Detroit Pistons Roundtable: If Detroit avoided the injury bug

After last year’s edition was a success, the Detroit Pistons roundtable is back.

Because there are so many participants, I’ve decided to split each question into a separate post. So, check back for four more installments later this week.

Here’s this year’s panel (subject to change):

I  want to thank everyone listed above for participating. But I don’t want to hear just from them. Please post your answers to the question in the comments.  We can make this an even larger collection of thoughts about the Pistons.

So, without further ado, here’s the first question of the 2010 Detroit Pistons roundtable:

How good would the Pistons have been this season if they weren’t hit with so many injuries?

Dave Pemberton, The Oakland Press

Before the season I thought the Pistons would be a playoff team or the last team out in the East. After watching them all season I’m not sure that is the case, even without all the injuries. Let’s say with everyone healthy (which never happens) the Pistons would have won 10-15 more games this season. Even with those wins Detroit is the No. 8 seed at best and likely still out of the playoffs.

The fact is the Pistons are a flawed team with no identity. If you don’t believe me just ask yourself two questions. First, what are the Pistons real strengths? Takes a minute to think of something, at least it did for me. Second, what are the Pistons flaws? The answers are endless. Where do you start, the poor frontline play, terrible defense, no outside shooting, lack of leadership, the list goes on.

To answer the question, I think even without all the injuries the Pistons would be right where they are now: out of the playoffs, just with a better record.

Chris Iott, MLive

Heading into the season, the Pistons appeared to be a borderline playoff team that wouldn’t be able to make much noise in the postseason. With all the injuries the Pistons had early and the twists and turns the season took after that, that original assessment appears to be right on. There is no guarantee the Pistons would have finished above .500 or made the playoffs, but they very likely would have been in the playoff hunt until the end had they not had to deal with so many injuries.

Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press

Up until the latest losing streak I would have said it’s a no-brainer that the Pistons would have made the playoffs if not for the injuries.

Now, I’m not so sure. The problems are well-documented. But to answer your question, I will stay yes. I will buy the theory that the injuries robbed them of their mojo.

Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press

There is a good chance they would have had a better record for the simple reason that they would have gotten off to a better start. When you get off to a good start, it’s easier for players to stay interested and motivated. But when you are up against it early on, some players tend to check out and this team checked out big time. But even if they had been healthy, the best case scenario would have been sneaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round. There is no interior scoring. I thought Ben Wallace was a publicity stunt when he signed, and he ended up being the team’s most valuable big man. That is alarming!

Keith Langlois, Detroit Pistons

Coming into the season, I had the Pistons solidly in the middle of the East’s "middle class" – a group I thought would consist of Washington (ouch!), Miami, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia (oops!) in addition to Detroit – behind the big four of Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta. (Charlotte’s success surprised me a little, Milwaukee’s a lot.) I felt after the preseason and the season opener the Pistons would be somewhere in the upper end of that group, a team that would win at least in the upper 30s and possibly into the mid 40s. I would have given them about a 65-75 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Eli Zaret, Detroit Pistons

Obviously, much better. They still would have lacked the low post presence they need so badly, but even as a guard-laden team they could have been a lower rung playoff team.

Patrick Hayes, Full-Court Press

I had them down for low 40s win total, somewhere between a 5 and 8 seed in the East. It’s not that I necessarily thought they were that good, it’s just that I thought the East was even worse than it’s been lately. In reality, I probably underrated the East a bit (particularly Milwaukee, Atlanta and Miami). But I still think the Pistons would’ve been a contender for a low playoff seed had everyone been healthy. Injuries were simply devastating for this team. When everyone finally came back healthy, there was no cohesion and no time left to develop it on the fly.

Justin Rogers, Full-Court Press

At the start of the season I would have said 45 wins, but I’m not so sure now.  I’m guessing Detroit would be around .500 right now and competing with Chicago and Toronto for the final playoff spot.  On the bright side, the injuries opened the door for the emergence of Jonas Jerebko.

Natalie Sitto, Need4Sheed

They would have made the playoffs for one. They would be jockeying for playoff position rather than lottery position. They most likely wouldn’t have gone on a double-digit losing streak. Ben Gordon would have probably been the player we know he can be.

I don’t think they would be in the running for the championship, but they could at least get past the first round of post-season play. It would have been very different.

Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys

I was in the overly optimistic minority before the season started – I felt the Pistons were going to be a lot better than a lot of critics were predicting. There’s really no telling how good they would have been this season without the injuries, though. They weren’t good when finally healthy, but I kind of think that by the time they were completely healthy, the feeling in the air was that this season was already a major disappointment because of those injuries. By that time, the Pistons were probably not even close to where they were mentally on opening night (when they destroyed Memphis on the road) and that might have played a bigger role in their futility than some people might think.

Kevin Sawyer, Detroit Bad Boys

Prior to the season starting, I put the Pistons down for 43-47 wins. What’s strange is that I thought that rebounding and defense would be the biggest problems, while I expected a strong perimeter game. As it happened, rebounding was an area of relative strength, the Pistons were stronger up front than anyone could have expected, but the Pistons were the worst three-point shooting team in the league. As such, I think 43 wins would be the high end, were I to recalibrate.

Mike Payne, Detroit Bad Boys

To borrow the phrase from Nicholson, "What if this is as good as it gets?"  Before this season began, I suggested that the Pistons would not eclipse the 39 win record of the 2008-09 season. This roster, as currently constructed, does not have the scoring balance or defensive identity necessary to reach the playoffs, let alone contend. These injuries may serve only to mask how truly bad this Pistons team is, an unfortunate excuse for players, coaches and management to explain this season’s woes.

Jesse Murphy, Pistons Nation

Really I can’t see the Pistons being more than 10-15 wins better if not hampered by all the injuries. We’ve conceded that we’re not going to be that team that "goes to work" on defense, but the problem with that is that we’re not a team that wears out a scoreboard either. This team has no identity and the long season has revealed some gaping needs to have to be addressed.

Jon Young, Flagrant2

I think a healthy Pistons squad would have been in the playoff race somewhere around the Bulls or Raptors fighting for a spot. With Tayshaun and Rip being out at the beginning of the year it messed up the entire season. Stuckey had to shoulder the scoring load instead of focusing on running the point. Will Bynum started out this season strong, scoring fast and getting into the lane, but with all the injuries he was forced to play on bad ankles before missing 19 games. Since his return he has not had nearly the same impact and you can tell the injuries are still there. The preseason lineup looked like it had all the chances to be great offensively but injuries and a lack of rhythm have the team at the bottom of the league offensively. Ben Gordon and Charlie V are both playing below their career averages and Rip is shooting the worst field goal percentage of his career.

Even if healthy the Pistons would still be bad defensively, but would have looked a lot better on the offensive end. They have shown some signs of what they could have done. They beat the Magic, Celtics, and Spurs once and gave the Cavs a run. If Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva played up to their career numbers and stayed healthy you have to believe the Pistons would be at least competing. It’s easy to blame a bad season on injuries but if anyone had that excuse this year it would be the Pistons.

Dan Feldman, PistonPowered

Before the season, I thought the Pistons would win 44 games. I had them getting a bottom-half seed in the playoffs, probably closer to the No. 5 seed.

But even if they were healthy, I now think that’s too high.

Being healthy would’ve fixed a lot of flaws. Ben Gordon would be a good shooter. Charlie Villanueva would be a good rebounder. Tayshaun Prince would’ve played with more enthusiasm. And most importantly, the team’s defense would’ve been more cohesive.

And that all outweighs the one benefit of the injuries – getting Jonas Jerebko in the lineup.

But this team is just too flawed, too backcourt dependent. Besides Ben Wallace, they don’t have much inside. And he’s only valuable inside on defense.

I think the Pistons would have won 40 games, which puts them right on the edge of the eighth seed.