The Detroit Pistons’ opener against the Washington Wizards should provide some early insight into the progress of their rebuild. With a revamped roster and a new head coach, many league observers believe the Pistons to be the NBA’s most improved team, with the Wizards right on their heels.
The Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks appear to be locks for the Eastern Conference Playoffs, with just about everyone else as a possibility to fill in the final three spots. When healthy last season, the Wizards played very well, and it has driven several analysts to pick the Washington as one of the early favorites to land a trip to the postseason. Analysts have also chosen the Pistons as a favorite to occupy the sixth, seventh or eighth seed in the conference. Washington and Detroit are clearly in the same tier.
Despite several injuries, the Pistons’ first performance of the year should be an indicator of how ready the team is to break their streak of losing seasons. While Brandon Jennings, and possibly Rodney Stuckey, won’t see the floor, Detroit’s three best players, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, will. If the three of them can’t lead the Pistons to a respectable outing against Washington, it should be cause for concern in Motown.
John Wall will probably the best point guard on the court, but the Pistons have depth at the guard positions and will have a huge advantage in the front court. Detroit should own the glass, clog the lane defensively, and put themselves into position for a 1-0 record to start the season. If not, something went wrong.
Consider this: in their lone preseason meeting this year, the Pistons played without Jennings and Stuckey, but still manhandled the Wizards for an entire half as they bulldozed their way to a 65-43 halftime lead. Oh yeah, Smith wasn’t in the lineup that night either, which is even more reason to believe the Pistons should own the paint.
Finally, the game is in Detroit. Teams play with a different sense of pride in front of the home crowd, or at least good teams do. If the players aren’t motivated enough to prove some of their offseason hype in front of their own fans, they have a long, uphill climb ahead of them in this area. (Side note: with a revamped roster and so much positive buzz entering the season, the game should also be a good indicator of how ready the fans are to support this team again. There is no reason the Palace shouldn’t be near capacity.)
The Pistons should give fans a performance that is worthy of the admission price against the Wizards. If they come out flat and play poorly for most of the night, there will be plenty of questions to be answered before a Nov. 1 trip to Memphis. While Detroit is arguably the better team, the Wizards are no pushovers and present a good measuring stick in game one for the Pistons. Even without some key players, Detroit is more than capable of defeating Washington at home.