Will the Pistons Make the Playoffs?

When the 2019-20 season started, there was very little optimism around the Detroit Pistons. Despite coming off a 41-41 season and a playoff berth in the East, the Pistons were projected to win as few as 31.5 games, according to SportsBettingDime. 

Another injury to the oft-sidelined Blake Griffin, uninspiring point guard options, the constant inconsistency that’s plagued Andre Drummond: the negatives seemed to outweigh the positives. 

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Almost 30 games into the season, it’s hard to say that the more pessimistic oddsmakers were wrong. Detroit is just 11-17 and sits 10th in the weak Eastern Conference. They are currently on pace for 32.2 wins.  

But that doesn’t really tell the whole story, and people watching the Pistons closely rightfully have a sense of hope based on what’s happened so far. 

Injuries Have Been the Biggest Hinderance

At full strength, the Pistons are a playoff-caliber team in the East. 

Blake Griffin missed the first ten games of the season (and 12 of the first 16) with a knee/hamstring injury. In his first four games back, he cracked 30 minutes just once. The Pistons were 5-11 in that stretch. 

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Making matters worse, starting PG Reggie Jackson played just two games before suffering a back injury that has kept him out of every game since. Tim Frazier followed him to the sideline shortly thereafter. 

Second-year shooting guard Bruce Brown has been forced to man the point, along with Derrick Rose off the bench. 

All told, only two players have suited up for all 28 games: Brown and Langston Galloway. 

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Yet, ever since Griffin has been back at something close to full strength – circa game 17 of the season – Detroit is 6-6 with some pretty impressive wins. They have trounced Orlando by 15, San Antonio by 34, and even beat Houston by 8 on the road. 

Their worst loss in that stretch – an ugly 133-119 setback to the 8-17 Wizards at home – came when Griffin was resting his knee. 

Detroit is getting consistently solid play from Drummond, who has a 22.9 PER and leads the league in both total and offensive rebounds. Luke Kennard has taken a big leap in his development, upping his scoring from 9.7 PPG to 15.8 PPG while also increasing his shooting percentages. And Brown has been able to hold the fort at the point, just to mention a few stats, be aware that you can keep track of the latest injuries and upcoming game odds at Sports Betting Dime.

Point Guard Help Could Arrive Soon

The rumors that Detroit could be in the mix for point guards D’Angelo Russell or J’Rue Holliday appear to be just that: rumors and nothing more.

But even if management doesn’t make a splash on the trade market, Reggie Jackson should be back in the near future. His injury (which occurred on Nov. 2) had a month timeline to start. He was re-evaluated in early December and was displaying “positive progress towards his recovery,” according to rotoworld. It would be surprising if he’s not back in early January. 

He’s not the player he used to be in his first couple seasons in Detroit, but he’s an experienced veteran who is still well above replacement-level. 

The Playoffs Are Within Reach

Detroit currently sits just one game out of the final playoff spot in the East, held by the Orlando Magic (12-16). Sitting in between are the 13-18 Charlotte Hornets, who are poised to regress based on their -6.0 point differential. 

Even with all the injuries suffered so far this season, the Pistons actually have a better point difference than the Magic (-0.6 vs -1.3) and are at least one point better than every team behind them in the standings. 

If this team gets better injury luck the rest of the season, fans will likely enjoy at least two more home playoff games. 

That said, given the 7th-seeded Nets are four games up on Detroit, another first-round matchup with the top-seeded Bucks seems likely. So be careful what you wish for.

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