Playoff Hunt: Pistons running on a treadmill

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons sit only 2.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the playoffs, which means their lottery positioning is fortunate for Charlotte.

Ed. note - Welcome Kriz as DBB's newest community member turned staff! You can get to know her better from this post in 2011.

While the Pistons still talk about their playoff possibilities as if it was a real thing (their play may suggest they don’t quite believe it) the team’s fans seem divided on how Detroit should proceed: to tank or not to tank. Unluckily the Pistons don’t seem to have much of a choice in the matter. The way the season has shaped up they are clearly not good enough to be a playoff team and, in spite of how bad they have been, the massive failure from the bottom teams in the league may leave them without their pick.

But lets look at exactly where the Pistons stand 62 games into this godforsaken season. As of today, the Pistons hold a record of 24-38, just 2.5 game out of the playoff picture with a free falling Atlanta team in front of them and holding on to the last spot (they won one of their last 10 games). But, please, don’t get your hopes up just yet; the Pistons are just barely better with a record of 2-8 in their last 10. The eight losses have been by an average of 10.87 points and included back-to-back humiliating losses (by 12 and 18) to the Charlotte Bobcats after claiming those games would be treated like a playoff series.

During the month of March, the team has had its worst shooting percentage, which coincides with a drop in offensive rating from the last month while also featuring their worst defensive rating of the season with 108. What’s worse is there seems to be no interest in making adjustments as Josh Smith is still taking (and missing) most of the shots, Will Bynum’s hero ball approach keeps getting rewarded with playing time, Rodney Stuckey looks to be exactly who we thought he was, productive guys are still buried behind unproductive ones and the team’s defensive effort/plan seems to be getting worse.

On the other side of the coin, the lottery, the Pistons are the 10th worst team, record wise, with a top eight protected pick. With better records are teams like New Orleans (25-37) and Denver (27-34) who are a minor slip in play away for pushing the Pistons up towards the 11-12 spots while being of no help to their playoff hopes.

As such, It is not unlikely then that the Pistons could manage to end up with a less than .400% win record and no lottery pick to show for it. Only the Pistons can fail this well.

A comment on the idea of tanking

A league wide discussion has been the perceived need to deter tanking, and while I do not see what the problem with tanking is, I’d like to clear up a misconception of the idea of tanking for the Pistons. While this team’s season long aim has been making the playoffs, a goal that was solidified with the acquisition of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the truth is that this team’s "best" efforts to do so have been left wanting. What this team is selling, nobody is buying and, save for a sudden epiphany from more than one guy on this team, the Pistons will remain on the outside looking in.

Perhaps, what is needed is a change in outlook, the equivalent of tanking in theory but not in practice. Not tanking as in losing on purpose but as a search for something different. This would mean a shift in priorities for the Pistons, abandoning the playoffs as a goal and focusing on development instead. With 20 games left in this season, a general manager (allegedly) on the way out and a new coach expected for next season, the Pistons, and John Loyer, have the opportunity to abandon any sense of duty towards what some players on the team, media and fans may perceive as trying/giving up and go full mode into "what if?" mode. What if we gave more playing time to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? What if we played a lineup that responded to the classic definition of positions for a change? What if we gave Peyton Siva a shot at back-up point guard? What if Tony Mitchell got some meaningful playing time? What if we gave Josh Smith less playing time? What if Jennings sat to heal his toe? What if this team gave its youth a turn? More importantly, what if we finally featured the Twin Towers and played them in a regular lineup? What if we stopped wondering what if and saw what it was like?

Still, there remains the idea that a playoff push could benefit the morale of the team and with Atlanta struggling there is a chance.

What say you, my brethren?

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