10 more things I like (and don’t like) about the Detroit Pistons

Apr 9, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons guard Darrun Hilliard (6) and Detroit Pistons forward Henry Ellenson (8) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons guard Darrun Hilliard (6) and Detroit Pistons forward Henry Ellenson (8) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

As the season comes to a disappointing close for the Detroit Pistons, it’s time to take a look at what we like (and don’t like) about this team.

In homage to NBA writing godfather Zach Lowe and his “10 Things I Like And Don’t Like” column, it’s time to take a look at the good and the bad of all things related to the Detroit Pistons. There’s been plenty of things to like, but no shortage of things to dislike with this team.

Without further ado, let’s discuss the 10 things I like (and don’t like) about the Detroit Pistons.

1. The Palace of Auburn Hills

It’s been the home of three championships, dozens of playoff games and hundreds of regular season games for the Pistons. It’s been the building that an entire generation (and then some) of fans has associated with their team, and suddenly we’ve come to the end of the line at the Palace. While the idea of moving to downtown Detroit is exciting for all sorts of reasons and by all accounts Little Caesars Arena should be a worthy home for the Pistons, it’s impossible to think of the Palace and not feel a hint of sorrow that after Monday night’s game against the Washington Wizards, there’s no more Detroit basketball in the house that Bill Davidson built.

2. March and April

The Pistons had a tremendous February and early stages of March, but they’ve fallen straight off a cliff since then. Since losing 128-96 on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pistons are 4-10 and have the NBA’s fourth-worst net rating at -7. Whether that game specifically took the wind out of the Pistons sails, or whether something else happened behind closed doors, they dropped from being 33-33 and a touch away from the six seed to out of the playoffs entirely. It’s a young team, but it’s not young enough that getting blown out on the road by the defending champs should affect them so. A swoon like this is utterly inexcusable.

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He’s the per-36-minute superstar. Boban Marjanovic has been a glorified victory cigar for most of the season, but he’s getting some burn late in 2016-17 now that all hope is lost for a Piston playoff run. As is the norm for Boban, he’s not letting a minute go to waste. In the last two games since Stan Van Gundy expanded the rotation, he’s averaging 20.5 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He’s hitting 66.7 percent from the floor and a refreshing 81.8 percent from the free throw line as Andre Drummond‘s relief at center. Whether this performance is sustainable in any way on a regular basis remains to be seen, but Marjanovic’s performance brings intrigue into the offseason as he’s the prohibitive favorite to become the backup center in 2017-18. Speaking of Piston centers…

4. Andre Drummond

Perhaps no Piston has dropped off further than Andre Drummond since the team-wide swoon began in the middle of March. Over his last 14 appearances he’s averaging just 27.2 minutes per game, averaging 8.5 points on just 8.1 shots per game. He’s hitting a mere 46.9 percent from the floor and a spectacularly dreadful 24.5 percent from the free throw line. Over his last 22 games, dating back to the All Star break, Drummond is hitting just 26 percent from the charity stripe, which is an unfortunate misnomer in his case. Drummond appears to be completely done with the 2016-17 season, and hopefully that’s because he’s eager to get on with his offseason training and development because we’re at the point where nothing he’s willing to try has worked.

5. Henry Ellenson

Piston Powered’s own superstar Henry Ellenson has looked more like an NBA player than expected in his two recent starts. He’s averaged an impressive 12 points and 10 boards in 26.5 minutes per game. His shot has struggled as he’s hitting just 33.3 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from long range, but he hit two threes back-to-back in the fourth quarter to quell a rally by the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night and the stroke looked good. Maybe the kid can play after all.

6. The rotation

The starting lineups of the Detroit Pistons have been utterly dreadful most of the season. In an almost unbelievable twist, the top five lineups in terms of minutes played all have negative net ratings. Four of those lineups have started multiple games, and it’s incredible to have FOUR starting lineups that fit this description.

The Pistons have found a spark expanding the rotation and breaking up the stagnation of the typical starting lineups over the past couple games. While starting Henry Ellenson and Reggie Bullock is not going to be key to your success, it’s a real shame that nothing Van Gundy trotted out to start games could get the Pistons off on the right foot over the course of the entire season.

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7. Performance against bad teams

If the Detroit Pistons had only swept the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets and thus won three more games, they would be tied for seventh with the Indiana Pacers at 40-40. In a season where everything has gone wrong and last season’s breakout star, Reggie Jackson, was an on-court negative of spectacular proportions, that’s the whole difference between a lost season and a nearly-assured playoff berth. It’s not excusable, however. The Pistons displayed what seemed to be an inability to take supposedly lesser opponents seriously all season, and it’s appropriate that that failing is what will end up being their undoing.

8. The future

If the last couple games from Henry Ellenson, Stanley Johnson, Boban Marjanovic and even Darrun Hilliard and Reggie Bullock have given us any indication, it’s that maybe the future is brighter than we think. The lower reaches of the bench have shown an ability to play hard and with cohesion, elements which have been lacking from the starters throughout much of the season. Hopefully Reggie Jackson will make a full recovery and return to his old self after a summer of rest and rehab, and the ability to integrate these spark plugs into a better-function lineup can only bode well down the road.

9. Point guards

After Reggie Jackson was shut down for the season, Ish Smith has shown that he’s not necessarily the hero the Pistons needed. In fact, while he’s posting better shooting numbers over the last nine games (eight of which have been since he was moved back into the starting lineup), his net rating has been almost exactly the same as Reggie Jackson’s season-long ratings. Jackson’s offensive rating on the season was 101.7, Smith’s over the last nine games has been 101. Jackson’s defensive rating was 110.5, Smith’s has been 110.8. While Jackson wasn’t good, it’s best to be aware that Smith hasn’t been as much better as everybody thinks he has been.

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10. The bench

The bench has been a breath of fresh air all season long for the Pistons, seemingly regardless of who is coming into the game in relief. Jon Leuer was better off the bench, Tobias Harris has been better of the bench, Ish Smith was better off the bench. While in a perfect world your starters would be your most reliable unit comprised of your best players, at least the Pistons have been able to throw out a bunch of cohesive and energetic reserves in place of a frequently low-energy first unit.