Ok, I was the one who was whining about not having a team to root for to win it all this postseason. Yet, there are some interesting developments even a Pistons fan stubbornly refusing to cheer on any other team has to notice.
1. Injuries have dominated the storyline this postseason
The results of at least two semis – Nets vs. Bucks and Suns vs. Nuggets – can be decided by injuries (the latter, in fact, is already over thanks in no small part to injuries) as Brooklyn suffers the absence of James Harden and now Kyrie Irving and Denver the absence of Jamal Murray and back problems sustained by Michael Porter Jr. The lack of key, though not star-caliber, players can also distort to significant extend the results of two other semis as Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Hunter could help their teams, the Clippers and Hawks, respectively, especially on defense, and Mike Conley is a huge missing piece for the Jazz’s offense.
The modern game is extremely athletic, which is great. But the unfortunate flipside is all of those injuries compounded by a compressed schedule. It might be tough to change it as it’s not so much connected with wear and tear but rather with the dynamic of the game pushed to extremes.
So when the Pistons finally make the playoffs, there is little you can do other than keep our fingers crossed that they stay healthy. The fact that they can make it as a young team might be helpful, though.
2. Neither tanking nor luring marquee free agents will win the trophy this year. The devil is in the middle way
The tankastic Sixers wouldn’t be doing so well if not the offensive punch delivered by ex-Piston, Tobias Harris, who was acquired in a trade. He isn’t as important for them as one of the tank-trophies, Joel Embiid, but might be on par or even more important (at least for their offense) with Ben Simmons.
There are two teams built by big free agency acquisitions, Clippers and Nets. But they often look hopelessly out of sync (one more on offense the other more on defense) in comparison to teams developing more fluidly, without such shortcuts, to win it all.
All other teams are built less monolithically by trying smartly to take advantage from all available resources (draft, free agency, trades, developing own players). And thus might be better prepared for the long run to the top.
That’s cool, because it’s what Troy’s doing, and so far he looks quite good at it.
3. You need at least two bucket-getters to win a game at this stage …
The pattern seems to be that simple: if you don’t have a couple 20-plus scorers in a game you won’t win. From the teams that don’t have usual suspects on their rosters to deliver these two punches, in its two games Jazz won in the semis, Jordan Clarkson averaged 21 PPG to help Donovan Mitchell. In the two Hawks wins, Bogdan Bogdanović averaged 21,5 PPG apiece.
We can live with that as well. We have Jerami Grant and two great chances at getting another 20-plus scorer – this year’s top pick, and huge cap space coming next summer – plus not so small chance that at least one of the youngsters become one.
4. … But the stoppers are still at premium
Even in today’s era you can win with defense. P.J. Tucker physicality has killed Kevin Durant’s efficiency, which contributed greatly to Milwaukee’s home wins. Philadelphia’s drop coverage executed solidly by Embiid against Trae Young P&R lobs dismantled Atlanta’s offense. Patrick Beverley’s pesky defense broke the beat of Utah’s runs in two Los Angeles wins.
It’s even better for the Pistons, since Detroit has like almost full roster of players who can grow into players capable of fulfilling those defensive tasks.
5. Midrange game seems to be back
Devin Booker, Durant, Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Khris Middleton, Chris Paul all like to shoot midrangers while contributing to their team’s wins. Although it’s against currently preferred shot-chart, it seems to be really contributing to diversifying their team’s offense and, thus, winning.
Jerami, Josh Jackson, Hamidou Diallo, Killian Hayes – Detroit has players who can develop this kind of weapon as they showed some flashes in this regard.
6. Centers ... they are also back
Nikola Jokić and to some extent Embiid are modern bigs that can shoot it and make plays in addition to playing in post. So it’s no surprise that their teams have advanced so far in the modern game. However, there are also more traditional big men playing significant roles for other teams still in the playoffs: DeAndre Ayton, Clint Capela, Embiid (who plays much more traditionally as a big than he is given credit for) Rudy Gobert. So the fives can still contribute vastly to winning nowadays, when applied correctly.
We shouldn’t worry, since in Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart, the Pistons have both of these roles for bigs in modern game covered.
7. There’s a lot of non-Detroit Detroit basketball in these playoffs
Booker, Bryn Forbes, JaVale McGee, Monte Morris could be counted because they’re from the State. Bruce Brown, Langston Galloway, Blake Griffin, Harris, Ersan İlyasova, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Middleton, Marcus Morris, Tony Snell and the Tolliverese could be counted because they played in Motown.
However, if Troy will be able to keep up with making moves that again and again put his ‘restoration’ project ahead of the schedule, next season we can have an actual Detroit basketball in the playoffs.
8. I could stand seeing the Suns with Michigander Devin Booker winning it all
The slight possibility that a disgruntled Devin Booker, sick of losing, might force his way out of Phoenix and back to his home state of Detroit is officially dead. The Suns are good, they are legit, and they are ... title threats? Could they really win it all this year thanks to development and the addition of Chris Paul? I have my doubts.
9. Bucks aren’t gonna win it, right. Right!!!
Speaking of trying to figure out who could actually win a title, it seems less and less likely Giannis will be able to bring it home. But in this wide open postseason, I guess you never know.
10. Let’s have fun with a Devin Mitchell thought experiment
Let’s say SVG did the right thing and drafted Mitchell instead of Kennard. Would Mitchell look like this Mitchell? Probably not. In reality, with SVG at the helm and Detroit’s customary dysfunction, he’d probably look like a more offensively inclined KCP.
If that was the case, and with SVG being SVG, he would have still been desperate to trade for a star. A star like Blake Griffin. So Mitchell goes out, Blake comes in and now the Clips could have Mitchell, Kawhi and Paul George instead of having to play against him on the Jazz. Then again, maybe the Thunder would have demanded Mitchell in the trade and not SGA. But then if the Pistons include Mitchell in a deal do they need to give up the first-round pick? Ahhhhhhhhhh. Whatever would have happened, we can be assured Detroit would have ended up with nothing.
11. If you’re looking for something to distract you from thinking of the coming horrors of the Draft Lottery, you can join me in rooting for Dutch national soccer team to win the UEFA Euro 2020 (due to pandemic, 2021 that is)
Before the NBA reached Poland – so till I was like 10 – I was a soccer fan. I still like to watch the game, provided my favorite team from those days, the Oranje, is playing. The team has been stuck for couple of years after the last cohort of second golden generations led by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie ended their national careers. But now it might be up for something as the new generation of very skilful forwards (Memphis Depay, Donyell Malen) and defenders (Matthijs de Ligt) look to make its mark.
And that’s all for my hot takes about this year’s Conference Semis. Share yours in the comments as we watch those Semis unfolding.