The NBA’s new Play-In tournament for the playoffs has received a lot of heat lately. Considering that making the play-in would be a realistic goal next year for the Detroit Pistons, would it be a good idea to have it again, or is it just a waste of time?
No one was talking about playoffs and the Detroit Pistons in the same breath this year. While competitive in almost every game, the having more points then the other team part of the game frequently eluded them.
Detroit should have one of the 3 or 4 worst records in the NBA at the end of the 2020-21 season. And most fans are OK with that. They realize this was a retooling (can not say rebuilding) season. Getting some young talent, mixing in with established vets and taking their lumps was what this year was about.
However, next season is a whole different proposition.
Some progress needs to be shown in the win-loss column. Another year of being one of the worst teams in the NBA would be a sign that the young players are not developing, and the veterans are not helping.
We are not saying that, suddenly, the Pistons will be fighting the Brooklyn Nets for best team in the East. That is, most likely, still a couple of years down the road.
However, with the burgeoning talent on display, plus the solid showing of veterans like Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, in addition to what most likely will be a Top 5 draft pick added to the roster, Detroit should move up in the standings next season.
Finishing 10th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference is not some pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic goal to project for the 2021-22 version of the Pistons.
And, as of now, 10th place would get Detroit in the Play-in Tournament for the NBA playoffs.
Would the Detroit Pistons making the Play-in tournament next season be a good or bad idea?
The Play-in tournament is the creation of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. A few years ago, by luck, Denver and Minnesota played for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs in the last game of the regular season.
It created excitement in those respective cities (the rest of the country could not have cared less) and Silver decided some extended races for the last playoff spots could bring more drama to the end of the season.
For a complete rundown on how the Play-in tournament works, you can go here. Basically, the 7th thru 10th place teams in each conference battle among each other for the final two spots in the regular NBA playoffs.
Theoretically, the team that finished seventh in the conference standings could see its season over after two games, while the 10th place team could move on to the conference quarterfinals and a best-of-seven series.
LeBron James, Luka Doncic not happy with Play-in
As one can imagine, the players on teams that could finish seventh are not happy with the set-up.
The Dallas Mavericks are in a tight battle that could leave them seventh in the West. Star Luka Doncic would not be thrilled about being in the Play-in.
LeBron James, whose defending champion Lakers are also flirting with seventh due to a lot of injuries, is equally non-plussed with the idea.
There is nothing that can be done about the Play-in tournament for this season — it is going to happen. However, if a lot of top players (i.e. LeBron) speak out against the concept, it might not return for next year.
(Another factor are the TV networks. If glamour teams like the Lakers or Miami Heat in the East do not make it out of the Play-in, they also could have a problem with it. That would matter)
Whether the Play-in tournament survives could affect the outlook for the Detroit Pistons season.
Common math tells you that it is easier to make the playoffs when there are 10 berths as opposed to eight.
As of the morning of May 4, the Washington Wizards are in 10th place in the East with a record of 30-35. For the record, Detroit is 11 games behind the Wizards, although for most of the season, the Pistons were only about 5-6 games away from 10th.
For a team like the Pistons, with talented young players, now with a year under their belt, plus most likely a standout rookie, some solid returning veterans, plus a borderline All-Star in Grant, there is no reason they can not shoot for the Play-in tournament.
Assuming next year is a full 82-game schedule, the equivalent of the Wizards record would be 37-45 next season.
That would be an excellent benchmark for a team on the rise. Tanking is well and good, but young players need to eventually win to show their hard work is paying off.
Also, any kind of post-season action Detroit could get, even one game, would be beneficial for the youngsters. NBA playoff games are a whole different experience than the regular season, and future key players like Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart could only benefit by being part of it.
If the Play-in is gone, that means only eight make the playoffs in each conference. This year, that would mean battling the likes of Boston and Miami for a spot, A much harder road.
Despite a glorious past, it has been 12 years since the Detroit Pistons have won a single playoff game. Not series, one game.
The Play-in tournament returning next season would be beneficial to a team on the rise like the Detroit Pistons. It gives them a reasonable goal for success, gain valuable playoff experience for the younger players, plus the team would have a legitimate chance of winning a game or so in the post-season.
Will it happen? We will see.