Really, it’s OK to root for the Detroit Pistons to win

Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Pistons fans want to root for their team to win, but they also want them to get a high pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Those two feelings are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The Detroit Pistons won their first game of the season on Friday night, pulling out a gritty, 96-93, victory over the Boston Celtics.

And some fans were not happy about it.

I am not going to provide the screenshots for privacy reasons, but there were plenty of Tweets after the game that were, basically, ‘Oh no, Pistons won, this is bad, this hurts us getting a high draft pick’.

It must seem weird to be disappointed when your favorite team wins the game.

Well, here is a message to those who want to root, root, root for the home team: Chill, it’s OK if the Pistons win.

There a few reasons why a Detroit victory is good:

This is not 2016

Everyone knows about the ‘Process’ the Philadelphia 76ers went through under general manager Sam Hinkie. They fielded badly outmanned teams (a young Christian Wood had two tours with those Sixers) so they could lose a lot and get a high draft pick.

First, Hinkie, despite his best efforts, never got the No. 1 draft pick when he was GM. Best he did was No. 3. (they did get No. 1 after he left).

Secondly, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not like Hinkie’s manipulation of the rules, and last year instituted a smoothing of the odds for the teams at the bottom of the standings to deincentivize losing a lot.

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The team with the worst record saw it’s chances of getting the No. 1 overall pick dropped from 25% to 14%.  And the bottom three teams will all now have the same 14% chance.

Also, the number of spots decided by the lottery went up from three to four. So, a team could be horrible all year, have the worst record, and theoretically end up with the No. 5 overall selection. Not very much for what they put the fans through.

The odds were also increased for teams coming in sixth thru 14th in the standings to get a top three draft pick. Before last year, those teams had only a combined 18.8% chance, but now it is a healthy 35%.

That means there is now a better than one-third chance a team that just missed out on the playoffs, could get a higher draft choice than some poor team with a 12-60 record.

So, when the Pistons win their next game, remember that having a bad record is not as important as it used to be for draft position.

Losing can be pointless

With Hinkie running the show, the 76ers had an awful 18-64 record in 2014-15 record. For all their losing, they received the No. 3 pick in the draft (the Knicks and T-Wolves had even worse records).

So what did the Sixers get for all that losing on purpose? Jahlil Okafor.

Yes, the Detroit Pistons player who just signed a cheap two-year, $4 million deal. Okafor had been the backup center  to Mason Plumlee  but, with the fine play of Isaiah Stewart, he might now be third-string.

The Sixers had a miserable season, getting clobbered game after game, for a player who would become in a few years a deep reserve for Detroit.

And it was not like the Sixers were reaching. Okafor was actually expected to go No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers but they, surprisingly, selected guard D’Angelo Russell instead.

NBA Draft history is littered with No. 1 overall picks who greatly underachieved: like Anthony Bennett, Michael Olowokandi, Andrew Bogut, Kwame Brown and Andrea Bargnani.

Of course, Pistons fans know first-hand all about highly-drafted busts.

(You may want to skip over the next paragraph).

2003 Draft: 1. LeBron James, 2. Detroit – Darko Milic., 3. Carmelo Anthony, 4. Dwanye Wade. Three of those four will be in the Hall of Fame.

So do not feel bad when Detroit wins, because if they did get a high draft choice, it does not guarantee who they draft will be really good.

High draft picks do not always make a team a winner

In 2015, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the No. 1 overall draft choice and selected center Karl-Anthony Towns.

After five years of Towns (and four of 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins), how are the Timberwolves now?

Um, the team with the No. 1 draft pick in 2020 was … the still terrible Minnesota Timberwolves.

If you take away LeBron James as an outlier, the needle for success does not move that far, just because a team adds a player who was a high draft pick.

Kyrie Irving was selected No. 1 by Cleveland and they had horrible records with him until James returned from Miami.

Blake Griffin was a great player, and deserved to go first in 2009. However, his ‘Lob City’ Clippers teams never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Getting a player of that level does not guarantee a championship.

Looking at the history of No. 1 overall draft choices, if you take out teammates of LeBron, the last No. 1 pick to win an NBA championship was: Andrew Bogut (No. 1 in 2005). And Bogut got his titles years later, as a role playing center for the Golden State Warriors.

The last Non-LeBron No. 1 to actually lead a team to the championship was Tim Duncan, who was drafted by San Antonio in the last century (1997).

So, if the Pistons, win, be happy, who they would get in the draft probably won’t make them a championship contender anyhow.

The ultimate learning experience: The Playoffs

The objective of any NBA team is to do well in the playoffs. Virtually every player who has participated, says the atmosphere for a playoff game is much different than a regular season contest.

Then, it makes sense that the best way to do well in the playoffs, is to get some actual playoff experience.

The ‘Bad Boys’ Pistons won two NBA titles but suffered years of heartbreak to the Boston Celtics before winning it all.  The year before winning the championship in 2004, Detroit got swept by the New Jersey Nets in the conference finals.

A new NBA rule is there will now be a play-in tournament for the 7th thru 10th place teams in each conference. Detroit went 20-46 last season, and were just two games away from 10th place.

The Eastern Conference is stronger overall than last season, but it will not take a sterling record to get in the play-in.

Detroit could go just a little bit better than last season’s record, say, 28-44, and now make the post-season. Would that be bad?

The Pistons have five rookies, three of whom play significant minutes, and overall have a lot of young players. One would think it would be beneficial for them to gain some kind of playoff experience.

Win or lose, just getting to learn what playoff basketball is about, could only help them.

So if the Pistons win, be happy, maybe they will make the playoffs and learn and use that knowledge to make a long, playoff run in the future.


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You do not have to feel guilty that you want the Detroit Pistons to lose. Bottom line, the players and coaches will always try to win. They worry about having jobs in the future, not draft picks. So hoping they lose won’t affect them.

You can sit back and enjoy the season and root, root, root for the Pistons as hard as you want. It is really OK if they win.