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Pistons and playoffs? The pluses and minuses to that scenario playing out

In this week’s column for the Detroit Free Press, I had a back and forth argument with myself about whether or not the Pistons would be best served long-term by making the playoffs this season. Rationally speaking, the Pistons playing competitive basketball and coming up just short of the playoffs might be the best scenario — they compete for a spot without actually getting it, keep their draft pick (if they make the playoffs, their pick goes to Charlotte), add another lottery talent and head into next offseason with another young asset as a result of that pick plus significant cap space.

But here’s my less rational argument, the part of me that wants to see them get in even if it means they are first round fodder for the Heat:

The Pistons, along with the Celtics, Lakers, Spurs and Bulls, are arguably the flagship franchises of the modern NBA. Each of those teams has been through downturns at different points since the 1980s, and the Pistons are no different. But they’re on a current three-year streak of not making the playoffs, tying their early 1990s mark of futility. Since 1980, the Spurs have not gone more than one consecutive season without making the playoffs. Same for the Lakers. The Celtics had an ugly six-year stretch in the Rick Pitino/M.L. Carr era in the late 1990s and it also took the Bulls six years to recover from Jerry Krause’s desire to replace Michael Jordan with Brent Barry after the 1998 season, but no one wants to see the Pistons go on that kind of streak. If the Eastern Conference is weak enough to get into the playoffs now, even if it means losing an opportunity to add another promising young player to the mix, better to do it and not let that playoff-less streak keep growing into a monster.


  • Jul 27, 20129:22 am
    by Oracle


    Another plus to the playoffs would be experience for the young players. You need them to see the ratcheted up expectations and level of effort so that they know what to bring the next time they’re in. That might help more than a 11-14th pick.

    Also, you don’t want players like Knight/Monroe to get that “never been to the playoffs” stigma around the league. You want them accustomed to winning and competing in Detroit so that they’ll want to stay when they become free agents down the road.

    • Jul 27, 20129:30 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      I agree that young players have to get experience in tougher, more high pressure situations, but I think ultimately, if they’re competitive for that 8 seed and maybe fall just short near the end, they can get the same benefits as they would if they ended up getting it only to get crushed by Miami in the first round.

      • Jul 27, 20129:38 am
        by Oracle


        How much does that first round pick help them next year? It’s in all likelihood a backup, (and based on Joe’s track record, it’s another small forward.) but really. We want this team to not only be in the playoffs, but compete. The best way to do that is to provide experience to the young players, show we’re a playoff team, then amnesty/trade Villanueva and use the 20+ million in cap space on a free agent who wants to compete as well. Prove we have what it takes so that we aren’t crossed off some FA’s list before they even hit the market.

        • Jul 27, 20129:44 am
          by BigJShaky


          I think the Pistons still end up with a first round pick this year even if they make the playoffs.  I highly doubt they go the whole year without A) trading someone like Prince to a contender or B) playing the role of facilitator in a three team deal to take on a bad contract for a year and get a draft pick out of the deal.  Playoffs is definitely better than not.  Playoffs also equal revenue, which is a must to keep the franchise strong.

        • Jul 27, 20129:48 am
          by MNM


          You can’t just assume that the pick will be a back-up.  And at this point, with who they have in place moving forward, I wouldn’t mind seeing a lottory worthy SF or SG to take over for either Tay or Stuckey.

    • Jul 27, 20129:40 am
      by apa8ren9


      I can honestly see both sides to this argument, but I would like to see our core good enough to compete and win that last spot.   The quicker the “core”  Drummond, Knight and Monroe get to that next level the better in my opinion.   The better the competition they see at a young age, the better equipped they will be once they reach their primes.  By that time the Lebron’s and Wades will be gone/over the hill and we will be the contenders at that time (fingers crossed)

  • Jul 27, 20129:47 am
    by JT's Hoops Blog


    They may have gotten a little better in terms of additional size, but the Pistons are going nowhere near the playoffs.

    • Jul 27, 20129:52 am
      by BigJShaky


      You have six clear playoff teams:
      1. Miami
      2. Boston
      3. Chicago
      4. Indiana
      5. New York
      6. New Jersey
      Question marks include:
      7. Atlanta
      8. Philadelphia
      9. ???
      With Atlanta taking a major step back, it seems possible.  Maybe not likely, but possible.

      • Jul 27, 201210:00 am
        by sop


        Agreed. And Milwaukee, Toronto, and (dare I say) Washington could all be significantly better this season. It is going to be very competitive for those last 2 spots next season.
        In terms of long term plus/minus for the Piston and the Playoffs this year its important to remember that if they make it they get no pick in the 2013 Draft. That would actually be better than missing out on the 2014 Draft (the other option). 2013 is going to be a historically bad draft.

        • Jul 27, 201210:01 am
          by sop


          In other words, from a draft perspective it would be better if they made it.

          • Jul 27, 201212:50 pm
            by vic

            True… they set it up so they could be all in on making the playoffs this year. 
            Front office, Coach, players, vets, rookies, contract year players. No tanking here.
            Pretty smart actually. Creates a competitive environment.

      • Jul 27, 201210:31 am
        by Crispus


        I think the Bulls could fall into a real deep funk if Rose or Deng take longer than expected to come back.

      • Jul 27, 20122:54 pm
        by tarsier


        I don’t think New York and Brooklyn are sure things. Remove the Linsanity period of last season and Irving or Bogut’s injury and I’m not sure the Knicks would have made it (yeah, i know Bogut was traded). And the Nets have a nice team on paper, but New Jersey was really bad last season and the only significant step forward they’ve made was the acquisition of Johnson. So unless things click a lot more this season, Johnson turns out to be better than anyone knew, or Lopez really goes off, it could be another lottery year for the Nets.

      • Jul 28, 20127:33 am
        by Chris N


        Its probably a bit early to start assigning playoff positions.  Chicago might be in a fight for a spot for most of the season as it waits for Derrick Rose to return and tries to sort out what’s going on in its backcourt.  Atlanta is going to be…different.  Who will man the 2 spot for them?  is Jordan Crawford ready to burn as a starter full-time?  I don’t see either of them as “locks” to make the post season.  That doesn’t necessitate that the Pistons will make it in, but I do think this season offers a much better opportunity than last years for them to push their way in.

    • Jul 27, 20122:14 pm
      by Scott Free


      I think this years team would likely decimate last years.’   Not sure there’s much argument in that.  But we’re still a strangely unbalanced team, with excellent talent vying for minutes in some positions, and very little with others.

  • Jul 27, 20129:58 am
    by MNM


    Making the playoffs would only be a “Minus” this season. They are still a season or 2 away from being ready to COMPETE……which takes a lot. Especially with how the NBA is going with All-Star players orchestrating trades to cities where they can not only get the big endorsment deals, but be able to stack the deck and over-power smaller market teams to make it easier for them to compete for championships.. Which basically forces smaller market teams like ours to attempt (hopefully) to do what Seattle/OKC did and build through the lottory and hope they mesh and are great talents… Sigh.. Oh NBA..

    • Jul 27, 201210:03 am
      by BigJShaky


      There is a big difference from building through the lottery when the number two pick is Kevin Durant and building through the lottery at pick number 12 and getting who knows what.

      • Jul 27, 201211:43 am
        by MNM


        I agree. Which is why I was against playing a bunch of middling veterans to try and secure some meaningless wins, over sacrificing some wins by just attempting to develop all the young “talent” on the roster to see what you had and could get moving forward.

    • Jul 27, 201210:29 am
      by Crispus


      Yeah geez, I thought the new CBA was supposed to address these issues.

      • Jul 27, 201211:39 am
        by MNM


        That’s the joke that this league and that laughable “wool over our eyes” lock-out has become.

    • Jul 27, 20122:57 pm
      by tarsier


      It’s also worth bearing in mind that Detroit may be a more desirable FA destination next summer when they’ll have cap space if they at least made the playoffs.

  • Jul 27, 201210:10 am
    by Travis


    I believe the Pistons if they remain healthy are an #7 seed in the East. They will have a rough start with 13-20 record, but will finish strong with the veterans leading the way. My only concerns are the rookie wall before the All-Star break. Additionally, having 4-5 rookies learning the new offense and getting adjusted to NBA competition will be an issue in the beginning of the season.

    Adding another cheap rookie contract is appealing, but after drafting Monroe, Knight, Drummond, Singler, English, and Middleton, Detroit is stocked with young talent. What benefits does Detroit have adding someone at #14. John Henson was drafted there this year, but I’m sure a draft analysis will show how well the #14 draft picks have done over the last 6 years.

    It’s just not in the best interest for the Pistons to add another young player to their roster. Playoff experience matters the most for the organization and fans.

  • Jul 27, 201210:26 am
    by Matt


    I’m not sure if Detroit is ever going to be considered a ‘premier’ free agent destination, but it seems like FAs would be more likely to come here if they thought that the Pistons were already a playoff team and they would be the player(s) who could take them to the next level.

    I’m not sure if FAs would be as excited about joining a non-playoff team where the ‘next level’ is being first-round fodder for the Heat.

    • Jul 27, 201210:57 am
      by Oracle


      This. Not as many people want to join a team of youngsters and be the leader in trying to take them to the playoffs.  Joining a young, talented playoff team as another piece to help them compete is less pressure.

  • Jul 27, 201210:36 am
    by vic


    I totally agree with your nonrational side. I did a writeup too about the Eastern conference, and I think we’ll be in the playoffs. We don’t need the lottery this year. It pales in comparison to last year’s lottery.

    In this year’s lottery, Houston got 3 picks at 12, 16, and 18 that would have been top 10 any other year. Sullinger went 21? In most year’s the talent drops off way earlier. We don’t need a late lottery pick at all.

    We have young star talent at the 2, the 4, and the 5. We have role players with good potential to be solid at 1 and 3. (Knight could be just a solid “microwave” type guard or he could be a star pg, depends on him. All our 3s are solid role players)

    It’s time to dig in for the long haul with what we’ve got, and use all the capspace to maintain growth and add a piece only if needed at a great value. 

    That being said, if Tony Mitchell from North Texas drops to us, I’m all in… I was all in for Drummond when he was scheduled to go to prep school, so why not try my luck again?

  • Jul 27, 201210:38 am
    by Steve K


    I have a hard time seeing the detriment to making the playoffs. Often, when teams make the playoffs, the players on that team improve. We’ve seen it in the past. Billups and Hamilton improved each season as they played deeper into the post-season.

    It’s more likely the Pistons become a better team with the players they currently have than to somehow land a Lebron in the draft. If they end up in the lottery next year, they’d likely be picking after #10. Hard to find Lebron at that spot.

    They should shoot for the playoffs and hope to improve from within. Develop the talent that they have… and trade/release/amnesty the dead weight.

    • Jul 27, 201210:42 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      From a financial perspective, and from a perspective of satisfying an owner publicly said this should be a playoff team, there is no detriment.

      But we all know that, although the Pistons’ roster situation has improved, they could still use quality young assets. I’m not saying they’d draft a star next year, but if they’re picking anywhere in the lottery, they’re at the very least getting a young asset who either could develop or could be another player to package in a trade for an established player.

      • Jul 27, 201210:54 am
        by sop


        They won’t draft a star next year because there are no stars in the entire draft and beyond the top ten picks there aren’t even any regular-minute-rotation players.

        • Jul 27, 201212:30 pm
          by MNM


          It’s not even August yet. It’s too early and impossible at this point to predict whether or not certain players will emerge as a “star” next summer.

      • Jul 27, 201212:18 pm
        by Steve K


        I definitely agree with that. They should certainly be looking to add quality young assets. That’s why it sucks so bad they had to give up a 1st rounder to dump Gordon.

        Still, I vote for playoffs next year… and for much of the same reasons you mentioned above.

      • Jul 28, 20124:15 pm
        by Jim D.


        If they miss the playoffs, it also increases the risk factor. Yes, we get a pick (10-14) this year, but what happens if Monroe blows out his knee and misses 2013-2014? As murphy’s law would state, we finish with the #4 pick and have to cough that up to Charlotte. To me, its best to get it out of the way and insure you are giving up the worst pick possible.

  • Jul 27, 201211:01 am
    by sop


    1.     Shabazz Muhammad (maybe star)
    2.     Nerlens Noel (starter)
    3.     Cody Zeller (starter)
    4.     Isaiah Austin (starter)
    5.     Steven Adams (starter?)
    6.     Rudy Gobert (starter?)
    7.     James Michael McAdoo (starter?)
    8.     Alex Poythress (starter?)
    9.     B.J. Young (rotation player)
    10.  Adonis Thomas (rotation player?)
    11.  Kyle Anderson (rotation player?)
    12.  Anthony Bennett (rotation player?)
    13.  Patric Young (rotation player?)
    14.  Myck Kabongo (rotation player?)
    15.  Archie Goodwin (rotation player?)
    16.  Dario Saric (NBA player)
    17.  Tony Mitchell (NBA player)
    18.  Mason Plumlee (NBA player)
    19.  C.J. Leslie (NBA player)
    20.  Trey Burke (NBA player?)
    21.  Reggie Bullock (NBA player?)
    22.  Kaleb Tarczewski (NBA player?)
    23.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (NBA player?)
    24.  Wayne Blackshear (NBA player?)
    25.  P.J. Hairston (NBA player?)
    26.  Jarnell Stokes (NBA player?)
    27.  Ricardo Ledo (NBA player?)
    28.  Le’Bryan Nash (NBA player?)
    29.  Doug McDermott (NBA player?)
    30.  Michael Carter-Williams (NBA player?)

    • Jul 27, 201211:07 am
      by oats


      Like how this draft was supposed to be killer, and then we got there and realized it was just really deep with solid but not great prospects? We hear this sort of thing all the time. Predictions this far out are never right. Hell, last year I kept hearing how bad the draft was on the night before the draft. Then guys like Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, and Kenneth Faried dropped out of the lottery. Next year’s draft picks have an entire season to prove their worth, how about we give them a chance before we assume the draft is terrible.

      • Jul 27, 201212:35 pm
        by sop


        It all depends on who you listen to. The local press guys are the ones who consistently say the draft is weak, because they have no idea. This years draft was good at the top and amazing draft in terms of depth. Ford, Telep, and Biancardi (the high school scouts), Hollinger’s college PER and the guys at Draft Express have all consistently been saying this is a stacked draft. Why? Because the lockout pushed many players to skip to 2011 draft.
        However, this year had many Freshmen come out for the draft that never should have declared, such as: Quincy Miller, Tony Wroten Jr., and Marquis Teague. Also players like Doron Lamb and Will Barton could easily been lottery picks next year, but this year went in the 2nd round.  Whereas 2011 many players held out, this year many players jumped in and it significantly depleted the 2013 class. Furthermore, the high school class of 2012 is weak after the top 5 players with most top 20 players looking like very long term projects. Sure scouts might fall in love with this year’s class sometime throughout the NCAA season, but make no mistake it will still be an extremely weak draft.

        • Jul 27, 201212:53 pm
          by vic


          very true. ppl always SAY its a weak draft – every year. But circumstances actually made this years draft one of the deepest ever, and next years will be very weak.

          • Jul 27, 20123:02 pm
            by tarsier

            You have to wait until at least 3 years after a draft to declare it a really good or bad one. Even after a year or two, you never know who will be a James Harden and who will be a Tyreke Evans (still a bit early to definitely say that Harden will have a fantastic career and Reke will be no more than a role player but so it seems after seeming the opposite one year in).

        • Jul 27, 20122:35 pm
          by oats


          All of my post was talking about the consensus from the national experts. This year was supposed to be star studded, and instead was loaded with rotation players or low end starters. 2011 was supposed to be about 8 picks deep, and it turned out to also have a fair number of solid players. I get that this year saw a lot of talent leave early and next year should be a bit thinner talent wise. I also know the scouts seem low on the upcoming freshmen, but if scouting high school kids was easy the NBA never would have started the one and done rule. Every year there is a Thomas Robinson/Meyers Leonard type of talent that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Plus, as loaded as the underclassmen were, the foreign crop was equally weak this year. We went from Valanciunas, Vessely, Biyombo, and sort of Kanter (played pro in Europe but practiced for Kentucky. I’d call him a foreigner, but designate him how you will) in the top 10 just last year. This year we only had Evan Fournier in the first round. Let’s just say I doubt that happens twice in a row. The draft itself is speculative, and making judgement calls on it a year in advance seems especially futile. No one ever gets this stuff right,

          • Jul 27, 20123:03 pm
            by tarsier

            It may have been star studded. We haven’t yet found out.

          • Jul 27, 20124:43 pm
            by sop

            sure you can’t know definitively, but the question of +/- making the playoffs isn’t either. You have to work with the info available to predict the best you can.
            1.There are only 3 elite level athletes in the 2013 Draft: Shabazz, Nerlens, and Adonis Thomas. That limits the upside of this draft. (last year there were 6)
            2. There are only 3 internationals in the consensus top 30 players: Rudy Gobert, Dario Saric, and Alex Abrines. (true last year there was only 1, but not a big difference)
            3. There is only 1 upperclassmen in the consensus top 20: Patrick Young. (last year there were 4)
            Are you excited about drafting Cody Zeller in the top 3? That is how weak this draft is.

  • Jul 27, 201212:22 pm
    by DoctorDaveT


    Go with youth.
    If they play well enough that we lose the draft pick to Charlotte, that shows that there is enough of a growing young core that we don’t need the draft pick now.
    If they play poor enough that we keep the draft pick, then the youth get one more season of experience AND one more high draft pick.
    Either way – you have to play the young core. It’s a must.
    JoeD – are you reading this?

  • Jul 27, 20122:00 pm
    by Derek


    I like what coach Scott Brooks said about the losing years for OKC.  He said they were learning how to win.  I would like to think the same thing is true of Detroit, we have been learning to win. 

    Let’s win now! 

  • Jul 27, 20122:41 pm
    by shake and bake


    I think the team is headed in a good direction, I like Gores, his basketball background and business savy and interest in the team.  I guess I put alot of faith in Stuckey because of his NBA career so far.  He stopped derick Rose a few years ago and scored 40 on him, he played behind billups, and iverson, and through the mcgrady thing, so hes got experience with stars, I think he probably soaked enough up even though he might not be vocal enough at this point of his career, I think hes got enough to put the pistons over the top…

    I feel like they have a small window in the next couple of years with stuckey, and then another window if these young guys develop more, at least we will probably get a few 50 win seasons and a couple of shots at the big time

  • Jul 27, 20123:14 pm
    by Travis


    Last season I wanted the Pistons to lose more games at the end of the season to get a higher draft pick. To my surprise, the Pistons youth developed a sense of grit and a singular focus. Making the lottery this year would be a giant step back for the Pistons and their young roster. They need to experience the intensity, pace, and atmosphere of a 4-7 game first round series, not the depressing NBA lottery where Drummond will represent the Pistons to see that their ping pong ball combination land them the #14 pick.

    It’s depressing to just even to think about that. Let the Bobcats experience that for us. They seem to enjoy being in NYC for the lottery. Not me.

  • Jul 27, 20123:31 pm
    by Desolation Row


    Perhaps I am missing something (likely), but I think we’re assuming that making the playoffs next season translates into us not hitting the lottery later on. I would much rather lose a non-lottery pick to Charlotte than a lottery pick to them. If we were to miss the lottery next season but then do poorly another year in the future, we could potentially lose a much better pick. Also, my understanding is that this is going to be a weak draft class, so that could also play into it… I’d rather just make the playoffs and get the whole draft pick-loss over with than continue sitting on pins and needles in a couple seasons praying Monroe doesn’t get injured.

    Moreover, making the playoffs probably makes Detroit into a more attractive FA destination than if the Pistons don’t… which is important in an offseason with cap room flexibility…

  • Jul 27, 20124:30 pm
    by DG


    I would be all for the playoffs if it was because the development of the team youth.  I would likewise be hesitant if it meant more playing time for players that are probably not in the team’s long term plans (Maxiell, Villanueva, Wallace – if he does come back instead of retire).

    I would expect Knight to show a lot of improvement next year.  I would love to have Stuckey perform for an entire year at the level that he showed late last year.  Monroe should be in the mix for all star status next year.  Stuckey would be too, if he indeed played at his top level all year.

    I don’t expect that much out of Drummond next year.  Maybe even some DNPs early in the year.  If he can become a solid defensive role player for 10-15 minutes a game, I think he will be on track.  The main thing is that he improves throughout the year.  Any offense out of him is a bonus.

    The main thing is to keep building for the future.  But if Stuckey, Monroe and Knight improve enough to be in the playoffs then great.  We can look to internal development as Drummond, English and Singler get better and free agency to get over the hump from borderline playoff team to contender status.  I just hope they focus on filling holes rather than finding stars in free agency.

    This team does not need more youth, now.  It needs their Big 3 of Knight, Stuckey and Monroe to step into leadership roles.  The playoffs could help them get there.

  • Jul 27, 20129:58 pm
    by DoctorDaveT


    Travis, Desolation, & DG –
    You guys are “playing my song.” I believe the ‘Stones are definitely on the way up. The way that #1 draft pick to charlotte goes, JoeD believes it, too.
    But they can’t afford to be bad two years in a row. They get one more year to be bad – if they are bad – and then, they lose the pick (unless they’re terrible – and they ain’t going to be terrible in two years).
    This team is building like the early 80′s team was building – with youth. So play them. If they lose (one more year), great: one more good pick. If they don’t lose, great! (but they lose the pick – which if they start building faster, they won’t need.)

  • Jul 27, 201210:00 pm
    by Corey


    Playoffs! If they make the playoffs, it will be because the young players: Stuckey, Monroe, Knight, and maybe Drummond were good enough to take them there. With Knight in his 2nd year and Drummond his first. That would bode VERY well for the team’s future.

  • Jul 28, 20121:20 pm
    by andrew


    i think you all forget one thing…. when was the last max contract that joe gave out? will greg monroe stay with the pistons if they aren’t even making the playoffs  and joe doesn’t dish out the money? maybe one of the two.but i think it will take both. he might feel that not making the playoffs is why he didn’t make the usa select team. we need to keep monoe happy and the only way to do that is win.

  • Jul 28, 20123:54 pm
    by Corey


    Virtually every player offered big money on a contract extension to his rookie contract takes it. Locking in $50million+ is irresistible the first time. It’s after that contract is up they leave. And if the pistons haven’t made the playoffs by Monroe’s 7th year or so, he should leave. But I think they’re on their way back out of the lottery. One more time, tops.

  • Jul 29, 201211:14 am
    by Eric


    I believe the Pistons would benefit more from making the playoffs.  The team has enough young talent to build around, but not any veterans in their prime who can make a difference.  The Pistons need this year n to show their talent and get other free agents to notice this team and think they can win a title here in the future because a free agent would have to think they can win or Pistons are going to need to overypay to get them to come here.  Amnesty Villanueva next year as he doesn’t have a role.

    Get at least one free agent in his prime – Harden, Josh Smith, or Dwight Howard (almost impossible, but the way it has been going for him, maybe he will start to look at other places than the Lakers or the Nets).   

    I would rather have a proven veteran in his prime than low end lottery pick, that is my two sense anyway.

  • Jul 29, 201211:25 am
    by Eric


    1) Who are locks to make the playoffs next year?

    Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Miami.  I didn’t include Magic as the status of Dwight is up in the air.

    2) Are the Pistons in the top three of the remaining teams.

    76ers, Knicks, Raptors, Cavaliers, Bucks, Hawks, Bobcats, Magic, and Wizards,  

    3)  Wizards, Bucks, Raptors, Bobcats, Cavaliers will not make the playoffs.

    4) That leaves the 76ers, Knicks, Hawks, Magic, and Pistons.

  • Aug 1, 20121:30 pm
    by Ali


    You play to win. You play to make the playoffs. If anyone on this team read this article, they would probably never come to this website ever again.

    • Aug 1, 20121:38 pm
      by Patrick Hayes



      Where in the article did I suggest the team should tank or purposely lose? That was not the point at all.

      The point is, the team needs more assets to continue improving. One of the ways they get assets is by picking in the first round of the draft. But if they make the playoffs this season, they lose that asset.

      Where did I write that they should definitely try not to make the playoffs? Or even that I’m rooting for them not to make the playoffs? I was simply making the point that if they do indeed make the playoffs, they will also lose out on one potential avenue to add another good player next season. How is that not a relevant point?

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