In this week’s column for the Detroit Free Press, I had a back and forth argument with myself about whether or not the Pistons would be best served long-term by making the playoffs this season. Rationally speaking, the Pistons playing competitive basketball and coming up just short of the playoffs might be the best scenario — they compete for a spot without actually getting it, keep their draft pick (if they make the playoffs, their pick goes to Charlotte), add another lottery talent and head into next offseason with another young asset as a result of that pick plus significant cap space.
But here’s my less rational argument, the part of me that wants to see them get in even if it means they are first round fodder for the Heat:
The Pistons, along with the Celtics, Lakers, Spurs and Bulls, are arguably the flagship franchises of the modern NBA. Each of those teams has been through downturns at different points since the 1980s, and the Pistons are no different. But they’re on a current three-year streak of not making the playoffs, tying their early 1990s mark of futility. Since 1980, the Spurs have not gone more than one consecutive season without making the playoffs. Same for the Lakers. The Celtics had an ugly six-year stretch in the Rick Pitino/M.L. Carr era in the late 1990s and it also took the Bulls six years to recover from Jerry Krause’s desire to replace Michael Jordan with Brent Barry after the 1998 season, but no one wants to see the Pistons go on that kind of streak. If the Eastern Conference is weak enough to get into the playoffs now, even if it means losing an opportunity to add another promising young player to the mix, better to do it and not let that playoff-less streak keep growing into a monster.