After falling to the After falling to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, the Pistons losing streak moves to seven. They’ve won just two of their past 15 games.
It’s not particularly fun times to be a fan. Especially since there’s no real light at the end of the tunnel for the season.
Even if the team were healthy and competing for that playoff berth that many hoped for to start the season, the final two months were going to be a challenge. But that’s even more of the case as the year has gone off the rails.
In the final 22 games, only five of those matchups are against an opponent with a worse record than the Pistons.
According to NBA.com, their schedule is the toughest remaining in the Eastern Conference. 14 of their games left are on the road and their remaining opponents have the highest winning percentage of any other team’s schedule in the East.
So if you’re looking for wins, you’re probably bound for disappointment.
But I recall at the start of the season, when the standard narrative was that even though the team was much to be excited about, potentially peaking as a 4-5 team in the East, there could still be fun to be had with the squad.
I disagreed fervently. It was a poorly assembled, directionless roster. So now that I’ve gotten my wish and the team’s rebuild is underway, I suppose I should offer some reasons for enjoyment over the final quarter of the season.
The Pistons are in an increasingly ideal position for the draft. They currently sit in the six spot, but have a solid chance to get in the top three or four. There’s no point in finishing any worse than that. Each of the three worst teams have a chance at a 14 percent chance for the top pick, and the fourth worst team has a 12.5 percent shot.
But of course, the top pick doesn’t matter all that much in this year’s class. If you love James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards, ok. The more important thing for the Pistons is just that they are in the mix for the higher end prospects.
There are six or seven players who you might look at as blue chip prospects for the Pistons, each in the eye of the beholder. If the Pistons are looking at a four or five pick, it gives the front office the best chance at their favorite among those players. That’s a much better spot to be in than, say, at the 12 or 13 pick.
Certainly, most eyes are on Sekou Doumbouya, who has been disappointing as of late. But he’s not the only young guy on the roster.
The roster moves have opened up minutes for Christian Wood and Thon Maker, both of whom have been quite impressive.
Svi Mykhailiuk hasn’t gotten rolling coming off injury yet, but he’s flashed enough so far this season to offer reason for excitement for a larger role in the offense.
After impressing in the G League, Jordan Bone is getting the chance for minutes.
We’re getting more clarification at Bruce Brown’s long term role, whether he’s better suited as a primary or secondary ball handler. Plus he’s averaged 8 rebounds per game since the Andre Drummond trade.
And despite the lackluster performance lately, Doumbouya is getting the chance to learn. Dwane Casey is also experimenting with different roles for Sekou, trying him out as the starting power forward in the past two games (which I think will likely wind up being his best position).
One thing I particularly like about the young assembly is that their skillsets are ones that you always need on a roster and skillsets that blend in nicely regardless of which direction the roster building ultimately takes.
You always need shooting. Luke Kennard, Svi, and Sekou (probably) can all shoot. You need perimeter defenders. Bruce is a perimeter defender. Wood has shown the ability to be dynamic in a variety of roles. Thon...well, let’s not get carried away.
It exists. There’s a strategy beyond “We have those three and we’re going with them.”
There’s still reasons for concern with the front office, along with plenty of work to do in getting this to a roster that can one day be competitive. But, holy crap, can you imagine if the worst case scenario of the team holding pat at the trade deadline would have played out? I mean, Drummond is opting into his contract. He’s a below average starting center making $28 million next year.
He’s been a disaster for Cleveland, taking 16 shots per 36 minutes with a 51 percent true shooting percentage and averaging six(!) turnovers per 36. And he’s not playing defense. He has a net rating of -25.9 even though the Cavs are 3-2 since he’s joined - the team’s net rating with him off the court is 14.8. That means the difference between Andre Drummond being on the court and off the court represents a 40.7 points per 100 possession swing. That’s just incredible.
He had a game with seven turnovers in 22 minutes. A game with 5-13 shooting from the field and 1-4 from the line in just 24 minutes. And hasn’t played defense.
Seriously. Get a load of this guy.
Ahem. So. That’s slightly vindicating. It turns out that refrain of the past six years that “Andre Drummond isn’t helpful for winning basketball unless he dramatically changes his approach to the game” might have had something to it. Getting him off of this team is just...so great. Thanks Cavs! (hat tip to ScottFL)
Clearing out Markieff Morris and Reggie Jackson is also nice. And hopefully Derrick Rose joins the conga line out the door this summer.
Then...we’ll see. There are lots of ways to try building a contending roster and we’ll learn much more about the one that Ed Stefanski has chosen over the summer. In the meantime, it’s all speculation and guessing.
What’s Blake Griffin’s future? What’s the anticipated rebuilding timeline? How patient will Tom Gores be?
Those are questions that we’ll find out eventually. But in the meantime, it’s nice knowing that we won’t have another summer in store of trying to talk ourselves into a Jackson-Blake-Drummond core having the potential to be a four seed if everything breaks right.
Losing streaks are never fun. But cheering for a franchise that might be on the right track is certainly more fun than cheering for a franchise that is absolutely clearly obviously on the wrong track.
Even if it’s going to be a rough finish to the season, it’s for the best.