New year, same Pistons. Or at least it's starting to look that way.
Detroit has dropped its last four games, a streak in which its been outscored 212-149 during the second half. The three teams they've lost to, (Washington twice) Orlando and Memphis all having losing records. What's worse is the Pistons skid has come on the heels of a win over the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers. At the time of that victory Detroit improved to 12-14 and had the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference with a favorable schedule ahead of them. Instead of building on what appeared to be a turning point, the Pistons have gone 2-6 since beating the Pacers and currently sit at 14-20, which would put them as the eight seed if the playoffs started today.
For a team that hasn't made the post-season since the 2008-09 season that would seem like an improvement. But I don't think sneaking in as an eight seed in the inferior Eastern Conference will be enough to satisfy most fans, and it shouldn't.
The Pistons have struggled in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference since their last playoff appearance. Shuffling through four different coaches, bad free agent signings and draft picks that didn't pan out.
But second year center Andre Drummond has brought hope to the franchise. The Pistons snagged the big man at No. 9 in the 2012 draft and he has grown into one of the most promising young players in the league. Midway through last season and heading into this off-season it appeared the Pistons had something brewing.
Drummond was showing signs of becoming a franchise center, Greg Monroe was giving the team consistent numbers at the forward position and President Joe Dumars made a off-season splash by signing free agent Josh Smith from Atlanta. He also worked a sign-and-trade that sent Brandon Knight to Milwaukee for offensive minded point guard Brandon Jennings.
Dumars was pulling out all the cards this off-season not just for the franchise but for his job. He is on the last year of his contract but many speculate he won't be retained if the Pistons flop again this season.
It's to early in the season to call it a wash and Detroit could definitely turn things around. They're only three games out of fourth place and on paper would appear to have more talent than the Bobcats, Bulls Wizards and Raptors, all teams currently ahead of the them.
Part of that is what makes being stuck in the eight seed so difficult. Before the season started most fans would have thought the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets would be top five teams. They both have worse records than Detroit. Possibly even more frustrating is the Pistons can't keep up with the Bulls who have lost Derrick Rose for the season. It's not like the Pistons haven't had help. The Eastern Conference is wide open and Detroit isn't attempting to tank to better their draft stock. They're starting to run out of excuses.
Detroit can't play the injury card. They can't play the old age card and after four coaches in five years they really can't play that card either. However, they have been statistically the worst NBA team in fourth quarters this season. So maybe it's lack of effort that is the issue.
Hopefully that's not the case and the Pistons find a way to turn it around. When four of the eight best teams in the Eastern Conference have losing records it shouldn't be that hard. Should it?