Hard to believe that I started putting together these roundtables months ago, slowly counting down each week until the regular season through clever descriptions of current events. Well, here we are on the week of the regular season. And that means it is time to put together all that we learned throughout the offseason and preseason to make some predictions – for Detroit and the opponents they will face.
So, as I normally do, the writers of Palace of Pistons were convened to bring forth their predictions both bold and mundane for the upcoming NBA season. This year’s campaign has something that we have not seen for some time: parity. Golden State is not the favorite to waltz into the NBA Finals, and the Eastern Conference remains somewhat propped open for someone to sneak by Milwaukee. Could that team be Detroit?
Q: Give me your 2019-20 prediction for the Detroit Pistons:
Noah Sall (@iamnoahsall), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
The boys from the Motor City are not getting much love from the national media. Record predictions range from roughly the 34-41 win range, with most thinking they will either miss or just make the playoffs. I just can’t see this happening. Ed Stefanski and Co. did a solid job of shoring up squad depth with limited resources. The coaching staff has made it clear that they aren’t going to ride Blake Griffin until his knees give out again. With increased depth and smart load management, I see the Pistons battling to the 5/6 seed in the East. Barring major injuries, this team will beat the national predictions. I see them going 46-36 this season, a five-win improvement over last year.
Dylan Edenfield (@EdenfieldNBA), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
With the improvements made throughout the roster, I see the Pistons settling in the 45-50 win range. Derrick Rose has proven that he is a massive offensive upgrade over Ish Smith, with his smooth jumper and elite-level contortion around the rim providing a huge boost for the bench unit. The expected internal development of Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Christian Wood(?) will also contribute to making or breaking the team. Health will always be the biggest factor, however, and 65+ games for Rose, Reggie Jackson, and especially Blake Griffin could give the franchise what it needs to win a playoff series.
Ashley Gross (@Ash_Ketchum313), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
The Detroit Pistons over the summer offseason have become a more robust team. Through some diligent signings and shrewd business deals, they have accumulated an abundance of talented players to strengthen the depth of their roster. Taking Kennard out of the starting lineup and adding him to the bench with Rose, Morris, Maker has already made this year’s bench unit waaay more solid than last year’s bench unit. Not to mention that Detroit has added depth with players like Galloway, Frazier, and Christian Wood (if he is still on the team by the time, you’re reading this) – all who can score and provide relief in pinch minutes during a game. Once the team finds their chemistry and rhythm amongst each other, I expect the offense to flow much smoother. Most of the newly acquired players on the team are deft shooters who can knock down 3-point jumpers – this only helps Detroit become a more dynamic team on offense. The team still needs to work harder on the defensive end and could be better at closing out teams in games. With a group of talented veterans on the team this year, they’re sure to find ways to consistently hold teams down and maintain leads to win games. With all that said, I see this team winning a few more games this year…put me down for a 45-37 season.
Jacob Rogers (@JRogersNBA), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
I expect the Pistons to get back into the playoffs this year with the revamped roster they enter this season with. If guys like Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson can stay healthy, I think that Detroit is poised for a better record and playoff run. With a healthy Rose, Griffin and Jackson, Detroit can easily put up 45 wins or more. With the Eastern Conference still being the weaker conference of the two, a 45-37 record should land Detroit the five seed in the playoffs. With that five seed, I think Detroit has potential to come out of the first round and potentially make a run in the playoffs.
Q: What will be the biggest surprise to come out of Detroit this season?
Noah Sall: With the promise of cap space on the horizon, it’s plausible to see the Pistons taking a big swing before the trade deadline. The front office may look to bring in a big piece to complement Griffin and Drummond for the stretch run and beyond. However, I don’t see this happening. I think the biggest surprise this season will come from in house. Second-year wing, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will nail down a rotation spot this season, serving as the primary 3 behind Tony Snell. Mykhailiuk has shown the signs and the early buzz out of camp was very positive for the Ukrainian. I would love to see Detroit make a big deal this season to signal their direction as a franchise, but I believe an in house surprise is of higher probability.
Dylan Edenfield: In my opinion, the biggest surprise for the Pistons this season will be the high-level play of new addition Tony Snell. He isn’t an all-star talent or a high profile young talent, but what he will bring to a Pistons team that was without a true small forward last season should not be undervalued. In the biggest role he’s ever been in, Snell will thrive as a three-and-D specialist, where he will be shoveled passes to the corner by the team’s playmakers and relied on to knock it down. He’s solid putting the ball on the floor as well, as he’s shown he can drive in for a slam when the opportunity is available. He’ll also pair with Bruce Brown to make a dynamic defensive duo on the wings. I think Snell averages a career-high 15 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals as Detroit’s starter at small forward next season.
Ashley Gross: I think we will realize that by season’s end, Christian Wood is a BALLER! He’s an energetic 6’10 center that runs the floor like a gazelle, has the ability to shoot out to the three-point line, rebounds with assertiveness and has a flair for dunking. On a basketball level, Wood seems to have it all down pat – the only thing he needs to worry about is staying focus and consistent…this is something that even his head coach, Dwane Casey, has mentioned will be the real test for Wood as he is entering his first season with the Pistons. He was dynamic in the minutes he received playing in the preseason, and I truly feel that the Pistons have a diamond in the rough with this kid. His skills for his size fits perfectly in today’s game style of play. If he continues to excel, and talks with Drummond start to stall and dissolve, don’t be surprised if the Pistons move Drummond in a trade and insert Wood as the starting center, mostly based on his immense potential.
Jacob Rogers: Within that 45-37 will be Detroit’s biggest surprise of the season: Thon Maker. Yes, I said it. Thon Maker will have a good season for the Pistons. Now, before everyone gets mad at me and say I’m losing my credibility, hear me out. After averaging only 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds on 37.3 percent shooting in his 29 games with Detroit last season, Maker looked a little stronger and more mature in Detroit’s five preseason games. Now yes, this is a small sample size, and his numbers weren’t that eye popping, but Maker has looked better. He only averaged 5.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in the preseason, but he has shown flashes of potential. If Maker can put up season averages around seven points, five rebounds and a block a game on 45 percent shooting, I for one will count that as a win.
Q: Time for some conference predictions. What do you guys have for the East?
1. Milwaukee Bucks- Familiarity will help the Bucks start the season hot and hold off all challengers in the East. Their ability to keep the majority of their roster intact was impressive work from their front office. Giannis will continue to develop and will claim his second consecutive MVP award when all is said and done.
2. Philadelphia 76ers- This squad looks scary on paper, but also very big. Will their size be a help or a hindrance? I think Philly may come out the gates slow but hit their stride midway through the season and push Milwaukee for the top seed.
3. Toronto Raptors- There’s a bit of a gap after Milwaukee and Philadelphia, with multiple teams jockeying for position. Toronto is still a talented squad and if they keep hold of their core, I see them as one of the four best teams in the East.
4. Indiana Pacers- After losing Victor Oladipo, many wrote the Pacers off but they responded strongly. Indiana is a deep team under coach Nate McMillan and will only get better when Oladipo comes back into the fold. Malcolm Brogdon, Damontas Sabonis, and Myles Turner will look to continue their development and will help hold Indy steady as Oladipo gets healthy.
5. Brooklyn Nets- Another member of the middle-of-the-pack East teams, Brooklyn will make the playoffs for the second straight season. Kenny Atkinson has shown he can bring the best out of his young talent and adding Kyrie Irving won’t hurt. I don’t see KD coming back but if he did, the Nets could be a team no one wants to face come playoff time.
6. Detroit Pistons- A first-round matchup with the Raptors would be very interesting to see, for obvious reasons. The improved bench and growth of their young players will help push the Pistons up two spots in the East compared to last year. A rested, healthy Blake Griffin come playoff time would also be very intriguing as Detroit chases their first playoff win since the 2007-08 season.
7. Boston Celtics- Aside from losing Kyrie Irving, the bigger loss for the Celtics was seeing Al Horford walk out the door. The do-it-all big man was under-appreciated and will be sorely missed this season. Enes Kanter is hardly the answer as a primary big and Boston could struggle mightily. Of course, this could all be remedied by leaps from Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum. If those two, along with Kemba hit their stride early, Boston will overshoot this prediction comfortably.
8. Miami Heat- Beating out Orlando, Atlanta, and Chicago are the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat. Bam Adebayo looks set to take over whatever minutes Hassan Whiteside left behind and will join an intriguing core of himself, Butler, Goran Dragic, and Justice Winslow. The South Beach side are another wildcard in what is a muddled Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their talent on paper is enough for me to have them beating out their remaining challengers.
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Toronto Raptors
- Detroit Pistons
- Miami Heat
- Orlando Magic
In no order…here is who I have coming out of the Eastern Conference: Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto, Miami, and Indiana.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (55-27)
2. Milwaukee Bucks (54-28)
3. Toronto Raptors (48-34)
4. Boston Celtics (47-35)
5. Detroit Pistons (45-37)
6. Indiana Pacers (45-37)
7. Brooklyn Nets (43-39)
8. Miami Heat (41-41)
Q: What about the mighty Western Conference?
1. Denver Nuggets- One of the best teams in the NBA last season got even better this offseason. The Nuggets kept their entire roster, extended their franchise point guard in Jamal Murray, and added the resurgent Jerami Grant for what will be a late first round pick in this upcoming draft. Big man Nikola Jokic is a sneaky MVP candidate and he has an underrated wing rotation to kick out to for open threes. Let’s not forget that Denver also a wildcard up their sleeve in Michael Porter Jr., who looks to be fully healthy and ready to make his debut.
2. Los Angeles Clippers- Paul George. Kawhi Leonard. Those are the two names everyone will be drawn to, but the Clippers are more than just two superstars. Their depth is a strength with players like Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, and everyone’s favorite junkyard dog Patrick Beverley in the fold. Perennial sixth man of the year Lou Williams is also still able to get buckets whenever he wants. LA will push Denver hard, with one game separating the two teams at the end of the season.
3. Utah Jazz- What an offseason for the Utah Jazz! They made the big trade for Mike Conley and also brought in Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green, and Emmanuel Mudiay. Donovan Mitchell enters his third season in the league, looking to make a jump in his play. The former Louisville Cardinal will be joined by the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert, and his elite defending ways. Utah will make noise this season and could be a surprise Western Conference finalist.
4. Houston Rockets- The most interesting backcourt in the league this season resides in Houston. Two of the most ball-dominant players in the league will now be forced to share one ball. Count me as intrigued to see how James Harden and Russell Westbrook will coexist this season. Clint Capela will benefit from opposing defenses focusing on the Rocket backcourt and could be primed for a great season. The loss of Gerald Green will hurt Houston but PJ Tucker will step into the extra minutes well.
5. Los Angeles Lakers- The casual fans trendy pick to win it all this year, the Los Angeles LeBron’s Lakers are not a team I’m sold on. Of course, Anthony Davis was a huge get for the other team in the Staples Center but the depth behind their starting five is concerning. If LA struggles and squeaks into the playoffs, Davis may be no more than a one-year rental. I don’t foresee the Brow leaving the Lakers after one year, but I don’t think this team is a guaranteed title challenger by any means.
6. Portland Trail Blazers- If Portland played in the East they would be a top-three team. Unfortunately, they play in Portland, Oregon and not Portland, Maine. Damian Lillard is a certified superstar and CJ McCollum is a great second option. Being without Jusuf Nurkic will hurt, but a rejuvenated Hassan Whiteside will help fill the void the Bosnian left behind. Former Piston fan-favorite Anthony Tolliver may make an appearance or two and drill a couple of threes as Portland will look to recapture the success that led them to the third seed in the West last year.
7. Golden State Warriors- Let’s start with the obvious. Kevin Durant is gone. Klay Thompson is hurt. The Warriors are no longer title favorites but they are still a solid team. Adding D’Angelo Russell was a gutsy move by the Warriors’ front office but could pay massive dividends. It will be interesting to see how Steph Curry will play alongside Russell as he adjusts to life without KD and Klay. We could see an astronomical number of three’s from Curry this season and frankly, I’m all for it. Golden State will still be fun to watch and now we don’t all have to hate them for being a super team!
8. Dallas Mavericks- Leaving out the Spurs was something I battled with for a long time. Popovich is a legend and to gamble against him feels stupid. But if there was ever a year for San Antonio to miss the playoffs, it’s this one. The Mavericks are led by their new Euro duo of Luka Doncic and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis. The pair will look to pick and roll/pop their opposition to death and occasionally hit guys like Tim Hardaway Jr or Seth Curry for open threes.
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Denver Nuggets
- Utah Jazz
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Houston Rockets
- Golden State Warriors
- Portland Trail Blazers
- New Orleans Pelicans
For the Western Conference I have Golden State, San Antonio, both the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, Houston, Denver, Portland, and Utah.
- Houston Rockets (60-22)
- Los Angeles Clippers (58-24)
- Denver Nuggets (57-25)
- Los Angeles Lakers (54-28)
- Utah Jazz (51-31)
- Portland Trail Blazers (48-34)
- Golden State Warriors (47-35)
- Dallas Mavericks (43-39)
Q: And now, the moment of truth. Who comes out on top with the Larry O’Brien trophy?
Noah Sall: Clippers over the Sixers, 4-2
Dylan Edenfield: Clippers over the Bucks, 4-2
Ashley Gross: Sixers over the Clippers 4-3
Jacob Rogers: Rockets over the Sixers 4-1
Featured Image: Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images