In early October, Dr. Berri ran the numbers and projected that the Pistons might be able to reach 40 wins – if everything goes perfectly. His analysis was grounded in the possibility that players who underperformed in 09-10 might see a return to 08-09 form in 10-11 (got it?).
I’ve decided to run the numbers myself and try to project improvements, declines, and minutes played. Here’s my best-case scenario based on that analysis.
Given the current roster and injury situation, the best-case scenario I can realistically create places us below .500. While this might prove to be good enough for a Playoff berth out East (unlikely, but possible), this roster appears to be bumping its head on a 40-win season. While that’s not as good as I’d hope for, at least we’re not the Wizards.
I recognize that some of my minute allocations are arbitrary; however, I can’t see any way around that. For example, Will Bynum will probably play a bit more than I project here, but whose minutes will he take, and who will play out of position as a result? I’m not sure I know the answer to those questions. I also realize that our coaching staff appears to have an unexplainable affinity for small ball, which places players out of position and ultimately costs the team wins (Tayshaun at PF anyone?). But again, it’s difficult to predict when and how often that will happen. So instead, I’ve opted for more traditional lineups with corresponding minute allocations.
Minute distribution aside, there are a few caveats worth exploring.
Rodney Stuckey: The table above assumes that what we’ve seen from Stuckey in the preseason and the first 3 regular season games is an actual, permanent improvement. This might be wishful thinking on my part, but subjectively speaking, Rodney has looked better this year than he has at any other point in his career thus far. If he’s turned the proverbial corner, he may yet become an above-average win producer for the Pistons.
Austin Daye: In limited minutes last season and big minutes this pre-season, Daye showed promise at both SG and SF. This year, however, he has been named the starter at PF. And unfortunately for both his development and Pistons fans, Austin doesn’t appear to be cutout for that position. He’s simply not strong enough to be a good rebounder at PF despite his height, and as a result, he fares poorly at that position. I still like his game and think he has a chance to become a quality player, assuming the Pistons find minutes for him in the right place.
Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva: Last season’s debut for these two new acquisitions couldn’t have been much worse. Both battled injuries, both saw inconsistent minutes, and both produced some of the worst numbers in their respective careers. While I don’t anticipate that either will become stellar win producers for the Pistons this season, I think it’s likely that they both improve over last year – and just maybe both are primed for career seasons.
Jonas Jerebko: Jonas was a wonderful surprise last season; however, he tore his Achilles tendon in the first pre-season game and is likely to be at least 6 months away from returning. While it’s possible he may return this season, I opted to leave him out of the rotation for the sake of simplicity – because even if he does return, his overall impact on team wins will be negligible given the small number of available minutes he could play.
Injuries: Last season, injuries hurt the Pistons. In August, Dr. Berri and I argued that the Pistons weren’t necessarily decimated by injuries, but there was no doubt a healthy team would have been better than last year’s 27 wins suggested. The table above assumes very good health, something the Pistons enjoyed for the better part of the last decade.
But what if everything doesn’t go perfectly? What if the injury bug bites again? What if the Benaissance begins to wane? What if Stuckey has already reached his ceiling? What if Ben and Charlie aren’t good fits for Detroit?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the answer. The Pistons returned essentially the same roster from last season. If no one improves dramatically, and if injuries strike again, a repeat performance seems likely.
However, there are three caveats worth exploring on the pessimistic side of things.
Austin Daye: If Prince and McGrady are both injured simultaneously, Austin Daye might see minutes at SF and PF, which may serve to boost his overall production, albeit minimally.
Tracy McGrady: I fear that his impact will be minimal. He looks out of shape, and he’s shooting a miserable percentage thus far. It wasn’t a bad gamble by Dumars – there really wasn’t anything to lose – but I don’t expect big dividends.
Greg Monroe: Monroe has been touted as a player who was drafted because of his ability to make an immediate impact. However, that certainly wasn’t the case this preseason; his numbers were awful. Unfortunately, his college numbers weren’t that much better. I defer to Gabe, fellow Wins Produced and Pistons fan, who wrote an excellent post on Greg Monroe at Detroit Bad Boys before the Pistons even drafted him. In short, I expect Monroe to get minutes, but I don’t expect much impact – at least not this season.
Final Projection: As with every season, there are plenty of unknowns that make forecasting difficult. I think the Pistons face three in particular.
- Can our productive veterans (Big Ben and Tay) stay healthy and productive?
- Can some of our new pieces (McGrady, Gordon, Charlie V) return to form?
- Can even even one of our young players (Daye and Stuckey) take a significant step forward?
I hope the answer to all three questions is, “Yes.” If it is, then we can at least expect to compete game in and game out – and that will be a significant improvement. But I’m not sure how likely all three of those things are, and even if they are, the Pistons still aren’t very good. Realistically, I think we can expect some degree of “yes” and some degree of “no” for all three questions, and as a result, I think we can expect a season somewhere between my two projections, approaching as many (or as few, depending on how look at it) 34 wins.