To Tank or Not to Tank
Many Pistons fans and outsiders have been a little surprised to see some frank improvements with interim coach John Loyer’s team, since he took over after the all-star game. These improvements were reduced turn-overs and increased free throw percentage. Don’t get me wrong, the team is still a mess of ball-hogs and whining babies who cry foul on almost every play. Despite being blown out early in recent games, the Pistons seemed to come back to make the games close in the fourth quarter of all things. In contrast, under former coach Mo Cheeks there would be a collapse in the last quarter. If only we could balance it out and win every possession and every quarter, which would lead to winning every game. Unfortunately, the Pistons are still a team with multiple hot, steamy messes to clean up before this will even be considered a successful NBA team.
The talk of Detroit is whether the Pistons will tank in order to keep their 8th pick in this summer’s NBA draft, viewed as being the best draft since 2003, or will they actually make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Pistons have had great success with picks around the 8th spot in the last four years (Greg Monroe 7th, Brandon Knight 8th, Andre Drummond 9th, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 8th). Monroe and Drummond are presently starting, and Caldwell-Pope and Knight (no longer with the team but essential towards getting Brandon Jennings) both also had their time as a starter. Adding a future potential starter or even 6th man to the rotation would be very tempting. This article will assess various factors to see if there is a foreshadowing as to whether the Pistons are shooting to tank or not.
One Foot in the Grave?
The Detroit Pistons (24-38, .387 winning percentage) currently sit at 9th place in the Eastern Conference standings, and 3 games out of the previous goal of 8th place, in order to make the playoffs. They have 20 more games to obtain this goal. It appears that the Atlanta Hawks, who are in that coveted eighth place currently, ironically Josh Smith’s previous team, may make this goal easier as the Hawks have been without their All-Star center Al Horford since the day after Christmas. The Hawks have been on a downward spiral ever since. In those 31 games, they have gone 10-21, which is a .323 winning percentage. They were 16-13, or .552 winning percentage, prior to Horford’s injury. Other teams may be in a similar situation as the Pistons and have plans to either tank or make the playoffs.
Back to the Future
The Pistons have the toughest schedule of any other Eastern Conference team during the second half, due to more road games and games against teams with winning records. They have 13 games away and 7 home. The Pistons will play 11 games against current playoff-bound teams, and 9 against teams who currently are not currently ranked to make the playoffs. There will be more of the same, losing, during the last 20 games.
The Trade Nazi says, “No Trades for You! 2 Year!” (Seinfeld reference)
The Pistons had a great opportunity to improve their team with a trade deadline exchange that could have easily pushed them into the playoffs. They had a couple expiring contracts and future free agents who would do nothing for the present team, assuming they should not be re-signed. They did nothing. This announces to everyone that there is no leadership or vision for the team. The only possible game plan that would counteract this thought process, is if there is a greater opportunity for a sign-and-trade this summer. With Dumars as a probable lame duck, the fans are begging for answers to questions.
No Fresh Start, Just Smelly and Stale!
They also could have done wonders with hiring a new coach, even if it is to show the players that leadership and guidance is important. Interim coach John Loyer appears to be destined to be the scapegoat. A new coach would at least allow the free agents to view potential, but what player would want to come to a team who previously had an interim coach who is an unknown in the league? Unless there is a huge summer surprise as to who the coach will be next year. This could stir a lot of excitement and allow various free agents to covet playing for the Pistons. (We can dream, can’t we?)
The Injury Excuse
Recently, Chauncey Billups underwent meniscus surgery in his left leg, on Feb 20. Was it me, or did this injury and surgery just come out of nowhere? Josh Harrellson has been recovering from a small meniscus tear, and has not played since Feb 1. The media really didn’t give us a lot of information on Harrellson, but we witnessed his “DNP-Coaches Decision” and just thought he was in the coach’s doghouse. Resting players and healing them (READ: shut down for the rest of the season) is one way to take away the bench, forcing the team to either overplay the top 7-8 players, or dig into the far end of the bench. Last Friday night, there was a Gigi Datome AND Charlie Villanueva sighting in the same quarter! Datome was 0-3, making him 6-34 (17.6%) for the season in 189 minutes. Villanueva was 1-2, making him 9-41 (22.0%) for the season in 137 minutes played. Playing the two previous D-Leaguers, Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell, would certainly show that the Pistons have thrown up the white flag for the year.
Excuses to Not Play Certain Players
The scouting report on the Pistons MUST include the fact that if they can get quick fouls on Drummond and Monroe, they do not have much depth for center. Josh Smith (6’9’’, 225 lbs) and Jonas Jerebko (6’10’’, 231 lbs) were out on the floor Friday night when both Drummond and Monroe were on the bench with early foul trouble.
The Pistons are playing their free agent players, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, and Charlie Villanueva. This is still a question to many, especially if one of them, Villanueva, was “interested” in a buy-out!
When John Loyer became interim coach, one change that appeared was that Brandon Jennings was playing less time, especially in the fourth quarter. Will Bynum had previously had games where only garbage time was played. Now he is usually over 20 minutes a game and has had some in the low 30s.
Another change that is quite obvious, was starting Kyle Singler at shooting guard in place of previous starter and rookie, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (KCP). Shooting guard is NOT what Singler is best suited to play. He does his best and plays hard. Singler may have received some of Billups’ minutes, after he went under the knife. KCP was averaging over 30 minutes per game, and now he is lucky to eclipse 10 minutes. Is this another tactic of tanking, or is this just the way coach Loyer believes it should be?
Should They Stay or Should They Go?
From here on out, the Pistons hold their future in their hands. They have played and won against some of the best teams in the league. They have also played and lost to the worst team this year. Any given game, us fans just don’t know which Pistons team will show up! Typically, the first few minutes of the game will tell the story, and we can save our time by not watching the rest.
The Future’s so Bright…
The future of the Pistons can look very promising, assuming that a new (elite) coach, (elite) free agent signing, and every young player gets better by adding to their game. An extra lottery draft pick would only heighten this team further. We have to admit that the 2013-14 team is much better than the 2012-13 team. Let’s see what type of leaders this team is made of, from the owner, right on down to the last player on the bench. If they decide to tank, it is because the leadership is pushing for it. If they make the playoffs, it also is because the leadership is pushing for it.
The other day I heard someone make the argument that if the Pistons make the playoffs that they would further attract the right coach and free agents. If they can get to the playoffs with this present team, what could they do with a key all-star in the mix?
What do you think?
Should they tank or make the playoffs?
Who is to blame for this season?
What will it take to turn this season around?
What will it take to turn the team around for success next year?