This Pistons' season has been unlike any we have seen in the past decade. Rarely have we seen this much inconsistency in a season.
Lately, however, the Pistons that we have grown to know and love have peeked around the corner. It looks like they are ready to turn that corner and sprint toward the finish line.
While this team is not the traditional powerhouse they once were, they can still be very dangerous come May.
Let's take a look at some strengths, weaknesses, and matchups that could be favorable or cause problems.
Experience — Whether people think this is overrated or not, playoff experience is not something this team is lacking. Most of the players on this team have been through several intense playoff games, and that can only help their mental toughness.
Continuity — While there are some new faces on this squad, most of the team has been together for quite some time now. Their continuity, at least the first half of the season, was in question. Now that the main pieces are back in their normal places, they are playing with more fluidity and continuity and come playoff time that could be more important than anything.
Defense — Detroit, dating back to the late 80s, has always hung their hat on the defensive side of the floor. While this particular team is not going to set any defensive records, they still have the ability to dominate a game defensively for an extended period of time. Defense is mostly desire and effort, and when this team buckles down and gives 100 percent, they can be dominant.
Bench — There are few teams in the NBA that can go 12 deep with confidence, and the Pistons are one of them. Being able to bring in high energy guys like Afflalo, Maxiell, and Amir Johnson allows for a different tempo. The starters can set a tone, and the bench can come in and take it to another level.
Perimeter shooting —What this team, and several Piston teams before them are susceptible to is extended shooting droughts. The inability, or unwillingness, of their big men to utilize their post game can cause these droughts to be detrimental to the outcome of the game.
Allen Iverson — While one of the strengths of this team is continuity, that was only accomplished with AI out of the lineup. No one can argue that Iverson is talented beyond belief and is doing his best to fit into the the system, but it is just not working yet. When Iverson is in the game, he is at his best when he is dominating the ball. The Pistons are best when they have great ball movement and can find an open shot for someone. The styles are too contrasting to be successful in a playoff series, regardless of the opponent.
X-Factor Walter Hermann — He is the one guy who can bring a spark offensively from off the bench. He can take over a game for a short stretch with his outside shooting and crazy one-handed shots. He causes matchup problems for opposing defenses and could prove to be very valuable in the playoffs.
Ideal First Round Matchup
Orlando — Anyone that has paid attention to either team this year has noticed that the Pistons own the Magic. If the season sweep this year was not enough, we can go back to when Tracy McGrady played for Orlando and made his absurd "it's great to finally be in the second round" statement when they were up 3-1. Oh yeah, Detroit won three straight and bounced Orlando from the playoffs in convincing fashion.
Much like how Jordan couldn't get passed the Pistons 20 years ago, Orlando just can't beat Detroit. Certain teams just don't matchup well against others, and this is the case here.
Scariest First Round Match-up
Boston — While I doubt that Detroit will fall to a seven or eight seed, it is a possibility that Orlando could move up and steal the second seed from Boston. If the Pistons have to play Boston in the first round, it could be the longest offseason Detroit has seen in some time.
There are three reasons why Boston scares the Pistons:
—They are the defending champs, and they don't want to relinquish their crown without a fight.
—They pound the offensive glass and frustrate Rip Hamilton on the defensive end.
—They have guys, Big Baby Davis and Brian Scalabrine to name a few, who play out of their minds against the Pistons, for some reason.
The Celtics force teams to change the way they play because they are so intense on defense and every possession is a battle. I don't think the Pistons have the focus and toughness this year to overcome this. Maybe it is because of a first-year coach, or maybe they have just lost their "mojo".
These next three months will be very interesting. How will Allen Iverson deal with coming off the bench when he gets back? Will Michael Curry discover a way to get everyone on the same page? Will Rodney Stuckey take the next step and become the leader on the floor?
I am looking forward to finding out the answer to all of these questions.