Was the Detroit Pistons’ season really that bad?

Mar 24, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy reacts against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons 115-87. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy reacts against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons 115-87. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Most people would agree that finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference a year after making the playoffs is a disappointing result for a young and promising team like the Detroit Pistons.

For much of the season, the Detroit Pistons were slammed for their efforts on the court (and in some cases, their actions off it) and fans were rightfully frustrated with what transpired in the 2016-17 season.

However, was this past season really all that bad?

There are still a bunch of silver linings to this dark and stormy cloud.

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Most relevant at the moment is that by missing the playoffs the Pistons have yet another lottery pick in what is being touted as a very deep draft.

I think most fans would have much preferred to have made the playoffs for a second straight year, although a lottery pick is probably a little nicer than getting swept in the first round like the team did last season.

This will only be the second time the Stan Van Gundy regime has drafted in the lottery, after not having a first-round pick in 2014 and having pick 18 in 2016’s draft.

Of the players drafted under Stan Van Gundy’s watch who have had ample playing time to show their potential, it seems that this front office hasn’t picked any total duds yet.

Spencer Dinwiddie was thriving with the Brooklyn Nets to finish the season, Darrun Hilliard regularly featured for the Pistons in both his rookie and sophomore seasons and Stanley Johnson has the necessary tools to become a great player despite a rocky season.

Even Henry Ellenson, who hasn’t received much court time showed glimpses of what he could become in the future when Van Gundy gave him a look at the end of the regular season.

Giving Van Gundy the chance to dive into a deep draft and find another young player to compliment this team could pay off big time, and who knows, maybe in a few years time we’ll look back and thank the basketball gods for what came from this draft.

When assessing this past season it’s important that we look at the context of why it was so disappointing.

A major reason why the Pistons were never able to get going was the issue at the point guard position.

Before the season even began there were problems, as Reggie Jackson required surgery on his left knee, meaning he would miss the final month of preseason as well as the first 21 games.

Preseason is a hugely important time in any NBA teams season as it’s when your team gets to begin gelling together while also focusing heavily on the style of basketball you’ll be playing for the next 82 games.

Having your starting point guard unavailable during a significant chunk of this period can’t be taken lightly and without a doubt would have been a huge factor in why Jackson’s game looked so awkward when he first returned from injury.

Jackson’s return was handled poorly by Van Gundy, which didn’t help things either.

Throwing Jackson into the starting lineup immediately without any competitive basketball under his belt in the past seven or so months isn’t exactly ideal, especially for a guy with known asthma and conditioning issues.

However, the team’s turbulent season at the point guard position may pay off in the future.

Related Story: The Pistons enter the lottery at the 12th spot

As the year progressed Stan Van Gundy began using Jackson in smaller bursts at a time, which not only compensated for Jackson being behind on in-game conditioning but also helped minimalize his asthma issues.

This could prove to be a great strategy the team has stumbled into as taking full advantage of Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith‘s quickness in short bursts has the potential to cause havoc on opposing teams.

Jackson and Smith are both at their best when they’re flying past defences, so giving them the proper rest they need to be able to fly around the court non-stop when they check in is a smart idea.

Also, by shutting Jackson down at the end of the season Van Gundy has given him every chance to go into next season as healthy as possible.

Tendinitis is a tricky issue and in most cases just resting the troubled area is the best option.

By keeping Jackson from playing in those meaningless final nine games, Van Gundy has given him valuable extra rest that ideally will significantly boost the chances of him coming into next season with the trademark speed we’ve come to expect.

Similarly, Reggie Jackson’s injury resulted in shockwaves reverberating throughout the Detroit Pistons’ starting lineup, resulting in a number of different units being put on display.

Every player on the Pistons’ roster except for Boban Marjanovic, Beno Udrih and Michael Gbinije started at least one game in the 2016-17 season.

Van Gundy constantly tinkered with the starting lineup, something he hadn’t done too much in his previous two seasons at the helm.

Just by slotting different players into the starting five and trying a number of different combinations Van Gundy was able to learn an extraordinary amount of things about what works, what doesn’t and what has potential to work for the future.

These kinds of adjustments and experiments to lineups are what can take a lacklustre season and keep it from being a complete waste of time.

Stan Van Gundy is a smart coach and once he realised the Pistons weren’t going to sneak into the playoffs he prioritised and maximised trying to make sure they began developing for the future.

Sure, this past season was frustrating and a massive waste of potential and fans have every right to be mad at the team.

Next: Ish Smith season in review and grade

However, even though things may seem to be all doom and gloom right now, there are still rays of hope and positivity shining through for the Detroit Pistons.