By Liam McKeone
Zach Lowe of ESPN recently wrote an article bringing up the possibility that the Detroit core of Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and others wouldn’t ever be good enough to compete, and that the Pistons should think about blowing the team up and trading everyone at the deadline. While that didn’t end up happening, there were certainly convincing arguments to be made about the effectiveness of Jackson and Drummond together, as the team appeared to struggle following Jackson’s return from a left knee injury that kept him out the entire beginning of the season. In a year where the draft is stacked with talent at nearly every position, even the most die-hard Detroit fan has to consider what critics and pundits have been preaching. Is it time to give up on the foundation the Pistons have built?
The answer to that question is absolutely not. Detroit may have looked worse following Jackson’s return this year, but as far as their record is concerned, Detroit was 11-11 before Jackson got back; three months later, they are 28-30. Ish Smith has done a stellar job as a starter in Jackson’s absence after bouncing around the league for a few years, but anyone calling to dump Jackson and build around Smith is being ridiculous. Keeping both Smith and Jackson gives the latter more cushion to work back after the tendinitis that delayed the start of his season and keeps the former as an offensive sparkplug coming off the bench.
Jackson isn’t a franchise cornerstone, but in conjunction with his pick-and-roll partner, he can be a part of one. This partner is none other than Andre Drummond, key to Detroit’s playoff hopes and the man that can make or break this current edition of the Pistons. Under Van Gundy, who coached Dwight Howard in his prime on the way to a Finals appearance in 2009, Drummond was supposed to turn into Howard 2.0, a skilled big man who could protect the paint, rebound, and score. That hasn’t quite happened; Drummond has shown little to no defensive skills around the rim outside of being able to jump high, and offensively, he isn’t the force Howard was. But here’s the thing: Drummond is only 23 years old. The comparison alone should be flattering, especially since Howard is even more of a physical freak than Drummond is.
That’s the ultimate factor in why Detroit shouldn’t blow it up: everyone who matters on this team is young. Jackson is the oldest of their core at 27. Drummond is 23, while supporting players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris are only 24, not to mention 20-year-olds Stanley Johnson or Henry Ellenson. This isn’t the final form of the Detroit Pistons. They might not make much noise in the playoffs this year, but patience is key. They’re not going to compete this year, or even next year, for a title with LeBron and Steph Curry, but four or five years down the line? Watch out. These guys will be dangerous.