Addition by subtraction is an overused phrase in the sports world but sometimes it holds true. The Pistons were struggling during the first two months of the season, and the team decided that a change was necessary. Josh Smith signed a four-year, $54MM contract with the Pistons during the 2013 offseason but after playing just 105 games with the team, Detroit waived him.
At 5-23, the 2014/15 season seemed to be a good opportunity for Detroit to tank and end up with a valuable pick in the 2015 draft. However, the team responded by winning four straight games and its unified play has drawn comparisons to the Raptors of last season. Toronto traded Rudy Gay midseason and earned the third seed in the Eastern Conference with stellar play in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign. It’s early but the Pistons are only four games behind the Heat for the eighth seed and only four teams in the Eastern Conference have longer win streaks than Detroit’s current four game streak.
There remains a lot of uncertainty with this team. Although starting point guard Brandon Jennings has emerged as a leader since Smith’s departure, the 25-year-old is reportedly on the trade block. There have been rumors of Greg Monroe being dealt since he signed his qualifying offer, but the fifth-year forward would have to approve any trade since he essentially has a de-facto no-trade clause in his contract. After the shocking release of Smith, it’s clear that Stan Van Gundy isn’t shy about moving on from players whom he inherited from the previous regime.
Still, the Eastern Conference isn’t strong beyond its top five teams and to earn a lower seed, teams will most likely not even need a record above .500. The Pistons have the talent to compete with any contender for the eighth seed and 35 of their 49 remaining games are against Eastern Conference foes. Will Detroit keep up its current play and reach the postseason this year?