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The Pistons are the same, and that’s not ideal

Despite getting Blake Griffin, the Pistons haven’t been able to turn it around.

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,

has grown so weary, it cannot hold more.

It seems to him there are a thousand bars;

and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,

the movement of his powerful soft strides

is like a ritual dance around a center

in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils

lifts, quietly — . An image enters in,

rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,

plunges into the heart and is gone.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Blake Griffin was traded to Detroit over a month ago. Things have not gone well since. Sure, the first stretch of games was fun, but then something happened and the Pistons completely fell apart. They’ve lost to bad teams since Blake’s arrival in late January (as well as to good ones, natch). So, what gives, man?

Whether it’s the personnel, or the coaching, or the personnel’s relationship with the coaching, something ain’t right. The players just DO NOT play defense some nights. Opponents don’t respect the Pistons’ guards AT ALL. Stanley Johnson has improved, but goddamn, that doesn’t mean he’s good now. Jesus, he’s still AWFUL. But, you can see that he could be a good wing player in a few years. Drummond’s having a superb year, his rebounding is magnificent and his free throw improvement is one of the most important storylines in the NBA this year. Drumothy’s still only 24 years old. He’s averaging 15 and 15 this year, with three assists, and over three steals+blocks per game. If you care, he has a top 25 PER this season.

Blake’s tied with Kyle Lowry for 44th, and then Dwight Howard’s 46th. You know who’s 48th? Alex Len. Hahahahaha! You know who Alex Len is tied with? John Wall. BWAAAAAAhahahahahahahahahaha! My word, ESPN has some stupid stats. There is no planet in this, or any other, universe where sentient life considers Alex Len to be anywhere near as good as Dr. John Wall. The fact that any statistical measurement within God’s creation could identify those two players as “tied” in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER further underlines the nefarious insidiousness of the realms infernal, as well as our necessary and righteous rebellion against said minions of the deep, dark Pit. In other words, FAKE NEWS, Y’ALL! ALEX LEN IS NOT AS GOOD AS OPTIMUS DIME! But, hey, Dr. Wall’s been injured, maybe ESPN’s ridiculous scale is rewarding Len for playing more than Wall, which would at least be legitimate, if not actually useful or smart? Nope. Wall’s played more this season than Len. Len’s played in more games, but who cares? So you play 5 minutes of garbage time in all your games, but Wall is a starter in all of his, and somehow you have a better PER? FOH, ESPN. Len is averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds. OOooooooOOOOoooo! Dr. John Wall, meanwhile, is averaging 20 points and 9 assists, and, as usual, over a steal a game. He’s also averaging over a block a game, which would be a career high for him if he keeps it up. Dr. John Wall is ALSOALSO having his best season from long distance, as his 36% three point percentage is the best of his entire career. Wall’s overall field goal percentage is the second worst of his career, so when he returns from injury and that FG% regresses to the positive, you’re all going to remember why the hell Dr. John Wall was drafted #1 overall. Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Oubre, Satoransky, and, sigh, Gortat are a good playoff squad, maybe a DAMN GOOD playoff squad. Even Ian Mahinmi’s been playing okay recently! I know, Gasp! Honestly, you think that lineup couldn’t beat Toronto or Boston or Indiana? Milwaukee and Cleveland will be tough, no question, and maybe Philly, but I think that DC’s short rotation can hang with almost anyone in the playoffs. The Wizards beat the Houston Rockets this year, y’know? In fact, DC has beaten, AT LEAST ONCE, every other playoff team, except for the Spurs and the Pelicans (they’ve played neither thus far), and Golden State, because duh. But, they beat Cleveland. They beat Houston. They beat Toronto, and they beat Boston. DC is legit good. The folks who think the Wizards are better off without Dr. Wall are either full on psychos, full on haters, or they’re hoping that Wall gets traded to their team and so they’re full on liars.

Plus, Phoenix sucks. If Len’s really that good, wouldn’t we have noticed? The Wizards are a playoff team, one with grandeurous (totes a word) ambitions (delusions?) of at least making the Eastern Conference Finals. Meanwhile, Phoenix has no goddamn idea what it’s doing, other than Hey, this Devin Booker kid we fell ass backwards into is pretty good! Let’s not have a point guard all season, and let’s make sure that Marquese Chriss gets into SUPER BAD habits like fouling everyone he sees as fast as he can, and let’s make sure that we play Tyson Chandler to the detriment of our young guys who, y’know, we might need in the future since Tyson Chandler is 78,000 years old. Goddamn, I hate Phoenix. The Suns should be fun all the time. But, man, have they been the Olympus Mons of Sucks for a while now. They don’t get as much hate as Sacramento, but they should. They are an absolute joke of a franchise. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure they won’t eff up this summer. In a decade, Tyson Chandler will still play center for them, Devin Booker will have left at the very first opportunity, Brandon Knight will still be their injured point guard, and no one will care about them, anywhere, still. Players will take meetings with Phoenix in free agency, because money is nice, and you can always force a trade later. But, no one wants to play for this team, man. You know why? Because the owner sucks, the GM sucks, their coach sucks, and the depth chart doesn’t make a goddamn lick of sense.

Speaking of those four things, let’s return to the Detroit Pistons.

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I am very Pro-Blake. I would march for Blake. He and Drum looked like a fer real tandem in their first five games together. And, they still look good! But, everyone else, my God, my God. It’s not that I think Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock are bad players, but this team is certainly playing as if everyone was a bad player. The Pistons have had a rough schedule, but get real, you can’t lose to the Hawks and Orlando and expect anyone to take you seriously.

I kinda doubt that Blake Griffin, an extremely good basketball player, and Andre Drummond, an extremely good basketball player, are at fault for the Pistons inexorable descent from playoff contention. For one thing, Detroit’s got the 7th best three point percentage, but they’re 17th in three point attempts. Why aren’t they shooting more threes? That’s coaching, no?

Over the last 15 games the Pistons are 22nd in scoring. That’s not going to get you into the playoffs.

Their record is basically the same as Charlotte’s and the Lakers’. Suboptimal! Especially since the latter is “tanking,” and the former is “crappy.” The Hornets are so crappy that even though they have Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard, everyone still thinks the Lakers are a better team. Haha! Anyway, the Pistons’ stupid record would give them the 12th pick in the lottery in the next NBA draft. Know where Detroit picked in last year’s draft? That’s right, 12th. As the man said, Not much changes.

Are we, as my brother says, just waiting for Reggie Jackson’s return? Color me skeptical. I like RJax, but he’s a truly average player. His injuries have, perhaps, kept him from fully developing, but c’mon, is a fully healthy RJax one of the ten best point guards in the league? Ummmm, no. Is he top 20?

  1. Steph Curry
  2. Chris Paul
  3. Kyle Lowry
  4. Kyrie Irving
  5. John Wall
  6. Dame Lillard
  7. Sergeant Russell Westbrook
  8. Eric Bledsoe
  9. Mike Conley
  10. Kemba Walker
  11. Dennis Schroder

That’s 11 that I’m damn sure of. Is RJax better than Goran Dragic? Is he better than Jeff Teague or Ricky Rubio or George Hill or one of the rookies? I mean, I think JJ Barea should maybe be on that list above. That’s how unabout RJax I am right now.

Plus, even if he’s spectacular, he may be coming back too late. The Pistons are five games back of Milwaukee for the 8th seed. The 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds all have 34 wins. Is Philly, Miami, or Milwaukee really going to drop off a cliff in the next month? The Pistons have to play around 8 playoff teams over their next 18 games. That’s a fairly easy schedule, until you remember that the Pistons have lost to Atlanta and Orlando. If the Pistons went 10-8, they’d end the season at 39-43, and they’d definitely be out of the playoffs.

But hey, let’s go crazy. What if they went 15-3? They’d end 44-38, and mmmmmmaybe get into the playoffs. Only Miami plays more playoff teams than the Pistons over the last stretch, so they’re the most likely culprit of a team that could fall out. Injuries would probably play a big part in such a scenario, too.

But, that’s unlikely. Odds are, the Pistons will miss the playoffs and get the 12th pick again. Not awful, all things considered, but probably not good enough for Stan Van Gundy to keep his job. Is Detroit a Jason Kidd destination? How about David Fizdale? How about JEFF Van Gundy?!

Or, will the Hedgehog simply lose his front office job, but remain as head coach? SVG’s personnel decisions have been...okay, aside from Langston Galloway. And, Reggie’s contract doesn’t look as terrible as people say it is the closer it gets to becoming an expiring (I’m absolutely positive that this is correct logic. Just don’t think about it too hard).

Trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, The Boban Marjanovic, and, siiigh, a first and second round pick for Blake is still defensible because you always, always, ALWAYS acquire a top 25 player when you have the opportunity to do so. The Clippers got a haul for Blake, and Toby has looked really good in LA since. But, Avery Bradley isn’t playing, and Detroit wasn’t going to resign him in the off season. The Boban is The Best and Most Handsome Player Alive, but Detroit wasn’t playing him, and LA doesn’t really play him (aside from one magical evening when The Boban was The NBA; we’ll always have Denver), AND The Boban’s contract is actually a touch expensive, especially for a guy who no one wants to play. The 1st round pick stings, but it’s probably going to be a midrounder (the 12th overall, probably, just like last year), which equals Luke Kennard. Are you going to keep yourself from acquiring Blake Griffin because of Luke Kennard? Of course not.

The trade still makes sense, and Detroit keeping (cheap and controllable) Stanley Johnson and (cheap and controllable) Luke Kennard softens the loss of the draft picks. If your foundation is Blake and Drummond, with a young/improving 3-and-D wing in StanJohn, and a young/improving 2-guard in Dukie Lukie, then that’s good! An (elite) point guard would really tie that room together, but just like The Dude, we don’t have one right now. But, remember: CP3 came to LA to play with Blake. If it happened once, it can happen again (not Chris Paul, but an elite distributor).

In Stan Van’s defense, Detroit is not, and never has been, a free agent destination. Detroit’s biggest acquisitions have always been via trade (just look at this) (also, MY GOD IN HEAVEN, I FORGOT THAT BIG BEN WALLACE, ONE OF THE BEST DEFENDERS OF ALL TIME, WENT UNDRAFTED.). And, Holy Mother Save Us All, I think that Josh Smith is Detroit’s biggest free agent signing of all time? Right? When I see J-Smoove’s (JFCA) stretched out contract on Detroit’s books, I feel like I’m watching an innocent child at the zoo stare into the panther’s eyes and suddenly learn existential dread and the torment of the caged soul. Sooo, free agency and the Deetroit Pistons ain’t much for compatibility. Thus, the Pistons make trades, instead. Detroit basically acquired Tobias Harris for nothing, then sent him and a 1st round pick for Blake. I ain’t crying over that.

Regardless, the duo of Blake and Drum still seems to have a higher floor than what Detroit had before, even though Tobias Harris has looked good in LA. Blake’s been on 50-win teams with another big man, but they had an elite point guard, too. Can RJax replicate CP3 when he returns? Doubtful. Actually, not doubtful, NO! The Point God is the Point God. Reggie Jackson is just an NBA player.

If Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard can continue to improve, then next year might result in better play, especially if RJax can stay healthy (if this isn’t an image that immediately dies in the heart, then nothing is). The coaches and front office love Ellenson, for some reason, so maybe he gets better, too. But, in order for the Pistons to truly improve as a team, they need perimeter defense, and they need consistent shooting, and they need a good goddamn point guard, preferably one who can stay on the court.

Those are the exact same problems they had at the beginning of the season.

So, again, not much changes.