With the NBA All-Star game now in the rear view mirror, the Detroit Pistons will both turn their attention to their push for a playoff birth and plans of their next move as it relates to restructuring a team in bad need of a makeover.
Whichever way it may end up going, Detroit's second half begins tomorrow night with a visit from the Charlotte Bobcats, a team the Pistons are currently trailing in the standings. If the team is intent on making a playoff move, there would be no better time than the February present.
What other issues and players will be important to watch as the Pistons start their home stretch of basketball in 2014? Here's a quick guide.
Pistons' Second Half Player To Watch: Josh Smith, F. Considering he was a major addition over the summer, Smith's play has become a lighting rod for criticism and concern. In order to win back some of the fans he's frustrated, Smith will have to have some big outputs in the second half of the year. He'll also have to cut down on the turnovers and make some winning plays in order to help the team. If he rebounds and helps the team, that will help him in the eyes of many.
What Will Happen To…Rodney Stuckey, G. If the Pistons are indeed intent on contending for a playoff birth, they likely won't ship Stuckey away on February 20, which is the NBA's trade deadline. If they're not, Stuckey will probably be shipped away to a contending team, most likely for draft picks. Considering the Pistons look better and more organized with Stuckey in the fold, that move will be interesting to watch, and tell a story about which direction the team is leaning for the rest of 2014. Will they tank or keep helpful players in the fold?
Key Stretch To Watch: March 12-24. This will be the Pistons' own personal version of March Madness, as Detroit will play five of six games on the road against tough Western Conference foes like Denver, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz at a critical time in the season. Sandwiched in are vital Eastern Conference battles against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors. If the Pistons are to make a significant move in the standings, they will need to have a strong March, and survive their longest road trip of the month.
Issue To Watch: Team defense. The Pistons, while much improved lately, are still prone to lapses in stretches like last week's ugly fourth quarter loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Detroit can manufacture points and rebounds enough to contend, but can they defend? That will be a giant issue in the second half, especially if the team is intent on keeping an eye on the playoffs. If they're able to keep the pride up on the defensive end, their entire game will improve and Detroit might become a dangerous foe.
Super Youngster: Andre Drummond, C. After dominating the futures game with 30 points and 25 rebounds, Drummond will look to continue to making a strong push in the second half. With all due respect to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Drummond is only 20, and still the most exciting young player to watch considering he averages nearly a double-double every game and makes an array of exciting plays. Regardless of who's coaching or if the team makes the playoffs, Drummond is the future.
Who's On The Hottest Seat? Joe Dumars. Considering the Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks, the Pistons likely aren't expecting huge things from interim coach John Loyer, meaning the next one on the hot seat is Dumars, who hasn't been himself lately in the media or otherwise with regards to interviews and information. The writing might be on the wall, as the Pistons have managed to make changes at every other organizational level except for general manager. The moves Dumars makes (or has made for him from above) will tell the tale about what happens to the former "Bad Boys" star after the season.
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