The Detroit Pistons failed in their bid to string back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2008 in the last NBA campaign.
Stan van Gundy’s men secured their first post-season berth for seven seasons in the 2015-16 season, winning 44 of their contests. However, they were knocked out in the first round by the eventual champions – the Cleveland Cavaliers – in a 4-0 hammering.
Following the disappointing end to their campaign, the Pistons made moves in the off-season to bolster their roster. Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic all signed lucrative deals to add depth to Van Gundy’s team, while All-Star Andre Drummond penned a $130m extension.
In planning for the future, Detroit selected Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije in the 2016 Draft, although neither player made a dramatic impact in their rookie seasons.
The Pistons endured inconsistencies throughout the season, despite the talent on their roster. They seemed on course for a place in the playoffs towards the end of the campaign, only for a run of horrendous form to end their charge at the end of March.
Detroit have managed to keep the core of their side intact in a bid to respond next season, although Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s career at the club appears to be over, while Marcus Morris was shipped out to the Boston Celtics so Van Gundy’s men could acquire Avery Bradley.
The moves are not groundbreaking, although Van Gundy’s men only need a slight improvement in their form to get back to the post-season.
The Pistons were handed a tough opener on the road against the Toronto Raptors, but were beaten soundly, suffering an 18-point defeat even though Leuer and Smith had decent first outings.
Tobias Harris led his side to their first victory of the season, with Detroit putting in a dominant display to see off the Orlando Magic by 26 points at the Palace of Auburn Hills, while they followed the result up with equally impressive wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks.
However, a run of three defeats stymied their momentum as the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs were able to claim relatively easy triumphs. Harris rallied his team by top scoring in back-to-back wins over the Heat and the Clippers.
Four defeats on the bounce highlighted the Pistons’ early issues with consistency, although they put forward decent efforts in their losses to the Celtics and the Houston Rockets. A recovery towards the end of November yielded four wins in their final five games of the month to leave them 10-10.
December began much like the previous 20 matches of the term, winning four and losing four of their opening eight contests of the month. However, their run over the festive period proved to be one of the reasons for their failure to reach the playoffs.
Detroit lost four games on the bounce heading into Christmas, despite putting forward a strong performance against the Golden State Warriors. That display lifted Van Gundy’s men as they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers as Harris and Drummond starred to deliver the victory, but 2016 was to end on a sour note with successive losses.
Hopes Raised Then Crushed
January proved to be a frustrating month for the Pistons as after building up momentum in their opening four matches of the year they allowed their form to slip, putting them under extreme pressure for the rest of the campaign.
Reggie Jackson inspired a win over the Heat on New Year’s Day before further victories over the Charlotte Hornets and the Portland Trail Blazers, with the latter coming in a thrilling overtime game. However, three defeats on the bounce checked their progress, including a hammering at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
Morris and Harris got their side back on track with a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, while two further impressive displays followed against the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards.
Once again three defeats in a row put Van Gundy’s men off the pace, but a fine stretch of displays in February would put them back on track.
Caldwell-Pope put in a 38-pointer to kickstart his side’s resurgence to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans, while Morris took over the mantle to deliver a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pistons would win four out of the next seven matches heading into the All-Star break, and after the rest period they closed within two games of .500.
Their excellent form would continue into early March and a victory over the Cavaliers suggested that Detroit were bound for the playoffs, while they reached parity at 33-33 by defeating the Knicks at home. However, that would be the high point of the Pistons’ season as Van Gundy’s would win only four of their final 16 matches of the term, falling agonisingly short of reaching the post-season.
One of the major pitfalls for Detroit last season was their performances on offense. Only four teams in the NBA scored fewer points over the course of the campaign than Van Gundy’s men, who averaged 101.3 points per game in their 82 contests.
Not one player on the roster managed to break over the 20-point barrier, with Harris coming closest with his average of 16.1. However, Jackson, Morris along with Caldwell-Pope and Drummond were unable to provide sufficient support for the forward.
On the positive side of things only six teams boasted a stronger defensive effort than the club and that should only improve with the addition of Bradley. The 26-year-old was named in the All-NBA Defensive Team in 2016 and has been a reliable player during his seven seasons in the league, boasting his best offensive output last term with 16.3 PPG.
The Pistons used their first-round pick in the 2017 Draft on Luke Kennard out of Kentucky. He averaged 19.5 PPG during his final season in the college game and he should be able to make an instant impact for the club next. More will also be expected of 2016’s first pick Stanley Johnson, who made 77 appearances, but did not make much of an impression.
Van Gundy’s men will look back at the last season with regret and will be desperate to return to the post-season next term. However, their odds of 80/181.00+800080.0080.00-0.01 with SkyBet to win the Eastern Conference are a tad ambitious given the quality around them, with the Cavaliers and the Celtics present, although it could still be worth a small punt.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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