Detroit Pistons need to follow this playoff blueprint

Oct 21, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives to the net
Oct 21, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives to the net / Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

As I fan of the Detroit Pistons, I never thought I’d be writing this, but I am jealous of the New York Knicks. 

The Knicks, who are up 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia, are a tough, gritty team that plays hard and is fun to watch, the exact type of team I was hoping the Pistons would be this season. 

The Knicks are led by star guard Jalen Brunson and a bunch of players who know their roles, do their jobs well and feed off each other, proving that fit can matter as much as overall level of talent. 

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It’s a blueprint the Pistons can imitate if they do it right, starting this offseason. 

Find your leader 

The fate of the Knicks changed when they acquired Jalen Brunson, who has blossomed into an All-Star and stepped up as the leader since coming to New York. The Knicks’ offense revolves around Brunson, who has a 32.5 percent usage rate, one of the highest in the NBA. 

Brunson likes to penetrate for mid-range shots and has a bag around the rim. He also shot over 40 percent from 3-point range on 6.8 attempts per game, putting together a monster season and leading the Knicks to the #2 seed. 

He’s not there yet, but Cade Cunningham can be this type of player for Detroit. He also likes to control the game from the middle, finding gaps to exploit in the defense and either getting his own look or setting up teammates, much like Brunson. 

But Cade needs to be more efficient everywhere, especially from 3-point range and around the rim, areas where Brunson excelled. But Cade was better in the mid-range, so if he makes strides in those two areas, he can get to Brunson’s level. 

Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. 

Get rim protectors 

The Pistons were actually ahead of the Knicks in blocks per game, but that’s largely due to Ausar Thompson and the guards. Isaiah Stewart is not terrible around the rim, but other than that, the Pistons don’t have a real rim protector. 

The Knicks would have had more blocks per game had Mitchell Robinson played all season, but with him and Isaiah Hartenstein, they have guys who can block and affect shots around the rim. 

Even if it means trading Jalen Duren, the Pistons have to add a big who can block shots. Free agent Nic Claxton could be an option, especially if they find a way to trade Duren for a wing. 

Find your 3-and-D role players 

The Knicks have very good role players in Josh Hart, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo and Miles McBride who all know their jobs and do them well. 

These are all versatile defensive players who can knock down a 3-point shot, the perfect complements to a player like Jalen Brunson or Cade Cunningham 

The Pistons look to have a DiVincenzo-like player in Simone Fontecchio, and could have another 3-and-D wing in Quentin Grimes if he is healthy next season, but other than that, they are painfully thin on quality NBA role players, which is one of the reasons they’ve been so terrible for four seasons. 

This is where Troy Weaver has failed, as he’s never given Cade Cunningham legit NBA players, but just kept piling on more young guys, draft busts and veterans who were well past their prime. 

If you added the four Knicks listed above to the Pistons, they are a playoff team, it’s that simple. So, the job for whoever is in charge this offseason is to find players in this mold, guys who play hard on defense, hustle, know their roles and can knock down a 3-point shot. 

The Pistons seem a million miles from being a playoff team, but with the right additions they can follow the path the Knicks have taken, which is to build a real team with complementary players.