The Detroit Pistons were among the elite franchises in the Association for the first few years of the new century, until a series of disastrous moves, by Team President Joe Dumars; starting with the trade of Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson; sent the club to the NBA’s basement. Although, Detroit will most likely fall short of the Playoffs again this upcoming campaign, they have finally reached the point, where the path to success, is now shorter than the road behind them.
Dumars, has drafted wisely over the past couple of seasons, resulting in the Pistons now having some players that they can use as cornerstones to build a new and exciting team. Former Kentucky point guard, Brandon Knight showed lots of potential after the club took him in the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft, giving Detroit strength, at a position, that Dumars knows from first hand experience, how big a factor it is in building a winning club.
Another player that has shown great promise, in his first two seasons in the Association, is big man Greg Monroe, who had a very strong campaign for the club, this past season; starting all 66 games at the center spot and coming close to averaging a double-double for the year, as he scored 15.4 points and 9.7 boards per contest. As effective as he was for the club in the pivot last season, the team believes he can be even more effective for them as a power forward and are working on a plan to convert the talented player.
The first step in their game-plan, was to bring in players to fill Monroe’s spot in the middle of the staring lineup, which they have addressed by drafting former U-Conn center Andre Drummond and signing Ukrainian big man, 24-year-old Slava Kravtsov. Kravtsov, praised for his defensive ability, has been a member of his country’s National Team since 2006. Drummond is very raw at this point, but he does have a high ceiling and Detroit is hoping that the duo can be potent enough to allow Drummond to make the switch, if not in the upcoming campaign, then soon there after.
The second part of the equation, is to get Monroe ready to play at the four slot at the NBA level, an act that is already in the process of happening according to an interview with the big man on the team’s website. The big man told reporters on Monday “They basically said I need to be prepared to play power forward. They’re looking for at least one of those guys to be ready, so I’ve started to prepare myself to be ready to play the four. We’ve been working on stuff to have me in those positions. It’s very OK with me. With us there’s not that much of a difference, anyway. I’m not really worried about the transition. I’ve been playing power forward and center all my life, so I’m comfortable with playing either. I’m comfortable with the ball in the mid-post and at the elbow. Defensively, maybe that would be the only thing; guarding different types of players. I would have to scout more, learn the guys’ tendencies. It would be different footwork, moving your feet more.”
Monroe, said that he has no concerns, that he can make the switch successfully. He said “But I’m ready for the challenge. Like I’ve always said, I’m here to do whatever my team needs me to do. Defense is the staple of this organization. It’s what coach L is trying to do, so I’m just here to work as hard as I can to get better at that, too.”
Coach L, is the club’s bench boss Lawrence Frank, who is entering his second year with the organization and their first head coach since they dismissed Flip Saunders, who took the job having already been a head coach in the Association. Frank, had a long stint in that position with the New Jersey Nets; so he does not have to go through on the job training as the team’s last two bench bosses had to endure. He is yet another reason, that Pistons fans can finally see some light at the end of the long tunnel their club has been in.
Monroe, showed enough ability this past season, to warrant the team’s faith he can make the move from center to power forward. What remains to be seen, is whether Drummond, Kravtsov or a tandem of the pair, can give the team enough in the pivot to allow Monroe to move to the four slot.