Stan Van Gundy is a textbook example of why its a good idea to give smart basketball people the power to remake a team in their image. Van Gundy has turned the Pistons around remarkably fast and has set them up get better and better with each passing year.
They didn’t show in the first round of the playoffs, bowing out to the Cavaliers in four games, but there is a lot to like about this Pistons roster. Andre Drummond is far from perfect, but he might be the best young center in the game. Reggie Jackson sometimes overextends himself, but that guy competes so hard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson are exactly the kind of versatile, athletic wings you want in the modern NBA. Marcus Morris made 47 percent of his threes the last two months of the season.
The Pistons likely just need time. Drummond will likely continue to get smarter as he listens to Van Gundy. Caldwell-Pope, Jackson and Johnson will all grow as shooters. Harris might be on his third team, but he’s still somehow only 23.
Van Gundy knows Detroit likely can’t be a major player in free agency and that was part of what made his deadline deal for Harris so great. He got a young player locked into a declining contract without surrendering a first round pick. Knowing he was unlikely to do better this summer, Van Gundy made his offseason acquisition while snow was still on the ground.
The Pistons have the 18th selection in this draft and control of all of their future first rounders. Still so young, they can afford to take the best player available and develop him.
They’ll like only have a limited amount cap space, but the Pistons do need to look hard for a backup point guard. Their production cratered, on both sides of the ball, whenever Steve Blake played last season. Van Gundy’s 4-out offense requires a point guard who penetrate and Blake, at this point in his career, is not that.
If the Pistons find another lead guard and a little more shooting, they could reach even higher than the 8th seed they earned this season. After Van Gundy’s impressive first two years, I wouldn’t bet against them.