Chevette to Corvette No. 21: The 1995-96 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 46-36
  • Pythagorean record: 49-33
  • Offensive Rating: 107.9 (15th of 29)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.1 (7th of 29)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: Doug Collins

Playoffs

  • Lost in first round to the Orlando Magic, 3-0

Leaders

  • Points per game: Grant Hill (20.2)
  • Rebounds per game: Grant Hill (9.8)
  • Assists per game: Grant Hill (6.9)
  • Steals per game: Grant Hill (1.3)
  • Blocks per game: Theo Ratliff (1.5)

Top player

Grant Hill

It’s pretty obvious when you look at the above statistical leaders. Hill was good as a rookie, but blossomed in his second year. Under new coach Doug Collins, the Pistons truly became Hill’s team and Collins built the offense around Hill’s talents. He played in a point-forward role, one he would continue in the rest of his Detroit career, and he quickly became one of the top all-around players in the league.

Key transaction

Traded the rights to Randolph Childress and Bill Curley to Portland for Otis Thorpe

Hiring Collins as coach was an important transaction. Here was what Collins said before the season started, via Sports Illustrated:

“We’ve got enough finesse players,” said Collins. “We need some dirty-work guys.”

That’s a fine talking point, but the Pistons were short on dirty-work guys until acquiring Thorpe. Although O.T. was getting up there in age, he solidified the Detroit frontcourt, a weak spot ever since the team traded Dennis Rodman, providing toughness, rebounding and scoring in the paint. He averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game and helped turn the Pistons into a solid defensive unit after they were one of the league’s worst defensive teams the previous season.

Trend watch

Return of the D

After finishing 20th and 22nd in the league in points allowed per game the previous two seasons, the Pistons under Collins jumped to second in the league in that category, the first of two straight seasons under Collins in which they’d finish second.

Why this season ranks No. 21

Although the team had significant talent, particularly in Hill and Allan Houston, who averaged 19 points per game for the season and was one of the league’s top 3-point shooters, most didn’t expect the Pistons to make as big a leap as they did, going from 28 wins to 46 and making the playoffs. But, according to Sports Illustrated, one person who expected Collins to have a huge immediate impact was former Pistons coach Chuck Daly:

“I think you can project him as coach of the year,” Daly said.

Collins would’ve had a very good chance at it, if not for the fact that the Chicago Bulls won 72 games that season, deservedly earning Phil Jackson the honor. But Collins clearly had the Pistons headed in a competent direction for the first time since Daly left.

Previously

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