stuckey insurance?

Joe Dumars has an affection for strong combo guards, mainly because he himself was a strong combo guard.

Incumbent starter Rodney Stuckey hasn’t been offered a contract extension and after three years in the league (two as a full-time starter), it’s fair to say this is a make-good year for Stuckey.

And if he doesn’t “make good?” The Pistons have another athletic, strong hybrid guard in White, who many considered a first round talent, possibly being groomed for a larger role down the road.

The Big Question: Chris Wilcox

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Is he a PINO?

PINO is Piston In Name Only. He doesn’t play much. His teammates and coaches don’t talk about him. Does he practice with the team? Could 80 percent of his teammates pick him out of a crowd? Does he have any emotional attachment to the franchise, and vice-versa.

OK, I wrote the above paragraph before Vincent Goodwill’s glowing report. But with news that Wilcox’s hamstring will keep him out of tonight’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat, I still think there’s a solid chance this is the last meaningful news you hear about Wilcox as a Piston.

PH: Can he be traded?

If John Kuester is trying to foster a renewed focus on defense, Chris Wilcox can’t see court time. The Pistons were much worse defensively when he played last season, and with Greg Monroe added to the frontcourt mix, the team has even less incentive to play him. The question is whether Wilcox, who didn’t show much of anything last year, can show enough to entice a team to take him off the Pistons hands.

The Big Question: Ike Diogu

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Did he pass his physical with flying colors?

I’d like to believe, even if he’s not as nimble as he once was, Diogu is as recovered from microfracture surgery as one can be. Because I’m with Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game: Diogu can be a rotation player on a good team.

Maybe he’s just in camp to spell Ben Wallace and make John Kuester’s practices run smoother. If that’s the  case, it doesn’t matter how healthy he is. He’s just a warm body.

But I hope he’s healthy, because, if he is, I think he can make this team.

PH: Can he beat out Chris Wilcox?

Last year, the Pistons brought in Chris Wilcox because he was an athletic, strong, once-promising but still young big man who bounced around and had occasionally put up solid numbers in limited minutes. That same description could be used for Diogu.

The difference is Wilcox has a guaranteed contract, and Diogu doesn’t. Last year proved the Wilcox is not likely to help the team.

If Diogu proves he can, would he cause the Pistons to consider eating the last year on Wilcox’s deal?

The Big Question: Vernon Hamilton

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding each player entering the season.

DF: Can he raise the intensity of training camp practices?

I know Vernon Hamilton will play hard in training camp. That’s his only option. If he doesn’t, his odds of making the team drop from 0.000001 percent to 0 percent. Besides, He’s a high-energy type, anyway.

But if his intensity is contagious, I think his camp invitation will be a success. If the players with guaranteed contracts are 70 percent as focused as Hamilton, I’ll take that as a small victory. Anything higher, is icing on the cake.

PH: Why Vernon Hamilton?

With many American players excelling in Europe, it might seem strange that the Pistons would bring in Hamilton, who had very pedestrian numbers. But, because he’s a guy with virtually no shot to make the roster because of the crowded backcourt, I think the Pistons wanted a specific skill: Hamilton is a ball-hawking defensive player who should be able to get after Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Terrico White in camp, pushing all three of them to protect the basketball better.