Detroit Pistons tanked but they play too hard

Saben Lee #38 of the Detroit Pistons Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.
Saben Lee #38 of the Detroit Pistons Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE. /

If you look at the roster of the Detroit Pistons, it appears like a team trying to lose. However, on the court, almost all of their games go down to the wire. How is that?

Its big names are gone.  Blake Griffin is now with the all-star Nets and Derrick Rose reunited with his old coach with the Knicks.

If you look at the current Pistons roster, it is composed of rookies (and the only top 10 pick has played just seven games), career backups and former draft busts.

Yet, Detroit takes a two-game winning streak into Sunday night’s game with Chicago. Its wins during the season include beating many of the top teams in the NBA: the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets.

Their record is 12-29, not impressive, and it could be better. According to, statistically, the Pistons should be at 16-25 at this point in the season. That would give them a record better than seven other teams. Of course, anyone who has watch Detroit play, knows they have lost a lot of heartbreakers.

Detroit has the third-worst record in the NBA, which is fine for getting a shot at the No.1 pick in the draft. The bottom three teams all have the same chance of getting that prized top ping pong ball.

But they do not play like a bad team, they just lose a lot.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver promised a competitive team (not winning, big difference) – and he has delivered.

How are the Detroit Pistons competitive with so little talent?

Take a look at the Pistons starting lineup from their game against the Houston Rockets, and try to figure out how other NBA teams lose to them:

Jerami Grant: Reserve for Denver Nuggets last year

Saddiq Bey: Rookie, drafted No. 19 overall.

Mason Plumlee: Reserve for Denver Nuggets last year

Frank Jackson: Signed on Dec. 27 to a two-way contract after being waived by Thunder

Delon Wright: Reserve for Dallas Mavericks last year

Jackson, was in for the injured Wayne Ellington at shooting guard. Ellington was signed to a veteran minimum contract right before training camp; so the Pistons did not exactly have to fight off a bunch of teams to get him.

Related Story. It is time to apologize to Troy Weaver. light

The top Pistons reserves are:

Josh Jackson: A G-League player most of last season with the Grizzlies.

Isaiah Stewart: A rookie taken No. 16 overall draft. Most experts considered it a reach.

Saben Lee: A rookie second-rounder on a two-way contract.

Dennis Smith Jr.: Was in quarantine to play for the Knicks G-League team until he came to Detroit as part of Rose trade.

There is not literally not a single player on the Detroit roster who was a full-time starter for an NBA team last year.

Talent-wise, you can’t tank worse than this.

Even the teams with worse records than the Pistons have at least two recognizable stars. Minnesota has Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and the Houston Rockets feature John Wall and Victor Oladipo (and Christian Wood).

How do the Detroit Pistons even win a game?

Detroit GM Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey preach character so much, you wonder if they are trying to win NBA games, or start a Boy Scout troop.

But the emphasis on character has created a team that does not get down on itself, despite the piling up of losses. With all the NBA Goliaths they have slain, these basketball David’s obviously are not intimidated by big-name stars.

And, no matter what, Detroit plays hard.

While the emphasis is on development this season, Casey does not just hand out playing time to the youngsters. All the rookies playing now began the season on the bench. They had to earn minutes by showing they deserved it.

And, particularly in a condensed season, simply playing hard can get you some wins you might not deserve with your talent-level. For scheduling reasons, or players needing a rest or a team simply not being fired up that night, if a team hustles, they can pull off some upsets.

Of course, talent does help, and Detroit saw potential in players like Grant (a borderline all-star) and Josh Jackson that others missed. A draft class shining also helps.

Next. Detroit Pistons: Bey and Stewart give Pistons a foundation similar to Miami. dark

Remember, in the most famous tank, the 76ers ‘Process’ under Sam Hinkie, they never finished lower than third in the NBA standings. Being the absolute worst is hard, even if you do not have a lot of good players.

Also remember, players have no stake in losing on purpose. They are always trying to win. Either to get honors, or a new contract, or simply to stay viable in the league.

So assume the Pistons will be the less talented team in almost every game they play, the rest of the season. Also expect them to be competitive in almost every game, and win some of those matchups.