For the second consecutive season, the Pistons are 7-20. That has led to multiple articles examining whether this year’s team is better than last year’s – a depressing enough topic in itself, but especially crushing when the answer is clearly no.
Lawrence Frank, of course, disagrees:
"I think we’ve definitely made progress, it’s one of those things where we haven’t seen the result," Frank said. "We’re disappointed in the result, we expect better, but we are a better team than last year."
"It’s disappointing to have the (current) record we have but I think sometimes you look and peel back the onion, that record we had last year, there were many games we weren’t even competitive," Frank said. "We were that team ‘go play the Pistons, knock them out early, they’re done. We’re no longer that team."
In that sense, Frank is absolutely right. Last season, the Pistons had five Pythagorean wins in their first 27 games (which measure what a team’s record should be based on points scored and allowed). This season, they have 10.
But who cares whether the Pistons are better through 27 games than they were last year? Progress should not reset during the offseason. We were told repeatedly the Pistons had turned a corner last season, starting 4-20 and finishing 21-21. Here’s what Joe Dumars said after the season (emphasis mine):
just because of new coach, new system, no training camp, really no preseason, rookie point guard.
“You put all those things together in a shortened season, I firmly believe that’s why we got off to such a tough start. That’s why it took us 20, 24 games before you start seeing guys saying, all right, we’re good enough. We understand what Lawrence is doing now.”
Apparently, Frank wants to be judged as if last year’s progress never occurred. I could accept a step back if the Pistons were playing raw players like Andre Drummond big minutes, but that’s not happening. Though the Pistons are younger, it’s not substantial enough to justify this type of play.
Last year, the Pistons won 38 percent of their games – including 50 percent for nearly the final two-thirds of the season. This year, they’re winning 26 percent of their games. That is not better.
It’s conceivable – likely, even – the Pistons will finish this season further along as a franchise than they ended last season. But they shouldn’t have taken this step back to get there.