Could the Detroit Pistons make their long-awaited return to the playoffs next season?
NBA writer Shaun Powell listed four teams who could return to the playoffs in 2024. He didn’t include the Pistons, and as a Pistons fan, I must consider this an oversight.
The Detroit Pistons can make a leap
The Eastern Conference will be competitive again next season. Milwaukee, Boston, and Cleveland should be three of the top teams in the league. We’ve learned time and again to never write off Miami, and Philadelphia still has Joel Embiid. With Quin Snyder at the helm, I expect Atlanta to level off, though I’m interested to see some offensive versatility in his playbook.
New York is often a bit of a conundrum, but they’re building on last year’s core, which proved to be a better team than the Pistons all four times.
I expect Brooklyn to drop from the playoffs. They went 12-15 after the Durant trade and were swept in the playoffs. They’ve got good players on an unbalanced roster anchored by Ben Simmons. That makes it tough to compete.
Toronto and Chicago were the two play-in teams who didn’t make the playoffs. Chicago made no significant changes, and I doubt they’ll improve, but Toronto could be a team to watch. They have interesting trade pieces and solid players on a relatively dynamic roster. They were a surprise playoff team in 2022 and played well with then Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.
Powell chose the Pacers as the team to make the jump. Why? They added a difference-maker in Bruce Brown. Tyrese Haliburton is poised “to cement his place among the best pure point guards in the game,” and Benedict Mathurin is poised to take the next step. The addition of Obi Toppin should add death.
Powell admits a few things need to happen for the Pacers to make the leap, but he believes they’re “best equipped” to do so.
I’ll admit to his points and agree that the Pacers have the pieces to pass Chicago and Brooklyn and compete with New York, Toronto, and possibly Atlanta and Philadelphia, assuming the 76ers take a step back and Atlanta doesn’t take a step forward.
I’d also argue that the Detroit Pistons are in a similar position. With the addition of shooting in Joe Harris, a healthy Cade Cunningham who, along with Jalen Duren, showed impressive skills against the national team, and a new coach, the Pistons are well-equipped to take a step or five.
Not unlike the Pacers, several things need to happen. Several players and the team as a whole need to take steps forward. A few of the teams listed need to take steps backward, as teams do every year. If the cards fall right, we could be watching Pistons basketball in late April.