Pistons 2022-23 schedule is toughest in the middle, easiest at the end

A quick look at Detroit’s opening road-heavy slate of games could lead us to think that the schedule will soften come late November. But a closer look at the strength of the teams the Pistons will face for the meat of the season should disabuse us of that notion.

This assessment is based on an examination of the records of last season’s NBA squads. It does not try to account for how any of them may have gotten weaker or stronger in the offseason. But, of course, such "on paper" judgments are only preliminary at present. We will have to let the 2022-23 season commence before we can begin to assess which teams look to be significantly better – or worse.

So dividing Detroit’s upcoming season into four quarters, let’s see how it looks:

The road is long, but it’s not that tough

The Pistons will travel to play 12 of their first 20 games, but five of those road foes had losing records in 2021-22. At home, opening night (Oct. 19) opponent Orlando and Nov. 7 nemesis Oklahoma City are promising victims. Detroit will not play a team that sported a winning record until Oct. 26, when Atlanta visits for a two-game stand. (Is the NBA becoming like the MLB?) And last year’s Hawks fell twice to the men of Motown when they visited last March. So while it seems improbable, it’s not inconceivable that the Pistons could be 6-0 when they host the NBA champion Warriors on Oct. 30!

Coach Casey’s cohorts will visit Milwaukee on Halloween for the first of two games as their schedule gets progressively tougher. Over their next 11 games they will battle Cleveland, Boston (twice), Toronto, L.A. (Clippers and Lakers), Denver and Utah.

On average, the franchises the Pistons will face in their first 20 games recorded a winning percentage of .499 last season. While that’s close to the league average, it’s also considerably above Detroit’s .280 in 2021-22. Ten of their opponents were in the top-16.

More home-cookin’, but it’s tougher to chew

A six-game road trip ends in Phoenix on Nov. 25 to open the next 20 games of Detroit’s schedule. While they will be home for half of those contests, 12 are against the top-16. As a whole, the average winning percentage jumps to .533. Best of all, the Pistons get to celebrate New Year's Eve in Minneapolis with the Timberwolves! Then they open 2023 and close out the first half of the season with games in Portland and San Francisco.

Detroit will host 12 of games 41-60, but will again encounter 12 top-16 squads, this time with an average winning percentage of .543. Home games versus Houston (Jan. 28) and San Antonio (Feb. 10) look like the only easy outings. Last season the Pistons went 14-46 through the first three quarters of the schedule. Even if this year’s team is stronger, it may not boast a improved record heading into the All-Star break.

The home stretch is more inviting

The final quarter of Detroit’s season will commence in Orlando, and a magical finish could commence. Eight of the Pistons final 22 games will feature foes who won less than 30 games in 2021-22. Only 10 were among the top-16, and the average winning percentage is a lowly .463. So we shouldn’t be surprised if the men from Motor City outperform last season’s 9-13 finish, which was against a tougher schedule (average winning percentage of .494).

Peering into a crystal ball …

It’s up to each of us to draw our own conclusions from this speculative exercise. If you’re hoping that Detroit will finally end its playoff drought, you may have good reason to feel very hopeful if the Pistons are close to being a top-20 team at the All-Star break.

On the other hand, if you’re dreaming that Detroit will "Get beat like a trick for Vic" (V.’s slogan) by closing with an epic "tank," then you’ll pin your expectations on the playoffs being so out of reach by the ASB that Troy will decree, "Retreat!"

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