The Pistons didn’t make any superstar moves this season. Instead, they traded Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley. After getting Bradley, Detroit renounced Kentavious Caldwell Pope. Some people said that while Bradley is the better player than KCP, giving up two starters for him was too much. That is wrong.
Morris is currently on trial for a 2015 assault case. He may have produced good numbers but his off-court issues could bring in uncertainties. To make up for lost production, the Pistons signed free agent Langston Galloway. Galloway’s per 36 scoring can offset the loss of Morris’ point output.
Having solved the two for one issue, let’s go to Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell Pope. The move to acquire Bradley and let go of KCP was done to get financial flexibility moving forward. KCP was due a big payday while Bradley is on the final year of his contract. Regardless of what happens this season, the Pistons will have more wiggle room next summer.
Sure, KCP was an outstanding two-way guard. But so is Avery Bradley. In fact, Bradley is better on both ends of the floor, as averages show. Bradley is the 3 and D player that Stan Van Gundy wanted KCP to become. Now Van Gundy has the prototype. That’s really a bonus for the Pistons.
Hard work and Leadership
Aside from numbers, Avery Bradley brings in hard work and leadership, two intangibles that Stan Van Gundy has been looking for since he arrived in Detroit. Van Gundy’s teams have never been short of talent, but they’ve always lacked the leader that would push them to the next level. Bradley’s been to that next level in each of his five seasons in the league.
Bradley will team up with Reggie Jackson in the Detroit backcourt. While Jackson was fond of KCP, he is no stranger to Avery Bradley. The two have been competing against each other since their AAU days. To finally play for the same team is a sigh of relief for Reggie. He even calls Bradley’s addition as ‘winning’.
Making The Playoffs
Now let’s go to winning. Detroit on 21st September is a gargantuan +25000 ( odds from Betway ) underdog to win the NBA title next season but that’s not their goal. Realistically, the Pistons will aim to return to the postseason. They have missed the playoff bus in seven of the previous eight years and have not won a playoff game since 2008. This year though, they may have a shot.
The Pistons’ 2017-18 schedule is the 6th hardest in the East. With 9 Eastern Conference rivals owning easier routes to the playoffs, Detroit has its work is cut out for them. But if you take a look at the landscape in the Eastern Conference, there are only five teams which we believe are a lock to make the playoffs: Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington Milwaukee. The last three slots are going to be a toss-up.
Miami, Detroit, and Charlotte finished 9-11 in the East standings last season. But with Atlanta, Chicago and Indiana rebuilding this year, they could easily be 6-8 ( not necessarily in that order) this season. We checked out some 2017-18 projections and found out that Detroit is the playoff radar. Here’s how four known sites ranked Detroit in the East:
ESPN – #8
ABC – #8
Sports Illustrated – #9
Bleacherreport – #9
On the two sites where Detroit was #8, Philadelphia was #9. Interestingly, on the two sites where Detroit was #9, Philadelphia was #8. Let’s say Miami and Charlotte take the next two playoff spots. Based on the projections above, the Detroit Pistons have a 50% chance of sneaking in and getting the final playoff spot. That could be a real possibility.
Catching The Bus
The Sixers are coming into the season with a lot of hype. As Joel Embiid famously said: ‘The FEDS are coming’. Sure, it will be exciting to watch Embiid team up with Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons. But behind the hype isn’t too much NBA experience and not much health. The Sixers look good on paper but aside from getting their act together, they need to be healthy.
As for the Pistons, Bradley and Jackson had their share of injuries but somehow you’re not as worried as them as you are about the Sixers. We saw what a healthy Reggie Jackson can do two seasons ago. Add a healthy Avery Bradley and Detroit may have the most underrated backcourt in the league. We’ve not even talked about Andre Drummond. So between the Sixers and Pistons, it’s easier to say that Detroit may catch the bus to the playoffs.