Tom Haberstroh of ESPN projected the Eastern Conference standings, and he has the Pistons finishing 10th:
I’d be more excited about the Pistons had they addressed their spacing issues brought about by Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but then they exacerbated the problem by signing notorious long-2 maven Josh Smith.
No doubt, Smith will improve their score prevention on the defensive end, but I’m still not sure how this team can put up enough points to be a playoff team. Can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rescue a dreadful backcourt?
I have a huge issue with Haberstroh’s assessment Larry Sanders and John Henson – not Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond – are the East’s best young frontcourt, and I have minor disagreements with his rankings. But his projections mostly fit my seeding tiers:
- 1: Heat
- 2-4: Nets, Bulls, Pacers
- 5: Knicks
- 6-7: Hawks, Wizards
- 8-11 : Cavaliers, Bucks, Pistons, Raptors
- 12-15: Magic, Celtics,* Bobcats, 76ers
*There’s probably no team I feel like I have a worse grasp on than the Celtics. Today, I have them in the 12-15 range. Tomorrow, I might push them up a notch and expand the higher tier to 8-12. Maybe I should just place Boston in a tier of its own at 12.
That’s not to say the Pistons can’t climb into to the 6-7 range, and I think they’re closer to doing that than falling below 11, but that’s basically how I have it slotted right now. Of course, within the Pistons’ tier, there’s a huge difference between 8 – making the playoffs – and 9, 10 and 11. Unfortunately, if my projections hold true (they won’t), four near-equal teams will produce only one playoff appearance among them.