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Detroit Pistons 2015-16 Preview

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The Detroit Pistons have a lot of young talent on their roster, but are they ready to take the next step and earn their first trip to the NBA playoffs since 2009?

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
2014-15 IN REVIEW
32-50
5th in Central Division
12th in Eastern Conference

SUMMER OF 2015

Key Additions - Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Aaron Baynes
Key Losses - Greg Monroe, Caron Butler

The Pistons dug deep into their pockets to solidify their backcourt, signing Reggie Jackson to a five-year, $80 million extension. Jackson was acquired mid-season in 2014-15, averaging 17.6 points, 9.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds through 27 games in Detroit. Between Jackson and Brandon Jennings, the Pistons have two big time creators with the ball and it will be very interesting to see how that dynamic shakes out.

After the long-awaited departure of Greg Monroe became a reality as he moved on to Milwaukee, the Pistons replaced him by spacing the floor better at the power forward position. In June, Detroit traded Caron Butler and Shawne Williams to the Bucks in return for Ersan Ilyasova, who fits well with Andre Drummond as a perimeter big. Ilyasova produced 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds for Milwaukee last season, and has just one guaranteed year remaining on his contract. Detroit will have an $8.4 million team option for the 2016-17 season.

A month later, Detroit sent a future second round pick to Phoenix in a deal that brought them Marcus Morris, who is owed approximately $20 million over the course of the next four years. Morris is coming off of his best season as a pro, posting career highs 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, and will also improve Detroit's spacing as a stretch-four.

Aaron Baynes appeared in 70 games as San Antonio's backup center last year, putting up over six points and four rebounds per contest. Baynes' new contract with the Pistons will net him roughly $20 million over the next three years.

To add depth to the backcourt, Detroit shipped Quincy Miller to Brooklyn in exchange for veteran guard Steve Blake. At 35 years old, Blake doesn't have a whole lot left in the tank but will provide leadership, stability off the bench and spread the floor with his outside shooting ability.

In June's NBA draft, Detroit came away with Arizona forward Stanley Johnson at number eight overall. As a freshman last season, Johnson put up 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on his way to winning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award.

Johnson is physically ready for the NBA, and has a chance to develop into a key player that impacts the game on both ends of the floor.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C
- Andre Drummond / Aaron Baynes / Aaron Gray
PF - Ersan Ilyasova / Marcus Morris
SF - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope / Stanley Johnson / Reggie Bullock
SG - Reggie Jackson / Jodie Meeks / Cartier Martin
PG - Brandon Jennings / Steve Blake / Spencer Dinwiddie

X-FACTOR - Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson has proven that he can really make a big difference on the court. He's very crafty with the ball, creates offense at an elite level at times, runs a dynamite pick and roll and from an athletic standpoint, he's on a higher level than most.

Jackson has the capabilities of elevating his play to new plateau, perhaps to the point where he could become an All-Star. Jackson is a ball-dominant guard just like Brandon Jennings, but if they can co-exist and make each other better, they could create one of the toughest backcourt duos in the league.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
Detroit is going to have to really fight hard for a playoff spot in 2016, but they have a chance to get better and at least put themselves in the mix. They didn't replace Greg Monroe with an equal individual talent, but their roster fits together much better and it could open up a lot of different things on the floor.

Control your expectations, but it's fair to predict a better, potentially more cohesive Pistons squad this season.

PROJECTED STANDINGS
5th in Central Division
10th in Eastern Conference


In working toward their ultimate goal of making the playoffs and becoming legitimate contenders, the team has to buy into Van Gundy's principles. The team has taken the right steps in changing the culture by saying the right things and doing things to help build team chemistry, but now they have to take it to the floor and present the only thing that matters: results. They may not come right away, but steady improvement toward an ultimate goal of the playoffs should certainly be the goals for this team.