The Pistons are not faring well in the league precisely in the Eastern Conference where it lies ninth in the standings. Ideally this should be enough to warrant a furious charge to clinch the eighth spot and play in the postseason.
However, there is little hope the team would make it to the playoffs since it falls seven games behind Milwaukee Bucks in eighth place. Despite being in the early stages of settling in his new environment, Griffin has continued to produce the way he did for Clippers before the trade.
However, the ex Clippers man is already looking forward to next season as a better way to judge the team’s ability to make the playoffs and contend after leading the side to a win over Phoenix Suns recently.
Detroit has been hit with injuries particularly to starting Point Guard Reggie Jackson and the improved play of contenders has pushed Pistons further down the perking order. At the moment, the team is stuck in the dreaded middle where it is too good to lose game and head to the draft yet falls short of making the playoff cut.
With All Stars Andre Drummond and Griffin and when healthy and producing, a borderline All Star in Jackson, Detroit must be in the thick of the fight for a spot in the postseason.
12 games remain this season and management’s focus should be on becoming better for next season and that should start with changing Coach Stan Van Gundy who is in his fourth year with the team. After starting off well in the motor city, the former Orlando Magic trainer has fallen sharply with a third postseason-less run in four years in the offing once this season ends.
Deploying his style of surrounding a non shooting Center with a fleet of shooters like he did with a young Dwight Howard in Orlando, Van Gundy let Greg Monroe leave as a free agent freeing up Drummond in the paint. That sparked Detroit’s playoff run in 2015-2016. Conversely, trading for Griffin takes the Pistons back to a roster which does no favors for Van Gundy’s system.
Unlike many coaches in the league who have little impact on trades, Van Gundy does have a say in Detroit trades. He doubles as President of Basketball Operations which makes trading for Griffin as Drummond’s partner in the frontcourt is troubling to understand. While Griffin is way better than Monroe spacing the floor-has converted 42 of 120 three point shot attempts per Basketballreference.com- it is of little benefit on a team with streaky shooters with Jackson and Anthony Tolliver leading the list.
In his time in Detroit, Van Gundy has done little to improve the team’s record with hitting it big on draft picks. Unlike Los Angeles Lakers who have selected strong productive players even with late round picks like Kyle Kuzma and Cleveland Cavaliers duo Larry Nance Jnr. and Jordan Clarkson, Detroit has largely disappointed even with high draft picks. Stanley Johnson was picked eighth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft and aside a good appetite on defense, he has little to no offense to his game. Considering he was picked ahead of Devin Booker, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jnr., this was a poor pick.
Luke Kennard looks the part of a productive player in the future but his rookie season has been handled with a lot of acts from Van Gundy detrimental to his development. Van Gundy’s defensive nuances far outweigh his touch on offense but Detroit’s 11th place in defensive ratings per teamrankings.com isn’t good enough. Teams who pride themselves on defense, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors occupy playoff spots.
Raptors lead the Eastern Conference with Boston right behind. After losing their identity for a while, Spurs and Jazz have found it and look good to make it past the Western Conference regular season. Management might consider keeping Van Gundy in his seat at least for another season to have a good assessment on the team’s progress once Reggie Jackson recovers fully next season.
But after striking and missing on several trades and picks, Team Owner Tom Gores should look into stripping Van Gundy off his management role.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter