The Detroit Pistons have been measurably better this season. They are in contention for the playoffs and had seemingly found an identity with players like point guard Reggie Jackson and big man Andre Drummond. But even with those two, there was no assurances that this team would make it far. And going into the trade deadline, the Pistons were a team that could have been a buyer or a seller. They had some pieces that people were interested in with backup point guard Brandon Jennings and even forward Marcus Morris. But they also had players that they desired that were on the trade market. The onus was on head of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy to make it happen. Would he help his team get better or would he continue to stay the course with what he had while potentially dumping Jennings for something that would not help this team. Well, the trade deadline has come and gone and the Pistons appeared to be more buyers than sellers. And with that, they now are looking just like a team that Van Gundy coached in his past. The Detroit Pistons are now resembling a team that Van Gundy took to the NBA Finals once before, the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic.
The first move in this makeover that Van Gundy started was to move Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for the services of Tobias Harris. The Pistons gave up a good backup point guard and a stretch forward in Ilyasova, but the move also gave the Pistons something they did not have. Harris was not doing as well in the system that Scott Skiles had in Orlando. But in Van Gundy’s system, he will be likely matched up with forward Marcus Morris in the frontcourt. Both of these guys can handle the basketball, shoot the three and make plays at the rim. But what Harris does better than Morris is make plays. His playmaking skills fit great on this team. What made the Orlando Magic so tough that season was the play of forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was handling the ball and making plays while shooting at an excellent clip from the three-point line. Harris is essentially filling that role on this team and with he and Marcus Morris, they both are the new Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu for Van Gundy. And with Harris handling the ball more, the Pistons just freed up point guard Reggie Jackson even more. But that was not the only move the Pistons made that allowed them to remake themselves.
The next move the Pistons made just made them even more versatile. The Pistons traded away seldom-used big man Joel Anthony to the Houston Rockets along with a top-eight protected first round pick. In return, the Pistons received versatile forward Donatas Montiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton. For a piece that was rarely used, the Pistons received two players that can definitely help Detroit. With Montiejunas, the Pistons get a big man with size that can shoot the three as well. Combine him with forward Anthony Tolliver coming off the bench, you now have two forwards with size and shooting ability that can stretch the floor coming off the bench. But the bonus in this trade has to be guard Marcus Thornton. The veteran guard can get hot at any time. And when he does, he can carry your team for stretches at a time. And he, along with Montiejunas, can spread the floor. Imagine these guys paired with Harris and Jackson at the helm making plays. That could be dangerous.
All these new pieces going along with the old pieces makes this team a dangerous threat because of the style they will be able to play. They now have pieces that can spread the floor and let Drummond have the entire paint to himself, just like Dwight Howard did when they went to the NBA Finals. Drummond will essentially be the new Dwight Howard (in a good way) for Van Gundy. And if someone is to help off their man to help their big against Drummond, then the Pistons can make them pay with the collection of shooters they have now. And also, the pick-and-roll offense is now even more dangerous because not only can they use Jackson and Drummond together, but they now can use Drummond with Harris like that. The onus will now be on the team’s stars to make it happen. But with what they have now, the Pistons are now armed to make a run in the Eastern Conference. And Van Gundy now has a team he thinks can make it happen. Not bad for a guy that inherited a team that was in such disarray when he got there in 2014.