Season Recap/Notes: Stan Van Gundy (Kind of long, bring snacks.)

If you missed all of the player posts, then go find them your damn self. They are not hard to find if you've found this one.

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The team's basketball reference page to follow along with any stats.

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Here is the Pistons vorped page so you can see everyone's shot charts. May take a little maneuvering but you can start here.

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Head of Basketball Operations: (Keep in mind, this is only looking at his front office stuff. Not at all his coaching. Also please keep in mind, this is only looking at this past season, including the past offseason. So for instance, he gets credit for signing Reggie Jackson, but not the trade for him.)

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  • I am not sure what the best move that SVG made this past season was. It was either the Marcus Morris trade or the Tobias Harris trade. A bit more was given up for Tobias, (Ersan and Jennings were useful players, and Ersan could be under contract for one more season if they wanted) but Tobias is certainly better than Morris is. I think that the deal breaker could end up being what ends up happening with Reggie Bullock. If he manages to become a solid role player/be a real piece of a trade, then the Morris trade wins, otherwise I have to go with Tobias. Either way though, they were both absolute steals for obvious reasons. The Pistons gave up a 2020 second round pick for Morris lol. Also should be mentioned that it was a good job to get all the games out of Jennings as they could before letting him go.

  • Picking up Ersan for Caron Butler and Shawn Williams was a very nice move as well. Butler and Williams were/are largely negligible players (although Butler does still have some real value. Even if it is not much) and Ersan was a very important part of the Pistons till the break, and then was one of the 2 pieces that became Tobias Harris.

  • Re-signing Reggie Jackson was pretty well proven to be the right move this season. Very nice job on all accounts there.

  • Aron Baynes is still a bit questionable. We will find out how his contract is (good bad or otherwise) this offseason when we see how other backup centers are being paid. But Baynes was certainly a solid player for the Pistons all season so it was certainly not a bad signing, just perhaps not a great one.

  • Managing to get Tolly back was a good move as well, he once again had a really nice season and is a very reliable backup 4. Would have been nice to have tried to get another year (or even 2) on his contract because I would absolutely take him next season at 3 mill, but that is beside the point.

  • Even though it would end up being bad, at the time the trade for Steve Blake was a nice smart move to make. Quincy Miller was never really going to be much anyways, and Blake was (in theory) a good addition as a good veteran presence in the locker room, who could hold down the ship until Jennings came back, and once Jennings came back Blake had the size to play either guard position to fill in holes caused by injury/foul trouble.

  • Drafting Stanley and Hilliard, not home runs right now because it is too early, but both of them showed very real potential. Stanley could be a awesome 2 way player, and Hilliard might be able to really score. But it will take more time to judge them, as of right now though, they seem like solid picks.

  • Overall the Pistons front office once again had a really nice year where they added pieces for very little price. And you can really see how valuable the expanded front office for SVG is, because the Pistons have such incredibly extensive scouting on NBA players, when it turns up that the Suns, Magic, Bucks are trying to dump salary, the Pistons know right away which guys they want and which guys they don't. And often when a team is trying to dump salary like that, it is first come first serve. Other teams might want to take some time to really review the tape on Marcus Morris etc. but the Pistons knew right away that he would be good.

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What about the DMo trade that never was?

I don't know for sure what to think about it. I liked the trade at the time, but did not love it. (I'm not as high on DMo as a lot of people are. I think he's a solid player but I'm not sure he's better than a sort of solid rotation guy.) But even so, I was pretty excited. Thornton would have helped the bench out quite a bit this season as well. The reality is that time will tell if that was a smart move or a dumb one. (Although FWIW, I would guess that this call was largely up to the doctors and not SVG or Bower.) If DMo has a super productive career and is never really hurt, the trade that never was will possibly haunt SVG and the Pistons. But if DMo is often hurt/not anything overly special as a player, then it was probably the right move and it's fine. Time will tell. Personally, I lean towards it being the right move. As stated before, I am not super high on DMo, and I am pretty high on the Mobias combo, (and DMo would have largely killed that combo obviously.) and I also think that draft picks actually become even more important once you are actually trying to win. One thing people don't talk about enough with the Spurs is that they keep most of their picks, and consistently have 1 or 2 guys at the back end of their rotation who are young and dirt cheap. Even if they are late round picks and second round picks, if you can find guys who can be rotation players in the draft it is a huge help. But once again, time will tell. (And admittedly, I have a irrational love of the Mobias forward combo.)

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SVG: The Coach: (obviously this is just his coaching. Nothing to do with front office stuffs. And this will take the form of the other recap posts, not a list.)

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The Good:

The Pistons won 44 games this season, which is a really solid mark for a team that has a pretty remarkable combination of youth and turnover. I said it a few times this season, but pretty much every person on the roster was either on a new team, in a new role, or both. And generally the team seemed to be fairly together and on the same page, which should largely be attributed to SVG's coaching abilities. SVG just has a way to get people to play hard and together, which is the hallmark of any good coach.

The most impressive thing that I think SVG did coaching this season however, is that he built an offense that was actually pretty good, with very little to base it on. It was said a few times before the season, but a big concern for the Pistons was: Where will the offense come from. The only real ball handlers the team had were Reggie Jackson, Steve Blake, and Jodie Meeks. Jodie Meeks broke his foot and missed the whole season, and Steve Blake was Steve Blake. SVG found ways to get the most out of guys creating their own offense, who had not done much of creating their own offense. KCP found some reliable (if not overly effective) offense as a ball handler by getting a pick set for him to pull up for midrange shots. (Not to toot my own horn, but I had thought they should try this last year. And shouts to all 3 of you who upvoted that. That was literally the start of all this.) Marcus Morris was the ball handler in more pick and rolls this season than he had run in his entire career combined up to this year, and I also love how SVG combatted Morris' tendency to go out of the offense to take bad shots by not just using him as a spot up 3 point shooter, but letting Morris get a fairly steady diet of isolations when the offense broke down, and especially in some matchups. Andre Drummond continued to grow as a post up threat, and while still not exactly Hakeem, there were times this season where his ability to post guys up created real problems for opponents. The Stanley Johnson/Aron Baynes pick and roll chemistry was perhaps the most unexpected thing of the whole season, and Stanley got a unique chance with the bench mob to learn through mistakes and spread his wings, while still playing on a winning team. And of course, he put a huge offensive load on Reggie Jackson. (which was covered extensively in my season recap for Reggie.) It was not always perfect, but it is pretty impressive that the Pistons finished the season with a above average offense with so many players having to expand their games. And SVG seemed to be able to push the right buttons with consistency to get the best offense out of guys that he could.

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The Bad:

First off, Steve Blake. I've talked about this more than enough.

My main complaint with SVG this season was his general rotations and lineups. On one hand it was frustrating the way he rode KCP and Marcus Morris for so many minutes this season, but most of my complaints have to do with not being very willing to get creative/take some chances with guys.

So for instance, one thing that made me interested about Aron Baynes after the signing, is that Baynes can shoot jumpers with some ability, and also has a decent passing IQ. Meaning that he should have worked as being able to play alongside Drummond for short stretches and in certain matchups. SVG only used it when absolutely forced to by injuries. (2 games I think?) Obviously, I don't know how well it would have worked anyways, but it was a look that should've worked in theory, and the Pistons just never tried it. Consider Spencer Dinwiddie, he is 6'6 and really long, he is able to play a position other than just PG, and the Pistons were desperate for more ball handling on the second unit, so why not toss Dinwiddie out there for a few minutes alongside Steve Blake and the rest of the bench mob. The biggest complaint of course is that after Jodie Meeks got hurt, Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard rotted away on the bench all season before the Stanley injury showed the Bullock is actually pretty good. Would have been nice to have Reggie Bullock playing with the bench mob all season. And to be clear, some of these choices are totally defensible, the Pistons starting lineup was very solid all season long so SVG wanted to try and not mess with it too much, and the Pistons were in a tight playoff race where every game mattered. But the bench stuff is pretty dumbfounding to me, it was so bad all season that it could not have hurt to let Bullock and Hilliard get a 10 game stretch (10 games is arbitrary obviously, some sort of real stretch) where they get to be in the rotation. Also inexcusable? His insistance on trying to use KCP as the lone starter with the bench mob. That lineup was awful, while the bench mob with Marcus Morris was actually pretty good. There just seemed to be some habits that he got into that didn't make much sense to me.

To be clear by the way, when the biggest complaint about your coach is that he was not creative enough with his rotations. That is a good feeling. Other than Blake, there is no one who played way more than they should have, and even with Blake, we don't actually know that Dinwiddie would have been much better. There were no guys who were constantly taking wtf shots all the time, (KCP's confidence in transition 3s was confusing but whatever.) or any of the sort of crap that you deal with when there is a bad coach. And Pistons fans know a thing or two about bad coaches. SVG did a wonderful coaching job this season, even if I did have some complaints.

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Biggest Answer?

SVG still has it. Even though by the end of the season last year, the Pistons showed some real promise, it was still not a very good year. And I'm sure I was not the only one who was at least thinking about the possibility that SVG was in over his head. (Not a strong thought, but it was there.) This season put those thoughts to bed with both his coaching and his front office stuff. Any reason anyone had to doubt SVG should be pretty much gone at this point. He knows what guys he wants, and he is generally right to want them, and he is a good enough coach to get the most out of them.

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Biggest Question?

Can he find the missing piece(s) for this team? Whether it is by internal growth of the players the Pistons already have, or addition through trades, free agency, or the draft. The Pistons still need more playmaking and defense on their team. (Tobias Harris might pretty much fill in the playmaking need. But I think they might still need some more) The Pistons are at the most difficult stage in the next couple years of building a champion. It is not that hard to go out and get some good NBA players and win 40 some games. The next step is the hard part. And SVG will need to be correct on some hard decisions. I have faith in him, but even someone as good as SVG can make mistakes.

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Why do you always want "insert player here" to get more playing time?

Because every time I watch Kris Middleton I get angry. (not really, I love watching the Bucks actually.) The real reason why is because the Pistons are not a finished product yet. They can afford to lose a couple of games to give guys a chance still. And think of all the teams (not just NBA) who find really good players on accident. Remember that if it were not for David Lee getting hurt, LeBron may well be winning his second straight title for the land. And it is very beneficial to the Pistons to know exactly what they have right now. So take Spencer Dinwiddie for example. If they play him for 15 games as the backup PG, and he absolutely sucks. Then the decision to keep him for another year becomes easy. (Same if he is good) If SVG had actually giving Bullock a fair chance then the Pistons would have probably been a better team this season, but also, they would have a much better idea of what he is capable of. There wouldn't be the small sample size asterisk with his impressive performance at the end of the season. This thought process was only added onto by the fact that the Pistons bench was so bad this season that giving guys a real shot would not have hurt much even if they sucked.

To put it simply, the Pistons need to make some really important decisions over the next couple years. And the more they know about the players they have, the better.

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Verdict for next year and beyond?

SVG will be a good coach for as long as he coaches, and I have a lot of faith in the front office version of SVG now as well. I don't know for sure whether or not he will find the right pieces/get the right improvement out of the current pieces to win a championship or not. It's really hard to win a championship. But I can say with some certainty that as long as SVG is heading the ship, the Pistons will be a worthwhile basketball team, and as someone who watches as much NBA basketball as I do, that is the most important thing to me.

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What do you think? What was your favorite thing SVG did this season? What about the least favorite? Let me know! We all get smarter!