The Detroit Pistons are finally living up to their preseason expectations. Stan Van Gundy is happy (and building walls), the frontcourt is playing like the best frontcourt in the NBA, and Brandon Jennings looks like a legitimate point guard in the league. It's absolutely ridiculous how cutting one player from the roster makes that much of a difference. But it's ridiculous stuff such as that, that makes us love the game.
First and foremost, congratulations to all Pistons fans for not having Josh Smith on the roster anymore. Maybe the loss of Smith can help you cope a little better with that awful officiating in the Cowboys-Lions playoff game. The Pistons look like a rejuvenated team. Thankfully, they play in the Eastern Conference. If they played in the West, the playoffs would have been a reach at this point. The East is different. The Pistons are just a few games out of the 8th spot in the East and with the way they have been playing, they will go well beyond the last seed in the playoff picture.
The ball movement looks more crisp, everyone is running back on defense, and the frontcourt is now able to get more shots up as opposed to having to chase down bricks shot by Smith. Detroit has now won seven games in a row, including back-to-back wins in San Antonio and Dallas. The last time the Pistons won in both of those cities in the same year was the 1996-97 season. Brandon Jennings hit the game winner in the Spurs game after making a clutch steal. The Mavericks only lost three games to Eastern teams prior to the Pistons beating them. Jennings has accepted the leader role in Detroit. He claims that he wants to be a leader for the team now that he is in his fifth season in the league. Van Gundy and Jennings are building their relationship and it looks to be a successful one for years to come. Jennings has averaged 19.2 points per game on 47 percent shooting, 5 assists, and 2 steals in just under 26 minutes a contest his past five games. D.J. Augustin has also chipped in to take some of the pressure of off Jennings' shoulders.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are monsters on the glass. They combined for 37 rebounds against Tyson Chandler and the Mavericks. Drummond has put up averages of 13 points and 18.4 rebounds while Monroe has averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in the past five games, respectively. Both players are shooting well over 50 percent from the field. They are playing noticeably better defense, too. Jodie Meeks has also been shooting lights out from beyond the arc and all of a sudden, the Pistons are playing Deeeeetroit Basketball.
Having one of their longest winning streaks in over five years, the Pistons last seven wins have been impressive. Five of the wins have come on the road. They are among the top three teams in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency since they released Smith from the roster. They are averaging over 100 points per game, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, and over 40 percent from beyond the arc since the departure of Smith.
No team in NBA history that has started the season 5-23 has made the postseason. The Pistons are currently 3 games behind the Miami Heat for the 8th seed in the East. Detroit will look to make history this season by trying to sneak into the playoffs, despite a horrendous start to the season. This Pistons team is good, really good. And they know it, now.