Are the Detroit Pistons close or a million miles from the playoffs?

Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons
Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

The Detroit Pistons failed to make the playoffs and they weren’t even close, finishing 22 games below the final play-in spot and 33 games behind the 6th-seeded Pacers. 

Watching the playoffs has been a disparate experience for Pistons fans, as some watch these quality teams and realize that the Pistons are a million miles away from being one of them, while others see Detroit as just a few moves away, a team on the verge of being back in the playoffs. 

Here are two common posts I’ve seen about the Detroit Pistons since the NBA playoffs started: 

These two opposing viewpoints represent Hope vs. Reality for the Pistons, but which one is closer to being correct? After this season, it’s difficult not to side with the pessimists. 

The Detroit Pistons are close to being a playoff team 

Fans who hold this view are likely the minority in the Pistons’ fan base, which is as down as I’ve ever seen it, so bad that I’ve seen fans from other teams defending the Pistons against their own fans on social media. 

But there is recent evidence that it can happen. The Houston Rockets didn’t make the playoffs this season, but they made a big leap from the bottom of the standings to 41 wins in just one offseason. They were in a similar position as Detroit last year, with fans questioning their young talent and whether they had drafted the right guys. Then Houston signed a couple of impact veteran free agents and became competitive overnight. 

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The same could happen for the Pistons, who have cap space to sign free agents this summer and could also make a big trade to augment their roster. The new president of basketball ops will be eager to make a good impression and there is no way Tom Gores wants to endure another season where fans are chanting “Sell the team!” during games. 

The Pistons landed two potential rotation pieces in Simone Fontecchio and Quentin Grimes late in the season and have the money and assets to fill the rest of their roster with impact talent. If that happens, the Pistons could certainly make a leap into playoff contention next season, but this is a line of thinking we’ve heard before. 

The Detroit Pistons aren’t close to being a playoff team 

As it stands, I tend to side with this point of view, as I don’t see any evidence that the Pistons are getting better, and unless they clean house, have little faith that the same people who were unable to turn last off-season's top-five pick and cap space into a winning roster, will suddenly figure it out this time around. 

Detroit has one potential All-Star right now in Cade Cunningham. They have nice prospects in Ausar Thompson and Jalen Duren. But past that, you’ll find nothing but question marks, as the Pistons don’t have anyone who looks like the second-best player on a good team and most of them look more like borderline starters or even borderline NBA players. 

We are in late April, and they don’t have a decision-maker with less than a month to go before the NBA Draft Lottery, which means this person may have to make a bunch of front office and coaching hires while simultaneously juggling the draft and free agency. This doesn’t sound like the beginning of a coherent offseason with the necessary focus.

They need a lot, have little time to get it and more importantly, may not have assets that matter to the process.

I’d love to see the Pistons have a successful offseason that leads to them being competitive next season, but it’s hard to see the plan at this point and we don’t even know who will be the one drawing it up.