Cavs Sweep Pistons, What Does This Mean For Detroit?

Let Me Explain Myself

So in the last week or two, I’ve had Cleveland fans in my Twitter mentions asking why I’m not talking about Cleveland all that much, here’s the reason why, this series was always above them. Even the most diehard Pistons fans could probably tell that the Pistons never really matched up to the Cavaliers. LeBron James is still the best player on the planet, and that’s all that there is to really say about Cleveland. They were clearly the better team headed into this series and there was nothing that we really learned about them from this series, all we saw was a team with 3 of some of the best players on the planet beat a young, inexperienced team. What you saw is you got from this series from the Cavs, it was an everyday performance from them this series, but on the other hand, this series showed so much about the Pistons, it showed that this team is a legitimate threat if the pieces can fall into place, this series shows that this team can stick with the best teams in the NBA despite their inexperience and small mistakes. This series should never have been about Cleveland, we know who they are, they’re a team with every superstar that you need in order to win a championship. But the Pistons, they’re a young and feisty team that is on the uprising, they’re a team that nobody expected to even make the playoffs! This series was never about Cleveland because you know who they are, this series is about a Pistons team that will be in the NBA Finals in 5 years, I guarantee it. But how will the Pistons make a return to the Finals? it all begins with what happened in this series.

What We Learned

Yes, the Pistons got swept, it’s true that if you look at this series on the surface, these Pistons are no different than any other 8th seed, but they are, believe me.

We saw Marcus Morris become a great scorer after the All-Star Break, and we’ve seen him carry it to the postseason, in every game this year, Marcus looked to be on his game and for the majority of the series with the exception of a couple of stretches, Marcus knew what his job was on the court at all times. Marcus knew where to be and when to be there, if he had to set a pick off the ball, he was right there to do it with all of his effort, he was a team player who held the ball only when it was asked of him. When the Pistons had no other play to call, they gave it to Marcus on the baseline or the top of a wing and just let him to work on isolation. We learned that despite all the criticism he’s received for not being as good as his brother Markieff, that he can step it up in big games and be a great scorer all over the floor.

We’ve learned that Stanley Johnson fears absolutely nobody and that he will do whatever it takes to win, he was a guy who had a tough time scoring during his rookie campaign but he did a great job defending all season and all series long. Even though LeBron scored a lot on Stanley, he didn’t make it easy on LeBron, on nearly every play LeBron called for himself, Stanley was right there to try to get his hands on the ball or at least get his hands up while shooting. Stanley did a great job all series defending and he even did a fairly decent job offensively. It was a great coming out party for the young 19 year old kid. We’ve also seen Stanley progressively increase as a scorer this series, he played way differently in game 1 than he did in game 4. Stanley got thrown off a lot in game 1, and I mean a lot! He made far more mistakes that I’ve ever seen him make all season, but in game 4, he looked calm. He still struggled at times and made young mistakes that are really only noticeable if you’re looking closely at the tape, but he looked better in game 4. Similarly to Marcus, he knew where to be and when to be there. He played smart in game 4 and tried to get into the opponents head, it was amazing seeing this mentality from a guy who had just been in college no more than 1 year ago. The evolution of Stanley Johnson was indicative of the effort that he put into this series, he cared about this series more than anything else and it showed every time he dived for a loose ball or got up in LeBron’s face, he has a bright future ahead of him.

We’ve also learned that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is one of the most important players Detroit has, a gritty lockdown defender who can step it up offensively when the game is on the line. Many times this series, we saw Reggie Jackson holding the ball to himself but whenever the ball went to KCP, he seemed to have a plan as to what he was going to do with the ball, he knew if he wanted to have a 5 second dribble package or maybe a catch and shoot. He stepped up late in games when nobody was able to, and as stated before, he played great defense for the majority of this series. He always tried to put his hand in a shooters face or try to snatch the ball from his defender, anybody who watches Detroit basketball knows that Kentavious is willing to do the dirty work defensively, but this just reassures my confidence in him as a defender and as a scorer. Maybe next year he can be a candidate for Most Improved Player.

Next, we’ve learned that Reggie Jackson is great when he passes the ball and controls the tempo of the game, what I mean by that is that Reggie was playing at his best when he was cool, calm, and collected. Every time Cleveland threw a weird set at him, he panicked and dribbled the ball like he was Kobe in his last game, he’s clearly a player that can get thrown off easily by opponents if they pressure him but if Reggie can maintain his focus and stay calm, he’s a great scorer. It can be seen the most during the first 2 quarters of every game this series, for the majority of the first half in every game this series, Cleveland saved their odd zones for the final push, when Reggie had the ball in the first half he scored because he recognized his teammates and passed the ball around. Reggie is a talented scorer when he passes the ball and takes pressure off of himself, but he will get shaken up if you throw a simple zone and double teams at him, the 2nd half of games showed that he could morph into Russell Westbrook and hold the ball to only himself if he was scared. We’ve learned that Reggie is a talented offensive player if he can maintain himself and just stay calm.

Last but not least, we’ve learned a lot about Andre Drummond. We’ve learned that he cannot be in games late if the Pistons want to win, what a shame that a magnificent all around player can’t be on the court in the final 5 minutes all because of one thing that he struggles at, free throws. Now, I don’t claim to have the solution to Andre’s problem, but this series brings up a lot of things from him, questions like ‘How do we overcome a deficit if our best player isn’t out on the court?’ And there isn’t an answer right now, Andre just can’t be in a game late if he can’t knock down free throws, it all comes down to something as simple as that. We’ve also learned something huge in this series, which is positioning. Andre is a great rebounder, he’s beyond great, he’s arguably the best rebounder in the NBA, but he was one problem when it comes to rebounding, positioning. Kevin Love being in at center threw him off so badly that many times when the Cavs missed a shot, he didn’t know if he should stay on the perimeter to defend Kevin Love or go inside and get the rebound, he had a lot of problems this series with that and many times he just got stuck in between the two and not getting either one right. It’s clear that centers with a jumpshot make him have problems because he’s confused and doesn’t know how to defend them very well. Even when he ended up on guys like Channing Frye (Yes, I said Channing Frye) he didn’t really know how to defend him, he tried finding a medium for the two, but the majority of the time it just didn’t work.

This young Pistons team has a lot to learn before they’re contenders, but they have the mentality of the old Pistons, they know that nobody outside of Michigan believes in them and they love it. Seeing this team mature into a title contender through trades and the draft is going to be unlike anything else, this team will be in the NBA Finals if all the pieces fall into place, but what are those pieces and what needs to happen in the future if the Pistons want to become contenders? They don’t need to restock, they need to reload.

The Future

The Pistons have their core, Reggie Jackson will one day blossom into a top 5 point guard if he can mature with the rest of the team, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will always be one of the most underrated parts of this team, he’ll always be like Wesley Matthews for the Pistons, Marcus Morris is a capable defender and scorer that’ll remain the starter for next season more than likely, Tobias Harris has been great and he’ll remain as the starter so long as he can muscle up a little bit and evolve a little as a low post defender, and Andre is the core of this team. Without Andre, this team will never be a contender, the future is bright, but only if the bench can grow.

I make fun of Steve Blake a lot only because I don’t think anybody thinks he’s the right point guard behind Reggie, and he isn’t. He’s an effort guy and a nice veteran coming off the bench, but that should be his role, not the direct backup to Reggie Jackson. Detroit has all the power here though because next year could be the year where Spencer Dinwiddie finally gets consistent playing time and we can finally see him as a full time player, or Detroit could pursue a free agent. Brandon Jennings is the most prevalent option not only among the organization, but among fans. Even though Brandon got traded to Orlando, him and Stan kept in constant contact during his tenure with the Magic, if you go look at Brandon’s Twitter, you can tell that he has a lot of respect to the Pistons and that he loved being a Piston. Fans still love him because of that winning streak the Pistons went on last year and because he and Stan Van Gundy have a close relationship. I personally would love to see him come back and become the 6th Man Of The Year, but I understand that it may be a little unrealistic unless he’s willing to take a pay cut considering that Andre is going to more than likely take a max contract. But on another hand, I’m a big fan of Spencer Dinwiddie and his playmaking abilities and I would love to see him get consistent playing time so long as he can get better at shooting the ball. But there is one thing that is crystal clear in all of this, Steve Blake is most certainly NOT in Detroit’s future. Some other options that fans have brought up are Jeremy Lin, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Williams, and Ish Smith. Though, none of these guys are quite as engaging as either Spencer or Brandon to me or the majority of Pistons fans.

Next up is a backup shooting guard, it’s clear that Detroit were pursuing names before the trade deadline this year, but there is a question that they need to bring up, do they really need to get a free agent? Detroit still has Darrun Hilliard II, who has proven at times to be a capable jump shooter and defender, they also still have Reggie Bullock who was a tremendous three point shooter on the baseline but there was a little to be desired defensively, and the odd man out in Jodie Meeks who hasn’t really seen the court all that much since his injury in the 2nd game of the ’16-’17 campaign.  All three of these guys are almost the same player, they’re all good three point shooters who can be good defenders if they put in effort, so do they really need to pursue a free agent here? Not in my opinion, it would be a waste of time and money to take away playing time from young players like Darrun and Reggie, Darrun Hilliard is only 23 years old and Reggie Bullock is only 25 years old, if this team is built for the future, shouldn’t you use these 2 frequently in games to get them experience? It just wouldn’t make sense to bring in somebody who doesn’t know the team that well and mess up chemistry. Darrun and Reggie can develop into a pair of great role players if Stan Van Gundy is patient and doesn’t pressure them too much. Darrun and Reggie should be expected to stay, meanwhile, we have no clue what to expect from Jodie Meeks. At this point, i’d trade him away if anybody is to be traded who plays shooting guard, all he’ll do is steal playing time from younger guys who need it more and take up too much cap space. Detroit could trade him for a veteran to try to bring in order to the locker room following the absence of Steve Blake. Detroit should look to bring in somebody who will immediately demand respect and loyalty from his teammates. It’s going to be a fun offseason trying to see what Detroit will do pertaining to who will play shooting guard behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Lastly is perhaps the biggest story for Detroit this offseason, power forward. At the moment, Anthony Tolliver is the backup to Tobias Harris, but let’s all be honest with ourselves, can Anthony Tolliver still play at a consistent level when he’s 31 years old in 2017? The answer is more than likely no considering that you can already see him declining as a shooter and defender. I’m not suggesting that Detroit rids of him, because he’s a good veteran and an even better locker room guy. He’s always happy and every time teammates talk about him, it’s nothing but genuinely nice things about him. But it’s clear that Detroit needs somebody else to ready when Tobias is bodied up by somebody more physical than him, there is one name that has been on Stan Van Gundy’s radar since he first became the President Of Basketball Ops in Detroit, Ryan Anderson. He’s still the same player from about 2 years ago, a great three point shooter who can kind of defend if he wants to. But everything gets overlooked when you look at his three point shooting, limited playing time and lining him up with a point guard who runs a slow offense could seriously benefit him. Another thing that has helped his case to be in a Pistons jersey next year is his rebounding, he’s a good rebounder with surprisingly decent footwork. He’s a prototypical stretch four that the Pistons could seriously use in the next couple of seasons. Other names that have been brought up are Terrence Jones, (I actually really like him) and Mirza Teletovic. Notice how all three of these guys are stretch fours who can rebound, that is what Detroit needs off the bench, somebody to help Aron Baynes when it comes to snatching rebounds while still having great scoring abilities.

A Quick Thank You

Now, I know that this was very, very, very long and if you’ve stuck all the way through this article, thank you. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot about a team that you’ll get to know in a couple of years. The Pistons are coming, and hopefully you won’t just look at the sweep on Sunday and rule them out. This team is finally back and in a while you’ll see them in the NBA Finals. Stan is clearly a genius, he’s turned Kyle Singler into Reggie Jackson and Ersan Ilyasova into Tobias Harris, I hate singing a coach’s praises, but he if anybody deserves it. This city was feeling like the Pistons were forever going to hire John Loyer’s and Mo Cheeks’ as head coaches and keep signing Ben Gordon’s, but times have changed, this team has turned things around. The dark ages of Pistons basketball are over, and even though their season is also over, this era has only just begun in Detroit history. The Detroit Pistons got swept, but believe me, they’re finally back.

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