Originally written October 31, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
Now that the baseball season is over and the hockey season has yet to start, it's time to turn our attention to the young Detroit Pistons. The Pistons host Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets in the home opener on Halloween night, and Pistons fans are wondering whether their team is going to be scary or offer up some treats. Most likely, it'll be a little of both. Coach Lawrence Frank is in a better position this season than he was last year, his first year with the Pistons. Last year Frank had to deal with a lockout-shortened season, no summer league, no training camp and very few practices during the season. Rookie Brandon Knight, coming off just one year at Kentucky, was likely the most affected by that. Point guard is regarded as the toughest position to learn and Knight had to do so on the fly while dealing with a grueling schedule. Knight, however, is a gym rat and spent as much time as he could learning Frank's system and performed pretty well, averaging 12.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. This past offseason Knight was a regular at the Pistons practice facility so it's a good bet that he'll be able to have an even better season. He'll also have to help all of the team's newcomers adjust. The Pistons have five rookies and one new veteran this season. The player generating the most interest in the preseason was rookie Andre Drummond, the 19-year-old the Pistons took with the ninth pick in this past NBA draft. Drummond averaged nine points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in eight preseason games. The other rookies are Kyle Singler, the team's second-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft who spent last season in Spain, Khris Middleton, chosen 39th in this past draft, Kim English, the 44th overall pick in this past draft and Slava Kravtsov, the 7-foot big man from Ukraine. Singler is a 6-8 forward who shot 43 percent from three-point range in seven preseason games. Middleton is a 6-7 forward who played in four preseason games, shooting 6-for-11 from long distance. English is a 6-6 guard who averaged four points and 2.5 rebounds in his six preseason games. Kravtsov may be big but he's also athletic, like Drummond. It'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NBA and American culture. The veteran the Pistons added is Corey Maggette, who came in a June trade from Charlotte for Ben Gordon. If healthy, Maggette should be able to help Rodney Stuckey in driving to the basket and drawing fouls. During the preseason, the starters were Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Tayshaun Prince, Stuckey and Knight. Those five are likely to be the starters this season. Will Bynum and Jonas Jerebko will be two mainstays off the bench, backing up Knight and Maxiell, respectively. Drummond and Kravtsov will likely get minutes behind Monroe. Austin Daye, Singler and Middleton will fight for time behind Prince. English is known as a tough defender so he'll likely earn some playing time based on that. It remains to be seen how much playing time Charlie Villanueva will get. Monroe is an All-Star in waiting. He had 30 double-doubles last season, good enough for ninth in the league, and continues to improve. Like Knight and Stuckey, Monroe spent a lot of time at the Pistons practice facility in the offseason, learning his new teammates and getting even more accustomed to Frank's system. Most pundits are picking the Indiana Pacers to win the Central Division, with the Chicago Bulls behind them because of Derrick Rose's knee injury. The Pistons have all said they expect to make the playoffs, something owner Tom Gores has also said he expects. Unlike the last few years, the Pistons could sneak into the playoffs but their championship possibilities remain a ways off. For now, it'll be a work in progress but it should be fun watching the young players develop.
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