Detroit Pistons are winning, but how much is too much?

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have won two in a row, and could have been victorious in a couple other recent games. Is there is such a thing as too much winning, as it could damage the club’s chances for a high draft pick.

This is not high school or college, where developing character and life skills are baked into the athletic experience. The NBA is for professionals and the main objective is simple: Win.

However, in the pursuit of victory, it sometimes takes some losing to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a championship contender.

For years, the Pistons pursued trying to win as much as they could every year. Simply making the playoffs was a goal, even if  only meant getting in as a No. 8 seed, and getting whacked in the first round.

But things are different now in the Detroit front office. While general manager Troy Weaver is not a strict adherent to former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie’s ‘Process’ , where you lose on purpose for years to acquire assets, he is not mortgaging the future in pursuit of making the Play-in tournament either.

light. Related Story. Is Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver the new Sam Hinkie?

Detroit was not suppose to be that bad last season, with Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose coming back, the signing of free agents Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, plus the promise of No. 7 overall draft pick Killian Hayes. Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks were not shaking in their boots about facing them, but the Pistons seemed to be a contender for at least the play-in.

However, as the season went off the rails, Rose and Griffin left and the team focused more on developing its younger players (Plumlee was listed as being OUT of games due to ‘rest’ for 10 of the last 11 games of the season).

Detroit finished with the second-worst record in the NBA. In the revised (due to Hinkie) draft lottery, the bottom three teams had the exact same number of ping pong balls. For once (literally first time), Detroit got lucky and got the No. 1 pick for the first time in 51 years.

This year, the season went off the rails from the start. As of January 5, the Pistons were 10 games out of the last berth in the Play-in tournament. Post-season dreams are just that right now, dreams.

But Detroit has gotten back on the win train lately, taking two in a row and almost getting a third against the Knicks. That leaves them currently tied in the win column with Orlando for last place (the Magic have three more losses so they, percentage-wise, have the lousier record).

In the NBA standings, here are the current bottom 5 (as of 1/05)

30. Orlando Magic: 7-31

29. Detroit Pistons: 7-28

28. Houston Rockets 10-28

27. New Orleans Pelicans: 13-25

26. Oklahoma CIty Thunder 13-23

Remember there is no difference in terms of odds of getting the No. 1 pick between last and second-to-last. A team just needs to be in the bottom three of season records.

So Detroit can finish higher than Orlando, and even reel in and pass the Jalen Green-led Houston Rockets (which would be fun), and still have maximum odds in the lottery.

Now, if Detroit gets on a major tear, they could all of sudden be looking right at New Orleans and Oklahoma City in the standings. That would be bad for Pistons fans hoping for Paulo Banchero, Jason Ivey or Chet Holmgren to join them next season.

Related Story. If Chet Holmgren comes to Detroit, ‘Beef Stew’ needs a new position. light

But would it really be bad for Detroit? Is stringing a bunch of victories together really a bad thing.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Even if Detroit finishes with the 4th, 5th or even 6th worst record, they still would have a good chance at a high pick. Not the very best, but still a good chance. The sixth-worst record has the highest odds of getting the seventh pick, while the second-worst (where the Pistons are now) have the best chance at the No. 5 selection. Not a massive difference.
  • The 2022 NBA Draft is not considered to be deep. After the top three or four players, the talent drops off. To get a major impact player, the Pistons need to get really high in the draft.
  • The Pelicans do not want to finish at the bottom of the standings. Zion would not like that, and making the injured Zion happy is the most important thing in New Orleans. Zion Williamson is expected to make his season debut at some point, and when that happens, they should get a bunch more wins.

Way too early 2022 NBA Mock Draft: Pistons fall to 3rd. dark. Next

The Pistons are six games behind the Thunder, who would be the only real threat to falling into the bottom three. That is a lot of ground to make up but not impossible.

But would it be a positive for Detroit to win so much, they could pass OKC. The players would like it, they don’t care about draft position, and it gives them a boost of confidence. But is is good for the Pistons long-term?. That is open to debate.