Detroit Pistons’ late-season schedule shows the NBA’s strategy

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) dribbles against Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sportsthe
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) dribbles against Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sportsthe /

The Detroit Pistons will tip-off their regular-season schedule in October against the Orlando Magic, but things just get more difficult from there.

November will be an important month to gauge where the young team is and by then we will also know what the team plans to do with Killian Hayes’ option.

And then we get to December, which will undoubtedly be the cruelest month of the season, as the Pistons will face just two teams the entire month that didn’t at least make the play-in last season.

The league didn’t do the Pistons many favors with this front-loaded schedule, as they will be one of the youngest teams in the league and still trying to find their roles and build chemistry with the offseason additions.

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This is likely by design, as the league tries to match up similar teams down the stretch so that even games between the bad teams will have some meaning.

Detroit Pistons’ regular season schedule shows the NBA’s strategy

If you look at the Pistons’ schedule from February on, you can get a sense of how the NBA is trying to manipulate things so these games have some meaning.

There is nothing worse than watching a tanking team get blown out late in the season by a good one, and there isn’t much reason to watch, as it’s possible neither team will have much at stake and that the game won’t be particularly entertaining.

Of the final 30 games of the season, 16 of them will be against teams that are likely to be near the Detroit Pistons in the standings and either battling it out for the final play-in spot or jockeying for lottery position.

The Pistons will play the Wizards twice and the Hornets three times in that span, two teams that figure to be near that final play-in spot where Detroit hopes to be.

They have multiple games against the Magic (2) and Pacers (3), two teams that could again be battling the Pistons for top odds in the lottery and the chance to draft Victor Wembanyama or one of the other top prospects.

Detroit will also face off with the Rockets and OKC, two more of last year’s cellar dwellers, who are also young teams that could be towards the bottom of their conference again.

There will likely be play-in (hopefully) or lottery (more likely) implications for all of these games, which will keep fans interested even though their teams might be out of it by that point.

It’s a smart strategy by the NBA, but also one that doesn’t help teams like the Pistons, who will have to play the toughest parts of their schedule early in the season when they are still getting to know each other.

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