Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Detroit Pistons

This offseason, the Pistons upgraded. They also seemingly ignored fit and spacing, which might hamper them reaching their maximum offensive potential. Ultimately, though, they decided that’s less important than simple improvement. This was a team destined for another lottery appearance without major talent upgrades. In adding Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, the Pistons have greatly improved their overall base of talent. So what sort of return can Detroit fans expect on that upgraded roster?

The addition of Josh Smith was, frankly, huge for the Pistons. Despite his possibly troublesome fit with the existing Pistons front court of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Josh Smith is a difference making player. He’s one of those rare players in the NBA: a positive contributor on both ends, even with his troublesome propensity for long jumpers. Smith’s projected xRAPM, according to Nathan Walker’s numbers, is a +3.4, which may be a tad optimistic, given those fit issues. On the other hand, it’s also possible that Smith, Drummond, and Monroe will simply share all of the big man minutes and Michael Curry won’t ask J-Smoove to play on the wing, where his worst impulses are more likely to get the better of him. For Pistons fans, that has to be the hope.

Brandon Jennings should improve a lot over last year’s (-2.5) lackluster campaign and return to something more closely approaching his previous career tendency of hovering around the league average of +0 xRAPM. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond both still look to be great contributors. The rest of the Pistons roster is pretty unremarkable. It’s a supporting cast of nearly all above replacement, but below average players. That big man trio, though, is enough to account for nearly 27 projected wins above replacement, which gets you most of the way to the 42 wins these Pistons project to win, given that a team of all replacement players would, on average, win about 7 games out of 82. I wrote at the time that it happened that I couldn’t figure out why the Pistons signed Josh Smith, but now it seems perfectly obvious: to be a better, more talented team, this year. Good on Joe Dumars for building a team worth watching and that should finally see his Pistons playing meaningful games again in April.

Image from Gameface-Photos via Flickr.

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