The East is bad, and that’s good for the Detroit Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 11: Andre Drummond
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 11: Andre Drummond /

The talent disparity between the Eastern and Western Conference has grown considerably this summer. Is it good for the NBA? Maybe. Is it good for the Detroit Pistons? Absolutely.

Alright, spit it out.

Come on now.

Say it with me, “The Eastern Conference is bad.” There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

Just this summer, the East has seen the departure of Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap. All three were the most talented players on their respective teams.

Now the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks (each of whom made the playoffs last season) have all taken a step back. The Bulls are finally embracing a rebuild, the Hawks lost their starting front court, and the Pacers, well, nobody is really sure what the Pacers are doing.

There are reports that LeBron James is unhappy with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ off-season moves (or lack thereof). His days in a Cavs’ uniform appear to be numbered. Needless to say, the Eastern Conference is on life support.

Related Story: What to expect from Avery Bradley this season

As for the Detroit Pistons, this conference imbalance is nothing short of a golden opportunity. Allow me to explain.

Reality check

The last time I checked, there are 16 playoff spots available in the NBA every year. The top eight teams in each conference get a chance to extend their season. That hasn’t changed.

The playoffs are still the playoffs, and the reality is that the Pistons have made them once in the last eight seasons. Detroit’s last playoff win was on May 26, 2008. Forward Antonio McDyess led all scorers with 21 points and 16 rebounds in a 94-75 win over the Celtics. Yeah, it’s been that long.

Outside of Cleveland, Boston, Washington and Toronto, the East is wide open. There’s no reason the Pistons should miss the playoffs again. They simply can’t afford to do so. Not if they want to re-sign Avery Bradley next summer.

Avery’s arrival

Speaking of Avery Bradley, his presence alone makes this team a playoff contender. The Pistons will insert one of the league’s best on-ball defenders into their starting lineup. He immediately fills the void left by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and is a better player on both ends of the floor.

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Bradley was the second leading scorer on the Celtics last season. The 26-year-old averaged 16.3 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 55 percent. He was also second on the team in rebounds per game, finishing with an average of 6.1. That’s virtually unheard of for a 6’2″ guard.

Pairing him up with a healthy Reggie Jackson gives Detroit an imposing back court. If Tobias Harris returns to the starting lineup (presumably as the small forward), the Pistons would then boast three different types of scorers on the perimeter.

Bottom line

Whether we like it or not, the Western Conference is far superior to the East. It has been for some time, and that won’t change anytime soon. But that’s not the Pistons’ problem, or any team’s problem in the East for that matter.

Let the Pelicans, Kings and Suns worry about it. Their pathway to the top will be more difficult than ever. Oh well. That’s life in today’s NBA.

The Pistons should consider their current situation a gift. They could realistically be the 5th seed come April 2018. Remember, we’re talking about a team that won 37 games last year. Yet they were only four games behind Miami for the final playoff spot.

Making the playoffs usually isn’t a cause for celebration. But it does mean that you’re doing something right. Playoff experience is still invaluable, and it can pay dividends down the road.

Next: Way-too-early look at next year's Pistons

The NBA is top-heavy, but heck, it’s always been that way. The Detroit Pistons will have a better team in a weaker conference next season. A playoff berth is sitting there if they want it. Now they just have to secure it.