Detroit Pistons

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Blake Griffin lead the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs again?

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond (NBA Getty Images)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Detroit Pistons.

2018-19 season record

41-41 (8th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

38-44 (9th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Derrick Rose (free agency)

Tim Frazier (free agency)

Markieff Morris (free agency)

Tony Snell (trade)

Christian Wood (waivers)

Sekou Doumbouya (draft)

Deividas Sirvydis (draft)

Notable departures

Glenn Robinson III (trade)

Wayne Ellington (free agency)

Ish Smith (free agency)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Reggie Jackson Derrick Rose Tim Frazier
SG Bruce Brown Luke Kennard Langston Galloway
SF Tony Snell Joe Johnson Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Sekou Doumbouya
PF Blake Griffin Markieff Morris
C Andre Drummond Thon Maker Christian Wood

3 key storylines

Can Blake Griffin stay healthy?

Griffin is coming off of a tremendous 2018-19 season, in which he made the All-NBA Third Team with averages of 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He led the Pistons to 41 wins, which was just enough for them to sneak into the playoffs for only the second time this decade.

However, Griffin's season ended on a sour note due to a knee injury that kept him out of Game 1 and 2 of Detroit's first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though he returned for Game 3 and 4, he was clearly not himself.

Griffin has since undergone surgery and is expected to be at full strength for the start of the 2019-20 season, but last season was far from the first time that he's had to battle through an injury. For the Pistons to have any chance of making the playoffs again and be more than a first-round exit, they'll need their superstar to be at full strength from start to finish.

The addition of Derrick Rose

Rose joins the Pistons on a two-year, $15 million contract following a breakout 2018-19 season with the Timberwolves. Injuries limited him to only 51 games, but in averaging 18.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, he received votes for both Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player.

A big reason for Rose receiving MIP votes was his development as a 3-point shooter, as he shot a career-high 37.0 percent from the perimeter.

The Pistons are counting on Rose having a similar season. They signed him to replace Ish Smith, who was Reggie Jackson's backup at point guard last season, and he could see some minutes at shooting guard if he continues to shoot the ball well.

With how reliant they were on Griffin to make plays last season, there's certainly a need for Rose's skill set, assuming last season doesn't turn out to be a one-off.

Andre Drummond's impending free agency

Drummond has a $28.8 million player option in his contract for the 2020-21 season, which he hinted at declining at a press conference this summer in the hopes of cashing in big next summer.

After the likes of Draymond Green and Caris LeVert agreed to contract extensions this offseason, Drummond is projected to be one of the best free agents available in next year's class. He's led the league in rebounding in three of the last four seasons and averaged a career-high 17.3 points per game last season to go along with 1.7 blocks. Any team looking for a centre will likely have him at the top of their list unless Anthony Davis, who also has a player option for 2019-20, entertains offers from teams other than the Lakers.

With it likely being a contract year, Drummond has plenty of motivation to play well. And if he does, it'll be interesting to see if the Pistons still believe a pairing of Drummond and Griffin gives them the star they need power to compete in the Eastern Conference. How well they do this season could go a long way in deciding that.

5 games to watch

Oct. 26 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Drummond and Joel Embiid have ... history, which has led to some fun matchups in the past. One of the three games between the two sides last season went into overtime, with Drummond and the Pistons squeaking out a win despite 33 points and 11 rebounds from Embiid.

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto Raptors

Dwane Casey coached the Pistons to a thrilling road win over the Raptors in his highly anticipated return to Toronto last season. There should be plenty of emotions once again, especially with it being early in the season as the Raptors will still be riding high after receiving their championship rings on opening night.

Dec. 4 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

A rematch of last season's first-round matchup. With Griffin presumably at full strength, will the Pistons put up a better fight against Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks?

Jan. 2 at LA Clippers

One of Griffin's finest performances last season came on the home court of his former team. In his first game against the Clippers in Los Angeles since the trade that brought him to Detroit, he carried the Pistons to a close win with 44 points.

March 22 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers will make their lone trip of the season to Detroit following All-Star weekend. Adding to the intrigue of this match this season is the Lakers now have an All-Star big man themselves in Anthony Davis who can go head-to-head with Griffin.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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