Should You Buy or Sell Stock in Surprising Detroit Pistons?

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, November 9, 2017 11:47 PM UTC

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 11:47 PM UTC

Again, we have to give the caveat that it’s still early, but the Detroit Pistons look like perhaps the second-best team in the Eastern Conference after Boston. Should you believe in the Pistons?

Entering this season, the Detroit Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy was among the NBA betting candidates on those “first coach to be fired” props at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks. Although, Van Gundy would have to fire himself considering he’s also the president of basketball operations. But, hey, we all answer to someone.

In the 2015-16 season, Van Gundy led the Pistons to a 44-38 record and their first playoff appearance since 2009. Owner Tom Gores expected nothing short of another postseason berth last year, but Detroit slipped to 37-45. The pressure was really on entering 2017 because the Pistons were moving back downtown to the new Little Caesars Arena, and to sell tickets and woo a different kind of fan base, you have to win.

So far, so good.

Detroit is one of the surprise teams in the East and already has a solid lead in the Central Division with the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling and the Milwaukee Bucks not quite hitting their stride yet. However, oddsmakers still list the Cavs as heavy -500 favorites there with Detroit at +450.

The Pistons already have quality wins over Minnesota, Milwaukee, and at the Clippers and Warriors. Golden State was up 14 in the third quarter so that’s an impressive victory any way you slice it. I guarantee last year’s Detroit team loses that by at least 20. Instead, it’s one of an NBA-high four wins for the Pistons when trailing by at least 10 points. Oh, and Detroit is 3-0 on the second night of back-to-backs this season after an ugly 3-14 mark in 2016-17.

What’s the difference from this year compared to last? Center Andre Drummond is still putting up double-doubles nearly every night – he takes nearly 70 percent of his shots within 3 feet of the rim -- and leads the NBA in rebounding.  Drummond became the third player over the last 40 seasons to collect 12 or more rebounds in each of his first 11 games of a season. Now teams can’t go all Hack-a-Shaq on the 24-year-old, either. The former UConn star shot a ridiculous 38.6 percent from the free-throw line last year and is well over 60 percent as of this writing. Drummond did dramatically alter his form this offseason.

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Guard Reggie Jackson has improved his game from last year, when he was often either in the doghouse or injured. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field. All those numbers are up. Tobias Harris is averaging nearly 4 points more per game than a year ago and his 3-point shooting is way up.

Some newcomers have helped as well. The Pistons let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aron Baynes walk in free agency, traded Marcus Morris to Boston for Avery Bradley, signed Anthony Tolliver and Langston Galloway, and drafted Duke’s Luke Kennard with the No. 12 overall pick. Bradley is the second-leading scorer and playing terrific defense as usual. Tolliver and Galloway have been solid bench contributors. Kennard hasn’t done much yet but profiles as a good 3-point shooter at worst.

Overall, the Pistons have improved in points per game and every major shooting category this season. Van Gundy and assistant Bob Beyer junked the pick-and-roll heavy scheme for a motion offense that has more players involved.

While I’m not ready to say the Pistons will win the division – the Cavs will figure it out and the Bucks just got better by trading for Eric Bledsoe, a player the Pistons reportedly were close to acquiring at one point – they do have the look of a playoff team. Since the league last expanded in 2004, teams that start the season 8-3 go on to win about 50 times per 82 games.  Detroit is +2500 at BetOnline to win the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2005.

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