After wrapping up training camp, the Detroit Pistons are ready to kickstart a new beginning. General manager Joe Dumars added a plethora of new roster talent as well as coaches, and the team will feature their new look today during their exhibition opener at the Palace.
Their first preseason matchup will be outside the NBA against Israeli franchise Maccabi Haifa. Head coach Maurice Cheeks admitted to not knowing much about the overseas team to Mlive.com, saying he wanted his players to "focus on themselves". Maccabi Haifa recorded a 17-10 record last season on their way to earning the Israeli Basketball Super League Championship.
Detroit will see a bigger dose of competition when the defending champion Miami Heat come to the Palace on Thursday.
Preseason action won't determine the regular season success or postseason positioning. For the Pistons however, time and practice before the regular season is needed for this team to develop.
Yes, it's just exhibition but there is plenty to learn and pay attention to. Here are the most important headlines to focus on during the preseason.
1. Rookie Development
For the past few seasons, the Detroit Piston draft picks were placed in a position to contribute and shape the franchise right away. First-rounders like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight were forced to carry a team with a lack of depth and veteran leadership.
The 2013 rookies will play a vital role during the Pistons' resurgence, but they'll be afforded time to develop with less pressure.
First-round guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will have a big part in the Pistons rotation. The Georgia product is an athletic sharp-shooter and a smart defender.
Detroit's second-round selections Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell are two diamonds in the rough, but may have to wait to contribute. A log-jam of experienced guards and forwards in front of them may keep the rookies in street clothes or the D-league. Keep an eye on these two and monitor how they come along.
2. Smoove (Smooth) Transition
For those of you who don't know, new Pistons forward Josh Smith's nickname is J-Smoove because of his "smooth" all-around game. However, Smith's game needs to take a step in a different direction with Detroit.
The Pistons signed the former Atlanta Hawk to a four-year deal in July worth $54 million. He was brought in for his athleticism, aggression and play-making, but he'll be starting that work in an old spot at small forward.
In an interview with Pistons legend Rick Mahorn, Smith claims people act like small forward is a "foreign position" for him. He also sees Detroit as an opportunity to form one of the league's best backcourts with young center Andre Drummond and power forward Greg Monroe.
Smith's game has changed a bit since sliding to power forward in Atlanta. Settling for jumpers, playing a bit lazy on defense and his attitude were some of his biggest issues as a Hawk, leading him to leave and sign in Detroit.
Smith holds plenty of promise and will have to play in better shape and as motivated as ever to work as a small forward. Expect him to rotate at power forward as well. With new point guard Brandon Jennings handling the ball, Smith and the Pistons should be able to play much faster making them more dangerous.
3. Shooting Guard Battle
Head coach Maurice Cheeks has already inked veteran Chauncey Billups as the starting shooting guard today, but don't expect that permanently, at least not right now. Billups said he isn't worried about a "point guard label" but wants to be active with the ball.
While Billups is the starter today, the Pistons will more than likely rotate the starting shooting guard throughout the preseason. Other possible starters Rodney Stuckey and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Pistons acquired former Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings over the summer. After tinkering with combo-esque guards Brandon Knight and Stuckey for years, Jennings is the first pure point guard for Detroit since Billups in 2002 - 2008. Jennings game must alter to improve but he's maybe the most explosive guard this team has had in years.
4. Forward Depth
When's the last time you could applaud the Pistons on quality front court options? '04 championship days? Ben and Rasheed Wallace? Corliss Williamson? Elden Campbell? It's been awhile having a strong and fearsome starting frontcourt with depth as well.
The Pistons have lots of options to look at for small and power forward this season. The emergence of center Andre Drummond will move Greg Monroe to the 4 and Josh Smith at the 3. Given the versatility of Smith and Monroe, you will see them rotate often throughout the season. Moose can slide to center or power forward, and Smith will see time at the 4 along with the 3 on the wing.
Detroit lost long-time forward Jason Maxiell left in free agency for the Orlando Magic. The Pistons still have backup options in Luigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko, Kyle Singler, Charlie Villanueva and Tony Mitchell. Given the logjam of forwards, a trade could happen with especially with Stuckey and Villanueva's expiring contracts. Monroe is also set to become a restricted free agent after this season and he's been quiet on the discussion. Lots of options to explore for Dumars in 2013-14.