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DBB on 3: Sound the alarm?

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Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan so far this season in Detroit.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, a lucky 13 games in and your Detroit Pistons (don’t deny them now, you Judas, they are yours) are 4-9. Granted, there have been injuries galore, and new players to insert into lineups that were certain to change with a healthy roster anyway, but this is the easy stretch of the season, and 4-9 is not a record to be happy with in any circumstance. Some fans are preaching patience, while other are ready for a yard sale and a tank job. We all here at DBB have our own opinions and if you’ll take a few minutes we’d love to share.

1. What level are you right now after the loss to Charlotte?

Code Green: Not worried at all, we’re going to be fine.
Code Yellow: Getting a bit nervous but not ready to panic.
Code Red: Starting to panic, the season is on the brink.
Code Brown: We have sh!t the bed, AIF, time to tear it down.

Sean Wheeler: Code Blue: I’m bummed. It appears this team isn’t healthy enough to be able to have a meaningful season. They have some very talented players, but three of the most important - Reggie, Blake & Rose - aren’t going to be able to stay on the court and consistently play at the level this team needs in order to be relevant in the East.

Ryan Pravato: I’m between Code Yellow and Code Red right now. The schedule gets tougher in December (and I’m assuming the rest of the months also), so any time there’s a .500 team or worse on the schedule, the Pistons need to take advantage and win 80-90% of those games. They aren’t even close to doing that now. That’s what’ll take to get this team to around .500. Problem is...it might be too late already.

Ku Khahil: Code Yellow: I’m not panicking, but to act like there’s no reason to be worried would be dishonest. The team hasn’t been healthy and that’s obviously hurt their record.

But, even then; it’s only been 13 games people. Let’s just take it easy.

Currently, even with all the struggles, the Pistons are only three games behind the 4th seed and two games behind 7th seed. It’s not time to panic at all, but sense of urgency needs to be there.

Steve Hinson: Oh yeah, we’re at Code Red, moving quickly to Code Brown. And this isn’t a knee jerk reaction from a pessimist. Back in September, I set the mark that Pistons needed to be at for their win total at on December 3 at 13 wins, using an objective - though admittedly rough - system. That’s the mark they’d need to be at to win just 39 games. This next stretch is reasonably light (though that’s meant little so far). Let’s say they win 6 of the next 8. That’d put them at 10-9 on December 3. That still sets the stage for an utterly pointless 36 win season, missing the playoffs and a late lottery pick. It’s the kind of bad that’s even worse than mediocre.

Lazarus Jackson: We are at Code Yellow. This team has clearly defined strengths (efficient perimeter shooting) and weaknesses (decision making into live-ball turnovers) on offense, and clearly defined strengths (Andre Drummond in drop coverage) and weaknesses (transition defense, any kind of transition defense) on defense.

Should they have beaten Charlotte? Absolutely. But right now, they’re 0-2 with Blake Griffin, a trend I don’t expect to hold. They’re the 12th-best offense in the league, which looks sustainable (and maybe even could be improved on). And we’re 13 games into the year - you can’t start panicking, imo, until at least 20-25 games. Doesn’t help my frustration any, though.

Justin Lambregtse: I’d say I’m at a Code Yellow.

Ben Gulker: Parts of Red, parts of Brown - not a great image. I think the season is on the brink of being lost. This team had to stay reasonably healthy to be a winning team - 70 games of Blake, 60 from Rose and Reggie, and as little overlap as possible - and that obviously hasn’t happened so far.

Even worse, however, is the team’s complete inability to defend anyone. Somehow, in spite the injuries, this team is 12th in offensive rating, but a disastrous 25th in defensive rating. Injuries just don’t explain the poor defense, which means there’s a deeper issue the coaching staff hasn’t been able to remedy. If they can’t figure it out quickly, the losing will continue.

But, don’t panic and make a stupid trade that has long-term downsides - one more losing season is better than that. 10 games from now, I might be full-on Code Brown if things haven’t improved, and as I argued on the podcast, I think moving Blake Griffin is probably the most viable option to make it happen.

Michael Snyder: Code Green – You don’t throw in the towel after 13 games, c’mon. The loss to Charlotte was disappointing, but disappointing losses happen. The 4-9 start isn’t ideal but non-ideal starts happen. Heading into the season, I had the Pistons’ ceiling at the six spot and they’re three and a half games back of the sixth seed with 69 games remaining, we got time. R-E-L-A-X.

Unless, of course, you had them hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, then your prediction might be in trouble.

Sham Mohile: Right now, it is between Code Yellow and Code Red (Code Orange perhaps?). Unfair or not, the Pistons were blessed with more games than any other NBA team in the first two weeks of the season. The Pistons also caught the injury bug early. Every point guard was out with some sort of ailment, while Blake Griffin also missed time. The scraps that were left donning the blue, red, and white scrounged together four wins, but now find themselves on a four-game slide.

I understand the injuries have limited the Pistons ability to win games and perform as expected, but how many games can they afford to drop before the schedule becomes difficult (in 2020) and they likely lose games against better teams even at full strength? Six out of the Pistons next ten games comes against sub-.500 opponents, and one game is against the Indiana Pacers - who they’ve beaten twice before. Losing the majority of those games will inevitably put the Pistons in a hole that I really doubt they can come out of.

Joe Truck: Code Yellow, but a soft one.

David Fernandez: Currently in between Code Red and Code Brown. I was under the belief that this team HAD to start the season strong, since the beginning of the year was the weakest part of their schedule, but they’re 4-9, having lost to multiple teams that will most likely miss the playoffs when its all said and done. I don’t believe this team, when/if healthy, is strong enough to rattle off wins consistently. At best, they’ll mirror last year’s team - play well enough to crawl into the playoffs, then get stomped out by an actual good team.

Sean Corp: I’m somewhere between Code Red and Code Brown. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for the Pistons this year based on a fundamental lack of defensive talent and critical injuries happening at the worst possible time. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m panicked -- just that I’ll be watching with an eye toward what matters beyond this season -- Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown Jr., the other young folks -- and the play of people who might be able to be moved for new assets -- Blake, Andre, Reggie (lol).

Brady Fredericksen: I’m sitting at Code Yellow. This team has warts, we knew that coming into the year, and they’re being exposed early on. I think it’s hard to bury the team after two games with Blake Griffin -- and with everybody’s favorite scapegoat, Reggie Jackson, on the shelf -- despite the ugliness. They aren’t flawed in a fundamental way. They’re flawed because they’re just doing the little things poorly. Not all, but a lot of this is correctable.

2. What one thing gives you reason for optimism?

Sean Wheeler: The individual pieces look really good at times: Luke has improved a lot and is a solid piece for the long-term. Dre has improved overall and is playing like a worthy All-Star. Rose can be so fun to watch and very effective most of the time.

Ryan Pravato: Luke’s aggressiveness and assertiveness (despite the Charlotte game), and just overall proving this season that he’s a starting caliber player. Sekou gives me hope too, although he’s playing in Grand Rapids. I maybe could see him being a rotational piece as early as next season at some point. Svi Mykhailiuk has the look of a nice rotational piece who can help out in many ways, but first and foremost he has to find his shot and get that confidence going. I hope he breaks through, and hopefully does so soon.

Ku Khahil: Luke’s play has been somewhat shocking to me. I’ve liked Luke, but never did I think he’d pop off like he has thus far. Also, Blake and Derrick getting healthy is worthy of bringing optimism obviously. Pistons are as close to 100% as they’re gonna get for a while.

Steve Hinson: Well, there’s no chance for the front office to put their heads in the sand about this squad. They went into the season suggesting they can win with a core of Griffin, Drummond, and Jackson. That was dumb. This is a poorly built team with no direction. So, their lousy start is a great opportunity to become a well-built team with a direction.

Lazarus Jackson: The clearly defined strengths on offense. When thinking about this team in the preseason, at no point would I have considered them a top-10 offense. But Luke Kennard’s leap, Langston Galloway’s contract-year output, and Tony Snell’s accuracy from deep means they have consistent perimeter shooting from their wings, and Derrick Rose (when he plays) gives them a rim-attacking element they haven’t had in the past.

Justin Lambregtse: My reason for optimism is the fact that Blake Griffin is finally back from injury. The Pistons trio of backup power forwards have been awful, and once Blake Griffin gets back into game shape he is a significant upgrade over all of them.

Ben Gulker: The improved offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the offense fall off a little bit by the end of the season, but I do think there’s a not insignificant improvement that’s sustainable. Luke Kennard is a legit player, Drummond has shown he can carry some weight efficiently, Langston Galloway is having a career season, Derrick Rose has been ridiculous when he’s played, and Blake Griffin has hardly played yet. On this side of the floor, the Pistons are what I’d envisioned their best-case scenario being.

Michael Snyder: Luke Kennard gettin’ loose on offense; Derrick Rose touching paint any time he wants to; Christian Wood is a steal; Blake Griffin has only played 54 minutes this season; Andre Drummond’s 20-20(s); Langston Galloway filling it up.

Sham Mohile: Credit to the great Joe Truck for this comparison...

Player A (per 36 min): 20.2 pts, 4.5 ast, 4 reb, 1.7 TO, and 61.5% TS

Player B (per 36 min): 21.6 pts, 4.4 ast, 3.4 reb, 2.5 TO, and 54.4% TS

Player A is Luke Kennard and Player B is CJ McCollum’s breakout third year. A shining light in what is otherwise a very dark start to the season, Kennard has taken the reigns as the primary offensive threat with Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson missing extended time. He’s a serious Most Improved Player candidate, and is an exciting player for the Pistons to continue to build around going forward.

Joe Truck: We knew that the early season without Blake would be hard, and that’s exactly what happened. They are currently on a big break that they should he healthy coming back from.

David Fernandez: There are two things for me, Luke has played extremely well this year, and is growing into the player we all hoped he would become. That’s more of a long-term optimistic point. And, for this season, their are a lot of other supposed playoff teams in the East that are currently sub .500 - with Detroit only two games back of the 7 seed.

Sean Corp: Other than any moment Markieff Morris and/or Thon Maker is on the floor, I genuinely like watching this team. It’s interesting and a little fun -- especially if you just say screw it and don’t expect any defense. Watching Drummond is almost always pure joy and It’s been a long time since Detroit had a player with the skillset of a guy like Luke Kennard.

Brady Fredericksen: They’re talented. Griffin is great, Andre Drummond looks like he’s taken a step, Luke Kennard has finally grown up, and Derrick Rose provides them with a scoring option off the bench like they haven’t had since, what, that short span when Tobias Harris was a bench player? Probably the best bench option since Antonio McDyess.

3. What one thing leaves you most pessimistic?

Sean Wheeler: The talent on this team isn’t deep enough to weather the injury problems they appear to be plagued with this season. Blake doesn’t look as good as he did last season, and I’m not confident he’ll be able to stay on the court and put up the kind of numbers they need to have an impact in the playoffs. They really needed to have excellent luck with health in order to be in position to win a playoff series, and as of now, it looks like they’ll have to fight for a lower tier seed… and that’s if everything goes well from here on out.

Ryan Pravato: Again, there’s really no direction. Blake Griffin isn’t a young guy anymore, but has a couple pretty good years left you’d think, so why draft a player who is a few years away from even being able to contribute. That does nothing for the here and now, and the need to surround Blake with a strong supporting cast.

Only thing I could perhaps look at to dig me out if this pessimistic hole is if the Pistons brass has something up their sleeve to get a couple young pieces for Andre (he’s having a pretty darn good season so far..) as opposed to getting literally nothing for him. I’d say the absolute most you’d get for Andre is an expiring, a first rd pick, and a young player with at least a high-ish ceiling -- like an Anfernee Simons. People who think Detroit would get a huge haul of like two firsts and two starting caliber players (or young players with a high ceiling) for Andre are living in another universe.

Ku Khahil: How long it takes Blake to knock off the rust is a main concern of mine. He’s only played in two games and he’s obviously shown rust after being out with injury. If it takes Blake too long to get into game ready shape, it could doom the Pistons.

Steve Hinson: Ed Stefanski, and more importantly Tom Gores, have done nothing to inspire confidence in them as architects for building a team for the future. They’ve consistently mis-evaluated talent, implemented a hodgepodge of roster building strategies, and Gores has even allegedly undermined his staff to do what they were hired to do. This franchise is a mess right now and the reason why is clear.

It’s not the coach. Not Player A or Player B. It’s the guys at the top. And it’s not like you can fire the owner. All we can do is point the finger where it belongs, and hope his fingerprints become less apparent on the franchise. They’re not good fingerprints.

Lazarus Jackson: The injuries, honestly. Reggie’s back injury is troubling - I never quite know how to think about recovery from a back injury. Blake Griffin has already missed 11 games, and there’s always the potential he misses more - although I’m glad the Pistons aren’t grinding him into dust on offense by giving him the ball in the mid-post every time down. Derrick Rose is always an injury question. Tony Snell’s injury, which we still haven’t heard much about, is very concerning - the Pistons don’t have another Tony Snell lying around.

Even if you expected that the way this team went down was injuries, I don’t think you could have expected the injuries would start in PRESEASON, after relatively healthy offseasons (Blake’s meniscus rehab, I think, was the only offseason-injury-storyline coming into the year). You also could not have figured the injuries would hit the same position group (point gurad) at the same time. You figured the injuries would begin after guys starting getting worn down 20ish games in. Injuries have given this Pistons team trouble in the past (because they’ve never built a particularly deep team), so I guess it WOULDN’T be surprising to have a season derailed by injury, but it would be disappointing.

Justin Lambregtse: The Pistons defense has been awful and they can’t take care of the ball. The turnovers likely get helped a bit by the return of Reggie Jackson, but he doesn’t help with the defensive issues and I doubt he helps the turnovers enough to make a significant difference.

Ben Gulker: The bottom-of-the-barrel defense. Look, this roster isn’t *that* different from a season ago, and I have a very hard time accepting that Zaza Pachulia and Ish Smith’s departures from the second unit explain everything.

Tony Snell has underwhelming, Bruce Brown seems to have regressed or isn’t as committed on that end, and none of the Pistons bigs are good enough to compensate for the Swiss cheese that is the perimeter defense. Maybe the tape guys can keep breaking this down for us, because this just doesn’t seem like a personnel issue to me. If they don’t figure the defense out soon, the gap between wins and losses will become insurmountable.

Michael Snyder: The defense has been horrendous, even I can’t gloss over that end. Defending the paint, the three-point line, transition, literally every aspect of defense has been U-G-L-Y and they ain’t got no alibi. Thon Maker plays like that kid on the middle school team who is only on the squad because he’s tall. He’s had every chance to cement his place in the rotation, but refuses to do so.

Sham Mohile: Obviously the cascade of injuries would leave almost all Pistons fans pessimistic, but Blake Griffin’s performance since his return has made me more pessimistic about the season than I had expected.

Blake Griffin, coming off of a career year, was going to have a bit of an adjustment period since coming back from the injury, but that learning curve seems to be very stiff at the moment. Shooting less than 40% from the field with less than 20% from three since being back has hurt the Pistons, and somewhat stagnated their offense. Griffin has also not been a stalwart on defense, which has been swiss cheese all season. Like I mentioned in my answer above, how many easy games can the Pistons afford to lose while he figures it out? The schedule becomes much tougher as the season progresses, so each game matters considerably.

Joe Truck: Andre has never been better, Luke Kennard has made the leap, and having Blake back will help with the turnover issues. This is still a highly flawed team and the defense is a real worry, but nothing has happened so far that should come as a huge shock. The only reason I’m even on Code Yellow is a acknowledgement of the fact that if Blake gets hurt again and misses 10 games again later this season it will probably be too much for them to recover from.

David Fernandez: The Detroit Pistons.

Sean Corp: The backup big man situation in Detroit is disqualifying if you want to play competitive basketball. The perimeter defense has been alarmingly bad and I still don’t really think Bruce Brown Jr. is a point guard. It’s worth force feeding him those minutes just to see if he can build those muscles, but I’m not as confident as a lot of Pistons fans.

Brady Fredericksen: These injuries are going to be a constant theme. The Pistons will eventually smooth out these sloppy mistakes and will gel on the court from a chemistry/basketball point of view, but the idea that they’ll do that AND stay healthy all year is hard to believe.

__________

So there is where are all at, how are you feeling about this season and where the team is? Please let us know in the comments below and feel free as always to play along at home:

1. What level are you right now after the loss to Charlotte?

Code Green: Not worried at all, we’re going to be fine.
Code Yellow: Getting a bit nervous but not ready to panic.
Code Red: Starting to panic, the season is on the brink.
Code Brown: We have sh!t the bed, AIF, time to tear it down.

2. What one thing gives you reason for optimism?

3. What one thing leaves you most pessimistic?