The Detroit Pistons sit one game below .500 and 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After winning five in a row directly after the blockbuster trade for Blake Griffin, the Pistons have fallen back to Earth. The team scuffled through three straight losses and played just about as bad as possible against a bad Atlanta Hawks team resting their best players — though the Pistons managed to walk away with a victory.
The second-half slate starts tonight against the Boston Celtics, and Detroit plays 12 of its next 16 on the road. There are also few cupcakes on the schedule — nine of those teams are in playoff position.
When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Until proven otherwise, the Detroit Pistons are not an especially good basketball team. They might be one game below .500 but they are a long way away from their hot start to begin the season. Since Dec. 1, the Pistons are 14-23 with the fifth-worst offense in the NBA. In that same timeframe they have scraped together the eighth-ranked defense. They also have managed to trade for Blake Griffin. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
Since Griffin came on board the defense has gotten even better and the offense has improved to at least mediocrity (through a cupcake schedule, to be fair). The schedule is much tougher from here on out and there are warning signs all over the place.
The best way Stan Van Gundy has been able to integrate a ball-dominant player like Griffin into the lineup is to essentially give him the ball and tell everyone else to get the hell out of the way.
This has led to some inefficient offense and some pretty glaringly bad choices from Griffin. It’s also led to a lot of miscommunication and teammates running actions that lead nowhere because there aren’t really any plays designed to accommodate two passing bigs with limited (or no) range like Griffin and Drummond on the floor together.
It becomes doubly difficult because Van Gundy is also attempting to include Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson in the starting lineup, both players with limited range who are better driving into the paint.
Van Gundy has had about a week to both detach from basketball and recharge mentally and physically for the stretch run, and also dive deep into analyzing how to integrate his new, $25 million star player, figure out how to make sure Drummond doesn’t revert to bad habits and figure out what to do while point guard Reggie Jackson heals.
There is no margin for error. Welcome back, NBA!