Chevette to Corvette No. 24: The 1970-71 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 45-37
  • Pythagorean record: 39-43
  • Points per game: 110.1 (13th of 17)
  • Points allowed per game: 110.9 (5th of 17)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coach: Butch van Breda Kolff

Leaders

  • Points per game: Dave Bing (27.0)
  • Rebounds per game: Otto Moore (8.5)
  • Assists per game: Dave Bing (5.0)

Top player

Dave Bing

The Pistons improved by 14 games from the previous season, and Bing’s most efficient scoring season was a large reason why. Bing’s 27.0 points per game average was just 0.1 off his career-best mark. His .467 field goal percentage was a career high and he got to the free throw line a career-best 9.4 times per game. Bing was selected to start the All-Star Game for the first time in his career and he finished third in the NBA MVP voting.

Key transaction

Drafted Bob Lanier with the first pick in the 1970 NBA Draft

Bing’s big season was obviously a big key for the Pistons as they looked to be on the fringe of building a contending team, but the biggest development was the fact that, finally, after trying an endless parade of promising young players and big name veterans, the Pistons landed a franchise big man in Lanier. He was solid as a rookie, finishing second on the team in rebounding and third in scoring and made the All-Rookie First Team.

Trend watch

Lanier’s rebounding

Lanier’s rookie season would be the last time he was a single digit rebounder for a while. He followed it up with seven straight seasons averaging double figures in rebounding.

Why this season ranks No. 24

The Pistons finished above .500 this season for the first time since 1956, and their second-year coach Butch van Breda Kolff was instrumental in the team finding some success. Greg Eno on the 1970-71 team:

The ’70-71 Pistons streaked out of the gate at 9-0. It’s still the best start in franchise history. You can look it up. They finished, though, at 45-37 — stumbling toward the end and failing to make the playoffs. But it was the first time, since the team moved to Detroit in 1957, that any Pistons club had managed to win more games than it lost. It’s also the first season I remember following pro sports, and I have vivid memories of a TV news piece about VBK. The camera isolated on him on the sidelines. He was like an aerobics instructor. He was up. He was down. He lied down on the floor, on his stomach, looking for God knows what. He yelled at the refs. He yelled at his players. He yelled at the refs some more. He kicked a basketball into the crowd in anger. And this was one game.

The summer after that season, the Pistons gave VBK a shiny new contract. He wasn’t impressed.

“Hell, you can always quit if you want to. Or they can fire you,” VBK said of the written word.

And just one season later, van Breda Kolff did just up and quit, despite having more success than any Pistons coach in that recent history.

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