The NBA champion Toronto Raptors won’t be the same after Kawhi Leonard left for the Los Angeles Clippers. But other than that, the balance of power in the Eastern Conference hasn’t shifted following a flurry of free-agent activity and trades this off-season.
Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana. Philadelphia lost Jimmy Butler to Miami but acquired Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Boston lost Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn and Horford but signed Kemba Walker from Charlotte and added Enes Kanter. The Nets, who lost D’Angelo Russell (Golden State), also signed Kevin Durant but don’t figure to join the conference’s top tier until 2020-21, when the former MVP returns from ACL surgery.
Where does leave the Detroit Pistons? Competing with Miami and Orlando for one of the final two playoff spots behind Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, Indiana, Toronto and Brooklyn. That seems to be the consensus by national media.
The Pistons reportedly were in on Russell Westbrook (traded from Oklahoma City to Houston for Chris Paul), but will head into the season with the same core (Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson). But they are a deeper team with the acquisitions of guards Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier, wing Tony Snell and bigs Markieff Morris and Christian Wood, in addition to drafting 6-9 forward Sekou Doumbouya at No. 15.
Despite the moves, many are projecting the Pistons won’t do much better than last season, when they were 41-41 and the eighth seed. Some believe they will slip a little.
Here is a look at where some see the Pistons in their Eastern Conference power rankings:
NBA.com: No. 9
“The Pistons have a relatively low ceiling unless they can shake things up before Reggie Jackson’s contract comes off the books next summer … or more than one of their young wings — Bruce Brown, Sekou Doumbouya, Luke Kennard, Svi Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas (all 23 years old or younger) — exceed expectations. Kennard did have a couple of nice offensive games in the playoffs, Brown had an encouraging Summer League stint, and maybe the young legs (along with a pretty good defense) can get some easy buckets in transition. That, along with Rose and Morris coming off the bench, could take some of the burden off of Blake Griffin. But you have to wonder if Griffin himself can come back from knee surgery and play 75 games again.”
ESPN.com: No. 8
“Despite being strapped for cap room, the Pistons added two proven guards to their roster in free agency: Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris (he’s actually a power forward). The No. 8-seeded Pistons were swept in the 2019 playoffs largely because the No. 1-seeded Bucks’ depth allowed for their starters to stay fresh. The Pistons, on the other hand, struggled to put out a seven-man rotation. In the playoffs, head coach Dwane Casey relied on heavy minutes from Andre Drummond and the injured Blake Griffin. Morris is another big body who will help ease the load of Griffin and Drummond, and Rose has the talent and experience to lead Detroit’s second unit. If Griffin can stay healthy, the Pistons have a strong chance of making another playoff push.”
Bleacher Report: No. 9
“Luka Doncic, Draymond Green, James Harden and Jason Kidd are the only players in NBA history who had individual campaigns in which they matched or exceeded Blake Griffin’s 2018-19 rebounding percentage, assist percentage and three-point attempt rate. Sort that list by height, and Griffin has an advantage of at least three inches on everyone. On a roster so challenged for shooting everywhere else, Griffin will have to stay healthy and be about as brilliant to get Detroit back to the postseason.”
CBSSports.com: No. 8
“The Pistons are fine. They’re fine! I have very few bad things to say about the Pistons; I have very few good things to say about the Pistons. They’ll contend for the eight-seed in the East. If they make the playoffs, they’ll get smoked in the first round. This is all I have to say about the Pistons.”
NBC Sports: No. 9
“This is a nice team led by Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but it’s hard to see their perimeter players taking them forward much. Reggie Jackson is who he is at this point, although I like the pickup of Derrick Rose behind him as a backup. Maybe Luke Kennard can take another step forward. This is a nice team, one that will battle for a playoff spot in the East, but little more.”
BusinessInsider.com: No. 8
“The Pistons’ off-season moves, after just making the playoffs last year, are confounding, as they added more size and little shooting to a roster already including Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. If Griffin plays at an All-NBA level again next season, they could remain in the playoff hunt.”
The Score: No. 9
“Detroit didn’t stand a chance against the Bucks, especially with a hobbled Blake Griffin. Derrick Rose will provide some much-needed punch off the bench and ease Griffin’s offensive load when they share the court.”
USA Today: No. 8
“They still have enough to make the playoffs.”