Handicapping the Detroit Pistons and their NBA Playoffs Chances
The Detroit Pistons are on a serious roll right now. Before losing to Cleveland on Monday night in a game in which they rested Blake Griffin and essentially conceded, they had won 14 of 18 since Feb. 4. They were well under .500 and in trouble before then, but now they are securely a playoff team. It's been an impressive resurgence, and it has turned them into a team you could forget was even in the league to one that could cause some headaches in the playoffs. Here's a look at factors that are driving this team right now, and what it means for bettors:
Blake Griffin: I will fully admit that I was highly skeptical of the acquisition of Griffin last year. He had seemed disinterested with the Clippers, was struggling to stay healthy, was more interested in his life off the court than on it, and he felt like a guy on a decline. At his peak he was deadly, but he seemed like an acquisition that could be an anchor for a fragile franchise. Or not - all the guy is doing is having a career year. His scoring average is better than it has ever been. The only time he has had more assists was in his short stint with the Pistons last year. And his rebounds are right in line with the second half of his career. But it's not just that. He is playing like he cares - like he is present - in a way that hasn't in a long while. He is playing, in short, like what he can be, not what he had become. And if he keeps it up, he makes this team a dangerous matchup down the stretch and beyond.
Coaching: It's not often that you get a chance to hire a reigning coach of the year. It was a little odd that Dwane Casey was available, but the Pistons did the right thing in snapping him right up. Just hiring him was no guarantee for success, though, because if he was bitter or unfocused or not entirely bought in then he could have struggled. But he hit the ground running and has found all the right buttons to push. He took a team that was on the fringes of the playoff race and lifted them into what is all but a secured spot. He's not in the running for another Coach of the Year trophy, but he has done a great job. The lone concern at this point is that the reason Casey was fired in Toronto was his ongoing playoff struggles.
Road woes: The Pistons are not going to be a top four seed in the playoffs. That means they will need to win at least one road game to win a series. And that is a problem for them. At 13-22, they have two fewer road wins than any playoff team in the East. And one more loss. Only San Antonio can match their road woes in the West. They are likely to wind up playing Philadelphia or Toronto in the playoffs. Both teams are very strong home teams. That's going to loom as a serious problem for this team and any playoff aspirations they might have.
Playoff prospects: Detroit is probably going to finish in sixth in the Eastern Conference. They only have a half-game lead over the Nets, but they also have three games in hand, and the Pistons are in good form. Detroit is in the driver's seat. If they do wind up sixth, then they would almost certainly play Philadelphia. The teams have played all four games against each other already, with Philadelphia winning three. It's hard to draw too much meaning from that, though - the last game was on Dec. 10, so a lot has changed since then. If Detroit falls to seventh, they would wind up playing Toronto. Casey has gotten up for his former team in a big way, and the Pistons have swept the Raptors. But it's hard to draw any meaning from that. Toronto has managed the load of their players more than any team in the league - especially their best player - so the regular season doesn't mean too much. And while Casey knows the Raptors well, a lot has changed since he was there - pretty much everything. And Raptors coach Nick Nurse worked under Casey for a long time, so the Detroit coach has no secrets. Neither potentially matchup is particularly ideal.
Betting performance: There are 11 teams in the NBA that have been profitable on the year against the spread. The slightly unfortunate news, then, is that Detroit ranks 12th against the spread in the league this year. At 35-33-2 ATS, they have created a small loss on the season. Almost breakeven, but not quite. They haven't been any better for bettors on the totals, either - they have gone "under" 36 times and "over" 34, so there aren't any real long-term profits to be had there, either.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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