OT:Don't look now, but the Pistons are HOT

Submitted by Hotel Putingrad on March 6th, 2019 at 10:17 PM

So after spotting the Timberpups a 13-point lead after one tonight, Detroit outscored them by 30 the rest of the way. 

They are 9-2, best record in the league the past month. Jettisoning Stanley Johnson and giving Luke Kennard his minutes, along with having TWO healthy point guards , has done wonders for this team's offensive efficiency.

They are now the sixth seed, above .500, and likely facing a very winnable first-round matchup with the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers.

There may yet be some excitement this spring at Dough Louis Arena!

Comments

bacon1431

March 7th, 2019 at 8:25 AM ^

We’ve gained 3 games on them in the last 10 games. If we do the same over the next 10, we’re still 3.5 games back with less than 10 games left. So that ain’t happening.

I would love for the playoffs to start tomorrow because we’d get the Pacers in round 1 and that’s a winnable series. Then we’d probably get Toronto in round 2. Very tough matchup, but the pressure would be all on them considering they fired Casey and got Kawhi because they wanted to make the Finals. I think the Raptors would win that series, but it’d be in 6 games IMO. 

What I think is likely to happen is we get the 76ers in round 1. I think that’s a lopsided series. Sure, they’ve got some pressure to win now since they traded for Harris and Butler and its unsure what happens with them in the offseason. However, Embiid has owned Dre. And I don’t like our matchups in defending Simmons and Redick. 

Hotel Putingrad

March 6th, 2019 at 11:02 PM ^

I don't think it's fair to say they're without direction. Both Blake and Dre are playing the best ball of their career right now, and while it's fair to say they may have a low ceiling, this is really what everyone envisioned if Reggie ever stayed healthy and they had decent coaching. 

Brown has been a pleasant surprise, and they got lucky with Ellington. But you can start to see a way forward if they can find another shooter.

Don't despair!

bronxblue

March 6th, 2019 at 11:20 PM ^

I think the direction at this point is try to compete for the playoffs with some of the older guys/large-contracts they have on the roster (Griffin, Drummond, Jackson) and see where that takes them while hoping some of the younger guys can mature.  They are definitely a step behind the top 3-4 teams in the conference but I don't necessarily think that trying to win the lottery for 3-4 years is going to work either.  At this point, be a competent team who can make the playoffs and that will at least give you a "winning" culture that can appeal to some mid-level FAs and draft partners.  

I've always disliked the Philly "Process" because it presupposes that if you put a bunch of young guys with talent together after years of being bad they'll suddenly turn it on and play well together because they are all winners.  Detroit has been in purgatory in the NBA for years now, and while you probably don't want to live in the 5/6 seed range for eternity, it's a welcome sign for teams that haven't been to the playoffs in years.

stephenrjking

March 6th, 2019 at 11:47 PM ^

What's the alternative to the process, though? Setting aside the Pistons for a moment, the Sixers tanked for draft picks, made a bunch of bad picks (Jahilil Okafor! Nerlens Noel! Markell Fultz!), made some dumb trades with those assets, and they still wound up with the core of a team that might win the East. They simply accrued high picks until they struck gold on a couple of them, and they've pieced together a good roster.

It seems like it worked. Stunk to be a Sixers fan for years, but was it really much better watching the Pistons in the Stan Van years?

tbeindit

March 7th, 2019 at 5:48 AM ^

The current direction of the Pistons is really questionable and the trade for Griffin was absolutely horrendous. Everything had to go perfectly to even have a shot at making it past the first round. 

However, is anyone actually convinced the 76ers’ model works? The 76ers were unwatchable for the better part of a decade and are now barely better than the Pistons.

Per BPI, the 76ers have a 2.3% chance of winning the NBA title this year. There are 7 teams with better odds outright and 2 more with the same or virtually identical odds. We always hear about how the 76ers’ strategy was so great, but they’ve won nothing and are a fringe top 10 team in the league now.

And are we even convinced it will get better? There are a lot of marquee contracts up this year and players like Davis and Durant could be heading east. If so, they might not even be in the top half of the conference.

Sorry for the rant, but I don’t get why people push the 76ers narrative so hard when there are way better routes to winning. How about Dallas? They picked up two potential superstars In the last calendar year and are closing in on another top five pick. 

Michigan4Life

March 7th, 2019 at 8:24 AM ^

The Sixers would've been better off if they hadn't been forced out by Hinkie and the ownership didn't make him pick Jah Okafor instead of Kristap. Hinkie had a great gameplan going in and the NBA basically forced him out of GM position. Coangelo made a few bad moves that affected the direction of the franchise.

Mr Miggle

March 7th, 2019 at 9:41 AM ^

Let's just assume that the Philly tanking model is the best way to win in the NBA. What kind of product would the NBA be putting out with half the teams trying to lose every game for multiple years? It might be a viable strategy for one team, but it's destructive if done league wide. The NBA would move to combat it, likely by changing the lottery system (again).

stephenrjking

March 7th, 2019 at 11:23 AM ^

Obviously it's a problem; there are teams that tank every year. That means that it's already kinda priced in, though--teams that are mediocre but not bad enough to tank (take the two teams in the contest this thread highlights, for example) wind up having to try to win, because nobody is cool with trying to tank to improve a draft slot from 16 to 14. 

I think this is largely an issue with the structure of the sport and to a lesser extent the league. Basketball, by its nature, is driven by star talent. Good strategy and good roster-building are important, of course, but you win by having great players. Because great players are so important, they have a lot of power to choose where they will play. And because they are such stars, they have an opportunity to leverage their athletic stardom into other ventures, which makes destination coastal cities and particularly destination franchises a draw. 

It's not universal; the Mavericks and the Cavaliers have won titles in the last decade, and the Knicks might be the worst-managed franchise in sports given how they've squandered their advantages in this. 

But as long as stars are the key to winning and can dictate where they go, for many teams the best hope of winning is to draft a transformational player, preferably one that makes that franchise an attractive destination themselves. 

You can re-game the draft lottery, and maybe the NBA should, but as things stand now there are a lot of franchises that are just going to have a hard time building a champion. 

ijohnb

March 7th, 2019 at 10:28 AM ^

Building a team from the lottery is not any more of sure thing than building one through trades, pickups, and freak occurences.  Detroit is never going to be a destination city, if they were to draft Zion Williamson, they would get three years and he would be out.  The Pistons were dogshit for 10 years after the Bad Boys.  They picked up a few players here and there (Billups, Hamilton) who started to build a winning culture.  They struck gold on Ben Wallace, picked up some savvy spare parts, and snagged Okur deep into the second round.  Sheed popped up at the trade deadline and all of the sudden we had a winner.  There is no downside to the Pistons going on a little playoff venture here.  They have too many pieces to be bad enough to strike gold in the lottery, and even if they did they would just be renting that player for three years.  Hiring Casey was a great move.  Kennard's development looks on track and Andre is playing well enough where trading him is a possibility if you need to restructure part of the roster.  For the first time in a long time, I actually do see a little bit of direction from the franchise.

bronxblue

March 7th, 2019 at 7:57 PM ^

The Celtics, for example, had one "bad" year over the past decade and it was in Stevens's first year.  Yes they had some luck with trades and what-have-you, but that can happen if you have some decent players and look like a place that might only be a player or two away.  The Raptors never drafted a "star" (unless you love Chris Bosh) but found a way to cobble together some good players and leverage draft picks into Leonard plus a pretty solid run at the top of the conference.  So if you are smart with your assets and team composition, you can build yourself into a contender without being terrible for half a decade.  Plus, you can get really solid, winning players later in the draft; you might not find a Joel Embiid, but you might find a couple of above-average players that you can turn into something better with the right trade partner.  

The 76ers and the Cavaliers are good examples of teams trying to be bad because they believe they'll get some superstars in the process, and on paper it looks like it might have worked.  Of course, not everyone will have a top-2 player grow up in your backyard, leave you because you're bad, win some titles elsewhere, then come back and win another title.  And let it be said - we don't know if Philly can win the East, let alone the whole thing.  For all of their draft picks, Philly has Simmons and Embiid who are stars and...I guess Jimmy Butler on a loaner.  That's basically it.  Yeah, they traded some assets for him, but for being abjectly terrible for 5-6 years they have a center who has a history of bad injuries and a PG who can't shoot and may never get there.  

MGoChippewa

March 7th, 2019 at 8:27 AM ^

You as much as anyone else should listen to Greg Kelser talk about how this feels like the 01-02 team that started building momentum and was just a few pieces away from putting it all together. I'm not saying this team is winning a title in two years, but let's not bury them unfairly.

stephenrjking

March 6th, 2019 at 10:59 PM ^

Thought experiment for Pistons fans: How do you build a real winner in Detroit? Realistically, assume that Detroit is not likely to land a max-type free agent. What would the ideal, realistic path to title contender look like? How long would it take? Is Griffin a part of this?

Hotel Putingrad

March 6th, 2019 at 11:11 PM ^

It's probably not feasible with the current core, because Griffin only has 1-2 peak years left, and Jackson, even at his best, is simply not good enough to take you deep in the playoffs. 

I prefer having Kennard cone off the bench, so if they can draft a good replacement for Ellington, they can make things interesting for a round or two next year.

So realistically you would need to swing a trade for some disgruntled vet with a manageable contract. It's not easy, but it's not impossible.

Hold This L

March 6th, 2019 at 11:36 PM ^

Kennard would start if Ellington left. You’d need help off the bench but kennard can get you 20 a night efficiently. Need a guy off the bench to replace him. Honestly about a month ago I wanted the pistons to get Poole to be kennard lite off the bench. Shot maker, play maker, can heat up quick. If Poole fell to the second round, I’d love for the pistons to take him. But he’s not worth a top 20-25 pick right now. 

stephenrjking

March 6th, 2019 at 11:44 PM ^

There's an exciting idea. But how do you get a top tier PG? I don't know much about the roster situation; is there good money available for a top-15 PG? Can a hypothetical playoff series victory persuade someone that it's worth signing? A guy that you can sneak away with in the draft around 18-24 that can be surprisingly good?

I'm not trying to cast doubt here. I don't get to watch the Pistons much here. I'm interested.

 

tkokena1

March 7th, 2019 at 9:29 AM ^

That's the biggest problem with the way the team is constructed now - they have no money left to make the team better and drafting a player in the 15 - 20 range that is going to have a significantly positive impact in the next 3 years is really difficult and unlikely. Even the people who like what the team is doing (like Kelser) admit the team is a piece or two away; but the Pistons have no reasonable means to get that piece.

The Pistons are capped out and will only have minimum cap space next year because (I think) only Ish Smith is a free agent after this year. On top of that, there are a ton of teams with cap space this year who will miss out on the top free agents and then overpay the mid-level guys to show their fans they didn't come away empty handed. 

The Pistons are stuck in a spot where they are not good enough to compete for the east, they don't have exciting young players to develop, they don't have money to sign a big free agent, and they won't have a top draft pick to get an exciting young player. They have stuck themselves in NBA purgatory where they will constantly be competing to make the playoffs and for not much else. That is why so many people wanted to trade everyone and start over, because this team doesn't really have a plausible way to compete for a championship. 

Robbie Moore

March 7th, 2019 at 9:33 AM ^

They don't have the money available to pickup an existing top tier PG without clearing space. And the only player they could theoretically move who provides significant relief is Reggie at $18 million. There is also Langston Galloway at $7 million. But who wants them at those prices? $25 million ought to get the man but it will take luck to pull it off. That or get lucky with a late teens draft pick. But luck is not a plan.

So close and yet so far.

Mr Miggle

March 7th, 2019 at 10:00 AM ^

A plan for the Pistons to win.

1) Hire a good coach. Let him do his job. Have some patience with him. Don't give him additional jobs. 

2) Draft well. It may require some luck. You don't build championship teams without some luck.

3) Don't worry too much about having a lot of flexibility under the cap when you're not an attractive destination. Assume you can acquire complementary pieces through free agency. Stars can only be gotten through the draft or taking on a big contract in a trade.

4) Build a team towards a realistic timeline. Bouncing back and forth between acquiring and dumping overpaid players doesn't make much sense.

5) Have a good core on the bench that play well together. It's hard to compete with top teams' personnel at 1 through 3 or 1 through 5. 6 through 8 or 9 are important too and much easier.

They're off to a good start on some of these, lacking on others.

drjaws

March 6th, 2019 at 11:13 PM ^

Do 2004 over agin, but to the Warriors.  That would awesome, despite how infinitesimal the chance or maybe because of how infinitesimal the chance.

stephenrjking

March 6th, 2019 at 11:40 PM ^

Every year the 2004 team becomes more and more astonishing. It is still the go-to exception every time there's a thinkpiece analyzing NBA teams winning titles. For example, this Ringer article about Anthony Davis discusses his exclusive status as a multi-time all-NBA first teamer. And it notes this:

That’s not to say that a team doesn’t need at least one superstar to win. Dating back to 1979-80, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league, only two champions didn’t depend on a multi-time first-teamer: the 2003-04 Pistons and the 2007-08 Celtics, who qualify only on a technicality because Kevin Garnett made three All-NBA first teams with Minnesota but just one in Boston. Rather, employing such a player is basically a necessary but not sufficient condition to win a title.

The 2004 Pistons always come up in these discussions. They are, truly, a unique team in modern NBA history. Not a fluke or a fraud, mind you: They made it to Game 7 of the 2005 Finals. But they are very unique.  

Hold This L

March 6th, 2019 at 11:23 PM ^

Some thoughts on the Mitchell vs kennard debate:

first I’d like to say that I’ve wanted kennard over Mitchell since before the draft because he’s an elite shooter and playmaker. Ask watching mitchell vs Michigan totally turned me off to his game. Lots of trash talk, lots of dribbling, not great results. Hit a couple prayers late against us to make his box score better but really wasted a lot of possessions for them. Now onto some evidence

mitchell’s true shooting percentage is .521 at over 32% usage which is top 5 or 6 in the league. He’s in the top 20 in both FGA and 3PA but isn’t in the top 20 in FGM or 3PM. For context Blake is in top 20 for both attempts and makes, at least for 3PM. He literally has the efficiency of THJ, monta Ellis, dion waiters. He’s in that same mold. 

kennard has a TS% of .540 at 18% usage.

the other night Mitchell scored 46 on 15-32 shooting and 11-14 at the line. Luke’s 2 games combined before tonight’s he scored 45 On I believe 15 or 16-25. Mitchell then followed that up with a 8-24 performance for 19 points. If kennard shot 24 shots and made 8, pistons lose the game. Mitchell would not work here in Detroit. Luke gets his own shot, can score from anywhere on the floor, is a great passer, smart off the ball, has great footwork, smart defender for what he lacks in physical attributes. 

I’ll take Luke, especially with a guy like Blake on your team who needs touches, over Mitchell who needs 20+ shots a game to get to 20 points. He’s literally one of the least efficient players in the league and for people who say he has athleticism so even though he’s way less efficient he’s better than Luke, it’s like saying you’d rather have Westbrook without the rebounding or playmaking over lower volume curry. 

Hold This L

March 6th, 2019 at 11:31 PM ^

After checking it again, Mitchell is 7th in FGA and 18th in FGM. Blake is 13th in both. Mitchell is fourth in field goals missed. He’s also 10th in 2pt field goal attempts but isn’t in the top 20 for 2pt FGM. 

His net ratings are skewed for how defense oriented the team around him is. Pistons are average on both sides of the floor making Luke’s net ratings look worse all while playing with bench players for the most part until recently which would make it even worse since the pistons have one of the worst benches in the league, while Mitchell plays lots of minutes with starters on a team that was elite defensively before he got there. 

Gucci Mane

March 6th, 2019 at 11:59 PM ^

This is so sad. Would love to see another pistons championship and tanking must happen for that to have a chance. Every year like this is just wasted. Celebrating mediocrity is the problem. 

Chuck Norris

March 7th, 2019 at 12:25 AM ^

Every year like this is just wasted. 

They haven't had a year like this in a decade. I'll take a playoff berth as long as we don't get swept. With Blake they're never gonna be bad enough to truly tank, so if we're stuck in purgatory for 3-4 years shouldn't we prefer to scrape the ceiling of that purgatory?

MichiganStan

March 7th, 2019 at 3:36 AM ^

This year is much different than the past 10 years. We actually have a solid shot at a 6 seed and if they stay this hot a 5th seed.

This is easily the best basketball ive seen the Pistons play in at least a decade

The potential to win a playoff series is worth not tanking for now. Plus tanking isn't going to happen with Blake, Reggie, Drummond, and Luke. Too much talent to tank unless you forced them to not play which im sure the NBA would step in then

Mr Miggle

March 7th, 2019 at 7:47 AM ^

1) I'd like to see the list of NBA champions that got there by tanking. I haven't seen the evidence that it's a good path.

2) There's a lot of competition at the bottom.

3) When you have a roster that's good enough to make the playoffs, how do you lose an extra 30 games?

4) What happens when it doesn't work? Don't you just turn your team into a laughingstock? There must be a lot of cost in that.

stephenrjking

March 7th, 2019 at 11:37 AM ^

Regarding 1: The Cavs for starters. They got Lebron #1, which though he left made them the logical place for him to return. They also got Kyrie and Andrew Wiggins, who was the piece that brought in Kevin Love (even if Love wound up being less crucial than thought). 

The key is in that article I link elsewhere: Except for the Pistons, every champion has at least one and often more than one multi-time All-NBA first team player. You need that caliber of player to win titles.

The question, then, is how you get players of that caliber. 

There's an article to be written here, but the four basic methods I'm aware of are: 1. Draft high; 2. Draft smart (ie, pick up a guy that isn't rated that highly but emerges into a star); 3. Trade; 4. Free Agency.

Drafting high often requires tanking, depending upon your definition of "high."* Trades often require some form of tanking as you shed contracts to get cap room; alternatively, you need good assets that you get through the draft. Drafting smart is, of course, everyone's ideal, but it's really hard to find guys in the lower half of the first round that will become first-team all-NBA players. 

Free Agency requires cap room (again, often involves tanking) and, usually, being a destination city. 

*I tend to think that "high" means, roughly, "top five." That seems to make sense, and it is notable that the Lebron-Wade-Bosh Heat had three top five draft picks from the same draft. This definition would mean that the Golden State Warriors were built basically by drafting smart, since the only top 5 draft picks on the team when they won their first title were Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston, both career reclamation projects, and they barely played in the Finals at all. Of course, they got in early on talent that became much more desirable as their franchise revolutionized the sport with shooting. 

Mr Miggle

March 7th, 2019 at 12:36 PM ^

A couple of points; Lebron went back to Cleveland because he's from the area. How often is having the #1 draft pick worth close to what it was when Lebron was available?

Cleveland was very lucky. The best player in the game was local. The one year they won the lottery was the absolutely perfect time for them.

Luck has been an important factor in building most championship teams.