Who would've thought that the Detroit Pistons would start the season hot? The Pistons moved to downtown Detroit this season, bringing with them a 10-3 start that included wins over Minnesota and a road win against the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors. Their start had raised eyebrows among NBA analysts, writers, and media members alike.
Now? They've fallen on hard times with a five-game losing streak and are currently sitting on the outside looking in with regards to the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday dropped the Pistons below .500 for the first time this season. The Pistons are 3-4 in games decided by three points or less, showing an inability to get the edge on opponents.
So should the Pistons forge on and continue their quest for a playoff spot or should they tank it like the Philadelphia 76ers did for the past few years? It's tough being stuck inside lower-seed purgatory, especially when you know you aren't going to last in the first round by the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics.
With that being said, what Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons should do is scrap the team and start from scratch. While the lottery isn't a 'slam dunk' with regards to the number one pick, the Pistons will be getting high draft picks if they tank. Cleveland is on its last legs, but teams like Boston and Philadelphia are starting to emerge in the Eastern Conference. If the Pistons go on the current route of the lower-seed abyss, they'll end being in what I call the "Wading in the Average" style. This style is where a team only aspires to be knocked out of the first round of the NBA playoffs or just misses the postseason altogether.
One other reason why the Pistons should tank it is going to sting a little for Detroit lovers and Piston fans alike. While the new arena does look nice and is a major cog in Detroit's revitalization, the Motor City isn't exactly a sexy destination to go to. At least, when Detroit's being compared to the likes of Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, or the Bay Area. The one thing the NBA does well that many other sports leagues don't is market their players efficiently. They get a myriad number of companies, i.e. Nike and Under Armour, to have NBA superstars endorse their products. If I'm an NBA superstar, would I have a better time being marketed in Detroit or would I be better suited in New York? The answer would obviously be the Big Apple, especially if the Pistons aren’t filling Little Caesar’s Arena every night.
But what players would be ripe for being sent off to start a new rebuild? One player that makes complete sense is small forward Tobias Harris. The leading scorer for the Pistons (18 PPG) is a versatile player who's also young at the age of 25. Harris also isn't much of a cap hit considering that he'll be a free agent come 2019. The closer the Pistons trade Harris to his free agent year, the less dead cap space they'll have.
Another player that makes sense is shooting guard Avery Bradley. Bradley is a terrific two-way player who was acquired from the Boston Celtics in the offseason. Bradley will be a free agent after this season, which will make him a prime target should the Pistons fall out of favor in the playoff picture. Don't forget that Bradley's cap hit is just below $9 million, making him a cheap option for contending teams.
As for players like Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, there's not much sense in trading them right now. There aren't many teams that would want Jackson, especially with his injury history. As for Drummond? He's currently under the second year of a five-year contract extension and his cap hit is sizable. Considering that the Pistons are paying a guy roughly $23 million just to pull down rebounds, I don't think that'd be much of a benefit considering the opportunity costs tied with Drummond.
The Pistons have some decisions to make in the coming months. Should they get another piece or should they sell off some assets? For a team without a definitive superstar, this decision must come quickly. Otherwise, Piston fans will turn off this brand of “DEEEEE-TROIT BASKETBALL!”
Photo courtesy of MLive
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