No team has fallen further short of its preseason betting win line than the Pistons, who were pegged to win 45.5 games but are 35-43.
Detroit effectively shut down a healthy-enough-to-play Reggie Jackson rather than use him down the stretch while still seriously in the playoff race. Andre Drummond has stagnated in the first year of a max contract extension. Stanley Johnson has regressed, and he joins all the team’s rotation forwards in shooting worse on 3-pointers.
How much blame will fall on Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy?
Despite the late-season swoon, Van Gundy is safe, two persons with firsthand knowledge of the situation told the Free Press recently.
This is why Van Gundy sought front-office control. After a season like this, the coach is often scapegoated. And Van Gundy has made plenty of missteps this year that would legitimately put him in the crosshairs.
But the coach’s boss is Van Gundy himself, and that insulates him. Only Pistons owner Tom Gores can fire Van Gundy, and Gores answers to nobody. The owner can afford to be patient without feeling pressure from above.
Patience with Van Gundy is probably the right course.
Jackson missed the start of the season due to a knee injury then rarely looked right. Him getting healthy could solve all the Pistons’ problems. In addition to Jackson playing better – meaningful in itself – he could boost his pick-and-roll partner, Drummond. A clicking base play could open outside shots for Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer and Johnson. Drummond and the forwards tend to defend better when they get steady offensive touches. If the team is scoring and defending better, that’d reduce bickering and improve chemistry.
A snowballing effect from Jackson getting healthy is definitely possible.
But it’s far from guaranteed, and Van Gundy better be proactive about fixing what he can over the offseason.