The NBA opens up its 2015-16 regular season Tuesday night, and in a game featuring two teams that may be on different paths than last season, look for Detroit to cover in Atlanta.
The team with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season may have overachieved greatly and now a season of regressing to the mean may begin on Tuesday night when the Detroit Pistons, who are a team with real potential for improvement this year, pay a visit that the surprise team of last year in the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA at 8:05 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Detroit.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Detroit as a decided road underdog for this contest with the current line at +6½ with odds of -102.
Won 60 Games for First Time
The Hawks win 60 games for the first time in franchise history last season while finishing as the top seeds in the Eastern Conference at 60-22, but that did them no good while getting swept in four games in the East Finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and we are in agreement with the many experts that feel they played over their heads for most of last year anyway.
The Pistons meanwhile got off to a dreadful start last season as the losing NBA picks in 19 of their first 22 games, but they then went on a rather remarkable run that actually had them back in playoff contention before dropping back again once Brandon Jennings was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon in late January. Still, Detroit did fight on gamely at the end of the year, giving hope for some improvement this season.
Regression off of Dream Season?
It is very common for teams coming off of dream seasons to be good fades early on the next year as they have somewhat of a hangover effect, especially if the dream season came out of the blue and the team probably overachieved, which we feel describes the Hawks to a tee!
And besides over-performing in 2014-15, the Hawks lost one of their best defenders in DeMarre Carroll to free agency. Carroll may have been the only Atlanta starter not to make the All-Star team last year, but it can be argued that he was their most valuable player as he was an elite defender on a team filled with mainly jump-shooters, and that defensive prowess allowed all the shooters to succeed
Carroll’s spot in the lineup will probably be filled by Thabo Sefolosha, who is normally a good defender himself but who is coming back from a broken leg sustained while being arrested by New York police, so his mobility early on may be a concern. Also, the sharpest of the Atlanta sharp-shooters last year Kyle Korver did not figure to match his insane 50-percent shooting from three-point range anyway, but on top of that he is recovering from a broken ankle.
Add this all up and the Hawks seem vulnerable to begin this season and figure to have nowhere near the start they had last year.
Young Team with Playoff Aspirations
Now the Pistons have gone very young, as the team has only three players on the roster older than 28-years-old and only three players remain on the roster from opening night of Stan Van Gundy’s first season as head coach last year, with only two of those being active as Jennings is not ready to return as of yet. This will be an energetic team that likes to run the floor, but the Pistons should also been an improved three-point shooting team.
After all, Detroit went form a dismal 32.1 percent from beyond the arc two years ago to 34.4 percent last season to 36.8 percent during this preseason, and that figure should continue to trend upward now that point guard Reggie Jackson is on hand right from the start after being acquired mid season last year from the Thunder. And the Pistons also have a legitimate Rookie of the Year prospect in Stanley Johnson out of Arizona, who shot 58 percent during Summer League.
Remember that while Detroit finished 32-50 last year, outright cutting Josh Smith was addition by subtraction as the team went 5-23 with him and was a .500 club at 27-27 after letting him go, and .500 in the Eastern Conference almost certainly means a playoff spot.
Now we get that it was only preseason, but the Pistons did rout the Hawks in the preseason finale 115-87 on Friday, and while that result obviously means nothing, it does go to show with this young Detroit team is capable off an we see the Pistons at the very least staying close in this game from start to finish with an outright upset far from an impossibility.
Hoping to Continue Momentum
Finally, the Pistons are hoping to continue the momentum they had at the end of the last season throughout the entire season this year, as they finished 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games overall. The Pistons were also 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games vs. the Southeast Division, while the Hawks finished 1-5 ATS in their last six games vs. the Central Division.
We would not be surprised to see both of these teams go on opposite paths of where they went last season, with the Pistons improving and the Hawks regressing, so we will begin this year by taking the points with the underdogs from Detroit when visiting Atlanta on opening night Tuesday.
NBA Pick: Pistons +6½ (-102)