There are few basketball writers out there whose opinion I respect more ESPN's John Hollinger. I don't always agree with him, mind you, but while some people just throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks, Hollinger's opinions are always informed and nuanced. That's why of all the NBA previews out there, I'm highlighting his take on the Pistons in 2008-09:
If we're going to use history as our teacher, then the default prediction for Detroit should be a win total in the mid-50s and a demoralizing loss in the conference finals. To stray from that projection after what has happened the past three seasons, we would need some very compelling evidence.
Certainly there are reasons to think Detroit might be better -- even while nurturing a contending nucleus, Dumars has brought along a second wave of talent in the likes of Maxiell, Stuckey and Johnson that has eased the burden on his veteran starters. The youngsters also provide some insurance in case somebody on the Pistons ever gets injured -- their track record of health the past half-decade has been completely ridiculous, but now they're so deep that injuries would have to pile up en masse to materially affect them.
Standing against those positives are the facts that the Pistons who will play the crunch-time minutes are getting fairly long in the tooth -- Hamilton is 30, Billups is 32, and Wallace and McDyess are 34 -- and that first-year coach Curry may have to endure some growing pains this season.
Add it all up and we're right back where we started. Yes, we must take Detroit seriously as a title contender. But much like last in the past three seasons, it appears that the Pistons are really, really good … and there's one other Eastern team that's better.