With well over two months until the official tip-off of the new NBA season, I will spend the time until then breaking down the Detroit Pistons’ chances in the Eastern Conference and how they stack up against each team.
The first installment sees the Pistons matching up against their fierce and longtime rival, the Chicago Bulls. Last season, the Pistons didn’t fair so well in this particular match-up going 1-3 in their four seasonal contests. But how will the revamped Pistons roster stack up against the powerful Windy City squad this season?
Let’s break it down.
Projected starting lineups:
Detroit- Brandon Jennings
Chicago- Derrick Rose
This is the facet of the matchup this season that can really prove to hurt the Pistons. Rose has all the talent to be the best point guard in the NBA, but, this all hinges on his health and how he handles it mentally. If Rose can come back full tilt this season and put his ACL tear behind him, the Chicago Bulls have as good of a chance as anybody to take home the title this year. Let’s also remember, Rose is the last player to win MVP who isn’t named Lebron James. Jennings will struggle matching Rose’s size and physicality and essentially his talent level. Jennings is an upgrade but this is a tough match for him and it has showed in his ten career matchups against Rose (13.0 points and 5.4 assists per game).
Detroit- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups?
Chicago- Jimmy Butler
The Pistons two-guard situation seems to be up in the air right now. Regardless of who it is, I believe Chicago will still hold an advantage. Jimmy Butler, who showed an abundance of promise this past postseason, will serve as another matchup problem for Detroit. The 6-foot-7 and 220-pound Butler will be another physical presence in the Bulls backcourt alongside Rose who will use his length and athleticism to try and terrorize the Pistons backcourt. Caldwell-Pope seems to be the right choice for the Pistons at the two spot after his promising showing in the Orlando Summer League. KCP will give them the most versatility, but, as a rookie, the team would have to deal with the impending growing pains.
Detroit- Josh Smith
Chicago- Luol Deng
This is a great matchup and the most exciting matchup between these two teams. Deng and Smith are both terrific players in their own right, but also very different. Both players play a solid two-way game and give their respective teams a major boost with their size and versatility. In this particular matchup though, I like Josh Smith. Smith has a tool bag that’s a bit bigger than Deng’s and Smith can do things on the defensive end that Deng cannot. The attribute Deng carries that Smith doesn’t have yet is the ability to play a full game with immense focus and discipline. If Smith can learn to do this on a consistent basis, the Pistons will be in good luck.
Advantage: Pistons (Slight edge)
Detroit- Greg Monroe
Chicago- Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer isn’t much of a fan favorite in Chi-town anymore, that’s for certain. The strong-bodied forward is often criticized for his lack of consistency and that doesn’t serve him well in a matchup against budding All-Star Greg Monroe. Although Monroe has been quite efficient so far in his young career, he hasn’t played well against the Bulls (1-10 in 11 career games). However, Monroe did spend much of his time playing against center Joakim Noah and now being moved to the four-spot should do him a lot of good. I think this could be a toss-up on any night given Boozer’s lack of consistency, but when he’s on, he’s on. For now, I’ll take Moose.
Detroit- Andre Drummond
Chicago- Joakim Noah
How fun will this matchup be? A lot of fun. Many believe Andre Drummond is the future at center in the NBA and a potential MVP candidate in the long run. Joakim Noah is tough as nails and the heart of the Chicago Bulls. The biggest advantage I see for Detroit is Drummond’s massive, muscular frame and his unforgiving attack on the glass. But, at the end of the day he is only 19 years old. The experience of Noah will give the Bulls an edge in this matchup, but this is definitely subject to change pending on the growth of the young center Drummond.
Advantage: Bulls (Subject to change)
I believe the Pistons improved one of the league’s most productive benches last season this offseason. The additions of sharp-shooting Gigi Datome, veteran floor general Chauncey Billups and athletically gifted swingman Tony Mitchell will add more cogs to the Pistons bench. The Bulls haven’t garnered much bench production in recent years, but the addition of Mike Dunleavy with the already productive Taj Gibson should give the starters a little more breathing room this upcoming season.
Detroit- Maurice Cheeks
Chicago- Tom Thibodeau
Mo Cheeks is inheriting a new team with a lot of talent, yet a lot of questions. How will he handle the floor spacing issues? How will he handle the minutes? Can he get enough guard production? The questions are endless. Cheeks is credited with a lot of Russell Westbrook’s growth while in Oklahoma City so we’ll see how he handles the young Pistons guards. On the other end, Thibodeau gets his All-World point guard back and all the usual pieces are back and then some. His team will only get better.
Bulls take three of four regular season meetings. Pistons will be much more competitive. The growth of Drummond throughout the season will be the biggest key.