On January 29th, Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons did something that a lot of fans had been calling for, they made a move in the trade market. Although many fans couldn’t decide whether they liked the trade or not, it was the first time in a long time the Pistons were the most talked about team in national media. The topic of those talks? Pistons newest star, veteran power forward Blake Griffin.
The addition of Blake Griffin, a four-time first team All-NBA, and five-time All-Star, brought the Pistons a level of playoff experience and competitiveness that SVG, along with many fans, felt the team was lacking. Moving away in the trade was arguably Pistons best performer Tobias Harris, fan favorite Boban Marjanovich, and newly added player Avery Bradley. As if that wasn’t enough for some, Pistons added a cherry on top, their first-round pick of this year’s draft.
Taking off on a nice four-game winning streak with the arrival of Blake, added a nice gust of wind into the sails of Pistons fans and even caught the attention of the “casual fan”. Fans and even some larger analysts guaranteed the Pistons will make the playoffs, some going as far as saying up to the fourth or fifth seed.
Since those four games, the Pistons have gone on to go 5-13, falling virtually out of playoff contention aside from a scenario of the Bucks losing a certain amount of games and the Pistons winning a good amount of games.
Tuesday night marked the return of Pistons starting point guard Reggie Jackson. Which brings me to the first and probably the biggest reason as to why the trade can’t be written off as a failure yet. Since his re-injury, with the addition of Jameer Nelson, the guard spot has become more of a game of musical chairs. Ish Smith has predominantly been the starting point guard but behind him has been anything other than routine. Despite Ish having his best shooting season, he is a career 28.8% 3pt shooter. His lack of range allows opponents quite a freedom on defense, whether it be just sagging off in order to increase help defense or just constantly being able to go under screens daring him to shoot the 3.
My point in this being that even in the small number of minutes he played in his return against the Sun’s, Reggie brought back one of the most important things in today’s NBA, spacing. Having a respected shooter and all-around scorer at the point guard position makes the defense finally respect him at all spots on the court. Spacing is a virtue that is extremely necessary for a big-man centric offense to flourish, especially with two very face-up offense-friendly big men who like to get to the basket. On top of their offensive ability, Blake and Andre have some of the best court vision and passing skills of the NBA big men, which with the spacing will allow blossoming wing shooter Reggie Bullock to get better looks along with other shooters like rookie Luke Kennard.
Secondly, possibly the most simple and obvious, but to me, one of the most important, is chemistry and team bonding. A teams bond and chemistry may be one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to a team’s success. For Pistons fans, we don’t have to look any further than our past teams for perfect examples of chemistry and the power of playing for each other. We can look as early as the bad boys generation or as recent as the 03-04 championship squad. There is no doubt that both teams had great talent and hall of fame players, greater than that all was their will to play all out for their teammates and the “why not us” mindset.
Besides a few great post game clips and some light-hearted tweets towards each other, this team hasn’t had a lot of on-court time to bond. Arguably one of the most important pieces of this squad, Reggie, hasn’t played very many minutes with his new big man partner.
Everyone remembers the first season that LeBron and Bosh met in Miami with Wade, media and fans alike began to say that it wasn’t going to work and that LeBron made a mistake. As the season went, chemistry and a bond were formed. The heat went on to be known as one of the greatest trios to form up and win multiple championships together. Granted Blake, Dre, and Reggie are no LBJ, DWade, and Bosh, nonetheless chemistry is a huge thing that must be formed.
In one scenario, the Pistons make a push into the 8th seed and more than likely get sent home in the first round. The team could either gain a good amount of chemistry from the push and playoff experience.
Or it could be the opposite, as losing is known to do, especially if Reggie is rushed back and forced into the already crazy guard rotation. The pressure of the playoffs on top of trying to figure out how to play together while SVG plays with rotation minutes could be a ticking time bomb that would mar relationships amongst the team.
Lastly, and what I think is beginning to become the biggest question amongst fans, is the question of is Stan Van Gundy the coach of the future for this team? This year SVG has made himself known as one of the most outspoken coaches in the league, right up there with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Stan’s arrival in Detroit gave hope to a lot of fans, the similarity to his team in Orlando with big man Dwight Howard made it seem like a great match. His fiery coaching approach and willingness to make a move in the off-season or approaching deadlines sat well with fans after years of a tired Joe Dumars team. Despite a quick first round exit, the playoff appearance verse the Cavs gave fans hope that we were going in the right direction.
After last years playoff-less season unrest began to grow and fans started to push for a move away from big man Andre Drummond. Fast forward to this year, on top of people thinking he greatly miss manages the guard rotation, Stan decided to double down on the big man game, trading for Blake Griffin.
Whether or not you believe SVG is the coach for the team, here is why I think “playoff or bust” doesn’t help this situation at all either. Telling Stan that making the playoffs or not decides his job security, won’t help him coach any better. In fact, I might argue the total opposite, it could encourage him to rush Reggie back and risk possible further injury, which would be nothing but negative for the Pistons. Another thing to consider is the growth of young guys and key role players that get their minutes shrunk as SVG tries to tinker more with the lineup. Whether or not you believe SVG is the guy, the added time in the off-season could give him more time to actually draw up an offense around Blake. If you feel it is time for SVG to go, these few extra weeks in the off-season give Tom Gores plenty of time to find a candidate instead of a rushed choice after a shortened off-season.
All though these may be obvious or glaring things wrong with the Pistons, the added pressure and risk that comes with the “playoff or bust” mentality is the last thing this squad needs to improve.
In my eyes, I hope the Pistons continue to play hard and play to win but not with the mindset that if they miss the playoffs it’s a failure of a season. With such a huge shift in our franchises future, these are just a few reasons why I believe the added time off in the off-season would be more beneficial than the pressure of pushing for a “must have” eighth seed and a probable trip home the first week.
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