Pistons 2018-19 Season Win Total: Can Blake Griffin Make Detroit a Contender?
Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) celebrates after scoring a three point basket against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Golden 1 Center.
- The Pick: Over 34.5
- Confidence: 10 out of 10
The case for the over: Detroit is among a gaggle of teams in the East hovering just below .500, and considering that range is about where the No. 8 (and maybe No. 7) seed will finish at in many projections, at first glance, this seems like a pretty tight number.
On first glance, it was a stay-away. The more I looked at it, though, I started to really buy into Detroit going over.
Stan Van Gundy is a good coach, but never really figured it out in Detroit, for a number of reasons. He’s replaced by a separation of management and coaching, with Ed Stefanski running basketball operations and Dwane Casey now running the show. Casey’s playoff flameouts led to his departure in Toronto, but only after five straight seasons finishing at least seven games above .500.
Detroit’s expected win total last year was 41, two games better than its actual finish at 39, which is still above their over/under. The Pistons’ post-All-Star performance is cause for some concern at a .441-win percentage pace, to be sure, but given the instability of the roster and the lack of a general direction, it’s not altogether surprising.
The biggest reason to buy in is their offensive style, though. The Pistons finished 19th in Offensive Rating last season.
However, they were the second-best team league-wide in spot-up points per 100 possessions, and generated the 16th most per game, while playing at the 22nd-ranked pace. Their pick-and-roll numbers were mediocre, but Reggie Jackson, Detroit’s starting point guard, was 83rd percentile in that capacity.
The Raptors under Casey finished top-five in each of the last four seasons in that capacity. To be sure, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had the most to do with that, but it remains a compelling reason to believe in the offense.
Detroit’s floor for this season, even with a reasonable amount of expected injury time for Blake Griffin and Jackson is probably within two to three wins of 38. Their ceiling is considerably higher, making the Pistons one of my stronger picks for the over this year.
The case for the under: The Pistons finished only a game over this total last season. Griffin is never healthy and as a result, he isn’t the same guy he was when he was dunking everyone’s face off in Los Angeles.
How do you build an effective system around an incomplete point guard in Reggie Jackson and a clunky, face-up post player in Griffin?
Is Andre Drummond actually going to care in enough games?
Will Dwane Casey play the shooters he needs to?
Is Stanley Johnson a thing?
Jackson’s injury status (ankle) is a little cloudy. Every minute he’s not on the floor in training camp makes it harder for the Pistons’ offense.
Griffin was still good last year, but the question of his actual impact remains a real one without Chris Paul.
The number is just soft. The worst case for the Pistons looks like a .500 record. The upside looks like 45-46 wins.
Some of this is confidence in Casey. Some of it is their offensive profile.