The Eastern Conference promises to show a bit of a shakeup in the bottom three playoff seeds next season, but until this week, the Detroit Pistons still fell short of being involved in that conversation.
Brandon Jennings is the latest player to sign a new contract in Detroit and the team is suddenly in the running for one of the last three playoff seeds in the conference. They immediately displace the Bucks at the very least as a potential eight seed and will clear $8.5 million off its books next year when Charlie Villanueva’s contract finally expires.
The job Joe Dumars has done to assemble the current squad has been somewhat of an impressive revitalization of the Pistons. While they fall well short of a title contender, the team has a solid starting lineup and decent backups for the upcoming season that include Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Villanueva, rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the return of Chaucey Billups.
To get Jennings in on a sign and trade deal, the Pistons gave up surprisingly little, giving Milwaukee Brandon Knight and bench warmers Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravtsov. Jennings was only scheduled to make a little over $4 million, but will now get a pay bump in a three year $24 million deal with the Pistons.
It’s a big day as the Pistons officially announce the deal because it means that Detroit now has the standout point guard it previously lacked to run an offense with Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond heavily featured. Jennings is a solid perimeter threat that will give the Pistons both good perimeter shooting and an ability to get to the hoop. He’ll have to average a little better than his career high 6.5 assists from last season, but odds are that will be a bit easier as he is surrounded by more talent than with the Bucks.
Coming into the week, the bottom three seeds for an Eastern Conference playoff spot was already promising to be hotly contested between Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and possibly even Toronto, but the Pistons have suddenly taken shape to be one of the most likely of the bunch to be playing into May.
The Pistons starting five could theoretically be the biggest upgrade from any team that finished last season. The overhaul has created a starting group that could include Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Smith, Drummond and Monroe all playing together. With Smith making plays off the wing, Drummond and Monroe to handle the interior and post plays while working pick and rolls with Jennings, Detroit won’t be much of a surprise to anyone if they climb as high as the sixth seed.
It’s a new day in Detroit and while the city itself struggles through a tumultuous financial period, the basketball is about to get a whole lot better. Whether or not Jennings is a long term solution toward chasing a title is another matter, but three years is far from an eternity, just long enough to find out if this lineup really can play together.