Detroit Pistons are tanking, the Thunder are losing

Apr 5, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Frank Jackson (5) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Moses Brown (9) defends the shot. Detroit won 132-108. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Frank Jackson (5) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Moses Brown (9) defends the shot. Detroit won 132-108. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has stated many times that he expects the team to be ‘competitive’ this season. Despite what the NBA standings might say, that has been pretty much true.

After Friday night’s 110-104 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder,  Detroit was 17-39, in last place in the Eastern Conference and third worst overall.

But they play better than their record. According to, the Pistons should be 22-34 at this point, based on their offensive and defensive ratings.

Should Detroit be challenging the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets for first place? No. But they certainly play like a fringe contender for the Play-In tournament (Don’t worry Cade Cunningham fans, they won’t be making it.)

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What the Pistons do, is, play hard. That is a tribute to coach Dwane Casey. Even though Detroit has nothing really to play for, they always hustle.

Whether you hope the Pistons have the worst record in the NBA or want them to win as much as possible, no fan questions that every time the team takes the floor, they are attempting to win that game.

What is the difference between the Detroit Pistons tanking and Oklahoma City losing on purpose?

On Friday, was a game between two teams near the bottom of the standings, where a team would be better off with a loss for draft positioning. The Pistons fell behind by 15 points in the first half to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Detroit had literally Zero incentive to win the game. A Thunder victory would provide more space between the teams in the standings, giving the Pistons a better chance at finishing with a worse record.

Detroit also had seven players sitting out. With a game the next day in Washington, some did not play for rest (Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington) while others would have played but were simply hurt (Dennis Smith Jr., Hamiduo Diallo).

And there were veterans who have a minor bump or bruise, and there was no reason to push it (Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph).

The Pistons had a perfect excuse to lose to the Thunder with a decimated lineup. Playing all young kids, Detroit’ lineup looked more like a Grand Rapids Drive (if there was a Drive this year) roster.

So, with 7:31 left in the second quarter, the Thunder held a 46-31 lead and there was no reason to think it would be anything but an easy Oklahoma City.

However, the young, decimated Pistons fought back. By halftime, the game was tied. The Pistons held a 10-point lead with 45 seconds remaining. They did some not smart things at the end (see Clippers game for reference) but pulled out a 110-104 victory.

Oklahoma City now has just three more wins than the Pistons at 20-36.

Why did Detroit win? Because they wanted it more. More to the point, the Thunder did not.

While Detroit has struggled in the win-loss column since the beginning of the season, the Thunder were actually a pretty decent team until a few weeks ago.

Folllowing a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 22, Oklahoma City was 19-24. Playing in the tough Western Conference, that was a pretty good record for a team that had traded guard Chris Paul and center Steven Adams in the off-season.

The Thunder were just 2.5 games behind Memphis for the final spot in the West Play-In Tournament.

Playoff push? No. Push away from making the playoffs is more like it.

That Minnesota game was the last time promising guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31 points vs. T-Wolves) has played. His is listed on the injury report with right foot plantar fasciitis. OKC coach Mark Daigneault said on Friday do not expect him back soon.

Key players like Hamiduo Diallo and George Hill were dealt away.

Starting center Al Horford had been having a resurgent year for Oklahoma City, after a season to forget with the 76ers. He was averaging 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and was a defensive presence.

With two years left in the big-money contract he signed with Philadelphia, Horford was untradeable. So, on March 27, the Thunder announced Horford simply would no longer play the rest of the season.

On January 10, the Thunder beat the Brooklyn Nets. Of their top six players in that game, only Darius Bazley and Lu Dort were in action against the Pistons. Both recently had returned from long absences due to injury. Both are young players who do need to play.

Detroit would love to improve its draft position. But you do not see them sending a healthy Jerami Grant home for the year.

GM Troy Weaver came to the Pistons from OKC but he has not followed suit. He did not rip up the team at the trading deadline. The only move he made was shipping out Delon Wright, who, with the imminent return of Killian Hayes, was really better off somewhere else.

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Detroit is looking more to the draft than the playoffs this year. Most fans understood that but, besides the record, the Pistons have been a fun team to watch.

The Thunder were a pretty decent team (if in the East would undoubetdly been in playoffs) that, in mid-season, decided it would make moves to lose more games (or play the kids as they call it).

There has not been a peep from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about the OKC situation. He was famously all over the 76ers during the Sam Hinkie ‘Process’ years.

If Silver does not care, should we?