The Detroit Pistons and Their Playoff Potential

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2009

Even though the Pistons are in second place in the Central Division, they are 17 games behind Cleveland.  This season is really one for the future of the franchise. 

The presence of Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson on the team is more for their expiring contracts than for their play on the court.  The strategy makes sense as one of the greatest free agent periods in NBA history is around the corner.

However, that strategy has no bearing on the current state of the team.  The floor leadership is gone due to the trading of team captain Chauncey Billups for Iverson, who now comes off the bench. 

It's not that the Pistons don't have the talent to make some noise, it's that the team has been frankly out of focus all season.  Sure, there were games when they beat the Lakers or Celtics, yet they would then lose to lesser teams like the Hawks and Thunder. 

Last year's playoff run was hampered by Billups' hamstring injury, which limited his presence on the floor. 

There was also Wallace's decision to invade the Sixers' huddle to joke with them. Also in the Eastern Conference Finals, he would make a point to approach Kevin Garnett after games to applaud him.

Essentially, Wallace acted like he really didn't care to be there which is sad, because they had a chance to defeat Boston in the conference finals and blew it.

This season, Wallace did change his number back to No. 30, however his play has still been suspect.  Just in height alone, he is a big man, however he is more inclined to hit from three point land even though they have enough players to do this. They happen to be called guards, whereas he is assumed to be a power forward.

If it wasn't for league intervention, he would have had to recently sit out a game due to his technical fouls.  Regardless, he is still the Pistons' best player...when he wants to be. 

Rip Hamilton has had a tough year.  He signed an extension only a few days before his friend Billups was traded.  Rip and Iverson have shared the role of the starting shooting guard, and both have been hampered by injuries. Recently though, the starting job has been given back to Rip as Iverson's back has flared up.

Rodney Stuckey, who seems to be placed in the role of replacing Billups at the point, has talent, but his lack of experience in such a major role has left him prone to being exploited. 

If Stuckey gets rattled by a more experienced guard in the playoffs, he will crumble and the Pistons will be in trouble.

Tayshaun Prince has not been the same as in recent years.  He is still a quality defender but his scoring has not been great.  Antonio McDyess returning to the team in the wake of the Iverson trade was supposed to spark the team, but they still play flat. 

Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiel, Aaron Aflalo and Amir Johnson have been quiet as well in their roles.  Walter Herrmann, on the other hand, has been used more this season and it has paid off in both play and giving the fans someone to cheer even in bad games.

The early favorite for the Pistons to face is the Orlando Magic.  It is a good match-up, as the Pistons have been quite successful in games against them in both the regular season and the playoffs. 

But the X-factor is Rasheed Wallace.  He has to be focused on the game and not on joking with the other team.   If Wallace curtails this lack of interest in the games, Dwight Howard and the Magic will be going to the second round.  

However, if the Pistons keep playing as lousy as they are, they could see themselves reach the lower seeds and have to face the Celtics or Cavaliers in the first round.  Either one of these two match-ups could be a nightmare for the Pistons.

Truthfully neither team is perfect.  The Cavs live and die by LeBron James, even more so than the Bulls in the '90s were with Jordan. 

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have most of their team from last year's No. 17 banner year.  However, Kevin Garnett has not been as dominant as before.

The addition of Stephan Marbury could either be a steal or a non-factor once the playoffs start.  Still, the advantage would be in the Cavs' or Celtics' favor.

The Pistons have only one thing to focus on as the playoffs get closer.  They have to care when they get out on the court.  They have to come together as a team.

However, it is difficult when two major players are essentially lame ducks, their team leader was traded, and their head coach is in his first year in the role. 

Also, their horrendous play could still lead them to miss the playoffs which makes them eligible for a lottery pick in the draft. 

But the Pistons do not present themselves as a team really wanting to tank the season.  Therefore, this is the time for the Pistons to come together for one more run.

Miracles can happen.