Chevette to Corvette No. 36: The 1999-2000 Detroit Pistons

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Facts

  • Actual record: 42-30
  • Pythagorean record: 45-37
  • Offensive Rating: 107.3 (4th of 29)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (21st of 29)
  • Arena: Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: Alvin Gentry (28-30), George Irvine (14-10)

Leaders

  • Points per game: Grant Hill (25.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Jerome Williams (9.6)
  • Assists per game: Grant Hill (5.2)
  • Steals per game: Lindsey Hunter (1.6)
  • Blocks per game: Mikki Moore (1.1)

Top player

Grant Hill

Hill’s final season in Detroit did not disappoint. He was an All-Star six times in six seasons with the Pistons, so by his sixth year in the league, it was hard to believe he would add much to his game, but this season gave every indication that were it not for the devastating ankle injuries that first started plaguing Hill in his final playoff series with the Pistons against the Heat, he looked like a man on the verge of becoming one of the game’s best. Hill averaged a career-best 25.8 points per game this season and did so while shooting 48 percent from the field, which at the time was the second best mark of his career. He also successfully extended his range, shooting nearly 35 percent from 3-point range, only the second time in his career that he finished a season better than 20 percent. ‘What would’ve happened if Grant Hill stayed healthy?’ will remain one of the most speculated ‘what ifs’ in modern NBA history.

Key transaction

(Tie) Signed Mikki Moore and Terry Mills as free agents

Bison Dele’s surprise retirement before the season just two years into a three-year contract left the Pistons with a hole in the middle. Moore was a thin, end-of-bench type and Mills was an end-of-the-line veteran. Neither was the type of guy any team would look at as an ‘impact’ signing, but between the two, the Pistons got just enough competent center play to sneak into the playoffs. Mills, known his entire career for his shooting, hit 39 percent from three in his second stint with the Pistons and Moore, who eventually carved out a nice NBA career for himself, provided about 17 minutes of boundless energy every game. He finished around the basket (hitting 62 percent of his shots), had nice range for a big man and protected the rim (averaged 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes). Plus, it was always fun when Moore and Jerome Williams, another energy player who could rebound, run the floor and finish, at the same time. They were undersized, but they helped make the Pistons more competitive and were nice targets for Hill on the break.

Trend watch

The declining defense

Championships in Detroit were always built around tough defense. Although the 1999-00 team made the playoffs, they did it in decidedly un-Pistons like fashion. The team was weak in the frontcourt with the slow and aging Mills, the undersized Moore and Williams and the soft Christian Laettner. The team ranked 26th out of 29 teams in points allowed this season. Part of that decline was a result of playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league, but the Pistons’ transformation into a finesse, perimeter-oriented team was also at its height. The Pistons were seventh in points per game allowed the previous season.

Why this season ranks No. 36

For better or worse, this was the end of the Grant Hill era in Detroit. After the season ended, the severity of Hill’s ankle injury wasn’t clear and it certainly didn’t scare off the Orlando Magic’s big offer to him. I remember being really nervous that Hill would leave that entire season and I felt all along that the Pistons needed to win a playoff series in order for him to even consider staying, something that looked pretty unlikely considering they were the seventh seed. That final series against the Heat was symbolic of the entire Hill tenure in Detroit. It featured Hill doing a bit of everything, surrounded by a cast of players who, even though they tried hard, were just not good enough to compete with any of the East’s upper echelon teams. Once the playoffs ended, it felt like Hill was leaving and unfortunately for the Pistons, the team didn’t seem to have many assets moving forward. At least we only had one more season of teal jerseys to go after this though.

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