Five Key Questions Facing Pistons This Season

So, who's really in charge around here?

Will Burchfield
October 23, 2019 - 5:51 pm

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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Fresh off their first playoff appearance in three years -- and a humbling sweep at the hands of the Bucks -- the Pistons open the season Wednesday night aiming to take another step forward. Their goal is the same as last season: home court in the first round of playoffs. The Pistons believe they can be one of the top four teams in the East, even if the logic suggests otherwise. 

Now they'll try to prove that logic wrong. 

Here are five key questions facing the team this season. 

Is Drummond Part of the Future? 

If there's one subplot that defines Detroit's season, this is it. Andre Drummond, the team's longest-tenured player, is prepared to decline his $29 million for next season and test free agency. Unless, of course, the Pistons choose to extend him first. Owner Tom Gores, an unabashed fan of Drummond, has said keeping the center long-term is a "top priority" for the organization. But if Drummond wants the kind of money he's looking for, he needs to prove he can evolve this season to be a legitimate difference maker in today's NBA -- and that  might be Dwane Casey's biggest charge in his second season as head coach. 

Is Kennard Part of the Solution? 

There isn't much doubt as to Luke Kennard's future with the the team. Other than Drummond and rookie Sekou Doumbouya, Kennard is the Pistons' only first-round pick on the roster. The uncertainty lies in his ability to take his game to another level. The Pistons need Kennard to develop into a reliable scorer, especially in Casey's offense that's built around the three. He took a step forward last season, especially down the stretch, but 9.7 points per game isn't enough for a player who doesn't do much else. Kennard needs to increase his production in his third NBA season. 

Is the Bloom Off the Rose? 

Well, hopefully not. And for Derrick Rose, who's out to prove he's still got it, the preseason was a good start. The Pistons took a risk by giving the former MVP a two-year, $15 million deal, but it stands to be a smart move if he stays healthy. (Yeah, yeah, huge 'if.') Rose averaged 18.0 points over 51 games last year for the Timberwolves, modernizing his game with the three-pointer. And he remains one of the most dynamic players off the dribble. He could give the Pistons a huge lift off the bench, which is where the roster improved from last season, and he'll be a story worth rooting for along the way. 

How Much Blake...

...is too much Blake? The Pistons have to find a more managebale workload for Blake Griffin this season, and they took a step in that direction Tuesday by announcing he won't play until at least the first week of November as he deals with knee and hamstring soreness. Griffin put the Pistons on his back last season, playing his most basketball in five years, and he was worse for the wear by the end of the road. Griffin is the Pistons' only ticket to meaningful success, but he's also an asset they need to protect for the next three seasons. That begins by lightening his load. 

Is Stefanski in Charge...

...or is he just a yes-man to Tom Gores? The Pistons still haven't named a GM since parting ways with Jeff Bower after the 2017-18 season. While Ed Stefanski has effectively filled the position, it feels like Gores' voice matters as much as anyone's when it comes to big decisions. Put it this way -- Gores wasn't bringing anyone on board who wasn't in concert with his win-now plan. How the Pistons handle the trade deadline, Drummond's contract situation and the potential breakup of their 'Big Three' will go a long way toward clarifying who's really in charge.