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With the win over Milwaukee the Pistons are now 6.5 games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot. Yes, it's still extremely difficult and highly unlikely. There are reasons why we should and why we shouldn't make the playoffs.
In my personal opinion, the biggest pro is trying to entice Jose to stay. I'd like to start a campaign, #PleaseStayJose. He's only been here four games, so it is a small sample size...but 30 assists in 4 games for a team that doesn't have a lot of great shooters? I highly doubt, but could be wrong, that the players are just shooting better right now. He's making sure to get everyone involved, he pumps everyone up, pushes the tempo, gets the best out of his teammates, is a very competent shooter when he does shoot, and takes care of the ball (6 TOs in 4 games). Regardless of who our PGOTF is for the next 3 years, I want Jose to be the starter.
Encouragement and experience. I'm sorry, I find it hard to believe that this team, with the struggles it's had for the last year and then some, wouldn't benefit from making the playoffs. So much so that the following year, they'd know they have a great shot at it and should hopefully be playing with Jose from the get go. I find that priceless. If we want to become an annual playoff team, this may be the year we need to get in, even as the 8th seed and even if it means getting swept.
What it allows us to do in free agency. I mean, when
we Joe decided to sign Gordon and Villanueva, we were on our way out of the playoffs. I have no idea how he was able to entice Gordon and Villanueva to come to Detroit. Oh wait, yes I do, by severely over paying them. I would hope, with the core of players we have (Monroe, Drummond, and Jose) along with our consistently progressive win percentage (back up over last years so far), we wouldn't have to over pay (more than normal) for a free agent to come to Detroit. Personally, because I'm ok with giving Jose a 4/$40 million contract (front loaded, fourth year team option), we'll need another free agent that is starter quality for around $10. But if we're out of the playoffs again, we may have to pay $12-$15 million for that $10 million player.
I am not great at determining uncertain odds, but I'd say there's a 1/150 (just making up numbers) chance that the Pistons are able to draft Trey Burke, the only player in this draft that interests me, even if we kept our pick from this year. As someone mentioned before, we're not bad enough to tank to get a much better spot and other teams are already in tank mode. We'd more than likely end up in the 9th pick or later. Will Burke be there? Maybe, maybe not. But I honestly think our best bet to get Burke would be to honestly do a draft day trade. With whom? I don't know. For what? Not sure. But I think there's a better chance in that happening (maybe 1/149) than us being able to draft him straight up. So if we were to lose our pick, I'd rather it be this year rather than next. That could be just me.
I think many of us agree that the focus for us in this draft is drafting Trey Burke or a PG very similar in his characteristics. If the draft lottery was today, we'd likely end up with the 10th pick. Burke will more than likely be gone by then, but as long as we're able to trade the pick and a player to move up some (maybe the pick plus Stuckey and Middleton) or to the team that drafts Burke, that'd be amazing. The draft pick this year has it's pros and cons. Which one is better? It would suck if we gave up that pick, somehow Burke slipped, and the Bobcats drafted him.
It could spark more ineptitude from Joe Dumars. There are still moves that need to be made, even if we were to make the playoffs. If we could flip Stuckey/Knight for someone a little better and/or a little cheaper, that'd be great. But I fear that if we were to make the playoffs, all of the cows would then be sacred. This is not a contending team, and hoping for internal development from a fringe playoff team to become a contender is not smart. Making the playoffs barely, and making no more moves, leaves us with semi-crappy draft picks which keeps us mediocre. I don't want us to make the playoffs, Joe think his job is safe (which it probably would be), and then leave the team as it is.
The Road Ahead
To me, and I could be missing something, it seems that there may be more pros than cons to making the playoffs. Mind you, I don't think it's a simple numbers game of 4-2 in favor of pros, each one has a weight to it, so it could actually be even. But say we're going for the playoffs in hopes of the pros being the better chances/options, what does the road ahead look like.
In a prior piece, I explored the road ahead for Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston. Milwaukee was surging under interim coach Jim Boylan, Boston was floundering, Philadelphia seemed stagnant, and Detroit was on the rise. Oh how things have changed. Boston lost Rondo and Sullinger, then go on a 6 game winning streak. Philadelphia has still been pretty stagnant, but they're likely to get Bynum back soon (whether that works or not is to be seen). And Detroit went on a big slump. And while I would love to say that it was because we went against superior talent, we just beat the Spurs and Milwaukee. Confused am I. But enter Jose into the picture.
Assuming the Celtics have drank from the fountain of youth, what's the road look like for Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee? The Pistons are currently 20-32 with 30 games left (13 home, 17 away). The Sixers are 22-27 with 33 games left (13 home, 20 away). And the Bucks are 25-24 with 33 games left (17 home, 16 away). Right off the bat you can tell we'd have to win quite a bit more down the stretch with three fewer games than both of those teams. But what does the strength of schedule look like?
In the last piece, the Sixers had just as hard of a remaining schedule as we did. Also, their road woes seem to be just as bad as ours.
|Opponent||WIN%||BOS H||BOS A||BOS SS||MIL H||MIL A||MIL SS||PHI H||PHI A||PHI SS||DET H||DET A||DET SS|
Boston has 10 sets of (20 of their remaining 33 games) back-to-backs left and 1 set of 5 games in 7 nights (all during a west coast trip immediately after the All-Star break). Milwaukee has 9 sets of back-to-backs left, 2 sets of 4 games in 5 nights (7 of those games on the road) and both of those sets can be extended out to be 7 games in 10 nights. Philadelphia also has 10 sets of back-to-backs left and 1 set of 5 games in 7 nights (extended to 7 games in 10 nights). Detroit has 6 sets of back-to-backs and 1 set of 5 games in 7 nights (immediately after the All-Star break...well rested...which includes the home/home against the Pacers). The remaining SOS for each team is BOS .483, MIL .495, PHI .503 and DET .478. Though it isn't a cake walk, the Pistons schedule seems to be the easiest in schedule spacing and opponent.
The winning percentages against the teams BOS still needs to play is .595. The one team they haven't played yet (Denver, one home, one away) has a winning percentage of .647. The winning percentages against the teams MIL still needs to play is .560. Three teams (OKC - 2, ATL - 4, DAL - 2) they haven't played have a combined winning percentage of .584. The winning percentages against the teams PHI still needs to play is .448. The two teams (MIA - 4 and LAC - 2) they haven't played yet have a combined winning percentage of .688. The winning percentages against the teams DET still needs to play is .406. The two teams (MIN - 2 and NOH - 2) they haven't played yet have a combined winning percentage of .362.
Do I still think it's possible? Eh, yes. Do I think it's likely? No. Yes, Jose has only played with us for four games and we're 2-2 against four playoff teams. However, he didn't get a chance to practice until after the Brooklyn game. That man runs an amazing offense. A 5.0 A/TO ratio after four games playing with his new team, and only one practice. It appears he has the players running the sets much better than they were under Knight (SAVVY VETERAN LEADERSHIP!!!). I loved this part of a recent True Blue Pistons article:
"Run the play," he (Calderon) said. "Don’t just run the play because it’s the play. It’s because you can receive the pass at any time. It’s not just with me, it’s with them. They’ve got to change a little bit – not the way they play, but the way they’re able to run those plays sometimes."
"All of a sudden, every cut you weren’t making before and maybe you weren’t getting the ball," Lawrence Frank said, "now you’re going to see guys – watch – they’re going to start ducking in harder, they’re going to start cutting harder. It’s running stuff with a purpose."
And you can see it when you watch the games. I see at least 5-6 winnable games in our next 9 (MEM and IND will be difficult, and ATL may be as well). This is the perfect time that we could make a playoff push. If we don't make it, I won't be upset. I am realistic that there's a decent uphill climb we need to make, but I've seen a different team the last two games (yes, small sample size). But if Jose keeps playing like this...it could happen. There's a lot of factors in play, but that's what makes this game so fun (and frustrating).