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3-on-3: Pistons’ remaining schedule

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic.Please add your responses in the comments.

1. What is the hardest part of the Pistons’ remaining schedule?

Dan Feldman: Feb. 22 – March 22: at Pacers, vs. Pacers, vs. Hawks, at Wizards, at Hornets, at Spurs, vs. Knicks, vs. Mavericks, at Clippers, at Jazz, at Warriors, at Trail Blazers, vs. Nets and at Heat. That 14-game stretch, getting past the nine road contests for a moment, includes 10 games against teams with winning records. And it’s not like those other four will be easy. The Wizards have been playing much better since John Wall returned. The Mavericks already beat the Pistons by 15 without Dirk Nowitzki, and by March 8, he should be hitting his stride. The Trail Blazers are only one game under .500 in the tough Western Conference. And the Hornets… well, 14 of 15 games being very tough is still a lot.

Patrick Hayes: The rest of January is not particularly easy – Milwaukee and road games against Miami, Indiana and Orlando – and they have a tough road trip in late March/early April with games at Chicago, Toronto, Boston and Minnesota, but I think the toughest part of the remaining schedule will be a four-game stretch in February against the Lakers, Spurs, Knicks and Nets. Let’s face it, by April, the Pistons could be eliminated from contention. So doing well in those tough stretches in January and February are much more important if the team is still holding onto some faint playoff aspirations (or some would say delusions).

Jameson Draper: Between March 3rd and March 22nd, the Pistons play: at San Antonio, home against the Knicks, home against Dallas, at the Clippers, at Utah, at Golden State, at Portland, home against Brooklyn and at Miami. All those teams are playoff-caliber teams, with the exception of maybe Dallas. Add the fact that most of these games are on the road, and this part of the schedule is very daunting. Overall, the second half of the season seems harder everywhere. The Pistons don’t have one stretch with a lot of easy games for the remainder of the year.

2. What will the Pistons’ final record be?

Dan Feldman: 36-46. That would have the Pistons going 20-20 the rest of the season, which given their recent 9-4 stretch, seems fairly reasonable. To Lawrence Frank’s Andre Drummond’s credit, Detroit has really improved during the season. Most encouraging: several players look better than they did in the fall.

Patrick Hayes: I picked them to be in the 34-36 win range before the season started. To get to 34 wins, they’d need to go 18-22 the rest of the way. I think that’s a reasonable expectation. Since their disastrous 0-8 start, the Pistons have gone 15-17. A 34-48 season is certainly not good, but it could’ve been much worse considering how bad this team looked to start the season. It also could’ve been much better had Lawrence Frank decided their best player was worthy of playing more than 19 minutes per game.

Jameson Draper: 34-48. It’s going to be difficult, but I’d say the Pistons will go 18-22 the rest of the season. Though not an elite road team, the Pistons can win in places like Cleveland. They can also lose home games against weak teams, because when not everything’s going to go according to plan, the Pistons often can’t adjust.

3. What must change for the Pistons to make the playoffs?

Dan Feldman: Andre Drummond playing more. That’s it. That’s everything. It’s very possible Drummond isn’t ready to play major minutes and continue on the level he has, but that’s the only chance the Pistons have. Drummond has been a game-changer on both ends of the floor, producing very efficiently and making his teammates better in the process. If the Pistons want to make the playoffs – and I’m not sure they should want that – taking a chance on giving Drummond starter-level minutes is their only chance.

Patrick Hayes: Andre Drummond needs minutes, and he needs them like yesterday. He needs to start. He needs to play 25-30 minutes per game. Putting him in the starting lineup would help Greg Monroe by providing a nice target for Monroe’s high-post passes and a defensive presence so that Monroe isn’t always guarding centers. It would help Brandon Knight by providing a rim-protector so Knight can take more chances defending the ball and hopefully come up with more steals. Drummond would also be a nice target for Knight on lobs or fast breaks and his offensive rebounding would help create additional open looks for Knight. The Pistons’ future depends on the development of Drummond, Knight and Monroe. Not playing Drummond heavy minutes with those guys is slowing down the progress of all three.

Jameson Draper: Well, Andre Drummond needs to play more. He’s averaging 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds while playing just 20 minutes per game. Also, his PER is 22.99. I just don’t understand what Jason Maxiell offers that Drummond doesn’t. If Greg Monroe and Drummond played a lot together, the Pistons would be a force to be reckoned with. It would also help if Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva regain the form they showed during Detroit’s recent hot streak. Both have slumped since.

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