It is not very often that you get a late-season matchup of teams with under 20 wins that is so meaningful for both teams. As things stand, the Pistons sit at 16 wins and the worst record in the NBA. The Rockets sit at 18 wins and the 2nd worth record in the NBA.
Both teams are locked in with the best odds at the number 1 pick, but the team with the worst record won’t be able to fall as much as the team with the 2nd best odds in the event a couple of teams jump into the top 3. With a generational talent like Victor Wenbanyama at stake, you are about to see some generational tanking out of both of these teams.
Where: Toyota Center in Houston, TX
When: Friday, March 31 at 8 pm EST
Watch: You would expect a matchup this great to be on TNT, but it will just be broadcast locally
Odds: Pistons (+5)
The last time these two teams squared off, the Rockets came out on top 117-114. We were denied the Cade Cunningham-Jalen Green showdown as both Cade and Green were out for that game. We will once again be denied that showdown, as Cade Cunningham is out the rest of the season.
The Rockets are probably the better team, but they have also had their talented building block, Jalen Green, healthy for most of the season while the Pistons have been without Cade Cunningham for most of the season.
Green has been impressive as a scorer, coming into this game leading the Rockets in scoring at 21.9 points per game, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the Rockets from hanging out with the Pistons at the bottom of the standings all season. When he is on, Green is unguardable with his athleticism and ability to score a lot quickly, but the consistency hasn’t quite been there for him. He is still young, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.
The Rockets are a team in need of some veterans and one of the few ones they had, Eric Gordon, was traded to the Clippers at the trade deadline. They did recently sign former Piston, DJ Augustin to bring some veteran leadership.
There is no denying the Rockets have a talented young core. Outside of Green, they have Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr, KJ Martin, and Kevin Porter Jr. But if you are to believe all of the reports out of Houston on team culture and the other inner-workings of the organization, they are badly in need of some more veteran leadership.
Sengun is a very fun player offensively. He might be the best passing center in the NBA outside of Nikola Jokic, at least in terms of craziness of the passes thrown. He has very good footwork in the post and I would not be surprised if James Wiseman gets burned a few times by that footwork.
Jabari Smith Jr. got off to a very slow start, but just like Jaden Ivey, has started to put it together over the last couple months. His calling card coming into the draft was his 3-point shooting, but he is only shooting 31 percent from 3-point range this season. Given his ability to space the floor and play out on the perimeter, I would hope the Pistons would go away from the two big lineup since neither of Marvin Bagley or James Wiseman are able to defend out on the perimeter, but I do not see that happening.
The Pistons will be without most of their veteran players on purpose, while the Rockets will just be fielding the same young rotation they have had all season because they don’t really have that many veterans on the roster to sit out.
Even though both teams have every incentive to lose this game, I don’t expect to see anything crazy that could be viewed as throwing the game. Both teams will just play their young players a lot of minutes and see what happens. If that is the case the Rockets probably come out on top since all of their young players are healthy.
Detroit Pistons (16-60): Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman
Houston Rockets (18-59): Kevin Porter Jr, Jalen Green, KJ Martin, Jabari Smith Jr, Alperen Sengun
Who has the better young core between these two teams when fully healthy?