ESPN projects Pistons to win 49 games

Kevin Pelton of ESPN, using SCHOENE, projected the 2013-14 season, and then ESPN writers analyzed each team in light of those projections. Bradford Doolittle:

On paper, SCHOENE thinks it’s going to work out swimmingly: 49 wins, neck-and-neck with Chicago, Brooklyn and Indiana in the race for seeds 2-through-5 in the East, a top-10 finish in efficiency on both ends of the floor.

The Denver Nuggets proved last season that you can field a highly efficient offense without a glut of floor spacers. The antidote is to attack the rim and get your looks near the basket. That’s the formula the Pistons will need to follow this year and beyond. Smith and Jennings both have reputations for shooting teams out of games, while Monroe joins them as a prolific midrange bricklayer. If Cheeks can instill the same kind of attacking mentality that George Karl brought to last season’s Nuggets, the Pistons should up the ante on the offensive end. All of those players are good passers, and a decentralized offense that features attacking, cutting, ball movement and an emphasis on offensive rebounding should work given the talent on hand.

It’ll all depend on shot selection. No team can forgo midrange jumpers, but all teams can de-emphasize them. For the Pistons, that will be the biggest factor in their ability to reach the ceiling the metrics have established. Not only will a spate of midrange Js by low-percentage shooters wreck their offensive efficiency, but because such an attack will by necessity rely on second-chance points, floor balance could be compromised. Teams are already planning to attack Detroit’s big lineup in transition, and Cheeks can’t have Jennings and Smith aiding that cause with ill-conceived long 2s.

Are there a lot of variables in this equation? Sure. The Pistons will be asking a number of frontline players to alter their games in ways they haven’t had to before. The risk of implosion is very real. However, it’s a gamble worth taking. Talent is always worth the gamble.

Like Doolittle, I see the Pistons having a high-than-average risk of implosion. There are just too many risky pieces.

But before factoring that risk, a 49-win baseline is fantastic. There’s also a “risk” of the Pistons exceeding the baseline, too.

As I’ve mentioned in the  past, two weaknesses of SCHOENE are its ability to account for fit and coaching – two areas the Pistons could struggle. Still, even if you dock a few games for those factors, that would still have the Pistons in the playoffs.

A 2-through-5 seed would be great, but don’t forget, the Pistons’ main goal is just making the playoffs.

Tags: Andre Drummond Brandon Jennings Greg Monroe Josh Smith Maurice Cheeks