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LeftosaNeed4Sheed Guest Writer – Lefteris Aslanoglou – Pistons fan from Greece following his team and getting very little sleep watching games in the middle of the night: @Leftosa

This lockout has given us a season that’s going to be different. 66 games until April means that the schedule is quite crowded, and each team has 2 or 3 back-to-back-to-back’s. That’s 3 games in 3 nights, and that’s something that GMs can’t take lightly into account. Bench depth is going to be really important, as well as keeping your players healthy. Some veterans may have the experience in training to know how to keep their body sharp. Grant Hill, a Phoenix Suns great, is 39 years old and getting his career to a close sooner or later, but has managed to play over 80 games a season for the past 3 years. However, wear and tear comes with age, and a season like this requires fresh legs, durable players. The younger players will have a lot of playing time, and a lot to prove.

As the off-season is everything but over, teams must make sure their roster has the proper depth for a season like this, and that they can manage to put together a starting 5 with a good bench even on the third night of consecutive games. So how do the Pistons compare on this front?

The official Pistons roster currently has 14 players; that includes Kyle Singler who won’t be joining the Pistons until the next season, since he decided to stay in Spain. So, will 13 players cut it? The answer is, it depends on the players. Pistons have gotten some great picks the past few years, and are heading towards a younger, rebuilding direction. Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, are some of the young players that are the most promising, with the first two having played a good year each.

Let’s look at each position individually, starting from Center.

Greg Monroe played 80 games last year, averaging 28 minutes per game, and is sure to be staying on court for a few more this season. He’s one of the lone bright spots of the Pistons last year, bringing the team from the bottom of the pack as far as rebounding goes to the middle of it after the all-star break. Don’t let his minutes fool you, Last year’s Pistons coach, John Kuester, didn’t give Monroe many minutes until December, when he made his break-out with his first career start, recording 8 points, 15 rebounds and a block in 35 minutes. He’s a guy that can withstand both the amount of games as well as minutes, and perform great at the same time.

Greg Monroe 12 points and 12 boards

Photo/Getty Images Editing Need4Sheed.com

Problem is, the Pistons don’t have any durable backup on Center. Ben Wallace has reached the late part of his career, and was widely believed to be retiring, but decided to stay with the team for another year. He played 54 games last season, averaging 23 minutes and providing the Pistons with good defense, but he’s shown signs (his stat-line deteriorated in every single stat) that the team can’t depend on him.

So the Pistons will need to bring a forward that can play Center to rotate along with Greg and Ben at Center, but do the Pistons really have a player like that? Let’s look at the forwards, shall we?

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The Detroit Pistons
Last Year’s Record: 27-55
Key Losses: Do Chucky Atkins and Kwame Brown count?
Key Additions: Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe and Terrico White

Since we are lucky enough to have Danny on board this season, we are going to do a double preview this year.  We will go through the same questions and both Danny and I will answer them.  The last question will be one each of us created and will answer.

What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?

Natalie Sitto: If you can call having a horrible season and finally getting a lottery pick a move then Greg Monroe is it.  Finally the Pistons draft the Big Man they so dearly need. You can’t pin all your hopes on Monroe until he proves himself in the NBA.  Monroe, a skilled rebounder and passer at Georgetown will have to show up every  night and contribute to be live up to Detroit’s expectations.

Detroit also picked up a what may turn out to be a draft steal in the second round.  Terrico White had a strong showing in the Summer League and turned heads with his dunking abilities during the rookie photo shoot.  He may have a really hard time getting time considering the log jam at his position, but his potential is more than interesting.

Lastly and many would say the biggest pick-up of the offseason was the signing of Tracy McGrady to a one year contract.  With McGrady well past his prime and injury plagued for quite some time, one can only think he’s likely to play a small roll on this team.  If T-Mac is willing put his pride aside and accept the role the Pistons need him to play, he just might rejuvenate his career in Motown.

Greg Monrow and Terrico WhitePhoto Getty Images

Danny Bohnlein: No real “significant” moves were made because Detroit was obviously not a major player during the free agency period this offseason.  The only move I’d call “significant” was the selection of Greg Monroe with the 7th pick in the NBA Draft.  It was the first time Detroit has had a lottery pick since the 2003 NBA Draft in which they chose, well, you know who they chose.  That’s not to disrespect Monroe or Terrico White but, let’s be honest, there is no baseline established for them yet.  I have a feeling Monroe will turn out to be a solid NBA player and who knows what White will provide?

I’d consider the re-signing of Will Bynum and Ben Wallace to be more significant than the acquisition of Monroe and free agent signing of Tracy McGrady.  Bynum has provided a spark off the bench as the backup point guard and Ben Wallace continues to be the anchor of the defense while also providing veteran leadership for players like Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe.

What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Natalie Sitto: Yes the Pistons have 456 guards on the roster, but it just might help them in the long run.  First off If they have  injury problems like they did last season, they will always have a solid backup.  When you have 8 guys competing  to be in the daily rotation it should promote competitiveness with the likelihood that someone will stand out and step up to stay on court.  Which in turn may just lead to a standout (or two) for a team that could really use one.

Danny Bohnlein: The Pistons’ biggest strength is their depth at the wing positions.  Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Tracy McGrady, Ben Gordon and Jonas Jerebko will all see time this season at the SG or SF position.  None of them individually pop off the paper at you with their abilities, but they all can provide a consistent scoring punch needed from these primary scoring positions.

Rodney Stuckey Ben GordonPhoto Getty Images

What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Natalie Sitto: Ben Wallace is the only thing solid down low.   How much longer can we ask Ben to put up “Ben like” numbers?  The man should be sipping margarita’s with Sheed, but he’ll be out there every night anchoring the defense and trying to teach Greg Monroe a thing or two.  This team is severely undersized, I mean Tattoo undersized, so if they really want to compete Joe knows he’s got to fine a legitimate big man to help down low.

Danny Bohnlein: The frontcourt is the biggest weakness of the team.  Ever since Rasheed Wallace decided to enjoy life outside the 3 point line, Detroit has lacked the interior scoring presence that all contending teams possess.  Not only does the team lack an inside scoring presence, they lack strong post defense.  Charlie Villanueva is not known as a defensive stopper and neither is Chris Wilcox.  Greg Monroe comes into the league labeled as “soft”.  Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace are the only strong defenders of the paint and with Wallace getting another year older, and Maxiell often matching up against much larger opposing players, they’ll need 1 of the other big men to step up their defensive game otherwise the Pistons will once again be near the top of the league in “paint points allowed”.

Ben Wallace

What are the goals for this team?

Natalie Sitto: I feel like I have answered this same question the same way last season.  The Pistons NEED to play better than 500 basketball.  They don’t need to set their sights too high, but asking them to just compete and maybe make the playoffs would be enough for this proud franchise to help them to build on the future.  Anything past the first round in the playoffs would be a delightful bonus.


Danny Bohnlein: I hate to be plain and simple with my answer here but, the Pistons’ goals should be to get better.  They have a decent mix of young talent to go with veteran leadership.  Guys like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince appear to be the odd men out because they’re not quite at the end of their careers but they’re also not the kind of guys rebuilding teams pay $10m+ per season.  It is assumed Tay or Rip will not be on the team at the end of February, it’s up to Joe Dumars to pull some strings and improve the team while also getting young talent in return if possible.
Fire in the Palace
Who is this year’s breakout player?

Danny Bohnlein: Rodney Stuckey.  Like Natalie says below, this team is going through some major restructuring from top to bottom.  This is a team in need of a star that they have developed in house, and that they can promote.  Stuckey played well at times last season, but he has struggled setting up his teammates for success.  If he is going to be this team’s point guard, he needs to be a better distributor.  Why do I think he’ll have a breakout year?  Here’s why:

In each of Stuckey’s first 3 seasons, he has had 3 different head coaches.  It’s not Stuckey’s fault that he’s not Chauncey Billups.  It’s also not his fault that the front office has made some of the decisions they’ve made with the coaching staff.

This year the game will start to slow down for Stuck, he will be able to see Rip and Ben Gordon’s cuts before they happen.  His biggest issue has been that he forces the drive and instead of dishing off to the open big in the paint when doubled, and he goes up for the layup and forces a bad shot.  This is a problem that’s easily remedied, and having a coach like Coach Kuester able to show tape of Stuckey’s decisions all the while running the same plays for a 2nd year in a row, he should only improve.  I see Stuckey having a season where he averages 19 points a night with 7 assists.  If he put up shots like he says he did this offseason, his shooting percentage should jump a couple of points and improve his point output.  If you remember, Richard Hamilton used to shoot poorly just like Stuckey early in his career and then he changed his training regiment once he was traded to the Pistons and he instantly became one of the game’s best mid-range scorers.  So it’s not unheard of for a player to drastically improve his shooting percentage from 1 year to the next, if he’s put in the work during the offseason.

Who or what could be a big surprise to this team?

Natalie Sitto: The Pistons have more than a couple of bad seasons looming over their heads.  The whole franchise is going through restructuring,  from inside the locker room to in the front offices.  The solid ownership rock of Bill Davidson is no more, and new ownership is inevitable.  No one knows what a new ownership will bring other than uncertainty.   Will they pull in the reigns with Dumars, will it still be Dumars?  Will the threat of a move cease?  Will it instill hope for the return of Deeetroit Basketball?

The structure of things behind the scenes sometimes matters more than the 5 guys that step on the court every night.  That might be the Pistons biggest surprise, not whether Tay or Rip will be traded before the deadline.

Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton

Overall record

Natalie Sitto: 39-43 – I may be looking through rose colored glasses, but with the talent on this team they should be able to pull off close to 40 wins.  I can’t possibly see this team being as injury plagued as last season and I’m quite sure all Pistons fans believe that this team won’t look the same after the trade deadline.  Let’s hope the changes will help this season, and for the future.

Danny Bohnlein: 37-45 – The Pistons had the worst inter-division record in the Eastern Conference last season (2-14).  While Chicago and Milwaukee certainly improved this offseason, the Pistons should be able to get a few more division wins from the now LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers.  Hopefully they will remain healthy enough this year to put up a fight until the end.

Of course we want your input  what the 2010-2011 season holds for the Pistons, please leave your thoughts in the comments.