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Tanking wouldn’t be easy for Pistons

Should the Pistons tank?

They’ve been gunning for a playoff berth since trading Ben Gordon to the Bobcats – allowing them to upgrade the roster this season rather than next. From Tom Gores down, the edict has been playoffs.

But whether or not they’ve actually discussed it, tanking has remained on the table. Though the Pistons have already immensely upgraded their talent in the last year, another top eight pick – whether they use it or trade it – would be a tremendous asset.

Unfortunately, it’s top-eight pick or bust. Due to the Gordon trade, Detroit owes the Bobcats a first-round pick that’s top-eight protected this year, so only full-fledged tanking will do.

As long as the Pistons avoid The Disaster Zone, they can’t go too wrong – at least not relatively. A postseason appearance would be nice, as would a top-eight pick.

Which should they shoot for?

Because the East is so awful – the Bobcats are on pace to make the playoffs with 36 wins – the Pistons have gotten more time than expected to make that choice. Somehow, the 19-28 Pistons are right in the thick of the playoff race, just 1.5 games behind Charlotte for the No. 8 seed (and half a game up on the Knicks in what’s becoming a three-team race).

But making the playoffs still seems unlikely. ESPN’s formula gives Detroit a 30.5 percent chance, and though that seems low because the system doesn’t account for the odds the Pistons make greater-than-average internal improvements throughout the year, it’s hard to spitball that above 50 percent.

Here’s the bad news for the pro-tanking crowd, though. The bottom of the NBA standings are even more difficult to break into than playoff position:

  • Pistons: 19-28
  • Knicks: 19-29
  • Cavaliers: 16-32
  • Lakers: 16-32
  • Jazz: 16-32
  • Kings: 16-32
  • Celtics: 16-33
  • 76ers: 15-34
  • Magic: 13-37
  • Bucks: 9-39

The league’s seventh-worst record would offer a 98.1 percent chance of the Pistons keeping their pick in the lottery. Eighth-worst would mean 82.4 percent – still likely, but enough to cause a few sweaty palms on lottery night.

Ninth-worst, though? The odds plummet to 6.1 percent.

Simply, the Pistons must finish with one of the NBA’s eight worst records to justify tanking.

How the heck can they do that?

If they put their minds to it, the Pistons could definitely finish worse than the Knicks, who’ve already traded their first rounder, and with it, incentive to lose.

But look at those other teams on the list.

The Cavaliers are in disarray. The Lakers’ top players are all hurt, and they seem to realize their slim playoff hopes have vanished, making tanking increasingly appealing. The Jazz have been better with Trey Burke, but they’re still getting knocked around by the West. The Kings made their big splash acquiring Rudy Gay and remain dismal. The Celtics have gone just 1-6 with Rajon Rondo, and though he needs more time to find his groove, it’s getting too late for them to make a run. The 76ers and Magic were expected to tank and are. The Pistons might have already won more games than the Bucks will all season.

That’s a tough bottom eight to crack.

It’s not impossible. The Pistons have lost to the Bucks, Magic, Jazz and Lakers (twice). They’ll have another chance against a bottom-dweller tonight, when they play the Magic. The Pistons, at times, can definitely look like a bottom-eight team. But relative to the actual bottom eight, they also look like a playoff team far more often.

I see the merits in tanking. You don’t need to convince me how valuable a top-eight pick in this draft would be, how this young team could surge forward next season and send Charlotte a worse pick in a worse draft (even though entering next year owing the Bobcats a top-one protected pick is risky).

But tanking would be really, really, really hard. It’s probably one of the few things these Pistons are too good for.


  • Feb 5, 201412:03 pm
    by Rob


    I would love for the Pistons to tank but like the article says, it’ll be so tough.  Even when we were on the horrible run when we lost like 11-14 I would keep looking at standing and noticing we are still way ahead of a lot of these teams.  We just really have to hope the Knicks can start playing better ball, but at the same time I do not have faith in the Bobcats ending with a better record than us.

  • Feb 5, 201412:42 pm
    by Craig


    Murphy’s Law. The Pistons will drop to a top 8 pick with 5 games to go, win all 5 and pick 9th.

  • Feb 5, 20141:00 pm
    by Tiko


    I’d rather make the playoffs

  • Feb 5, 20141:13 pm
    by Smitty


    I love the part about Detroit. Pretty much sums up Joe Dumbass.  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-who-is-still-on-the-trade-fence/

  • Feb 5, 20141:42 pm
    by Aaron


    Tough to tank?  They’re only a few games out from having great odds…   Trade Stuckey for a player / pick that won’t contribute this season, costing us at least a couple games, play Bynum more, costing us a couple games, and stick with the jumbo front court, trending down, down, down…  The more games I watch (painfully), the more I think Cheeks was hired so that they could tank while not looking like they are tanking.   Heck, they could even just start playing Jonas and CV a bit, that would surely cost us a couple extra games too.  There’s so many possible ways they could lose a little more the rest of the way, it’s like Joe D had it planned all along.

    • Feb 5, 20143:51 pm
      by zdh


      i dont think there is a conspiracy to tank or hiring cheeks to throw people off the idea that they would tank. i think dumars/gores thought cheeks was the best choice, whether that is true or not, and he just hasnt worked out. if they wanted to tank they would have just gone for it, attendance was already bad and hasnt improved, so it doesnt matter how many times gores demands to make the playoffs.

  • Feb 5, 20143:02 pm
    by Rob


    Its easy to say it’d be easy to tank but for every game we lose so does every team under us… and who would really want to make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed to see us get smoked by IND or MIA, and don’t tell me we have a chance because we beat them on the road in games they didn’t care much about. If we could squeak into the 5th or 6th seed, I’m all in for the playoffs though

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