(For a more complete look at the Eastern Conference, check out the first part of ‘Where do the Wizards Stand?’)
Over the past few weeks, NBA free-agency has dwindled down and we’re finally seeing the core pieces of every roster we’ll likely see during the start of training camp.
With that said, the Eastern Conference has improved and the Wizards’ chances at making the playoffs may have decreased a tad. Although the Wizards seem content with the roster they currently have in place, I still believe they’ll try to make a few changes to free up the logjam they have at the forward spot. Washington has had trouble defining roles for every player in the past, and I’m sure they’d like to avoid that problem this upcoming season.
While the Wizards aren’t being overly aggressive this off-season, other Eastern Conference teams have significantly changed their rosters-for better or worse. The Detroit Pistons have acquired Brandon Jennings from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Slava Kravtsov. This obviously puts the Bucks in a difficult situation next season, especially since they’ve lost both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The Bucks seem ready to rise atop the lottery boards, while the Detroit Pistons are trying to gather enough talent to make a playoff push next season.
On paper, the Pistons seem like a lock for the post-season. The acquisitions of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, and Chauncey Billups along side their young frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond may seem like enough to make the playoffs in the lowly Eastern Conference, but that’s not necessarily true. Though talented, the Pistons roster isn’t constructed all that well. Detroit was an average shooting team last season, and the pieces they’ve added this off-season won’t help much in that regard. Smith and Jennings both have a tendency to take ill-advised shots, which in most cases, results in a horrific offensive team. Andre Drummond seemed ready to make the jump to the starting lineup next season, but with Josh Smith now on the roster, the Pistons might have to delay their plans for Drummond. Unless the Pistons decide to start Smith at small forward and pair Monroe-Drummond in the frontcourt, I can’t see a way all three guys will get the playing time they’re hoping for. If that’s the case, the Pistons will have some of the worst spacing in the league. They’ll have to desperately rely on rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups, and Brandon Jennings, who has shown no significant improvement in his shooting numbers, for perimeter shooting. Over the past several seasons, Josh Smith has seemed content for settling for the perimeter shot, even though that’s obviously not the strongest part of his game. Simply put, Detroit’s current roster just doesn’t mesh well, especially if they end up relying on inefficient scoring.
At this point, I’d probably have to give Washington the edge over Detroit. I truly believe, that when healthy, the Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the NBA. With John Wall in the lineup, the Wizards are obviously a completely different team. Unlike Detroit, Washington’s core group of guys have been around each other long enough to establish continuity. It’s rare that virtually an entirely new roster meshes well together right out of the gate. Detroit’s revamped coaching staff has to figure out a way to make their thrown together roster work, otherwise Joe Dumars’ bold moves this off-season will end up looking like a disaster.
Injuries aside, the Wizards are more of a sure thing than the Pistons heading into next season. We all know what the Wizards are capable of when healthy. Detroit has to find a way to make their pieces fit together and I have a hard to believing it’ll be a smooth transition for their new cast of characters. At the end of the day, Washington still has some legit competition for the lower seeds in the conference and I certainly wouldn’t consider them a lock for the playoffs just yet.