Opening Day is finally here! After the shortest offseason in team history, the Raptors begin the 2016-17 campaign at home against the Detroit Pistons tonight. To tee up the Detroit side of things, and project what heights the team might reach this year, we welcome Jamie Delaney (@Jamie_Delancey) of Detroit Bad Boys for some Q & A fun. You can check out the Q & A I did about the Raptors for DBB here
1. The first one is simple -- just how much of a blow to the Pistons Reggie Jackson's knee injury? How will it affect Detroit's pursuit of a playoff spot in the East?
Sean can you do me a favor? Blow on your computer/phone screen right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
*whistles aimlessly while checking Twitter*
Unless you got like hurricane strength lungs, I’m guessing nothing happened. So yeah, that much of an effect. Look I’m not saying it’s going to be Warriors-esque win streaks or anything but the Pistons initial schedule is really kind - minus the fact that we’re opening up against one of the teams in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. We have a nice soft opening that includes the Magic, some Bucks, some Nets and the Knicks twice. Things start to get really tight around November 18th when the Pistons are in Cleveland and then come home for Boston, Houston, Miami, Clippers before going back on the road at OKC, Boston again, and Charlotte. Woof.
The optimist in me says, “hey, at least those are home games!” The pessimist in me is already circling both Boston games as “plan a night out with the wife and avoid the phone.” By that time, we’ll be able to see the light at the end of the Reggie Jackson injury tunnel and hopefully the Lions keep winning to distract enough people from everything (LOL yeah right).
2. Andre Drummond seems like the perfect fit for a Stan Van Gundy team, but his development doesn't seem to be on as rapid a track as Pistons fans would hope. What does Drummond still leave to be desired as the Detroit's centerpiece?
I think the development’s been as expected - let’s remember that the guy was still playing alongside Greg Monroe 18 months ago. Last year was his first full run at being the face of the franchise. Many will point to his free throws but for me, it’s rim protection. For a guy that is freakishly athletic for his size, the defensive instincts just aren’t there. We’ve been majorly blessed to have an All-NBA defender in KCP and an above average point guard defender in Jackson to limit Drummond from being exposed, but make no mistake, guys aren’t worried about him when they are driving like they were when Ben Wallace was around.
3. Stanley Johnson was one of many surprisingly good rookies last season -- what is the expectation for Johnson in his second season?
The Stanimal is already a fan favorite after trash talking LeBron as a rookie, so people are expecting a bit more from him after a very up and down rookie campaign. Sometimes you saw Stanley second guess himself in games last year, and then ultimately revert to driving with his right hand and trying to get a call (which he didn’t). I think by the time playoffs rolled around, you saw his confidence grow in his three-point shot, and his sheer size/athleticism allowed him to at least keep pace with guys like LeBron.
I think we see a more versatile Sophomore Stanley, with more spots on the floor that he likes to score from. I know over the summer a big focus for him was concentrating on getting more comfortable going to his left, so I expect a weird hybrid of Jamal Crawford and Corliss Willamson. circa 2001 I’m predicting an average of 12-15 points, six boards and four assists a game.
4. What's the thing about Detroit's roster that gets you most excited about the team this year? What's the thing that gives you the most concern?
Sneaky two for one question my guy. Most excited is our freakish depth with tall guys. The combined height of Drummond, Baynes, Boban, and Mamadou is like damn near 30 feet. It seems like Stan is committed to giving Boban a decent run of minutes too, simply because Stan can’t get enough of seeing the guy barely jump for dunks on Vine. I have no clue what Stan Van Gundy imagines us doing with all of this height since everyone else seems to be going smaller. To that effect, I am embracing the unknown and letting the mystery be a positive.
What keeps me up at night refreshing Twitter in constant fear? Injuries. If the Pistons had a preseason team sponsor, it would be Advil. Reggie’s knee. Two broken noses. Tendinitis for Marcus Morris. Stanley Johnson having to switch sneakers and making me rethink everything I’ve liked about Nike Kobes. I can't point to one thing on the roster besides our overall health. The Pistons will only go as far as their health takes them, and right now I am rubbing my rabbit-foot-buddah-belly-four-leaf-clover-shooting-star-Robert-Horry vision board in hopes of a 4-seed.
5. Prediction time: How do you see the season opener against the Raptors playing out?
Definitely (hopefully) not with Lowry and DeRozan dropping a combined 53 pts on my Pistons. I think KCP keys up and locks down DeRozan but Lowry still does his thing. Tobias has a real nice1 of a game since DeMare is still on minutes restrictions and a not 100% knee and the Pistons come away with a super close 105-100 victory that’s hot up in the 6ix.