Losers of four in a row, the positive news for the Detroit Pistons is that they’re slowly but surely becoming a healthy team with Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose expected to be back in the fold. With Detroit sitting at 4-9 — tied for last in the Central division — getting your two best shot creators back couldn’t come at a better time. So, you’d think that wins wouldn’t be as hard to come by.
The Pistons are in the middle of four days between games until a road test against the also struggling 4-9 Chicago Bulls. Those four days hopefully will be an opportunity to get even more healthy and get a few good practices in with most of the full squad. The Bulls have oodles of young talent, yet haven’t come close to being able to find an identity.
After the game in Chicago, Detroit will have five more games left in the month of November: in order, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando, and Charlotte are the teams Detroit will face in that five-game span.
Atlanta has Trae Young and while he is quickly becoming a superstar, with John Collins out from a PED suspension, the Hawks utterly lack other consistent scoring threats outside of Jabari Parker. And looking at the defense, the Hawks weren’t going to be a good defensive team this season anyway with their young roster and lack of an inside defensive force. Although, in time, rookie Bruno Fernando could be that defensive anchor for them. So, the Hawks sitting at 4-7 and down their second best player is a game Detroit should be able to win.
Milwaukee is a NBA title contender and that game will be on the second night of a back-to-back following the Atlanta game, so I’m chocking that up as a loss (especially since Milwaukee themselves won’t be on a back-to-back).
Orlando is 4-7 and struggles with consistency, guard play, and a host of other things. They have talent but it’s concentrated mostly in the front court. Markelle Fultz, D.J Augustin, and Michael Carter-Williams are their point guards. I don’t need to explain too much about that. Fultz is showing signs of consistency, at least. You’ll see Aaron Gordon and Jonathon Issac do a lot of the ball handling, and so far the results are mixed.
The last two games of November for the Pistons are a home-and-home (day of rest in-between) with the Charlotte Hornets. As I wrote earlier, the Hornets are 4-7 at the moment. They have several talented young players mixed in with some decent veterans that may be shipped out later in the season to contenders. Rookie forward P.J. Washington has been better than expected so far, shooting 18-of-39 (46-percent) from distance and nearly 50-percent from the field. Second-year combo guard Devonte’ Graham is Charlotte’s leading scorer with 18 points per game in 11 games, with just one start. Graham is shooting 42-percent from distance so far, after shooting 28-percent last season in 46 games.
If Detroit can win five of these six remaining November games, they will be 9-10 heading into a December schedule that isn’t as soft as November’s.
Remember, the Pistons are 4-9 and don’t look anything like a playoff team. They are a lousy team at the moment. Some of that is due to lengthy injuries to three of their top four players so far, while some of it is due to a roster being heavy on non defensive-minded players and a coach who is still unsure of what lineups are best at what times.
Playing other teams with similar records can easily be seen as toss-up games — and that’s exactly what they are in this case. Facing Charlotte twice, plus Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando once apiece means that’s six games very much up-for-grabs. If Detroit has Blake and Derrick back with Luke Kennard and Andre Drummond playing pretty strong as well, they’ll be right to win five of those six to give themselves confidence and show themselves they are better than a sub .500 club. A winning identity should begin to form with a relatively healthy team winning most of the games they should win. Right?
Winning just four of those six up-for-grabs games seems more realistic and if that happens, and if you assume the Milwaukee game is a loss, it would put Detroit at 8-11 heading into December. That record isn’t horrendous, but 9-10 feels and looks so much better.
What will Detroit’s record be for the rest of November?