The development of Greg Monroe is critical. One of the best games I saw him play last season was at Sacramento, where he outplayed DeMarcus Cousins from start to finish [Monroe had 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting, 11 rebounds and three assists, while Cousins had 15 points on 5-of-15 from the field]. I said "Wow, can he keep this going?" Then I would see him in another game and he wasn't much of a factor. So he has to be more consistent.
Monroe isn't a black hole anymore. He isn't a "I have to do something with the ball or I'm not going to get it back" guy. Coach Lawrence Frank has tried to convince him that he doesn't have to pound the ball and try to make a play every time he touches it. They went to him in the post a little more last year. He is still better running the floor, getting early buckets in transition, getting stick-backs. His rebounding and assists were up. He's progressing, but there's still more to improve, particularly on defense.
[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the Pistons this season]
Defensively, Monroe is not affecting shots the way they would want him to. He's not quick off his feet. He may never be a shot-blocker, but getting better as a one-on-one defender and help guy should be priorities.
The Pistons hope that rookie Andre Drummond will become a long-term frontcourt partner for Monroe, someone who can give them more of a defensive presence. There's no polish to his game, but his instincts are really good. It's just relentless offensive rebounding and dunking right now. He's a big body -- much bigger than I thought he was -- and his timing is excellent. If he develops, he is going to be scary.
[Ben Golliver: Handicapping the Rookie of the Year race]
I question whether Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight can coexist. Who is going to guard the other team's big guard? Stuckey and Knight are both scoring point guards. When it comes to getting others involved, they get sloppy. As far as controlling a game when it starts to get out of hand, they can't do it.
Corey Maggette won't improve the team. He attacks the rim and gets to the free-throw line. But two out of every five drives are ill-advised. I know he has had a long career of putting up numbers, but he's always had the same deficiencies -- the defense, the lack of passing. Look at the total wins of his teams [Maggette has played for one playoff team in 13 years]. Even on 20-win teams, someone is going to score 20 points and get 10 rebounds. To me, Maggette is a guy who just destroys your locker room.
Tayshaun Prince is probably someone everyone is going to look at as a trade possibility. He can contribute, but it might be on another team. He's not cut out to play in a rebuilding process. He walked into Detroit as a rookie and couldn't get on the court because the team was too good. Now that they are struggling after all of those successful years, it beats him up mentally.
I didn't see too many encouraging things from Austin Daye last year. They gave him opportunity after opportunity and he couldn't deliver. He doesn't have enough bulk to play the 4, but he can't chase players around the perimeter, either. He is a poor ball handler and time after time he makes poor decisions. His passing is atrocious. If you are looking for a guy who can catch and shoot, I guess that's his thing. But even that part of his game wasn't good last year.
[Chris Mannix: Central Division preview]
I don't know what happened to Charlie Villanueva last year. He wasn't in shape and Frank doesn't have a lot of patience for guys like that. He can make jump shots, but I don't know if he is willing to commit to be in shape and do the things he needs to do on both ends of the floor. I don't know what the Pistons thought he was going to turn into as a player when they gave him all of that money [a five-year, $37.7 million contract in 2009]. He's the same as he was in Milwaukee and Toronto.
Jonas Jerebko is kind of a funky player. He's probably better in a transition game. I thought he played well with Stuckey, going up and down. But in the half court he doesn't have a post-up game and he is not a good enough perimeter shooter. When the game gets loose, he attacks, gets offensive rebounds and is opportunistic.
Frank is always going to be prepared and have a defensive scheme that they stick with and trust.