The Detroit Pistons playing well feels good.
They’re still learning to win, but their work is paying dividends. They’ve won five of their past seven games and, coming off a weekend of rest, welcome the Atlanta Hawks to LCA looking to keep the good times rolling.
Now, some may see tangible improvement as being the most important part of the final stretch of games this season. Beating Atlanta tonight would be another step in that direction.
However, others would say wins are good but slow down a little bit. This team isn’t close to being a playoff contender yet, and another top draft pick this year would go a long way toward getting them there.
We’ve reached the point in the season where wins and losses are starting to really matter.
What the organization values there is something we’ll learn more about over the final 18 games — starting tonight.
Where: Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI
When: Monday, March 7, 2022 at 7:00 pm EST
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +7.5
What a disappointing season the Hawks have had.
After a magical run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Hawks got the band back together and have promptly underperformed from opening night on. This isn’t like the New York Knicks, who were good with smoke and mirrors last year, the Hawks actually looked good throughout last season!
But they have been terribly mediocre this year.
Trea Young is still having an elite season, putting up 28 points, 9.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds on career-high 38.2% shooting from downtown. Young reminds me a bit of Cade Cunningham in that he also started his rookie year slowly before picking up steam.
His shooting numbers — good at Oklahoma — slumped during his NBA debut, but he still found ways to fill up the stat sheet despite a lackluster supporting cast. The only three guys that were any good still remain from that Hawks team — Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter — and that is kind of how I see the Pistons’ rebuild playing out.
It’s not impossible for Cade to break out in a big way like Young did as a sophomore.
But, again, the perils of experiencing success quickly in a rebuild is that you can lose sight of the future in hopes of chasing current success. The Hawks should be a lot better than they are right now. Collins is a really good scorer, Young is obviously great, Onyeka Okongwu and De’Andre Hunter are productive as hell when healthy, and the duo of Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanović is a really solid pair of guards.
But they just haven’t clicked for whatever reason, and this is the group they’re married to.
Troy Weaver should learn from Hawks GM Travis Schlenk here. Love the players you have, but know that (almost) everyone is tradeable. Atlanta actually began rebuilding in 2017-18, oscillating between 20 and 29 wins over the next three seasons before breaking out with a 41-31 season in 2020-21.
It took two seasons once Young was in the mix to build a playoff team. That’s a realistic timeline for the Pistons, too. From there, the Pistons must avoid what the Hawks have done, falling in love with the present over building for the future.
Atlanta Hawks (31-32): Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Danilo Gallinari, Clint Capela
Detroit Pistons (17-47): Cory Joseph, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
What do you think the Pistons’ record will be over the final 18 games of the season?