Detroit Pistons 2016 Preview
2015 Season Review: 44-38, 3rd in Central Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Playoff Finish: Eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1st Round (0-4)
Offensive Rating Rank: 13th
Defensive Rating Rank: 11th
Pace Rank: 16th
Ish Smith (Free Agent – Philadelphia 76ers)
Jon Leuer (Free Agent – Phoenix Sun)
Boban Marjanovic (Free Agent – San Antonio Spurs)
Cameron Bairstow (Trade – Chicago Bulls)
Ray McCallum (Free Agent – Memphis Grizzlies)
Spencer Dinwiddie (Trade – Chicago Bulls)
Jodie Meeks (Trade – Orlando Magic)
The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the NBA with an average age of 25.1 – well under the league average of 26.6. They lack veteran leadership which is going to fall squarely on the shoulders of Reggie Jackson. Unfortunately, Jackson injured his knee and will start the season missing 6-8 weeks. Even when he does come back his minutes will most likely be lighter than normal so his playing time will have to be monitored before you think of drafting him. Last year, Jackson didn’t get as many minutes as I’d expect from a starting point guard on a team with very poor point guard depth; he only averaged 30.7 mpg last season and I’m not sure how much that will change with the addition of Ish Smith. When he is healthy Jackson is a solid play mostly because drives a TON. Last year he was 6th in the leagues in drives/game.
The franchise revolves around its Center, Andre Drummond. Drummond is double-double machine, recording one in 66 out of 81 games last year. In a recent interview, Drummond said he has lost 20 pounds over the summer and is ready to win the rebounding title again. Last season he averaged 14.8 rpg – a full rebound higher than the next closest player, DeAndre Jordan. Drummond is typically very expensive on all DFS sites, but he is worth every penny. The only things to caution against is he can get into early foul trouble and he is atrocious at the free throw line. I’m hoping in his fifth year he will shed some of the bad fouls and improve on his free throw shooting so Van Gundy can keep him on the floor longer.
I mentioned in a previous article that fantasy gold in NBA DFS comes in the form of opportunity in minutes. But to remain fantasy relevant you need to do something with those minutes! Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris are very similar DFS options in this respect because they both get huge minutes, but aren’t super efficient with those minutes. Caldwell-Pope had a USG% of 18.2 and averaged 0.70 DKppm, while Morris had a USG% of 18.4 and averaged 0.75 DKppm last season. They do put up decent fantasy numbers, but it takes them a lot of minutes to do so. Van Gundy has already hinted that these two will see less time on the floor next year so expect a drop in their production.
The other member of the Piston’s starting five, Tobias Harris, is a key piece of the team who will see some very solid minutes. He will be entering his first full year with the Pistons after being traded from Orlando last season. I expect him to become more comfortable and build on the chemistry that was established with the starters late last season. After Harris came over from Orlando he improved in just about every statistical category you can think of with the exception of blocks and rebounds (due to playing full time next to Andrew Drummond, of course). I wouldn’t let this scare you away from Harris as just about all of Van Gundy’s starters average well over 30+ minutes a night.
At only 19 years of age Stanley Johnson is a guy on the Piston’s bench that has a ton of upside. Johnson showed flashes of greatness last year is ready to see a larger role in the second unit. I don’t expect him to have a major breakout season this year, but I do expect him to increase his efficiency as he develops into the small forward of the future in Detroit. Van Gundy has already hinted at lightening the workload of guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris who averaged 35.7 mpg and 36.7 mpg last season. He was a boom or bust option last season and should come off the bench most of the year. If news breaks that he is starting Johnson should be heavily considered as he will most likely exceed value and provide salary relief at the SF position.
Ish Smith will be the backup point guard in 2016 and will be a good fit for the PIstons. He is a massive upgrade from what the Pistons had last year in Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake. Smith had a solid year for the 76ers last year as a starter, but will see much less time in 2016 as Jackson’s backup (although he will be a starter at the beginning of the year due to Jackson’s injury). Last year I played Ish Smith a lot because of his huge role and usage on a bad team. Now that he is coming off the bench in Detroit his minutes and usage will decrease significantly. Once Reggie Jackson comes back I probably won’t be targeting him much off the bench.
The Pistons frontcourt offers some intriguing combinations that could feature pairings of Drummond, Boban Marjanovic, Jon Leuer and Aron Baynes. Boban is a kind of cult rock star in the fantasy community and doesn’t need a lot of minutes to rack up significant points. He was a beast on the floor in the limited minutes he played for San Antonio last season and I expect more of the same this year in Detroit. Baynes and Boban are both good free throw shooters and could step in when other teams initiate Hack-A-Drummond at the end of close games.
Similar to Ish Smith Jon Leuer was a great fantasy option last season as a starter in Phoenix. Like Smith I expect his production to decrease in a more reduced role off the bench. Again, if news breaks that he will be starting he can put up some very solid numbers. Leuer can get points from both sides of the ball and he does just about everything. He can rebound, hit threes, blocks shots, get steals and he’s a good free throw shooter as well.
Mike works in pharmaceuticals and is a diehard fan of all Boston based sports teams. He’s been playing DFS for a little over a year and enjoys all sports, but his favorite is NBA. He is mainly a cash game player, but likes to throw his hat in some GPPs as well. In his first year he grew a $50 deposit into a few thousand dollars. He dreams of grinding away and growing his bankroll so one day he can quit his job and do DFS full time.