3-on-3: Win, playoff projections

What’s better than a 3-on-3 season preview? A 3-on-3-on-3 season preview. This is the first of three 3-on-3s to preview the Pistons’ season.

How many games will the Pistons win this season?

Patrick Hayes: 36. I think the team will show slight improvements in several areas, young players will continue to get better and I expect the Pistons will hang around the conversation for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference until mid-March or so before ultimately falling off.

J.M. Poulard: The Detroit Pistons will win an even 40 games.

Dan Feldman: 38. This would be the equivalent of a seven-win improvement from last season, which should could understate the Pistons’ progress if they, as hoped, play their younger players more.

What are the odds the Pistons make the playoffs?

Dan Feldman: About 35 percent. It’s hardly out of the question, but it’s unlikely. The East is pretty deep – hey, Detroit isn’t the only team that believes it improved from last year – and most of the decline in the conference came from teams that were already ahead of Detroit. They might remain ahead of the Pistons, and a few other teams (Raptors, Nets, Cavaliers, Wizards) have a chance to pass Detroit. It’s just too crowded to give any team in that range a more-likely-than-shot at the playoffs.

Patrick Hayes: Slim. I don’t really understand how odds work, so I won’t have a number. But I think for the Pistons to have a chance, a team or three out of the Philadelphia/Brooklyn/Atlanta/Chicago/New York group have to be worse than expected and Toronto and Milwaukee have to improve less than most are expecting.

Injuries always happen, high-priced experiments like Brooklyn and New York frequently blow up, Tom Thibodeau might ground Luol Deng and Joakim Noah into dust and both Atlanta, Philly and Milwaukee could be distracted by stars who are potential free agents in Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The Pistons are certainly a team that could move past anyone in that group, but they also need some things outside of their control to break their way.

J.M. Poulard: Quite good. Only Miami, Boston and Indiana are certified locks to make the postseason. The rest of the conference has injury concerns (Chicago, New York and Philadelphia) and has seen some turnover in their rosters (Brooklyn and Atlanta) that make it tough to predict just how good they might potentially be. Hence, it’s not outlandish to think they will be in the playoff race until the last night of the regular season.

Where will the Pistons finish in the Eastern Conference?

Dan Feldman: Ninth. They should be right on the edge of the playoffs, and if they contend for a spot all season, that will certainly provide some quality experience for the younger players. But I think they’ll ultimately fall short – and, in the process,  keep their 2013 first-round pick, so missing the playoffs wouldn’t be so bad.

Patrick Hayes: Tenth. If everyone in the East stays relatively healthy, these are who I expect to be in the playoffs: 1. Miami 2. Boston 3. Atlanta 4. Indiana 5. New York 6. Brooklyn 7. Toronto 8. Chicago 9. Philly 10. Detroit 11. Milwaukee. I could see those 5-11 spots being rearranged in any combination and not be totally shocked, but I still think the Pistons are a player or two away from being a playoff lock.

J.M. Poulard: The Detroit Pistons will fight for a playoff berth but will ultimately fall short and finish with the ninth best record in the Eastern Conference.

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