2012-2013 Detroit Pistons Season Preview

Can the Pistons make the playoffs? And even if they can, will they? At least a few players will consider the season a failure if they do not. Playoffs or bust, then… or is it?

Last year at this time, Charlie Villanueva tweeted some things about insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is crazy. Turns out, he was right. Given the players on the roster, a below-freezing win forecast in the mid-twenties seemed likely. And in spite of finishing the season a whole lot better than they started, the Pistons completed the season at 25-41. By efficiency differential, from which Wins Produced is derived, the Pistons were actually a little bit worse and would have been expected to win only 22 games.

This year, the Pistons will return several of the same players, and many of those players are expected to play significant roles. However, this year there finally be some room for optimism  - in the numbers of all places! And while the NBA Playoffs are probably still out of reach, that won’t necessarily make this season a bust. There is an intriguing young core of players emerging here that should give the Pistons some hope.

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Did Charlie Villanueva get it right? An early look at the Detroit Pistons.

Player

Position

Minutes

WP48

Wins Produced

WS48

Win Shares

PER

Value Added

Estimated Wins Added

Greg Monroe

5

2112

.200

8.8

.143

6.3

18.07

235.5

7.8

Jonas Jerebko

3.5

1848

.150

5.8

.095

3.7

13.99

82.5

2.7

Rodney Stuckey

1.5

1914

.100

4.0

.111

4.4

18.46

221.7

7.4

Tayshaun Prince

3

1680

.060

2.1

.062

2.2

15.13

116.1

3.9

Ben Wallace

5

784

.120

2.0

.072

1.2

12.29

19.8

0.7

Austin Daye

2.5

1200

.075

1.9

.070

1.8

13.02

45.1

1.5

Ben Gordon

2

1716

.050

1.8

.070

2.5

14.00

89.6

3.0

Jason Maxiell

4.5

1070

.050

1.1

.050

1.1

13.00

24.0

.08

Charlie Villanueva

4

1408

.050

1.5

.090

2.6

16.00

94.6

3.2

Brandon Knight

1

1254

.000

0.0

.000

0.0

14.00

56.1

1.9

Damien Wilkins

3

218.25

.100

0.5

.075

0.3

11.45

3.1

0.1

Will Bynum

1

555.75

.020

0.2

.050

0.6

15.28

35.5

1.2

Vernon Macklin

5

80

.000

0

.000

0

9

-3.0

-0.1

Totals

WP

29.6

WS

26.6

EWA

34.0

In January, Charlie Villanueva said (via retweeting a fan) that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to change.”

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Detroit Pistons will return essentially the same group of players, a new coaching staff, and presumably, expect better results.

Is this insanity – extreme foolishness, folly, senselessness?**

As the table above reports, expecting anything but more of the same in Motown would seem to qualify.

The Detroit Pistons have not been a good basketball team. I have argued this is due to employing players who don’t do enough of what it takes to win basketball games. A quick look at the returning players, new additions, and departing players unfortunately will reveal that little is likely to change in the upcoming season.

Returning Players

There really isn’t much to say here. Of the players who were under contract coming into this season, most are known quantities.

Greg Monroe had a fantastic rookie season (primarily during the 2011 calendar year), and Piston fans should expect good production and hopefully, significant improvement. I don’t think Monroe is a legitimate star yet, but he possesses that potential.

Ben Wallace is a year older, likely to decline, and play fewer minutes.

Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva have played their worst basketball in Detroit. I am hopeful to see some improvement from both (as reflected in the projection above), but I don’t expect them to be anything other than the players they are. Here’s hoping one of them convinces Detroit management that they are deserving of the amnesty provision this season.

Will Bynum is a player I love to root for. And who wouldn’t? Anytime a sub six foot player can make plays like this– to say nothing of his persevering optimism – it’s hard not to. But Bynumite is the player he is, and I don’t expect much more than serviceable backup play that’s likely to be pushed out of the rotation by Knight and Stuckey.

Jason Maxiell will probably play more minutes than he should, due to our short supply of tall people and a hectic NBA schedule that will limit Ben Wallace’s minutes. Perhaps he will discover his inner Chris Wilcox and surprise everyone during a contract year.

Austin Daye may be the only exception to this rule. Daye had a promising rookie season, but followed that up with a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hopefully, Coach Frank’s commitment to play Austin Daye more on the perimeter will foster Daye’s development.

Three Pistons are returning this season after being inked to new contracts.

Rodney Stuckey is returning for three more years. Joe Dumars seems to be banking on Stuckey making more than the incremental progress he’s made thus far. I’m not holding my breath. Stuckey’s a fine player and would make a serviceable backup on a Playoff team. But he hasn’t demonstrated that he’s worth the money he’ll be making in his new contract, and it would take significant improvement in order to do so.

Tayshaun Prince is returning for four more years, and Dumars seems to be banking on Prince discovering the fountain of youth. Prince will be grandfather age in NBA years in the final year of his contract. A slow but consistent decline seems inevitable.

Jonas Jerebko’s new four-year contract is the only off-season acquisition I’m excited about. He’s a useful rotation player at both forward positions, he’s locked up for most of his prime years, he plays like a Piston, and he will be paid fairly for what he produces.

Departing Players

The Pistons lost two useful players in Chris Wilcox and Tracy McGrady. I do not anticipate any Piston guard replacing what was lost in McGrady’s departure, but Jerebko’s return from injury should mitigate the loss of Wilcox.

The key addition by subtraction is Richard Hamilton being bought out of his contract. Rip was one of my favorite players during the last decade of Pistons basketball, but his production and attitude fell of a cliff during the past two seasons. The Pistons are better off with Rip in a Bulls’ uniform (the Bulls might not be, interestingly enough).

New Additions

I would love for Brandon Knight to mimic Greg Monroe as a rookie by producing more as a pro than he did as a collegiate. But while Monroe was an “average” college player, Knight was not a productive player in college, posting numbers below average for his position in several key categories.

Undoubtedly, Knight is talented, he certainly passes the eyeball test, and he could  be a productive point guard eventually. It is likely that PER and EWA will like him a lot more than WP48/WS48 and WP/WS will, though, because he will score his fair share of points (by taking plenty of shots). Knight has a long way to go, and I don’t expect a significant contribution to wins this season.

I don’t expect much, if anything, from Vernon Macklin.

Damien Wilkins was a puzzling addition, given the plethora of perimeter players already employed, but he has posted respectable numbers over the past two seasons. Still, it’s hard to imagine him playing significant minutes, and even if he did, his contribution would be minimal.

Projecting the 2011-2012 Season

By necessity, I’ve done a little bit of educated guessing here with regards to minutes. With a new coach and a 66 game schedule, this obviously won’t be perfect. This year, I decided to branch out and include Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added in my projection.

With regards to production, I’ve allowed for improvement from young players (Monroe, Daye, Stuckey, Jerebko), declines for aging vets (Prince and Wallace), and returns to form for the younger veterans, Gordon and Villanueva across all three metrics.

Brandon Knight is a little harder to get right because he is so young, but based on his college performance, it would take drastic improvement for him to make a significant impact this season.

Unsurprisingly, the metrics disagree about which players will be responsible for the Pistons’ wins. Estimated Wins Added likes points, Wins Produced likes efficient scoring and possession creation, and Win Shares lands somewhere in between.

But they agree that the Pistons won’t be winning a whole lot. We are likely to be cheering this team on to a win total in the mid twenties.

And ultimately, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A team doesn’t emerge from the lottery to playoff contention by doing the same thing over and over again, year after year.

That’s just crazy.

——————————————————

**Hopefully, the hyperbole is obvious. I don’t think that anyone in Pistons management is literally insane!

Prince to Miami?

I am among those who thinks Joe Dumars should have traded Prince for Caron Butler and Dallas’ first round pick. Given that there was so little trade buzz about Prince at last year’s deadline, I was anxious to take whatever trade we could get.

Obviously, that did not happen, and it appears tas though Dumars will try for a sign and trade if Prince cannot be re-signed outright.

Color me skeptical.

What does any Playoff team have that it is willing to part with that we would want in return for Prince? I struggle to find an answer to that question. A sign and trade seems very unlikely to me.

Still, Prince is the type of player that one would expect to sign one last large-ish contract, given his age and injury history. Four-five years, $25-30 million with a Playoff team looking to add one more piece to bolster their rotation. Shawn Marion signed that type of contract with Dallas, as a recent and familiar example.

Recent reports suggest Miami might be that team for Tayshaun Prince.

I have no strong preferences about where Prince signs his next contract. I wish him well, as he’s certainly contributed a great deal to the franchise. But Mosi Platt of the Miami Heat Index does have some strong feelings about wthe King doesn’t need a Prince.

As always, it’s a great read from Mosi. And for those who might have thought that this season was Tay’s best season, well, Mosi offers a differing perspective.