A few short weeks ago, I admit I had all but given up on this team. The playoffs seemed out of reach and it was too late to join the tank rank, make like Bob Marley and start praying for Zion.
Then the unexpected happened. The Pistons actually started winning a bit.
Maybe it was the All-Star snub, but Andre Drummond started playing like a top center in the league (albeit no unicorn). Reggie Jackson, for unknown reasons, started playing like the mythical “Mr Fourth Quarter” Reggie. Blake Griffin was still there of course, being Blake. After those three, the team is a verifiable mess, but still, a weird excitement entered my consciousness when I saw that we were tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Playoffs baby! Let’s make some noise!
Sorry, I guess let’s just get there first. How likely is that you ask? Well we have a panel of highly qualified Detroit Pistons experts on hand to give you their more or less yet not at all unbiased opinions on that. Here we go:
1. The Pistons are 26-30 with 26 games remaining. ESPN’s BPI and 538 have them as finishing 38-44. What’s your win/loss prediction?
Ryan Pravato: 40-42, which means probably enough to get “in.” I’m feeling in a decent mood at this moment. AND, the remaining schedule is not tough in the least:
Cavs twice, Bulls twice. Hawks, Grizzlies, Suns, Knicks all once. Nets (road), Magic (home), Wolves (home), Hornets (home) and Lakers (home). Heat (twice). Win 11 of 15 of these I just mentioned, plus win three (just three!) out of the other 11 games you are not supposed to win, and viola, that’s 40. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK? (I think I know the answer to that.)
Ben Quagliata: I think they can scramble to .500, especially if Reggie continues the way he’s been going. You pretty much know what you’re going to get from Blake and Dre every night. The only problem is the fifth starter and finding some consistency off the bench. Oh, and never play Langston Galloway again, please.
Brady Fredericksen: I think the Pistons will go 14-12 the rest of the way, which puts them at 40-42. They play Miami twice in the next month. That season series is tied at 1-1 and, if Detroit loses both of those games, we can probably bury them by St. Patrick’s Day. If they win both, though, the biggest game of the season from a tiebreaker perspective comes on March 28 when the Magic come to town. The Pistons own a 2-1 lead in that season series and can lock up the tiebreaker with a win.
Steve Hinson: While sites have generally shown the Pistons as having an “easy” schedule remaining, it’s not so easy once you look more closely at it. Sure, there’s quite a few gimmies with Cleveland and Chicago each twice, Phoenix, Memphis, and New York. Those are the ones that drop the opposing W/L percentage so low. But the other 19 games are going to be tough ones. And this team has really struggled against quality competition. I see eight solid wins, 12 games that they’ll be the clear underdog, and six that are pretty evenly matched. So I’d say 9-15 is the most likely record over the final 26 games, putting them at a 37-45 finish.
Ben Gulker: If Reggie Jackson’s resurgence is real, The Pistons are closer to that .500 team I thought we’d have. The models wouldn’t be accounting for Reggie’s health, so they’re estimating low if Reggie’s at 100 percent. Plus, they’ve got five games left against teams trying to lose games. It shouldn’t take much luck to get to 40 wins in that context.
2. If we do make the playoffs, we’d almost certainly be playing one of Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston, Philly, or Indiana. Which team would you most like to see the Pistons matched up with?
Ryan Pravato: Toronto or Indiana. Obvious reasons. I could see Detroit winning a couple in either case. But Indiana will finish fourth or fifth anyway, so there’s no need to waste time hoping for that. Indiana’s depth is still worlds better than Detroit is. The thing about playing Toronto is that who will guard Kawhi for 25-30 minutes? Stanley “The Kawhi Stopper” Johnson is in New Orleans now.
Ben Quagliata: Honestly Philadelphia, but not because I think they’re an easier team to face. Detroit ain’t winning a series against any of the top 4-5 teams in the East, but I definitely think Philly would make the most entertaining series for a few reasons. The return of Bobi and Tobi, Andre vs. Joel Embiid, Blake’s 50 piece from earlier in the season, there’s just some good storylines.
Brady Fredericksen: I’d most like seeing them play Indiana (unlikely) or Toronto (much more likely). I think Indiana is their ONLY chance of advancing out of the first round, but even those odds are long, considering how hard the Pacers play and how talented that team still is without Victor Oladipo. Toronto would present a fun storyline. Dwane Casey knows that roster and Nick Nurse is an inexperienced coach. It could be a competitive series that the Pistons ultimately lose — think Cleveland a few years ago.
Steve Hinson: Indiana would certainly be the best matchup for the Pistons. As well as they’ve played this season, they’re the prototype of the team that excels in the regular season then struggles in the playoffs - especially without Victor Oladipo. But I’ll say Milwaukee, just to get to see more Giannis.
Ben Gulker: The Pacers, at least on paper, although that could change after we’ve played them again. As of today, they’ve only met once, and Indy gave us the business.
3. If we do make the playoffs, which of those five teams would you least like to see the Pistons matched up with?
Ryan Pravato: Philadelphia. I mean, it would be a real dilemma. How am I going to legitimately, in my heart of hearts, root against Tobi and Bobi when I know Detroit has no actual chance anyway. Not to mention the series would be uncomfortable to watch due to the very one sided Embiid-Drummond battles. This would be an ugly four-game sweep if I ever saw one.
Ben Quagliata: Boston. I have no desire to see playoff Kyrie against the Pistons ever again.
Brady Fredericksen: Philadelphia. I know the Bucks are great and the Celtics are going to be very good by the time the playoffs roll around, but that 76ers roster is just a freakin’ nightmare for the Pistons. Joel Embiid has DOMINATED Andre Drummond in the past and, while I’m not convinced Tobias Harris is going to be a huge factor in the playoffs for Philly, who the heck would guard him? Blake Griffin? That still leaves you with Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler, with JJ Redick flying around getting open for threes. The Pistons are short on wings and the 76ers are flush with 6-foot-7 dudes. It would be an ugly week of playoff basketball for Detroit.
Steve Hinson: The 76ers. Spending a week with the most insufferable fan base in the league is never a fun time.
Ben Gulker: The Celtics, because they’re the Celtics, and I’m old enough to remember when there was actually a rivalry there.
Those are our highly professional opinions...feel free to give us yours in the comments below!
1. The Pistons are 26-30 with 26 games remaining. BPI and 538 have them as finishing 38-44. What’s your win/loss prediction?
2. If we do make the Playoffs we’d almost certainly be playing one of Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston, Philly or Indiana. Which team would you most like to see the Pistons matched up with?
3. If we do make the Playoffs which of those five teams would you least like to see the Pistons matched up with?