By Ashley Scoby
No one can quite figure out the Pistons this year.READ MORE: Rolling Stone Magazine Named ‘Respect’ #1 Song Of All Time
They’ve had some great wins (beating the Warriors, executing a 35-point turnaround to beat the Trail Blazers). They’ve had some head-scratching losses (like against the Kings and Nets).
And after spending the majority of the season above .500, Detroit skids into the All-Star break this weekend at exactly that mark (27-27). They’re half a game below the red line, and would miss the playoffs if the season ended today.
The good news is the All-Star break came at a perfect time for the ailing Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a core muscle strain that will be re-evaluated after the break, illness struck Reggie Jackson and Ersan Ilyasova this week, and the Pistons dressed only nine players in their last game against the Nuggets. Rest is a major key if they hope to make a playoff push.
Once the second half of the season begins, next Friday at Washington, Detroit will have their chancec to make moves up the standings and get back into playoff contention.
At the All-Star break, ESPN’s advanced statistics site FiveThirtyEight gave the Pistons a 53 percent chance to make the postseason. The site also simulated the rest of the season, and predicted Detroit would finish 41-41, with a plus-0.5 point/game differential over the second half.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You See Another Relief Payment Soon?
In other words, the Pistons are about as close to average as statistically possible, and anything could happen. The team could just as easily rip off a winning streak against some quality teams as it is to fall off the wagon and slip down the standings.
The Pistons will play nine teams with winning records over the rest of the season. Four of those – the Hawks, Mavericks, Heat and Cavaliers – will be two-time opponents down the stretch.
Against second-half opponents they already played in the first half, the Pistons went 14-14 – another statistic that can’t decide if Detroit is actually above or below average.
Chances to differentiate itself from a steady .500 output will be there. The 27-27 Pistons will play the two teams directly ahead of them in the standings (Chicago and Charlotte) a total of three times. To a certain extent, they also can control how much they can hold off the team directly behind them in the standings – they’ll play the Wizards twice during the second half.
The total record of the Pistons’ second-half opponents is 483-475, including the 8-45 76ers (but also the 45-8 Spurs). Continuing their streak of being stuck right in the middle, Detroit’s total strength of schedule is tied for 19th most difficult in the league. It’s not exactly a fear-inspiring position. But the Pistons also haven’t always beaten the teams they were supposed to (see: Brooklyn).MORE NEWS: Trump Endorses Election Fraud Lawyer For Michigan AG
With that 53-percent chance of making the playoffs hanging above the rest of the season, the Pistons undoubtedly have an opportunity to finally make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. And although it’s technically, statistically more likely than not they’ll make it, the season could swing either way. Until the team figures itself out, that pendulum of success is stuck right in the middle.