The Detroit Pistons finished last season with a 41-41 mark, good enough for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The campaign ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Pistons made the playoffs for just the second time in 10 years and have reason to believe they can return again this year.
We'll find out soon enough how Detroit will fare, but until then, here's a look at the Pistons' 2019-20 schedule, the latest championship odds, top matchups to watch and a season-record prediction.
Season Opener: Oct. 23 at Indiana Pacers
Championship Odds: 250-1 (via Caesars)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Atlanta Hawks: (First Home Game: Oct. 24)
There's reason to believe the seven teams who made the Eastern Conference playoffs outside the Pistons will make the postseason yet again, and all of them are listed with four or more wins than Detroit in the FanDuel and DraftKings sportsbooks (h/t The Action Network).
The bigger question is whether a team sneaks up behind Detroit and takes a playoff spot.
The Atlanta Hawks are the likeliest candidate with near-Rookie of the Year Trae Young and fantastic power forward John Collins running the show.
Young posted 19.1 points and 8.1 assists last season after some first-half struggles. From Jan. 26 onward, the ex-Oklahoma Sooner averaged 23.6 points and 9.1 dimes per night.
He could average those figures over the course of a season, which should help the 29-53 Hawks creep up the standings.
As for Collins, these stats from Mike Gallagher of Rotoworld should do the talking:
Michael Gallagher @MikeSGallagher
In the last 30 games Trae Young played next to John Collins, Trae put up per-36 stats of 26.0 points, 5.2 boards, 10.1 dimes, 1.2 steals & 2.7 3s on a 45/36/86 shooting line (778 min) Collins with Trae in that time per 36: 23.4 points, 10.6 boards, 1.9 dimes, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 3s.
The bottom line is the Young-Collins combo could be a force to be reckoned with for a decade-plus, and the Hawks may be ready for a big-time leap next season. The Pistons should take note.
Milwaukee Bucks: (First Home Game: Dec. 4)
Every game against the Bucks may be must-see television after NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led the team to a league-best 60-22 record last season.
At 24 years old, Antetokounmpo dominated to the tune of a career-high 27.7 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game last year.
Antetokounmpo told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk that he felt he was at 60 percent of his potential during his MVP season. That almost seems impossible given how well Antetokounmpo performed last year, but it's hard to doubt him after a sensational start to his career.
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks could rule the league for another decade, which is why every game Detroit plays against them will be of added importance. A win against them would be a massive confidence boost for the team, especially after suffering a postseason sweep last year.
Power forward Blake Griffin arguably had his best season as a pro after averaging a team-high 24.5 points and 5.4 assists, and Andre Drummond also led the league in rebounding for the third time in four seasons. Furthermore, 2017 first-round draft pick Luke Kennard ended the season strong by averaging 15.0 points per game in the playoffs.
That trio will be back in the mix this season fighting for a playoff berth, which may be hard to come by. According to the Action Network, the Pistons are listed with a 34.5-win total at the DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks.
That may be a tad pessimistic given that this is more or less the same roster that went 41-41 last year, although the team didn't do too much to improve the rotation this offseason with Detroit not having the salary-cap space to add big-name free agents.
Look for a season hovering around the .500 mark yet again.
Record Prediction: 40-42