I‘ve seen this before, and it doesn’t end well.
With all the people I know, I’m known as one of the few Pistons optimists, even on Twitter (@notzarzarbinks), I usually side with the more optimistic side of “Pistons Twitter.” With the 2019-2020 Pistons, however, I don’t think I can play that role anymore.
The Detroit Pistons have completed their first 11 games of the NBA Season, and stand at 4-7, and there’s a good chance by the time this article comes out, their record is 4-8. The Pistons have not been completely healthy at a single point in the season so far. Missing Blake for the first 10 games, Reggie for four weeks, Tim Fraizer for a few, and Derrick Rose has been dealing with injuries leading him to miss games on top of a minutes restriction already in place.
The main thing a lot will point out, and even you, the reader, will point out, is the fact that they’re only 11 games into the season. Taking a strong negative stance against a team who hasn’t been healthy seems like an overreaction, but it isn’t.
First of all, injuries are part of sports. It happens, and it’s something every single team deals with. It’s incredibly unfortunate Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, and Tim Fraizer have all dealt with injuries in the beginning part of this season. That doesn’t change the fact that the Pistons are 4-7. Those are 7 losses the Pistons can’t get back. With these injuries, the flaws of this team have become more clear than ever. This should be a learning lesson for the team and the front office, you have to make do with the cards you’re dealt.
The players dealing with injuries have a reputation for being, “injury prone.” This team needs Jackson and Rose and they certainly need their All-NBA, All-Star forward, Blake Griffin. Griffin and Rose are incredible performers and leaders, and it’s understandable for them to play big roles on a playoff team, but neither can be relied on at this point. Griffin and Rose are players who aren’t going to play a full NBA season, and the only way you’ll be able to have them by the time the playoffs roll around is with the (highly divisive) load management system.
The problem with load management with this Pistons team is the fact that they can’t afford it. Teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets can all afford load management. These teams are all contenders for an NBA Championship and are all almost sure-fire playoff teams. The Pistons are not. They crawled into the playoffs as the 8th seed after a Herculean season from Griffin, and were put out of their misery by the 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks.
When looking back on that team, a lot of Pistons fans undervalue the amount of work Griffin did to (essentially) carry them into the playoffs. Without him, even with an improved roster, this Pistons team is not good enough. Without Griffin in their first ten games, the Pistons went 4-6.
Granted, Andre Drummond played wonderfully in his absence, but his performances did not translate to a winning record. Drummond is an incredible center, and his stats are unbelievable when he’s at his best. What Drummond is not, is a reliable second option. In the one game Griffin has played, Dre seemed to magically revert to the same version Detroiters seemingly love to hate. His effort was just not there. A legitimate team cannot afford performances like that from their second option.
In order for the 2019-2020 Pistons to be a legitimate playoff team, a second star is necessary. The Pistons need to consider almost everyone in these scenarios. They need to be aggressive, and if that means trading 3rd-year guard Luke Kennard or have to involve Dre, the Pistons might have to pull the trigger. He’s played well, but if it is a trade that, “moves the needle,” the front office needs to do it. If they wait too long, a trade of that magnitude wouldn’t even be helpful. If the trade deadline comes and the Pistons are significantly below .500, it may be too late. Then, the smartest thing to do would be to blow it up which owner Tom Gores has emphasized he’s against.
However, I don’t want that to be our scenario, I’d prefer to push for a playoff run. For the majority of my 17 years on this earth, the Pistons have not been a fun team to watch. The Detroit Pistons have been irrelevant. Their games rarely ever sell well, and they’re almost never considered in the national media’s NBA conversation. I think there’s potential with this Pistons team, but the team as it stands is just not good enough. There’s a chance they grab the 7th or possibly 8th seed but right now, even the possibility of making the playoffs looks bleak.
Time is not on the Pistons side, and being conservative isn’t going to help this team. Ed Stefanski and Co. have to do make a decision on where this team should go. If the Pistons are a, “win now,” team, making excuses for your failures isn’t going to get you anywhere, and the time for change is now.
Featured Image: Chris Schweiger (NBAE/Getty)