The Detroit Pistons were one of the worst teams in the NBA last season, finishing 29-53 and outside of the top ten in the Eastern Conference.
A remade roster, however, has Detroit thinking it can make the playoffs in 2013-14.
“It’s exciting,” Pistons radio network analyst Rick Mahorn said on The Morning Show. “There’s a lot of excitement around Detroit. We’re very athletic. We have Andre Drummond, who’s a rising star. Josh Smith makes us a little bit more athletic at the three position. And the addition of Chauncey Billups and these young rookies we have – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Peyton Silva, Tony Mitchell – these guys really have a lot of energy. I’m excited.”
Maurice Cheeks has a lot of energy as well. Cheeks, who spent the past four seasons as an assistant in Oklahoma City, will assume his first head-coaching job since 2008, when he coached the 76ers.
“What’s going to separate Mo Cheeks from a lot of coaches we’ve had in the past is that his communication and his honesty is always going to help with a team, especially when you’re dealing with professional sports,” Mahorn said. “If you’re honest and upfront with guys, that focus will be there. And I’ll tell you: Mo Cheeks is doing a good job with that.”
After adding Billups and Smith – who spent the first nine years of his career in Atlanta, where he averaged at least 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in each of the last seven seasons – it’s almost a foregone conclusions that Detroit will make the playoffs, especially since Milwaukee nabbed the eighth seed last year despite finishing 38-44.
Mahorn, however, sees a great deal of parity among teams not based in, say, Miami and Oklahoma City.
“You’ve got to prove it,” he said. “You’ve got to come play every night. There’s going to be hard-fought games every night.”
While Detroit’s overall roster is young, Mahorn doesn’t believe that will be an issue.
“Sometimes you just need basketball players – people that know how to play basketball,” he said. “If you know how to play basketball, you know you’re going to win and give yourself great opportunities to win.”
The Bulls and Pacers figure to vie for the Central division championship this season, while the Cavaliers, led by Kyrie Irving, will also be in the mix. Irving, who averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists last season, could one day become the best point guard in the league, provided he do a better job of playing within himself.
“He turns the ball over trying to make these miraculous passes,” Mahorn said of the 21-year-old. “If he stays focused and stays within his game, he could be one of those elite point guards. He has that Chris Paul-like attitude where he can take over the game at any time, but he still tries to make that fantastic play, and you just can’t do that in today’s NBA.”
Speaking of today’s NBA, Mahorn sees a league that isn’t nearly as tough as it was in the days of the Bad Boy Pistons.
“Most teams are set up with the stretch 5 or the stretch 4 where you’ve got somebody (that’s 7 feet tall) making jumpers,” Mahorn said. “Everything is relative now. Miami won two championships without having that big dominant center, but they’ve also got one of the best players int he world.”
Mahorn was asked if toughness can be taught.
“Nope,” he replied. “It comes from within.”