It has been a rough go for the Detroit Pistons franchise for much of the season, and with that, a rough time for their fans. We are all, I would imagine, still in love enough with the game itself and specifically the game as played in the NBA, so for this edition I asked our staff questions mainly about the rest of the league.
1. What non-Pistons player's performance have you been most impressed with this year?
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Giannis Antetokounmpo. Westbrook, Harden and all the usual suspects have been great but that was to be expected. While Greek Freak was also expected to take a step forward, he’s taken a rather large leap forward.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: Giannis Antetokounmpo's jump from a cool story and player to a top-10 guy in the league has been insane to witness. I knew he'd be good but I didn't see this kind of jump coming at all. Honorable mention goes to Joel Embiid playing like a borderline All-Star after not playing for two years and having barely even 75 games of experience in his life before the draft.
David Fernandez: I'm a sucker for James Harden, love his game, love the ego, love the beard. His style looks effortless on the floor, and the season he's having is outrageous. That Houston Rockets team looks deadly, and not a team anyone would want to play against in the playoffs.
Ben Gulker: Westbrook, no contest. Literally historic performance.
Steve Hinson: Giannis. I really wasn't convinced he had this kind of upside as a non-shooter on the wing, but he's been simply incredible.
Ben Quagliata: Giannis and Russell Westbrook are the obvious ones, but I’ve been impressed a lot by the rise of Jabari Parker as well.
Justin Lambregtse: Joel Embiid. I did not expect him to play this well this quick. He was a raw prospect coming out and spent two years not doing much basketball-related because of the injury. He is going to be a very good player in this league.
Ryan Pravatto: Giannis, Joel Embiid, Isaiah Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova. Obviously one of these is not like the others, but in fact Ersan's had a strong season since he was traded to the 76ers. He complements Embid quite well and the fans love what he has done so far. Most hope he will be a part of the actual winning process, once it gets going. Ersan's stats, for the most part, back up all the giddiness, too.
Ken Wallace (revken): Giannis Antetokounmpo has stepped up his game to All-Star level.
2. When you're not following the Pistons, which team do you most enjoy watching?
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Cavaliers. I’m a LeBron James fan and proud of it. Taking him for granted is something I will not do.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: Hard to beat the Cavs and Warriors for an enjoyable watch.
David Fernandez: I live in Boston and generally despise Boston sports, but I love the way the Celtics play ball. Big fan of IT2, Crowder, Avery Bradley etc. They bring a level of intensity to the floor that you'd hope the Pistons would bring in a night-in night-out basis.
Ben Gulker: The Warriors, Bucks, and Spurs. The Warriors, because, duh. The Bucks because of Giannis and Moose, and the Spurs because I have mad respect for their franchise-building approach.
Steve Hinson: College basketball - I don't really allocate much time to non-Pistons NBA games. This season watching UCLA has been great, but I also keep up with my alma maters in Indiana and New Mexico.
Ben Quagliata: Going off my first answer, I watch the Bucks perhaps more than any other team besides the Pistons. Largely because of Delly but also because they’re fun to watch.
Justin Lambregtse: The Cleveland Cavaliers (I'm sorry). I grew up watching them before I started watching the Pistons, so they are my second favorite team. Please put the pitchforks down.
Ryan Pravatto: Philadelphia 76ers. I have a good friend that's a huge 76ers fan and is all about "The Process"... so I've heard more than enough from him in recent years. I'm also a particularly big Nik Stauskas slappy (Go Blue).
Ken Wallace (revken): I think the Spurs play the most beautiful basketball.
3. Which team, past or present, would you suggest as a template for the Pistons to follow?
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Any team that hasn’t been afraid to trade four quarters for a dollar.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: Seems too obvious, but the SVG-era Orlando Magic. Our defensive improvements this season make the 2012-15 Grizzlies and 2012-13 Pacers realistic paths to succeeding without a superstar as well.
David Fernandez: SVG's Magic team. Just need more consistency out of guys like Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris.
Ben Gulker: They don't need to look any farther than the Going to Work Pistons. That team made incremental internal improvements, made savvy free agent signings, and didn't hesitate to trade key pieces (such as Stackhouse for Rip) when it improved the team. Spending the cap exceptions wisely and improving via trade will be vital for continued development.
Steve Hinson: San Antonio, but in relation to their front office and coaching management rather than personnel. There's lots of ways to win in this league, and creating a vision with smart, talented folks marching toward it is the best bet over the long haul.
Ben Quagliata: The San Diego Chargers…too soon? The Goin To Work Pistons because they could really learn a lot in the way of teamwork and hustle.
Justin Lambregtse: I love the way the Warriors were built before they got Durant. If I had to pick one model, I would say the Spurs. They have been so good for so long and are able to plug players into their system and get the most out of them.
Ryan Pravatto: Has to be the Spurs. Years ago I didn't really respect them or 'get' them as much as I do now in recent years. In all, it starts and ends with Popovich -- he's one of a kind. Perhaps Detroit eventually needs to pluck an assistant from Popovich. Not a bad plan.
Ken Wallace (revken): I think the best template for this squad remains the 2004 Pistons.
There are some of our thoughts. What about you? Please comment below.