It was a funny thing about having the second-worst record and landing the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft — The Detroit Pistons really weren’t that bad. Let’s not twist it, they were bad, they just weren’t as awful as their won/loss record seemed to indicate.
Keep that in mind as the over/unders start rolling out as we transition from the Milwaukee Bucks Championship Season (tm) to the 2021-22 season.
PointsBetUSA released the over/unders for Eastern Conference teams and the Pistons are dead last in the conference at 25.5 wins. That might not seem too shocking since it would represent a 5.5 game improvement over the dreadful 20-win season the team just experienced.
But recall a few things. 1. The season will be 10 games longer 2. All that stuff I said about the team being bad and not awful.
The Pistons had the second-worst record in the NBA last season, but it only had the sixth-worst net rating in the league. And they were a far cry from the actual dregs of the league. The truth is, the Pistons lost plenty of games, but they kept the games close. They just didn’t have the talent or the experience to close games thanks to relying on a roster of rookies and liberally resting its best players in the latter part of the season. By point differential, the Pistons actually played like a 26-win team.
NBA’s Worst Net Ratings
The team also will add the No. 1 overall pick, which is likely to be Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is not a perfect prospect, and he’s not an instant savior, but it’s likely he’ll be getting heavy minutes and a large dose of ball-handling duties. That means the biggest question is whose minutes is he taking?
It seems like the biggest individual hit might be to Josh Jackson as Cunningham seems more likely to play an off-guard role than be an actual point guard in the NBA. Jackson was third on the Pistons in minutes at 1,560. Jackson was a roller-coaster of a player, but he wasn’t a particularly effective one. The team played better on D and worse on offense when he was there and while he was a negative player, so was everyone else.
You can imagine swapping out a good helping of Jackson whirling dervish drives and passes with Cunningham might turn out to be a net positive.
This doesn’t mean that you should all go out and bet the mortgage on the Pistons over. Because a commitment to a ball-handling Cunningham and a further commitment to incumbent point guard Killian Hayes, likely means the Pistons lose the promising play it got from last year’s veteran point guards Delon Wright and Cory Joseph who came in return when Wright was traded to the Kings.
Those two players had good to great seasons on a bad Pistons team and really helped the offense get going. Hayes showed some quality passing skills, but he has a lot to learn and his shot is still a mess. Handing the keys to Hayes and Cunningham mean a lot of mistakes will be made and learning on the job will need to happen.
There is also the question of injury. When a team is as bad as the Pistons, I think it’s important to think about how much of a domino effect an injury could have. Detroit is actually pretty well insulated against this concern. The roster is relatively flat with competent veterans and a rising class of improving young players waiting in the wings.
If Mason Plumlee goes down, Isaiah Stewart is waiting in the wings. If Jackson goes down, there are plenty of wing players to pick up the slack. There is concern about depth, of course, but no one long-term injury seems like it could be cataclysmic to Detroit’s offense or defensive game plan.
So what do you think? Are you betting the over or the under on Detroit at 25.5 wins next season?