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State of the Pistons: February

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Detroit raced back into the playoff picture this month

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a fun month of basketball out of the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons went 7-3 in February, won four games in a row for the first time since November, and end the month in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, squarely in the playoff picture.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and narratives that have made up this Pistons’ season this month. As always, I use NBA.com numbers because they’re accessible to all.

January’s State of the Pistons is here.

Numbers:

Record: 29-31. 18-13 at home, 11-18 on the road. 9-22 against teams above .500 as of March 1 (Wins: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers).

ORTG: 107.1, 22nd (Up from January - 105.4, 25th)
DRTG: 108.3, 12th (Down numerically from January - 108.1, 12th)
NetRTG: -1.2, 23rd (Up numerically from January - -2.7, 23rd)

The new starting lineup (Reggie Jackson, Wayne Ellington, Bruce Brown Jr., Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond) has a positive NetRTG so far:

It doesn’t approach the double-digit positive NetRTG the Reggie Bullock starting lineup had, but that ORTG and DRTG look sustainable, which is all you can really ask for.

Andre Drummond was a beast in the month of February, averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds, 2.4 steals (!) and 2.4 blocks (!!) a game on a slashline of 63/0/65. Five “stocks” a game is a LOT to maintain over the course of a week, much less a month, and it shows you how well Andre was on both ends for the Pistons this month.

In January, we noted that Reggie Jackson was one of the few Pistons with a positive NetRTG in a month they went 6-10 as a team. Reggie built on that to have himself an excellent February, averaging 19 points and five assists a game on 48/45/94 shooting, a true shooting percentage of 63 percent, and a NetRTG of 9.4.

The Langston Galloway Roller Coaster swung up this month to the tune of 37 percent from three:

However, also take note of the three-point attempts month-to-month, which have been in decline all season. Some of that is the lessening of Langston’s minutes, but you have to hope some of that is Langston reining in his shot selection a bit.

Lastly, the longest-tenured Piston on the wing, Luke Kennard, is now the unofficial bellwether for the bench unit. When he’s on, the bench can make an impact in a game; when he’s not, they’re going to struggle to stay afloat, and that’s going to cost the Pistons:

No pressure or anything, Luke.

Narrative:

It was a short month, but a lot of things happened in February. DBB started off the month with but one simple plea for the Pistons prior to the trade deadline: Please (don’t) trade for Mike Conley.

For their part, Detroit started the month off on a real low note, blowing a 25-point lead to Blake Griffin’s old team and getting (thoroughly and deservedly) booed from the Little Caesars Arena faithful in attendance.

Things picked up a bit, though, when the Pistons blew out the conference-leading Nuggets and the bottom-dwelling Knicks on back-to-back nights. However, immediately following the (first) Knicks win...

Reggie Bullock was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and a future second-round pick, restocking the pick cupboard, offering a look at an interesting wing project, and getting the Pistons farther away from the luxury tax line. It didn’t feel like enough for Bullock at the time, but it’s proved to be a decent deal for Detroit.

The Pistons made another trade before the trade deadline, sending Stanley Johnson to New Orleans and receiving Thon Maker from the Miwaulkee Bucks on the day of the deadline. Two-top-10 picks got traded for each other, must be a blockbuster deal, right? Not so much. By the sound of it, both guys just needed changes of scenery. We here at DBB like Thon a bunch even if he’s not, you know, AMAZING at basketball.

To round out the team, the Pistons brought in Wayne Ellington in a “Significant Recruiting Victory” after he was bought out post-deadline. Functionally a slightly (SLIGHTLY) cheaper Reggie Bullock, Ellington has started to hit shots after a shaky beginning in Detroit.

While all this was happening, the Pistons just kept winning. Wins over the Knicks and Wizards pushed the winning streak to four. What was keying the playoff push? The resurgent play of Reggie Jackson, as broken down by Mike Synder.

Losing the getaway game before the All-Star Break to the Boston Celtics on the road kind of stung, but it was a timely reminder that the Pistons had to actually play well to make the playoffs, instead of relying on the suckitude of others.

Straight out of the gate, the Pistons had a back-to-back against Atlanta and Miami. They survived Blake Griffin getting ejected in the Atlanta game due to Jon Leuer’s first three-point basket in 680+ days, and a game-winning three pointer from... Thon Maker! See! We love that guy.

The very next night, the Pistons’ bench came out and smacked Miami in the face, winning going away in the fourth quarter. The Heat essentially lost to Langston Galloway’s first good game in three weeks - not what I would’ve predicted beforehand.

Suddenly, with all these wins, the Pistons had found themselves back in the thick of the playoff hunt, all the way up in the seventh seed. Andre Drummond was dunking the Pistons into the playoffs, DBB’s Brady Fredericksen noted.

To close out the month, the Pistons won a physical, early-2000’s flashback game against the Indiana Pacers, and lost a late-2000’s flashback game to the San Antonio Spurs. Detroit began and ended the month on a sour note, but everything in-between was pretty harmonious, despite the roster changes.

Next Month:

The big questions coming up in March:

  • Can the Pistons keep winning and solidify a playoff spot?
  • Can we get Blake Griffin some rest? Numerically, he’s been fine since the All-Star break, but he’s looked a little run down.
  • Will Jon Leuer make another three?
  • Will we ever see Svi again?

Tell us what you want to see in March in the comments below.