Going into the trade deadline last season, the Detroit Pistons were still somehow in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons starting lineup for most of the year had been Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond (in order from one to five).
Since the trade deadline, however, the Pistons have added point guard Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and extended him to an expensive five-year deal to be the team's starting point guard of the future and the now, Stanley Johnson out of Arizona University brought back the bad boys mentality of the Pistons golden days after being selected eighth overall in the draft. Ersan Ilyasova was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks (who of course replaced him with Monroe), Marcus Morris was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a cap cutting trade for the Suns, and many other smaller depth moves were made which have guided the Pistons to a 2-0 record for the first time in more than five years.
Without Josh Smith stealing his shooting attempts, Caldwell-Pope has been able to shine so far this year, averaging 18.5 points his first two games and has looked fantastic at the two guard in both wins. Reggie Jackson and backup Steve Blake have made an impact in the passing/assist game, and Andre Drummond has continued his impact on the boards, averaging 14.5 so far through the first two.
While the stat numbers are limited in sample size, especially for the role players, this year's Pistons team does have a different feel to it than in years past. Since the draft pick of Stanley Johnson, this team has turned from what could be considered an annual laughing stock the last five or so years, to a playoff contender as early as this season. The bad boys mentality is back in Detroit, and Stanley Johnson's Detroit versus everybody comment has taken the whole city by storm. If the Pistons continue to win games, fans will once again fill the Palace of Auburn Hills, making it feel like 2004 all over again.
Stan Van Gundy has molded the Pistons from a team built around Andre Drummond into a true team. A team that when developed properly reminds some of the 1980's teams Detroit has had. While there may not be an Isiah Thomas who could break out every game and score twenty plus, the team unity, the energy, and the positivity and optimism appears to have been restored in Detroit. Fans in Detroit are no longer making jokes about how the Pistons had half as good a win percentage as the Lions last year. They appear to be ready for a new generation of Pistons teams led by Drummond, Jackson, and Johnson, taking on the whole east coast of the United States.
While the Pistons are not quite ready to be considered the favorites for anything close to a championship this early in their development phase, the beginnings are clearly here for a potential playoff birth, or even a playoff run. A solid coach, a talented squad, and the energy, drive, focus and positivity that every team needs is brewing, and Detroit Pistons fans are about to witness greatness once again. Maybe not this year, but soon enough.