After a highly successful season under his tutelage saw the Detroit Pistons return to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, Stan Van Gundy has sent out a warning to his players.
Detroit won 44 regular season games last season, enough to take the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, before they were dumped out in the first round by the eventual champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It had been a lengthy spell without playoff basketball in the motor city, but Van Gundy has told the Pistons' website that there will need to be improvement once again if they want to be in the postseason for the second straight year.
SVG believes the overall quality of the Eastern Conference will be much better, making it harder for the Pistons: “I think it’s going to be very competitive and I’ve said that to our guys. We’ll have to be a little bit better to make the playoffs again. I honestly believe that.
“New York, Orlando, Milwaukee, Washington and Chicago all not in the playoffs [last year] are going to fight. We were the number eight team, so just to get back where we were will take work, let alone move up,” he added.
Van Gundy certainly has a point, as he made the case that it may be the teams at the bottom stepping up which will affect the standings, more than the teams above.
“If you look at the bottom of the East, all those teams have got better, that’s the part people miss. Philly is not going to win ten games, they’re going to win significantly more so that’s taking wins from everybody, teams that were out of playoffs will be better.”
It’s clear Van Gundy believes his task is much more difficult than last year, but he should still be confident in his Detroit team, even though they struggled to bring in any major free agents.
But their hopes rely hugely on Andre Drummond, the franchise’s star player, who showed positive signs by taking a big step forward in his development last season. Early in the year Drummond was a dominant force and, having just turned 23, if he can continue to kick on the Pistons will certainly be a force going forward.
A huge positive for SVG is that Detroit’s core remains intact, with Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson, following his impressive rookie season, still together supporting Drummond.
The Pistons main problem last season was their bench, which could not sustain the work of the starting five and the additions of Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic, Ish Smith and Ray McCallum should help the squad’s depth immensely.
Van Gundy is right that Detroit will need improve to continue the success of last year, but should certainly believe they can make the playoffs once again, as long as he can ensure not too much of their hope rests on the play of Drummond.