With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.
After looking at the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls, we're shifting our Central Division focus to the Detroit Pistons.
2017-18 season record
39-43 (9th in the Eastern Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
37.5 wins (No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference)
Dwane Casey (head coach)
Bruce Brown (42nd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)
Jose Calderon (free agency)
Glenn Robinson III (free agency)
Zaza Pachulia (free agency)
Khyri Thomas (trade on draft night, 38th overall pick)
James Ennis (free agency)
Anthony Tolliver (free agency)
3 key storylines
Getting back to the playoffs
After missing the playoffs just two times from 1995 to 2008, the Pistons have only reached the postseason twice in the past 10 seasons. Those two appearances were short-lived, too. Detroit was swept in four games in both 2009 and 2016 by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite being projected to go five games under .500, the Pistons are still expected to fill the eighth seed in the East. With the East as open as it has been in years, the Pistons hope to bounce back from missing the playoffs by four games a year ago.
Welcoming in Dwane Casey
Four seasons ago the Pistons made a commitment to Stan Van Gundy, hiring him as their head coach and president of basketball operations.
After making the playoffs once out of those four seasons, their front office felt it was time to move on.
Enter Dwane Casey, the 2018 Coach of the Year. Casey led the Toronto Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the East last year, winning a franchise-record 59 games. In his seven seasons in Toronto, he helped the Raptors reach the playoffs five times. Failing to reach an NBA Finals, the Raptors felt they needed a change, and the Pistons capitalized on the unemployment of one of the league's best coaches.
Given his past success, Detroit found the right coach to help end their postseason woes.
A full season of Blake Griffin
After winning his first four games in a Pistons jersey, Blake Griffin finished the year just 11-14 in Detroit. Head coach Stan Van Gundy admitted that there "wasn't enough time to alter the offense to the degree necessary to fully exploit Griffin's all-around scoring and playmaking ability."
You can expect Casey to have had the time to figure out how he wants to integrate the five-time All-Star into the team's offensive and defensive schemes.
Along with that, Griffin played less than a handful of games with both Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson last season. By the time Jackson got healthy at the end of the year, there was only a four game stretch before Griffin suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. In those four games, the Pistons went 3-1.
Detroit should be in line to win more games than a season ago as long as their three top players can remain healthy.
5 games to watch
Oct. 23 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid do not particularly care for eachother. It wasn't long ago that Embiid claimed Drummond doesn't play any defense and Drummond responded by commenting on Embiid's inability to stay on the court. The Pistons lost all four matchups against the 76ers last year, so you know Detroit will be gunning for them this year - especially since Philadelphia is considered one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Nov. 14 at Toronto Raptors
This marks Dwane Casey's first return to Toronto. After leading the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 wins and a fifth consecutive playoff appearance, the NBA honoured Casey with the Coach of the Year award last season. The Raptors, however, moved on from Casey following their disappointing postseason run to go in a different direction.
This game will almost certainly be circled on Casey's calendar.
Jan. 12 at Los Angeles Clippers
In their only matchup after the Griffin trade, the Pistons fell to the Clippers by 13 in Detroit. The two teams had already faced off in Los Angeles prior to the trade, so this will be Griffin's first return to the STAPLES Center, the arena he called home for the first seven and a half years of his NBA career.
April 5 at Oklahoma City Thunder
Former teammates Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook have not exactly seen eye-to-eye since Jackson departed from OKC, making this an intriguing point guard matchup.
April 7 vs. Charlotte Hornets
The Pistons are projected to finish 8th in the East with 37.5 wins. The team projected to finish in 9th? The Charlotte Hornets, with 35.5 wins. If things were pan out like Vegas says they are going to, this contest with three games remaining in the regular season could hold high stakes for two teams battling for the final playoff spot.