Stan Van Gundy is close to finishing his third season as the head coach/president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons. Van Gundy took over a Pistons team that was looking to get back on track after six straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Last season Van Gundy was able to get the Pistons to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but just like that year they would be swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons have a young team and because of that along with Van Gundy’s proven track record to turn around NBA franchises, there was some optimism that this team would improve even more this season. However that has not been the case as the Pistons currently have a record of 36-43 which will see them fall short of making the postseason. And as this NBA season is ending earlier than expected for the Pistons, you can expect some changes to this roster.
This season the Pistons have six players who are averaging at least 10 points per game, but they are lacking a proven go-to-guy. Injuries have limited point guard Reggie Jackson to just 52 games this season, but even if he were healthy it wouldn’t be enough. The Pistons acquired Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to the trade deadline in 2015, and Van Gundy would even go on to sign him to a five-year extension for $80 million. However Jackson is not the type of point guard that makes Van Gundy’s system go.
In 27 games with the Pistons during the 2014-2015 NBA season, Jackson averaged 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game which led to him getting that lucrative extension. However in each season with the Pistons, Jackson’s production has declined. This season Jackson averaged 14.5 points and 5.2 assists before being shut down due to a foot injury. Jackson is a shooting guard that is in a point guard’s body and Van Gundy needs a player at that position who can consistently get everyone else on the team involved.
Center Andre Drummond can clean up on the glass as in his five-year NBA career he has averaged 12.9 rebounds per game which included him leading the league in the category last season at 14.8 per contest. However Drummond is not a player who can consistently create his own shot and after averaging 16.2 points per game this season, he is down to 13.9 this season as he would benefit from having point guard who has a pass-first mentality. And the same can be said for small forward Tobias Harris and power forward Marcus Morris who are solid players, but they also would benefit from having player that could create for them.
So when this summer rolls around, I expect Van Gundy to attempt to do some wheeling and dealing after his team underachieved this season. But with more than $103 million already committed to salaries for next season, how much will Van Gundy be able to do? Aside from Jackson who is owed roughly $52 million over the next three years, the Pistons are on the hook to pay Drummond $23.7 million next season, while Harris will receive $16 million. The Pistons need a spark on offense as their 101.1 points per game in 26th in the NBA and that simply won’t cut it in today’s offensive minded league. And with the Pistons set to leave Auburn Hills and move back to Detroit for next season, the last thing that they can afford to do is lay another dud.
This will just be the second time in Van Gundy’s NBA coaching career in which a team that is led by him will fall short of making the playoffs. But by hook or by crook, Van Gundy will do everything in his power to get the Pistons back on track this summer.