Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 11:58 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Letting go of the 'fro

Pistons

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Detroit Pistons finish in the Central Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 10 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
Nazr Mohammed will do a decent job filling in for the departed Ben Wallace -- he did the job for the Spurs the last time they won a title. Real question is postseason performance, and whether coach Flip Saunders can keep them fresh and focused.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
Will win lots of games during the regular season in new finesse style of play, but Pistons just aren't good enough at that style to win big in the postseason. Loss of gritty, defensive identity (i.e. Ben Wallace) will cost them in playoffs.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Rasheed Wallace defying Flip right off the bat hardly fills me with optimism, but no matter how much they might have declined, the Pistons won last year's division title by 14 games. The race should be closer, but I don't see a different outcome.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
They won't come close to the 64 wins of last season, but they still might win the East. Nazr Mohammed is no Ben Wallace, but the rest of the Pistons' starting four is stellar, and the supporting cast is stronger now.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
My pessimism is based on the premise that they would have dropped off even if Big Ben had stayed. I don't expect Chauncey Billups to play as well based on the "Fluke Rule," and maybe they'll even have an injury this year.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 5
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
They ain't the Tigers, but they used to be. Without the Benjamin, will the "other" Detroit team find that energy they used to get from him? Pop Joe chose Flip. Now Flip has to keep Dumars' genius status intact.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
Their demise has been greatly exaggerated. They still have the best starting five in basketball and will be playing with an edge to prove that their legacy will be more than just one title run.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
If you think losing Ben Wallace will devastate this team, think again. They still have three All-Stars and Prince, and they won the East by 12 games last year. The home-court advantage is huge and they know how to win on the road.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
Just as a year ago, we're overlooking them while trying to discover our new favorite flavor. They'll miss Ben Wallace on defense, but they have more than enough to win just as many without him as they did with him.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
They won't be winning 64 games again, not without Big Ben, but there is still plenty here to win even the toughest division in basketball. I'll be surprised if they don't.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 1.5 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 1.8 | Standings


Mirth In Michigan
James
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
With Ben Wallace taking his 'fro and defensive prowess to Chicago, Antonio McDyess and Chauncey Billups won't be so jaunty if Detroit repeats last year's playoff disappointment.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Chauncey Billups
Point Guard
6-3 | 202
Legs got heavy in playoffs. Give him a break or a backup.
Richard Hamilton
Shooting Guard
6-7 | 193
Career-high 45.8 percent on 3s, only 120 tries. Advice: Let 'er Rip!
Tayshaun Prince
Small Forward
6-9 | 215
The team's best defensive player might also be its most valuable.
Rasheed Wallace
Power Forward
6-11 | 230
Might want to quit hanging his team with inane predictions.
Nazr Mohammed
Center
6-10 | 250
A: Giving this guy $30 million. Q: "What is 'panicking,' Alex?"
Bench: Carlos Delfino and Flip Murray add needed punch on O, if Saunders actually uses them. Antonio McDyess could be the NBA's top post sub.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Carlos Delfino
Player efficiency rating
projection: 11.31
vs. NBA avg.: -3.69
Pistons profiles

Scouting report: Delfino can play both wing positions and is an NBA-quality athlete. He can handle the ball, sees the floor well, hits the glass and seems to have good form on his jumper. The problem is that as nice as it looks, his shot doesn't find the net. For Delfino to be a productive player he'll need to get his TS% on the good side of 50. He also tries to be too clever with his passes at times -- think of Manu Ginobili as a rookie, but minus some of the genius -- leading to a fairly high turnover rate.

Delfino has the size and strength to be a good defensive player but didn't impress at that end last season. He fouled way too often for a perimeter player, nearly one every eight minutes, and needs to gamble less.

2006-07 outlook: Delfino was rumored to be pining for a trade after his first two seasons didn't pan out as he hoped, but for now he'll be back in Motown. The trade of Maurice Evans should open up minutes for him as a backup at the two wing spots, with Ronald Dupree and Ronald Murray providing his main competition. Delfino only needs to take a small step forward to be a decent rotation player, especially if he can play up to his potential defensively and calm down a little offensively, and in his third pro season he seems ready to pull it off.


Less Need For 'Sheed 3 Greed
Wallace
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Rasheed Wallace last season was in touch with his inner Sam Perkins. His frequent forays out to 3-land netted a career-high 155 treys, on 35.7 percent shooting. But with Big Ben gone, 'Sheed's paint presence is more in demand.


SportsNation Speaks
Ben who? Dee-troit basketball is still very formidable. SportsNation judged to what degree that is still true.

How much will Big Ben's absence hurt?
51.0% Somewhat -- he was great, but aging
32.7% Enormously -- he's their heart and soul
16.3% Not much -- Mohammed will do fine

Vote: Pistons in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Pistons

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Pistons' logo on your chest?

Joe Dumars won two titles in Detroit's backcourt and a third in the front office, but there's still one blemish on his résumé: failing to develop and retain rotation players.

So let Nazr Mohammed average a double-double. Let Flip Murray score off the bench. Let Carlos Delfino mimic fellow Argentinean Manu Ginobili. And let Jason Maxiell remind us of a similarly undersized and recently departed afro'd ex-Piston.

I'll not only tattoo "Pistons" on my chest, but "Bulls" and "Heat" on my ... well, you get the point.

Matt Watson and Ian Cameron
detroitbadboys.com

If Jason Maxiell struts his stuff, opponents will stop Fearing the Fro and start being Menaced by Maxiell. If he can block just one of Ben Wallace's shots when the Pistons meet the Bulls, I'm off to get inked.

Natalie Sitto | need4sheed.com



Coach's Corner

FLIP SAUNDERS COACHING FILE
Experience: 11 years
Record: 475-346
Playoffs: 27-38
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

This is now a total Flip Saunders production; his nemesis, Ben Wallace, has taken his swagger and heart to Chicago.

Saunders has to get his team back in sync and purge the memories of last year's playoff struggles -- and he needs to do it quickly. Losing early is not an option.

Getting newly acquired Flip Murray and second-year prospect Jason Maxiell into the rotation from opening day will prove challenging -- the core guys can play together with their eyes closed and don't need anybody else. But adding new blood will help the vets later in the season.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Perimeter defense. For years, Detroit's interior defense had opponents cowering in fear as they shied away at taking the ball at shot-blockers Ben and Rasheed Wallace. That fear is less now that Big Ben chimes in Chicago, but his absence may garner more attention for the Pistons' other quality defenders.

Leading the way is the small forward, Prince, a world-class stopper whose insanely long arms allow him to play miles away from his man and still alter shots.

Billups is nearly as good, having the strength and size to defend shooting guards but also possessing the dexterity to defend the point.

Shooting guard Richard Hamilton isn't nearly in the same class, but his foot speed makes him a useful complement to Billups because he can cover small, quick guys like Allen Iverson and Tony Parker.

Off the bench, Lindsey Hunter's pesky defense has kept him in the league despite the total collapse of his offensive game, and backup wingman Carlos Delfino is no slouch either.

More Hollinger Pistons analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
McDyess
McDyess

Sleeper: Antonio McDyess will never be the force he was with the Nuggets six seasons ago, but with the departure of Ben Wallace to Chicago, someone is going to have to pick up the rebounding slack. Why not McDyess?

He should see increased minutes and look for his offense a little more now that he's been healthy in consecutive seasons. Take a late-round flier on him in deeper leagues.

Bust: Nazr Mohammed may fill Ben Wallace's old starting spot, but the cup is still half empty in terms of his fantasy value. He's never averaged 10 points or eight rebounds in any season, so make him show you he's capable before considering him.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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