Chart shows Detroit Pistons need to get off to quick start

Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons controls the ball ahead of Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons controls the ball ahead of Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons can not get buried early by a tough schedule because things ease up as the NBA season goes along. A recent chart by an NBA analyst shows how tough the road will be.

Pistons fans remember well the start of last season, when it seemed all Detroit played was NBA finals contenders. It seemed like other teams that had losing records did not exist, as they faced a steady diet of Chicago (before injuries), Atlanta (before things went south), Brooklyn (with Durant and Harden), Milwaukee and the 76ers to begin the season.

With Cade Cunningham still scraping the rust after sitting out the entire preseason with a sprained ankle, the Pistons simply were not ready for that level of competition.

Detroit started off with a 1-8 record and then injuries began piling up, and that made matters worse, as the schedule continued to be unrelenting.

Following an extra depressing 94-85 loss to the New York Knicks on December 29 (Alec Burks with 34 points led a Knicks rally), the Pistons record was just 5-28. Detroit’s hopes of making a run at the Play-in tournament had been slight to begin with, but to be buried so deep, so early in the season, was a major downer for fans.

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At that point, with four months to go in the season, Pistons fans had to go back to rooting for losses for more NBA lottery ping pong balls (even though that strategy, except once, never works either).

With the release of the 2022-23 NBA schedule, Detroit is, if anything, even younger and less experienced than last year. Of their 16 players currently rostered, 12 are 24 or under.  As of now, everyone is healthy, which is different than where the team found himself last year (remember those games with Trey Lyles at center?).

An easy early schedule, while the team sorts itself out, would have been helpful, However, that is not happening.

It is not the meatgrinder of last season, no facing an MVP candidate every night, but it will certainly be the toughest part of the schedule.

Ed Kupfer,  who has been an analyst with the Houston Rockets, put together a chart of the toughest strength of schedule for all NBA teams by times of the year..

The first reaction is that the season gets easier for Detroit as it goes along (and they have nothing like the hellscape the 76ers have to end the season. Yikes!)

Kupfer divided the season into four parts: Beginning to Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving to New Years, New Year’s to All-Star break and the All-Star break to the end of the season.

As each segment of the season runs its course, the Pistons schedule gets easier. Following the all-star break, Detroit will actually be favored to have a winning record in that segment.

How tough is the early road for Detroit Pistons?

While there are still games with the Warriors, Lakers, Hawks, Celtics, Clippers and Nuggets that will be extremely, there are a few possibilities for victory as well.

We can’t call them gimmees or easy wins. When you are talking about a team that went 23-59, they are no easy wins, but some matchups should be a ‘W’ if Detroit plays well.

Indiana, Oklahoma City, Utah, Sacramento, Washington and the opener with Orlando are certainly games the Pistons could win. If the Pistons do indeed win the winnable games, and pull off a few upsets, they could survive the tough Pre-Thanksgiving stretch.

As bad as last season was, the Pistons still notched wins over Milwaukee, Miami, Boston and Toronto, so one would hope Detroit can pull off a few upsets early on.

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If Detroit can have a record of, say, 8-12, on Thanksgiving, that would be a very positive sign. As has been pointed out in previous stories, most of the Pistons back-to-backs are completed by January 1.

Part of the reason the back end of the schedule might be easier is the NBA does not want teams that could be more interested in ping pong balls than wins come March and April involved in crucial games involving playoff seeding. So we know where the NBA still considers Detroit (also see by their lack of national TV coverage).

But everyone plays 82 games, and the Pistons do not have to settle for other’s expectations.

With a young roster, and an unsettled playing situation (who  knows what lineup the Pistons will settle on?), it would be nice if Detroit had a lineup of cupcakes to start the year, but that is not reality.

When is a fact, and Kupfer’s chart shows, is that things get easier as the season rolls along.  So Detroit fans should keep that in mind if the team does get off to a slow start. It will get better.

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Kupfer has a lot of interesting other charts on his Twitter account you could check out if really into statistical analysis of the schedule. Here he has Detroit with eighth-toughest schedule.