For the first time in about three years, the Pistons participated in a meaningful season. Despite missing the postseason for a third straight year, the organization has established a foundation built around an owner, a coach and several young players expected to remain in Detroit long-term. Here's a look at how each player performed during the 2011-12 Pistons season:
Greg Monroe: Following a promising rookie season, Monroe started at center the entire season. His numbers allowed him to receive consideration for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, and many analysts believe "Moose" would have been voted in as a reserve had the Pistons not struggled at the start of the season. He's become a dependable post player in terms of scoring, rebounding and playmaking. The next step for Monroe is becoming more physical and establishing better position in the paint. Having a young, athletic power forward alongside him would be a big help, and the Pistons appear intent on acquiring such a player to team with Monroe. Grade: A-
Brandon Knight: Taking advantage of multiple injuries to the Pistons backcourt, Knight quickly took over the starting point guard spot in Detroit this season. As a rookie, he predictably struggled with consistency across the board. He definitely showed promise with his ability to score, but he must improve defensively. Knight's assists will pick up as the Pistons surround him with better talent, and most observers believe he will take more control of the team's offense as he gains more experience. The future is certainly bright now that the team has a true point guard for the first time in years. Grade: B
Rodney Stuckey: Finally playing his natural position as a shooting guard, Stuckey looked much more comfortable this season playing off the ball. Rather than running the offense, Stuckey is much better looking to score, particularly getting to the rim. He still needs to improve his outside shot as well as defensively, but Stuckey proved to be much more valuable to the Pistons in this role. His chemistry in the backcourt with Knight continues to grow, and the franchise believes they have its starting guards set for the long haul. Grade: B
Tayshaun Prince: It's still shocking to see Prince wearing a Pistons uniform. Most people assumed he would leave as a free agent last offseason. To his credit, Prince says he wants to be part of Detroit's rebuilding process and believes he can set an example for the team's young nucleus. At age 32 with on-and-off back issues, Prince is no longer considered the tenacious defender he once was. That said, he puts up consistent numbers and remains a starting-caliber small forward with championship experience. Grade: B-
Jason Maxiell: A long-time staple on the Pistons' bench, the undersized Maxiell was finally given a legitimate shot as a starter at power forward. J-Max took advantage of the opportunity and had a career season statistically. Still, he remains best suited in a reserve role, providing spark off the bench. Give him credit for beating out Jonas Jerebko for the starting spot, but the Pistons know they need to find a better long-term fit next to Monroe. Maxiell has the option to opt out of his contract, but it's likely he will return one way or another as a backup big man. Grade: B-
Jonas Jerebko: With Charlie Villanueva suspended and injured at the start of the season, Jerebko re-signed with the Pistons eager to earn the starting power forward spot. He lost it after a handful of games as he struggled with foul trouble at the beginning of games. Head coach Lawrence Frank sensed that Jerebko was a better fit for this roster coming off the bench as a combo forward. He'll likely remain in that role as long as Prince is with the team, but Jerebko could be given an opportunity in the future at becoming the starting small forward, his natural position. Either way, the Pistons still consider him a valuable piece moving ahead and will continue to give him plenty of minutes each game. Grade: C+
Ben Gordon: For two years, people have said the Pistons needed to move Rip Hamilton in order for Gordon to flourish. Hamilton finally left, yet Gordon remains inconsistent offensively while providing very little on defense. Let's face it - BG is simply not a good fit in Detroit. He's a volume shooter, much like a Carmelo Anthony. He belongs on a team looking for a go-to scorer and isn't trying to develop other young players. In Chicago, Gordon was the clear-cut number-one option offensively and was taking 20+ shots every game. It's possible the Pistons could waive him via the amnesty clause, but it's more likely the team will work on just trying to trade him. Grade: D+
Ben Wallace: Approaching the end of a brilliant career, Wallace has become a reserve center whose biggest asset is the leadership and experience he provides on a young Pistons team. He's still unsure whether or not he will retire this summer, but the Pistons wouldn't mind re-signing him to a minimum contract to provide a defensive spark off the bench as long as his body can handle it. More than likely, however, Wallace will retire, and the Pistons will look to acquire a true starting power forward, moving Maxiell into Wallace's role off the bench. Grade: B-
Will Bynum: Doesn't get the credit he deserves. Bynum is a solid veteran reserve who deserves consistent minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, Gordon is a higher priority right now because of the money they're paying him. Bynum remains one of the better backup point guards in the league, and here's to hoping the Pistons can find more minutes for him moving forward. Grade: B
Damien Wilkins: An excellent offseason pickup by the Pistons. Wilkins was the perfect fit for a young team looking to add an inexpensive veteran to the end of the bench. Wilkins has plenty of experience in the NBA and can often be seen communicating with young players, teaching them the game and acting as another coach. If he's willing to take another cheap deal, the Pistons likely wouldn't hesitate to bring him back this year. Grade: B-
Austin Daye: In a word: disappointing. Daye was a lottery pick in 2009 and expected to take over the starting small forward spot this season. To his defense, Prince shockingly re-signed with the Pistons, eliminating any chance of Daye starting or even receiving consistent minutes off the bench. That being said, Daye still had opportunities to play during stretches of the season and struggled in all areas, most notably his shooting. He clearly needs to be traded, but it remains to be seen if any other teams are interested in giving him a consistent role in the rotation. Grade: D-
Charlie Villanueva: Doesn't get a grade this season due to missing so many games. It's tempting to give him an "F" anyway based on his contract. Villanueva's been a major disappointment and, like Gordon, will likely be shopped and could even be amnestied. As a stretch forward, Villanueva has some value in the NBA, making it possible for a team to be interested in trading for him. His contract isn't terrible, but based on the expectations the Pistons had when they signed him in 2009, it's been a regretful experience for all parties. Grade: Inc.
Vernon Macklin: A second-round draft pick, Macklin has a chance to stick around next season. He's a hard worker who spent time in the D-League and took advantage of some decent minutes at the end of the year. Depending on what the Pistons do in the draft and in free agency, Macklin could be re-signed but will likely see more time in the D-League before earning a regular role in the NBA. Grade: Inc.
Walker Russell, Jr.: A nice story for the Pistons and the NBA. Russell, a Pontiac native, was called up from the D-League and signed for most of the season with Detroit. He probably won't be re-signed but hopefully can catch on overseas somewhere for a chance to earn more money and better playing time. Grade: Inc.
Kyle Singler: Not officially on the roster, Singler is worth mentioning as the Pistons own his rights. Drafted early in the second round last year, Singler is a promising combo forward who the Pistons hope to sign this summer. He decided to play in Spain rather than coming to Detroit after the NBA Lockout ended. It's very possible Singler will opt to stay in Spain, which could then entice the Pistons to try trading his rights if they can get something in return for him. Grade: Inc.
Coaching: Lawrence Frank deserves a ton of credit. He's by far the most professional head coach the Pistons have had since Flip Saunders and maybe even Larry Brown. Though the Pistons had a tough start this season, that was to be expected from a young team with a new coaching staff and no training camp due to the shortened schedule. Frank did everything he was supposed to by playing the young players, starting Monroe and Knight, playing Stuckey at shooting guard and even giving Maxiell a chance to start while allowing Jerebko to continue receiving consistent minutes off the bench. It's on the team's front office now to provide Frank with a legitimate starting power forward. Grade: A-
Steve St-Pierre covers the Pistons for In Play! Magazine. Check it out online at inplaymagazine.com.