Only the top eight teams in each conference make the NBA Playoffs, and the postseason is inching ever closer as we speak. The Detroit Pistons are sitting precariously at number eight in the East right now with a record of 26-30. Can they improve before April and snag a better seed in the playoffs… or will they hold steady, slip through to the postseason, and have to face a dominant Milwaukee Bucks team in the first round?
Or, perhaps most importantly… will the Pistons even make it to the playoffs this year at all?
After all, things could go either way. The Miami Heat have the same record as the Pistons, though Detroit has a leg up since they’ve beaten Miami before. (They do have to play each other again in March though, so stay tuned – and get tickets to that game here). The Pistons also have a better division record than the Heat as well, so they’ve got that going for them. But the Eastern Conference is tougher than ever, and the Orlando Magic and the Washington Wizards are vying for that same final seed too. Can the Pistons overcome their rocky start, play tough in these next several games, and reach the postseason? Maybe…
Detroit got a new head coach in 2018, but former Raptors coach Dwayne Casey didn’t look too promising after his new team fell from 13-7 at the start of the season to a devastating record of 9-22 shortly after. (He apologized for how awful they looked, but fans started to think maybe they shouldn’t have picked up Toronto’s leftovers.) Still, Detroit steadily crept back up to 22-29, and just before the All Star break, Detroit had won four of their last give games, losing only to the Celtics. That felt promising for Pistons fans, and hopefully this little bit of time off hasn’t hurt their recent “momentum.”
Blake Griffin is the best player on this Pistons team. He’s their cornerstone player despite being a recent addition. Griffin was traded to the Pistons in 2018, less than a year after signing a $171 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that drafted him originally. It looked like a risky decision by the Pistons, but it’s paid off for the team and Griffin as a player.
The six-time All Star was finally healthy for an offseason and he took the opportunity to improve and expand his game… and it shows. He can now shoot the three-ball better than ever before. Griffin is averaging a career-high 36.5% from beyond the arc. The 6’10” power forward just scored 32 points against the Celtics (even if it was an L for the Pistons) and he’s averaging 26.3 points per game, the 10th-best in the NBA. And guess what? The 29-year-old thinks he can get even better…
But there’s more than just Blake. The Pistons’ Andre Drummond is looking like one of the best centers in the league right now. He’s a tough rebounder and makes Griffin’s job easier. Despite missing a three games due to concussion protocol, the 25-year-old has been averaging nearly 23 points and 15.7 rebounds per game in the last 10 matchups. That’s absurd. In January, the 6’11” player became the franchise’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds, and in February, he had his ninth 20-20 game this season (points-rebounds, that is). Whoa. You can bet fans are praying Drummond can bring that into the [potential] postseason with him.
Reggie Jackson has also been playing well recently, finally looking a bit like his old self after an ankle injury caused him to miss 37 games last season and spend most of the offseason in rehab. Rather than being traded away before the deadline, like most fans expected (or hoped) he would be, Jackson started to make a true impact again. The 28-year-old point guard has been averaging 18.7 points and 5.9 assists per game and really acting like more of a leader in the Pistons’ last 10 matchups.
As for their shooting guards, Luke Kennard is in his second year with the NBA after being drafted 12th by the Pistons, and many are saying he needs to step it up and start contributing, particularly if they make it to the postseason. The Pistons also recently acquired veteran three-point shooter Wayne Ellington from the Heat after a buyout with the Phoenix Suns. Brought in to replace shooting guard Reggie Bullock who Detroit they traded away to the Lakers, Ellington had a career-high 11.2 points per game last season in Miami. If they can turn it on, these two guys could have a big impact on the Pistons’ offense going forward.
So with just a third of the season left, can the Pistons prevail? It could really go either way. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008 – could this finally be their year? Many experts are saying yes! Of course, it all depends on who they’re matched up against in that first round…
The good news? The Pistons’ remaining schedule is one of the easiest in the league. Why not go see them win one?