Writing team by team season previews seems like a great idea, and then you reach the point where you need to write about the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are far from the worst team in the league, so that isn't the problem. The problem is that it's nearly impossible to see exactly what the Pistons are trying to accomplish.
The Pistons have Greg Monroe, one of the best young centers in the NBA. He's clearly the team's centerpiece. The Pistons should be geared entirely towards his development, and putting proper pieces around him. The problem with Detroit's execution is Joe Dumars' refusal to ever fully enter rebuilding mode. When Detroit broke up the nucleus of their championship team, the never really broke it up. Sure, Detroit traded Chauncey Billups, the heart and leader of those teams, but they did so to acquire Allen Iverson in what quickly became a failed experiment. Ben Wallace left because Dumars was smart enough not to pay what Chicago was offering, but even Wallace came back to the Pistons. He appears about to retire, but could conceivably return.
Instead of the full rebuild, Detroit kept Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. Hamilton finally reached a buyout agreement at the start of last season. Prince, meanwhile, has appeared checked out for years, but nonetheless re-signed with Detroit on a new 4-year deal. Further fighting against a full rebuild, Detroit has been saddled with the horrendous contracts of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. This offseason the Pistons managed to send Gordon to Charlotte for Corey Maggette. Both Gordon and Maggette are of about equal (that is to say, little) value these days, but Maggete's contract will expire sooner, finally allowing Detroit some cap flexibility. Detroit had to give up a future first round pick in the deal as well. Villanueva remains on the team, despite Detroit still having the amnesty provision available, and a glut of other power forward options.
Which brings us back to the present. Having never truly gone into rebuilding mode, Detroit finds itself lacking true stars around Monroe. Detroit has drafted well recently, getting reasonable value for where they've selected. But the team has always managed to be just good enough to avoid the best lottery players. Brandon Knight's inexplicable draft day slide landed him in Detroit last season, and he should continue to develop this season. Long term, he could be a quality point guard for the Pistons. He'll pair with Rodney Stuckey, who has shown flashes of greatness but seems unlikely to make a sustained leap at this point in his career. It doesn't seem like Stuckey has been around long, but he'll turn 27 this season. Even without said leap, he's at least a serviceable player.
In this year's draft Detroit swung for the fences. Despite another disappointing season, the Pistons won just enough to end up picking 9th, another impact of never fully breaking the team down. The Pistons selected UConn big man Andre Drummond. On size and potential alone, Drummond could have been the first overall pick. But there were questions of how raw he is, what his work ethic is, and whether he would be a star or the next Hasheem Thabeet. At the ninth pick, it was a smart, calculated risk by the Pistons. In the early preseason, Drummond has shown signs that he could make an impact earlier than even optimistic Piston fans might have hoped. He remains a question mark, but paired with Monroe could form an intimidating tandem for years to come.
Regardless of Monroe's continued development and Drummond's play, the Pistons remain unlikely to make much noise this season. But finally, finally, it seems like Detroit could be headed in the right direction again, even if they remain a season or two away from challenging for the playoffs.