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Detroit Pistons
Eastern Conference | Central MORE PISTONS
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An opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons

They could struggle a little bit initially while they're trying to get used to playing without Ben Wallace, but I don't envision a big dropoff from the Pistons. I don't think they can win a championship anymore -- those days are behind them -- but this is still an excellent perimeter team at both ends of the court, and guys like Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton are tough-minded players who will want to bounce back to where they were a couple of years ago ...

Defensively, the Pistons are a very good perimeter team. Chauncey is strong as hell, Rip and Tayshaun are very quick and newcomer Flip Murray is a strong kid with size. The problem is that the new rules really affect this team because you can't touch offensive players on the perimeter anymore. So now when opponents drive on Detroit, they won't find Ben Wallace waiting to block their shot. He was terrific, probably the best off-the-ball defender in the NBA as far as covering up for his teammates' mistakes. Now you've got Rasheed Wallace back there instead, and he's not going to be nearly as good at it. So their overall defense, which already suffered last year under Flip Saunders, is going to be even worse this year ...

Flip Saunders is totally about offense. Larry Brown's approach in Detroit two years ago was to hold the opponent to 42 percent from the floor. Flip's approach last year was to encourage his team to score 98 points a game. Flip is going to allow guys to stay on the floor in spite of defensive lapses and missed assignments. He'll give you a lot of confidence, pat you on the ass and stay with you a longer time if you screw up than other coaches like Larry Brown or Jerry Sloan or Scott Skiles, who don't have as much patience ...

The thing I didn't like about Detroit after they got off to their great start last year was their cockiness. They started toying with teams by playing it close for three quarters before turning it up in the fourth. They developed this cockiness that you could see in their faces and it turned me off, I started to not like them as a team. But it bit them in the ass during the playoffs when that confidence was not so great, because all of a sudden you can't turn up the level in the fourth quarter because your opponents are also raising their level, too. They got a little too full of themselves last year, but if they come back with hunger, they'll win a lot of games this season because they still know how to win ...

I'm waiting for something bad to happen between Rasheed Wallace and Flip Saunders. Rasheed bought into Larry Brown because of the North Carolina connection and the fact that they all wear blue underwear. Larry was a little bit more confrontational with his players than Flip, who in Minnesota was used to having a team led by the ultimate warrior Kevin Garnett. Now in Detroit he has to coach Rasheed, who has Garnett's talent but lacks KG's character. He specifically needs to get Wallace to play more in the low post. He got stuck out on the three-point line so often last year that his rebounding numbers were down, but they need him to shore up that area now that Ben Wallace is gone. We'll see how that goes ...

They're also going to need even more from Antonio McDyess, which is asking a lot of someone with a history of two bad knee injuries. He's lost a lot of his explosiveness, but he can still make the 15-footer. They'll need to go to him in the low post more often because scoring is going to be more important than ever for this team, and if they want to go far in the playoffs they need points in the paint to balance what they're getting from the perimeter ...

I don't see new center Nazr Mohammed as a frontline player. If they can get 25 productive minutes from him, they're doing well. He'll be an improvement offensively over Ben, but then so would anybody ...

Billlups started off terrific last year. He was making shots, playing with a lot of confidence and he was tremendous in the fourth quarter. He definitely was an MVP candidate, but he wasn't able to sustain it like Steve Nash was. Then he seemed to lose his confidence all of a sudden in the playoffs. Maybe he lost his confidence during the season when he'd go on cruise control waiting for the fourth quarter; all I know is that he wasn't able to turn it on and off during the playoffs like he did in the regular season. But Chauncey is one of elite players in this league -- I rate him second among point guards only to Nash -- and he's tough-minded enough to come back and be an MVP candidate the next two to three years ...

Prince is their fourth-best player behind Chauncey, Rasheed and Rip. But Tayshaun brings a lot as a playmaker from his position, a guy who can take the ball out on the floor, handle it, make plays for other people, make shots, drive it to the hole and block shots at the other end ...

Maybe the biggest mystery of their playoff collapse was the fact that Rip Hamilton was missing so many of those shots from 17 feet that he usually knocks down. He was another guy who had a good regular season but dropped off during the playoffs ...

Flip Murray will upgrade them off the bench as a fourth guy on the perimeter who can make plays, handle and play different positions. Flip can play both guard positions and a little bit of small forward. He's a guy who can drive it to the goal, which was another weakness that hurt them during the playoffs. The Pistons were less able to take advantage of the playoffs than other teams ...

Lindsey Hunter is getting old, but he's a true pro who knows what it takes to win, and he wouldn't come back unless he knew that he could contribute ...

To win a championship, they'll need a shotblocker but they lost the best guy in the league at protecting the goal. Opponents will be able to score more easily than in the past. They're in the second tier behind the three or four top teams in the league, but the Pistons still have three All-Stars. They can still be the second-best team in the East.

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