The season has ended early for some of our beloved NBA franchises. Here at The Playgrounder we decided to do a postmortem of sorts. Specifically, we wanted to focus on five categories: what the team did well, where they struggled, free agency needs, 2020-21 expectations and a final prediction.
What did the Pistons do well?
Knee tendinitis plagued Luke Kennard for a sizable portion of the season — but when healthy he served as a dependable offensive threat. Over 28 games, the 23-year-old averaged 15.8 points and 4.1 assists on outstanding efficiency as both a facilitator and scorer. According to Cleaning the Glass, Kennard ranked in the 81st percentile in points per shot attempt for his position and 90th in assist percentage. To boot, he nearly managed to record 50/40/90 shooting splits (44.2/39.9/89.3). He shouldn’t be underrated as a passer for much longer.
Then there’s the emergence of Christian Wood. Detroit shipped former all-star Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers shortly before the February trade deadline, and as a result Wood was handed the starting center spot. He only started 12 games before the season was cut short, but Christian put the league on notice during this three-week span. As the man in the middle for the Pistons, Wood put up 21.9 points along with 9.4 rebounds in 34.8 minutes and displayed a diverse skill set. Christian possesses a smooth handle, silky jumpshot, and has pogo sticks for legs. Succinctly, he’s a matchup nightmare for a majority of bigs. Wood’s the new top dog in Motown for the time being, and he’ll have the opportunity to stuff the stat sheet once again in 2020-21 if re-signed.
What did the Pistons struggle with?
Blake Griffin couldn’t catch a break. He enjoyed a spectacular 2018-19 campaign with Detroit, but a nagging knee injury kept Griffin sidelined for all but 19 games. And when Blake suited up, he appeared a hobbled shell of his former self. Griffin shot the rock with dreadful efficiency, as he converted on only 35.2 percent of his attempts from the field — by far a career-low. Also, for the first time in his nine-year pro tenure he posted a negative amount of win shares (-0.1). The question is: can he return to all-star form? Probably. Griffin’s only one year removed from making the All-NBA Third Team.
As is the case with many of the league’s cellar dwellers, Detroit lacked cohesion on the defensive end. Hence they found themselves among the NBA’s worst in a handful of defensive statistics. The Pistons ranked 28th in opponent field-goal percentage, 27th in opponent points in the paint, and 26th in blocks. Detroit got outmuscled in the paint all year long. Hopefully Christian Wood will mature into a paint deterrent who can shore up an unimposing front line.
Free Agency Needs
Re-sign Wood. Detroit would be foolish to let him walk unless another team overpays for his services, which is an unlikely scenario. After all, very few squads actually have the cap space to throw a monster deal at him. Couple that with the fact that the 2021 free agency class projects to be historically stacked, and franchises are going to want to retain financial flexibility. So the Pistons shouldn’t have a lot of competitors in the Christian sweepstakes.
Detroit could certainly use a backup big that can protect the rim and block shots. Enter Bismack Biyombo. He’s far from a sexy name, but he’ll make his presence known inside. Biyombo averages 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes for his career. Bismack is a dirt-cheap option who could adequately anchor the second unit’s defense.
I think Detroit will surprise some folks. Blake’s knee should be in tip-top shape by next season. Kennard and Wood will take steps forward in their development, and Derrick Rose is still a great floor general. Plus they have one of the NBA’s better coaches patrolling the sidelines in Dwane Casey. This team could make a push for the eight seed in the Eastern Conference if all goes right. They’ll be competitive as long as they avoid the injury bug.
The Pistons will win wind up with around 40 wins. Whether that’ll be enough to secure a postseason berth remains to be seen. The East’s lower tier playoff teams oftentimes finish with sub .500 records, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Detroit to slip in.
People are sleeping on the blue and red. They have the talent necessary to be competitive next season, unlike other teams who did not receive an invite to Orlando.