MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The Pistons are still thanking the heavens and six other teams for passing on Greg Monroe during the 2010 draft. Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins would probably be the top two picks if that same group was thrown back into the draft pool. Monroe finished in the top five this season among Eastern Conference centers in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, assists, steals and double-doubles.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Austin Daye displayed a smooth stroke during his first two seasons and seemed to be the heir apparent to Tayshaun Prince at small forward. But when the club re-signed Prince, Daye had trouble getting over his disappointment. Once the season began, he lost confidence in his jumper and never regained it. He shot a woeful 32.2 percent from the field and 21 percent on 3-point attempts and lost his rotation spot to journeyman Damien Wilkins.
The Pistons were poised to draft a frontcourt player with the No. 8 pick last year, then were forced to shift gears when there was an unexpected run on big men. They got a floor leader instead (Knight) but can't ignore their frontcourt deficiencies any longer. They need a starter at power forward, or even center, to pair with Monroe and a 7-foot backup who can pitch in defensively against the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. They also need an athletic wing to push Prince at small forward and eventually become the starter, since Daye isn't the answer.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
Power forward Jason Maxiell has a player option on the final year of his contract. If he exercises it, he'll be looking for long-term security. The Pistons would be interested in bringing him back in a reserve role. Center Ben Wallace, forward Damien Wilkins and guard Walker Russell Jr. are unrestricted free agents. If Wallace doesn't retire, he'll stay in Detroit. Wilkins is expendable because the Pistons expect 2011 draft pick Kyle Singler to return after playing in Europe last season. Rookie forward Vernon Macklin, a restricted free agent, flashed enough potential to stick around for at least one more season.
--F Kyle Singler could emerge as a rotation player at small forward next season if he's not too content to play overseas. Singler, the former Duke All-American and one of Detroit's second-round picks last summer, signed with Spain's Real Madrid during the lockout and made a favorable impression against top European competition. Singler averaged 9.0 points and shot 48.7 percent in 55 games for Real Madrid, which won the Spanish Cup this month. The Pistons hope to sign Singler in time for the Orlando Summer League, which begins in July.
--F Charlie Villanueva, one of the team's highest-paid players, couldn't crack coach Lawrence Frank's rotation in the last two months of the season after recovering from an ankle injury. Now, he's apparently not good enough to play for the Dominican Republic national team. University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who also coaches the Dominican team, said Villanueva wasn't fit enough to play and cut him from the team.
"Charlie was not in good shape when we saw him," Calipari said. "He was overweight, and, unfortunately, we could not slow down the entire team. It was a decision taken collectively."
Ironically, Villanueva said he got into tip-top shape while rehabbing from his ankle injury. Villanueva posted a picture on Twitter after Calipari's decision, showing him on a scale weighing 243 pounds. That's still 10 pounds more than his listed weight of 232 in the Pistons media guide.
--G Brandon Knight was good enough to make the All-Rookie First Team without the benefit of working with the coaching staff before training camp, thanks to the lockout. Next season, the Pistons will start finding out how good Knight, who averaged 12.8 points and 3.8 assists, can be under the tutelage of assistant coaches Dee Brown and Steve Hetzel and highly respected trainer Arnie Kander. Knight has been putting in three- and four-hour workout sessions at the team's practice facility, trying to hone all aspects of his game.
"Normally, the coaches leave after two hours and I'll tell them I'm leaving," Knight said to the team's official website. "Then, I'll stay for another one and a half (hours), just doing my own things, really. That's how it kind of works out."
--No injuries to report.
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