Riddle me this, Batman. In what universe is a team that has a full season of Blake Griffin, Dwane Casey’s cured case of Scott-Hollins Syndrome as a coach, and the same roster otherwise that won 39 games and at times looked like a playoff team supposed to regress by two wins or more?
But that’s exactly what Vegas is saying about Detroit, which went 39-43 last year under Stan Van Gundy (who hasn’t done jack squat as a coach when he didn’t have Prime Dwight Howard) and with Griffin only for the stretch run?
Yes, they lost Tobias Harris, and yes, we really love Tobias Harris around here, but while Harris is palling around with HERO OF SERBIA and fellow former Piston Boban Marjanovic on the Clippers, the Pistons look like they’re quietly turning into at least the eighth-best team in the East if only because they’re set to leapfrog the wretched and LeBron-less Cavaliers.
Look, if this whole thing ends up at Plausible at the end, it’s an Over. So let’s see if it’s Plausible.
2017-18 Record: 39-43
2018-19 Over/Under: 37.5
What The Crap Happened Last Year?
Last season, the Pistons started 10-3. They finished 9-4. They went 20-36 in the other 56 games.
We have seen the good Pistons. We have seen the “holy sweet gods in their heavens, these guys suck” Pistons.
But since when does a team that puts together a combined 19-7 stretch actually suck as badly as the rest of the season goes?
Well, part of it is that goddamn everyone got hurt on the Pistons last year. Injuries shook these guys within an inch of their lives.
Andre Drummond started 78 games. Nobody else started more than 52.
So injuries. Injuries happened.
Stan Van Gundy Sucks, In Four Easy Stats
Boban Marjanovic, used badly by Stan Van Gundy: 21.6 PER, .138 WS/48, -2.1 BPM, 0.0 VORP in 19 games.
HERO OF SERBIA, used correctly by Doc Rivers: 30.6 PER, .293 WS/48, 1.0 BPM, 0.1 VORP in 20 games.
Boban, career: 27.7 PER, .281 WS/48, 1.5 BPM (including 3.6 in his year in San Antonio), 1.0 VORP, in 128 games and 1,138 minutes.
Stan Van Gundy can’t coach for beans. He took a guy who had more WS/48 than Stephen Curry in 2015-16 (the year the Warriors went 73-9 and Steph made like 5,000 three-pointers) and turned him into the sideshow that people on NBA Twitter who hate fun say Boban is.
And yes, I’m going to use this as proof that Dwane Casey, who coached a roster in Toronto that has exactly zero superstars to 59 wins, is going to get more out of the Pistons than The Notorious SVG ever did.
A Top Ten Defense Should Not Miss the Playoffs
Detroit was 10th in Defensive Rating last year, 19th in Offensive Rating, and won only 39 games.
If you’re thinking to yourself “wow, that sounds remarkably like an underachieving season for a squad that put up a 37-45 season with an eighth-ranked defense in 2017 under the same trash coach”, then you are smart and you get a Tommy Point, on loan from the Boston Celtics.
This team, on paper, should be winning 45 or even 50. But, as Kenny Mayne so famously said, games are not played on paper, they’re played inside television sets.
The Point of All This
There is no good reason, especially with LeBron finally out of the Central Division, that Detroit shouldn’t be good.
Casey’s Raptors were fifth in Defensive Rating last year, and they were routinely hanging around the top ten during his tenure. A good defensive roster—and Detroit’s got one—can potentially be Utah East.
This is a nice combination of young talent growing into their roles and veterans who aren’t too veteran, if you catch my drift.
The linchpin is everyone’s health, but it stands to wonder if the way SVG coached had something to do with that.
And they don’t have HERO OF SERBIA, who puts up advanced stats that make him look like Kevin Durant for nine minutes a game and who oh by the way gets the Breakfast Special C. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.
But the point of all this is that on paper, this team is good, even great. But games are not played on paper.
Look, you’ve probably sussed out where this is going. I will not call this team Confirmed. They’re too injury prone.
I will not call this team Busted. They don’t suck. Full stop, the Detroit Pistons do not suck.
I think if they stay healthy they can be the 4 seed. They won’t stay healthy. So they’ll be the 7 or 8 seed.
But the Pistons will win 43-45 games and make the playoffs. Over. Easily. And also Plausible.