The Detroit Pistons’ path to restoration awaits some uprising competition within their division. The Central division is shaping out as one of the toughest divisions in the Eastern Conference and the entire NBA.
This budding division features three teams who were just in the playoffs last season. Based on how their franchise is shaped, the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls should remain in postseason contention for the foreseeable future. The two teams in the division aiming for playoff action sooner than later are the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers.
Early preview of how the Pistons compare to the Chicago Bulls:
The Chicago Bulls completed last season with an up-and-down 46-36 record. 2021-22 was the first look at the Bulls’ revamped roster led by All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine.
Within their sixth-place regular season finish came a four-game sweep against the Detroit Pistons. Chicago earned two comfortable blowout victories against the Pistons and two other close-call finishes. Despite the fight shown by Detroit, Chicago got the best of their series battle by an average gap of 18.25 points.
Last season was filled with injuries for some of Chicago’s most important players. The anticipation for point guard Lonzo Ball’s Bulls debut was short-lived after missing 47 games from a left knee injury. Ball was acquired in a sign and trade last summer along with veteran guard Alex Caruso, who also missed extensive time due to numerous injuries. Rookie forward Patrick Williams was also absent for most of the regular season, dealing with a wrist injury.
The Bulls held stretches through the early season as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After dealing with injury issues and struggling against teams over .500, they slipped to the 6th seed and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.
Chicago should remain one of the toughest contenders in the conference. They should enter next season healthy from their injuries and with a happy Zach Lavine after signing a huge five-year extension this summer.
While the star pairing of Lavine and DeRozan garners the most attention for the Bulls, their depth should increase production this season. Having Ball, Caruso, and Williams back healthy should lift their defense significantly. The improved defense should also help create easier transition buckets offensively.
After finishing 2021-22 as one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, they signed former Piston Andre Drummond to help out on the boards. Drummond proved he still brings tremendous value to a team, even if coming off the bench. Backing up center Nikola Vucevic with one of the best rebounders in the history of the NBA should be a big help.
Detroit matches up reasonably well against the Chicago Bulls on paper. The backcourt upside of guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey could catch opponents by surprise this season.
They can also give Chicago problems in the frontcourt with their versatile size and athleticism in the frontcourt. The Bulls’ best defense is played on the perimeter with their guards, not necessarily on the interior with their bigs. The pairing of Vucevic and Drummond may have a tough go against the versatility of Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, Jalen Duren, and Kelly Olynyk.
Forward Saddiq Bey could also play as a significant X-factor against Chicago. The third-year forward showed plenty of promise as a secondary scorer for the Pistons. Given his position, he should see plenty of matchups against the best two Bulls in DeRozan and Lavine. If he can take another step forward as a more consistent scorer, he could put a lot of pressure on DeRozan and Lavine defensively. Forcing their best offensive players to work on the defensive end can make life a bit more tiring for them.
The Pistons may be a year or two away from surpassing a team with established and cohesive talent like the Bulls. Even with the young talent in Detroit, it’s still unproven talent that lacks experience. Detroit played very well against contenders over .500 towards the end of the season. They’ll have to bring that same competitive drive with an improved sense of discipline to rise over Chicago next season.