A recent NBA power rankings had the Detroit Pistons listed as the 30th best out of 30 teams in the NBA. There are quite a few reasons to disagree with that assessment.
Now that the 2019-20 season is (finally) over for everyone, it is time for everyone to look ahead. Like other teams in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons will be anxiously awaiting what the salary cap and free agency periods will be.
Since it is time for some prognostications about the future, Zach Harper of SiruiusXM NBA radio and (Subscription Required) The Athletic did what he even calls a ‘way too early’ Power Rankings of the entire NBA.
How about the Pistons?
Harper ranked them 30th. FYI, there are only 30 teams in the NBA. That puts Detroit as dead last, i.e. the worst team in the NBA.
He recommended the Pistons tank the season for a higher draft pick next year and trade Blake Griffin.
Now, do even the most rabid Pistons fans think they are ready to go toe-to-toe with the Milwaukee Bucks in a seven-game series with its current roster. Probably not.
But to say they will be the absolute worst team in the NBA? Well, there are plenty of reasons to respectively disagree with Mr. Harper’s opinion.
Let us list a few:
A simple look at the standings from this past season show the Pistons were not the worst team in even the Eastern Conference (that was Cleveland) or even the second worst (that was Atlanta).
Now, a record of 20-46 should not get anyone a vote for Executive of the Year (although Detroit president Ed Stefanski did get a vote) but the point is, the Pistons did not have the worst record in the NBA so why would they this next year?
Four franchises finished with lousier records in 2019-20, and do not forget that the Pistons were decimated by injuries. If Blake Griffin plays more than 18 games, they would almost undoubtedly have racked up a few more ‘W’s.
Since no one has been able to make major moves yet, Detroit certainly did not get passed by all four of those teams (with obvious exception of the Warriors, who simply needed to get healthy).
Salary cap is a relief
After years of having a big-time payroll without big-time results, the Pistons see some light at the end of their salary cap problems.
According to Spotrac.com, the Pistons currently have eight players with contracts for next season for a total of $70,387,303. That is assuming Tony Snell opts into his $12,178,571 player option and Detroit picks up Svi Mykhailiuk’s $1,663,000 team option, both safe assumptions.
If the salary cap turns out to be what Players Association executive director Michele Roberts expects it to be, around $115 million, the Pistons have cleared enough cap space to make some strategic moves.
The only players under contract currently for two years from now are Griffin ($38,957,028) and this past season’s No. 1 draft pick, Sekou Doumbouya ($3,613,680). That gives Detroit a lot of room to maneuver for the future.
If the Pistons did trade Griffin (and his max contract), it would open up even bigger gobs of salary cap space.
Unlike many teams in the NBA, the salary cap will not be a problem if Detroit wants to add some pricey good players.